Search Your Feelings, You Know They Be True

Posted by: Joseph Kuo | May 4, 2023

I recently attended an intensive study program at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich. It was a fun week of learning and I came home with several takeaways that apply directly to financial planning.

In an earlier article I talked about how financial planning actually needs a certain amount of chaos to be effective. In this article I will talk about how emotional feelings might have a useful role in financial planning. 

Avoiding Emotion In Financial Planning

We’ve all been exposed to the idea that emotions and feelings often get the best of us. The idea of a shadowy, or “dark” side to our personalities that lead us towards bad behavior—and our struggle against this side of ourselves— is common in books, television, and movies. A huge amount of self help content is devoted to “emotional intelligence”—how best to manage and control our emotions so we can behave rationally and make good decisions.

This concept extends naturally to financial planning. As financial planners, we are conditioned to tell our clients to not make emotional decisions and to act rationally when it comes to finances. Some of my clients talk to me about how they want me to find the most rational solution possible, as if their feelings should be ignored completely. Other clients confide that one of the reasons they employ a financial planner is to help shield them from their own feelings when making financial decisions. 

How Our Emotions Influence Us

The Jungian conference presented a different perspective to consider. During the conference, I learned that emotions, both good and bad, form the basis of the subconscious part of the human psyche. Thus, we can no more eliminate those feelings than we can cut off our right hands. As part of our unconscious, our feelings already subconsciously influence a lot of what we do. Because they manifest subconsciously, we can often take these feelings to be the “shadowy” or less known parts of ourselves. 

“Less known” however, is not necessarily bad. However, we often fear what is less known, and our own subconscious feelings are no exception. It is this fear that makes us wary of our feelings. This fear can lead to mistrust and a negative perception towards those feelings that aren’t obviously positive. Unchecked and misunderstood, we can act irrationally on our negative feelings.

Focus Your Feelings In A Positive Manner

During one of the conference presentations, the speaker proposed the idea that what if, instead of suppressing or hiding from our negative feelings, we learned to understand them better? If we understood them better, we could better recognize when and how they can affect our behavior and decisions. We could then use our feelings to help us in our decision making, instead of letting them be an impediment.

In the end, after having taken some time to absorb what was said at the conference, I believe that both good and bad feelings can be helpful to financial planning if we apply them in the right way.

Feelings can serve as a balancing point against the rational mind. Objectively, we can analyze and evaluate options to find the best solution, and objective analysis is an effective way to quickly rule out unsuitable options. However, once we’ve narrowed things down to a few viable options, the rational method becomes less effective. If we only use data analysis to find the perfect solution, we risk getting stuck in a state of analysis paralysis. But if we consider how we feel emotionally about each option, we can make the decision taking into account which choice will give us the most joy, excitement and inspiration. 

When you’re able to freely feel what each choice gives you, you’re more likely to steer towards the option you feel best about. When you use your feelings in this manner, you can make the most of your positive emotions and minimize the influence of your negative/dark emotions. So despite the “common wisdom” about not letting your feelings affect your decision making, actually considering how you feel about your decision can go a long way in helping you make the best choice for yourself, whether it comes to life in general or financial planning.

The Whole Point Of It All Is Emotion

If all your decisions are only rationally based, and you never take the joys of life into consideration. you’ll never truly enjoy your life to the fullest. Even the most detailed financial plan has a purpose: meeting a financial goal that results in long term happiness. Ultimately, if what the client is doing doesn’t bring them satisfaction, there’s no point in doing it. The plan is not the ultimate goal—the point is that executing the plan creates an effect that should bring satisfaction.

In the end, there are always pros/cons when we make a financial decision. For every scenario there are potential benefits and risks. When we try to completely remove emotion from the decision, it becomes impossible to quantify the good and bad of the decision without thinking about the emotional impact of each choice. How would you decide how much to weigh an option without considering how you feel about that option?

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