I remember a funny story a friend of the family used to tell. He grew up the youngest in a family with many children, particularly boys. He recalls when dinnertime rolled around there was such a grab fest that by the time he got his share it was only the remnants of what had been on the table that were left for him. He joked that for the longest time he thought chicken neck was all there was to a chicken.
You may also recall stories told by grandparents who lived through the Great Depression and how they had to make do. They spent the rest of their lives conserving what they had, even if they had a lot later on in their lives.
We would expect people who experienced these situations to feel they live in a world of deprivation. That there is no such thing as abundance and that we should hold on to what we have, or should not expect that there is anything more for us out there.
But what about people who feel this way who did not grow up in similar situations? Perhaps their families were quite well off, or even moderately middle class. In many cases socio-economic status and the cultural surround have little or nothing to do with one’s sense of deprivation or abundance.
It’s not about the tangible resources, but rather, those intangible and oh-so-significant early relationships.
When a child is provided for physically, but emotionally is not attuned to, he/she is left feeling empty and hungry. There is a need that is not being met — A need to be seen and known. A need to feel they are significant and valued and cared about.
When some of these basic relationship needs are not met, a child’s assumption is that there is little to be had in the world; hold on to the little you get because there may not be more any time soon. The relational needs become symbolized in concrete ways.
Fast-forward this to adulthood. One may live this out by binge eating, restricting food, over-spending, jumping into relationships quickly, settling for a relationship that’s not good for them, giving to others but not providing for themselves, hoarding and clutter, etc. (By the way, the development of these behaviors is usually quite complex and there may be a variety of reasons leading up to them). The relational needs have become symbolized in concrete ways.
On the flip side, when one lives with a worldview of abundance, the belief is that there will be enough. Enough food that I’m fully allowed to have, enough items in my home to meet my needs, enough people in the world who will love me, and enough to give to others without an expectation of something in return, etc. This is a healthy abundance, not a blind faith.
The feeling that there is enough comes from a place within the person. They have had enough experiences of others who were truly able to see and know them as they were growing up, that they could trust the reliability of this. They could trust that meaningful relationships are out there, trust that their needs to be known would be met. They felt recognized and affirmed.
Where do you fall on the spectrum from abundance to deprivation? Do you experience your world as one in which, for the most part, you can trust that you will have what you need? Or do you lower your expectations with the feeling that things tend to not happen for you? Do you talk yourself out of hopeful things? Or can you hold on to hope knowing that you will be o.k.?
If you find yourself closer to the deprivation end of the spectrum, the good news is that you don’t have to be stuck there. As much as this worldview begins early in your life, it can still be turned around.
Let yourself begin to allow some trust for someone safe in your life. Let them know you, the real you, little by little. And let yourself experience them knowing you.
If you allow yourself to begin to trust more situations and healthy relationships, you will begin to experience some of that reliability that will give you the sense that you can actually have your needs met — that there is an abundance of what you need.