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Surviving the Emotional Effects of Bankruptcy

Filing bankruptcy can, without a doubt, stir up many negative emotions. A debtor's sense of self, identity, and worth are often closely tied to their financial circumstances. Loss of money can thus be experienced as a loss of identity, self-esteem, and confidence.

We live in a society in which image is important and lifestyle is seemingly defined by possessions. Money can be viewed as a powerful currency not only in a purely economic sense but also in relationships, and thus a real or perceived loss of interpersonal power can ensue when bankruptcy is filed.

Lessons Learned

Understanding these emotions can help disentangle the practical realities of money from the possibly destructive or limiting emotional responses to a bankruptcy filing. In order to come to terms and deal constructively with the situation, the debtor may work toward the following goals:

  • Deal with practical realities. As the debtor gets his or her finances under control, a greater general sense of control will follow.
  • Learn from experience. Take steps to ensure future financial security.
  • Learn new skills to protect financial well-being in uncertain economic times.
  • Learn to detach self worth from material wealth.
  • Experience the feelings of loss, depression, anger, sadness, and shame, and in time be able to let go of those feelings and move on.
  • Let go of resentment and blame.
  • Exercise self-compassion. Although for many filing for bankruptcy feels like life is over, it really can be a fresh start in many respects.

Adjusting to New Realities

Filing for bankruptcy will ordinarily lead to significant changes in the future.
Bankruptcy will normally sell of a debtor's assets in order to raise enough money to pay off debts to satisfy creditors. This can leave someone with significantly reduced wealth after all is said and done. Preparing to live life a less materially wealthy life can help prepare people for life after bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy can also have repercussions in other areas. The same financial problems that lead to bankruptcy may also lead to divorce, separation, or other family changes. Significant business and professional changes might be in the offing as well. These kinds of things are common when someone is going through bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy may also cause someone's social relationships to change. People may not be able to afford the vacations, outings, activities, and lifestyle that they were previously accustomed to enjoying. Keeping up with friends, colleagues, and distant relatives may become more difficult. At the same time, difficult moments such as bankruptcy can cause people to reevaluate their life and recommit to things that are important to them.

A Fresh Start

At all times of loss, people tend to feel that their entire foundation has been shaken and that their most fundamental sense of security has been disrupted. They question their trust in themselves, in others, and in the world at large. Although it may be natural for many to bury these frightening emotions, bringing these core insecurities to a conscious level can actually reduce the fear and the feeling of being out of control, and can enable individuals to start addressing their situation in a constructive manner.

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