We want more money, but resist examining our money stories. We hit a money glass ceiling, but avoid information about ourselves.

In a recent panel on money stories that I conducted for Financial Coaches, one woman spoke of money being a source of anxiety throughout her adulthood, ever since she had to flee her home country as a child. With a forced exodus from her homeland, she lost her family fortune. Her experience was that money had wings and can be taken away. She indicated that she refuses to eat out of paper plates because it resonates with that traumatic time. She now owns ten sets of dishes.

Research has shown that credit card users underestimate significantly how much they owe on credit cards. Cardholders admit to only four of every ten dollars they owe. Intelligent people willfully disavow 60 percent of their debt.

Most people are secretly dissatisfied with their money stories. This dissatisfaction often stems from either feeling unfulfilled or ashamed of certain aspects of that story. We each have beliefs about money that we don’t speak out loud to ourselves. This avoidance can create a bias; it can preclude taking in essential, important new information. Earlier downloads of certain expectations and experiences about money remain intact and unchallenged despite the passage of years, even decades.

Here are some principal reasons that people avoid new information about themselves.

  • It may require a change in beliefs. People seek information that confirms their beliefs, and blind themselves to reasons that disprove them.
  • It may cause unpleasant emotions. If we expect bad news, we tend to avoid this information.
  • It may require us to take undesired actions. At times it may seem better not to know, such as ignoring a symptom that requires gathering new information. People aren’t scared of doctors, they’re scared that their denial may be confronted.
  • Lack of control. If people anticipate a loss of control over the consequences of information, they will stay with what they know and avoid the unknown.
  • The brain’s error detection mechanism. New information will trigger the brain’s error detection mechanism, generating a reading that something isn’t right, and should be avoided.
  • The information may be difficult to understand. If the information is difficult to interpret, overwhelmingly complicated, and not clear and simple, we may tend to avoid the work of interpreting it.

Two principles are important to keep in mind about considering new information about ourselves:

Fate has a way of putting in front of us that wish we most try to leave behind. (Mozzie, White Collar)

The key element in writing a new story is to design the story from what is possible rather than what has existed in the past.