A recent article from the New York Times describes the panic and distress among the super rich these days. The article doesn't exactly define who these people are but refers to the observation that although many have lost nearly half their "net worth" [see my blog on this topic] they still have at least 'tens of millions' of dollars left.
Psychologists are being recruited to deal with the emotional melt-down that has ensued. They lay the blame for this 'crisis' on the fact that many such individuals base their entire self-worth and self-image on their enormous wealth. Some have memories of poverty or low self-esteem in their youth. Such has been the driving force behind their maniacal desire to have enormous wealth. The reality of tremendous loss of wealth allows their long suppressed fears to surface. Many are truly panicked despite ridiculously large amounts of money still there. Some have hired security guards to protect their assets against the 'hordes' who they perceive as threats.
Economic psychologists refer to this as 'present event bias' which implies that we tend to believe whatever is occurring now will remain so forever.
Clearly the problem arises because of the role that wealth has played in their lives to date. When we identify our intrinsic 'net worth' with our financial net worth, then it is understandable how tragic the financial chaos and decline may seem to us. Many such individuals exist within a social and personal circle of similarly minded individuals. They are seeing their entire 'way of life' affected and they are tremendously distraught.
Perhaps, just perhaps the silver lining in this financial disaster is the opportunity to review and re-adjust our values. This over used but under appreciated concept is over due for an examination.
Perhaps we are all being forced to look at life, our lives, existence itself with fresh eyes.
Most of us are not starving. Most of us have not lost the personal relationships we have developed with family, friends and loved-ones. Most of us still have some modicum of stability in our lives on its most fundamental level.
The super-rich need to wake up to the reality that they have been able to ignore. Millions are in far worse straits. Millions have lost jobs, homes, marriages over this crisis. These are the people who justifiably are fighting off a meltdown.
Perhaps the super-rich would be better served jettisoning their worries about how many millions they still have and turn their attention outwards, to those fellow human beings who are true need. Perhaps the answer to the financial and psychological meltdown is to feel compassion for those who are truly affected by what is happening to all of us.
Even those of us who are not super-rich but are somewhere in-between—who do not have millions still present but who are not facing total economic collapse can learn healing lessons as well.
We are all being forced to recognize the ultimate truth–we are all alike, we are all in the same boat. Facing outward with charity, compassion and empathy may ultimately be healing for those people who considered themselves above the rest.
Perhaps, just perhaps in the long run we will all be better off for it.