It’s Time to Deal With the Trauma of Money

It’s Time to Deal With the Trauma of Money

Why artists should adopt Chantel Chapman’s new money ethos, where financial literacy is served with a heavy dose of compassion.

By: Sumiko Wilson | Photo by: Chantel Chapman

As my interview with Vancouver-based financial coach Chantel Chapman drew to a close, things took an etymological turn. 

“In North America’s view of economics, the term is technically defined as ‘the management of scarce resources.’ That in itself creates an environment of scarcity.”

Though it came in the final moments of our conversation, this observation can be looked at as the very basis for the Trauma of Money Method, Chapman’s counteroffer to what we’ve been led to believe about our finances.

Where fellow money coaches are unabashedly harsh with their advice, the Trauma of Money takes an inside-out approach, turning the lens towards the underlying factors influencing the way we spend and the rates we charge.

For artists, this lays the groundwork for all there is to unlearn. “Scarcity is the opposite of creativity,” she explains. “With this view of economics and art, the two are in disharmony by definition alone.”

In Ontario, the pandemic illuminated just how disharmonious they can be. Last April, the Ford government put a ban on live streamed concerts, which had become a last-ditch effort for artists and venues to stay afloat while adhering to the ever-evolving restrictions. With those shows now outlawed, Chapman says that the abrupt loss is trauma in itself that should be addressed. 

Having gotten her start as a mortgage broker, Chapman transitioned to teaching high school students about money and consulting with banking brands after she noticed a gap in finance education. But despite her expertise, she wasn’t immune to her own personal money faux pas. The idea for the Method came about once she addressed these financial missteps, from racking up debt to undercharging for services. “As I was on my own personal healing journey, I realized that in order to make significant change in how I interact with money—not just how I spend it and save it, but how I earn my money—I had to actually look at the trauma surrounding it and what influenced my relationship with money.” 

This resulted in a multi-year research journey with a psychotherapist, where she studied trauma healing, addiction recovery, mindfulness, behavioural science, community economic development, the psychology of scarcity, and quantum physics. After years of research, Chapman says, “I brought all of these different modalities together, and we developed the first outline of the Trauma of Money Method.”

Using a multi-tiered approach, the Method starts with a deep dive into intergenerational influences on money and then explores relational, societal, systemic, and natural traumas. It culminates with in-depth financial literacy training because according to Chapman, “You actually can’t engage with financial literacy if all of these other things are activated.”

Weeks after the live streaming restrictions were announced and days before the end of tax season, I joined a Google Meet with Chapman to learn more about how artists can benefit from the Trauma of Money Method.

Sumiko Wilson: What can artists gain from understanding finance through the Trauma of Money Method?

Chantel Chapman: I work with artists and creators a lot, and I’ve noticed patterns of what financial psychologists would call “financial rejection.” This is where there are certain beliefs that are so strong that it results in us rejecting money. It’s like money is evil or if you have money, you’re a sellout. It’s the idea of not wanting to commodify yourself. These really strong beliefs result in a rejection of money, and they end up sabotaging the earning ability of creators and artists. 

So how can these beliefs exist while allowing artists to earn money from a place of dignity? You can participate in earning money and not exploit people or exploit the planet. A lot of the things that are so awful about money are because of the people who interact with it, not the money itself. So for artists and creators, what I recommend is to do a deep inventory of those beliefs. Try to understand where they’re coming from. Oftentimes, beliefs that come up around money don’t belong to us. Instead, they’re placed upon us, especially if the beliefs around money are connected to worthiness. Unpack those narratives and ask if they’re helpful for reaching your goals.

One really beautiful law of nature is reciprocity, and in exploitative capitalism, reciprocity doesn’t exist. There are folks who take, and then there are the people who feel terrible about taking. What happens is that they end up giving so much without receiving. As a result, they’re not allowing the cycle of reciprocity to happen. If you’re creating art or offering something beautiful to the world, why are you prohibited from accessing the law of reciprocity? Why are you not allowed to collect on the exchange? I don’t think that the mindset shift should just be put on artists or creators, I think that it should be put on consumers, too. If I listen to music, I need to listen to that music so mindfully and with such a sense of gratitude for everything that went into that because the afterthought of gratitude is always reciprocity. Like, what can I give back?

SW: When it comes to setting a rate, where should artists start?

CC: Phase one [of the Method], we call the Window of Resilience, which we adapted from Daniel Siegel’s Window of Tolerance. Inside the window is an ideal state of arousal in your nervous system, where you can basically handle stress in an optimal state. Outside of that window, we have two different scales: fight or flight and freeze or fawning. Freeze is total avoidance, and fawning is people-pleasing. The first thing you want to do is take inventory of your nervous system because when you price your art, it’s going to bring some shit up for you. The narratives are going to come flooding in, and it’s probably going to move you out of the Window of Resilience and activate the nervous system. 

So first we want to take inventory of that: are we moving into a place of people pleasing or total avoidance? Once we can identify our response, we can create a plan to get into the Window. To do this, we can breathe intentionally, we can invite mindfulness, we can do coldwater therapy, we can hum or sing, we can do our art, call friends, socialize. That’s phase one. 

Phase two is to connect to the greater vision. Depending on what narratives are influencing your pricing, part of your vision may be a reimagining of capitalism, where artists are not only surviving but thriving. Have you mapped that out? What does that look like? 

Phase three is what we call the inventory phase. Now that our nervous system is regulated, this is where we assess what competitors are charging and the costs associated with creating our art. When we talk about cost, we have to consider the tangible and intangible. For example, say you’re making music but you just went through a painful breakup. That whole song is emotional labour, and you should charge for that. 

Or, if you perform and the next day you’re exhausted, you’re not going to charge a day rate, you’re going to charge a two-day rate because you have to sleep the next day. It’s less about time equaling money and more of an energy calculation. 

SW: How can the government create infrastructure to make the artistic economy more sustainable during this time of crisis?

CC: The new rules that come into play can be traumatizing. We can’t control the fact that we’re in a pandemic, so we got creative and started live streaming, and now that’s been taken away. That loss of autonomy is traumatic. It starts with recognizing that. There’s a trauma therapist who says, “We name it to tame it.”

From the lens of someone who has consulted entrepreneurs for a long time, my advice to artists would be diversification. Even from a financial standpoint, I would never tell anyone to put all of their money into one thing. You want to diversify because it mitigates risk. Sometimes we think that a 9-5 is safer, but you never know. You could lose that job at any time. So now, we’re seeing this millennial-led idea of multihyphenates with multiple revenue streams. That’s what I’d say on an individual level.

From an infrastructure level, I think that what New Feeling is doing is a great example. Adopting the co-op model and having folks with similar values gather together creates a greater sense of collective power, which hopefully can influence policies to protect musicians and artists.