The therapist Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, specializes in helping people with financially motivated anxiety. Since the pandemic of the coronavirusHowever, his patients mostly talk to him about the guilt they feel because they are doing well.
Many people who continue to have jobs and financial security feel guilty amid so many hardships associated with the virus, said Bryan-Podvin, author of The Financial Anxiety Solution (The solution to anxiety caused by financial matters).
“They start to tell me things like ‘I shouldn’t complain, my partner is much worse’ or ‘I can’t believe I’m saying this because so and so in my neighborhood lost his job,' » said the therapist.
What people tell you and the language you use is almost identical to what Bryan-Podvin hears from people with posttraumatic stress, a mental disorder that can be caused by terrible events that a person experienced or witnessed.
« I feel like survivor guilt syndrome, » Bryan-Podvin said. « They feel like they don’t deserve everything they have. »
Guilt can be paralyzing
The guilt complex is a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder, usually felt by people who wonder why they are still alive while others have died.
Guilt for financial reasons is not an official psychological diagnosis, But Bryan-Podvin pointed out that recognizing the similarities helps her treat patients with these disorders.
People who experience this type of guilt may feel sad or hopeless, according to the therapist. Many become obsessed and wonder why they got away with it and others didn’t, or what they could have done to help others. They often feel paralyzed, groggy, or overwhelmed.
« Survivor’s guilt is like any other kind of stress, » Bryan-Podvin said. « It can affect your sleep, your parasympathetic nervous system, your ability to live in the present. »
Recognizing what one experiences can helpaccording to financial planner Edward Coambs, a Charlotte, North Carolina, marriage and family therapist.
One of the reasons people feel survivor guilt is because we are programmed to seek justice and equity.
« That’s what really kicks in, » Coambs said. « We thought, ‘Is it fair that I continue to have a job and people in this industry no longer have jobs?’
« It is not your fault what happens to someone else, » he added. « Sometimes the guilt of the survivor comes from the fact that one assumes more responsibilities than they should. »
Get ahead helping others
One way to resolve this guilt is to seek sensible ways to help others, therapists consider. Maybe working in a soup kitchen, donating to a cause, helping someone update their resume, or incorporating things that can make it easier for them to get a job.
“Helping in some way makes us feel better,” said Bryan-Podvin.
But don’t go overboard. It is not advisable to provide letters of reference and contacts to someone who is still shocked by the loss of their job, for example. Perhaps what the friend needs is someone to talk to.
When the goal is to alleviate one’s guilt, it is possible to forget about what the other is feeling, Coambs said.
On the other hand, resist the urge to talk about the setbacks you’ve suffered, Bryan-Podvin recommended. « It’s better to say ‘I’m very sorry about what happened, it must be very hard,' » he said.
Another way to combat survivor guilt in the financial arena it is to appreciate all the good that you have.
« Let’s turn guilt into gratitude, » explained therapist Preston D. Cherry of Lubbock, Texas.
Studies show that making lists of things to be thankful for, talking about them in a journal, or just enjoying those things can reduce stress and improve sleep and relationships with others.
Feeling bad about layoffs and economic swings is normal, but feeling sad or guilty for weeks is not, according to Bryan-Podvin.
If you can’t sleep, get too distracted at work, or forget important things, consider seeking professional help.
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