Poor Little Rich Folks: That Article About “Wealth Therapy”

It’s been shared around 11,000 times so far, so perhaps you’ve seen the Guardian piece about the woes of the rich and the therapists who help them.

what issues are America’s 1% struggling with? There is guilt over being rich in the first place, he said. There is the feeling that they have to hide the fact that they are rich. And then there is the isolation — being in the 1%, it turns out, can be lonely. …

“It’s really isolating to have a lot of money. It can be scary — people’s reaction to you,” said Barbara Nusbaum, an expert in money psychology. “There is a fair amount of isolation if you are wealthy. We are all taught not to talk about money. It’s not polite to talk about money. In itself, ironically, it’s harder to talk about having money than it is to talk about not having money. It’s much more socially acceptable to say: ‘I am broke. Things are hard.’ You can’t say: ‘I have a ton of money.’ You have to keep a lot of your life private except in small circles.”

It doesn’t take much to get to me these days. An argument on the playground can make my eyes start prickling; a Carolyn Hax live-chat can leave me melting into my keyboard. This article, though? I read it and I was unmoved. I was about as unmoved as the Himalayas.

I mean, rich people struggle with “awkwardness re: who should pay at a restaurant”? So do not rich people! Albeit maybe for different reasons. Rich people feel isolated sometimes, lonely, misunderstood? So do we all. Is that not the definition of the human condition?

Maybe the real revelation here that the affluent are surprised that, despite the resources at their disposal, they must still deal with their fair share of disappointment and even pain.

To be clear: any person who is struggling with life has my sympathy, no matter whether s/he lives in a penthouse or under a bridge. But all problems are not created equal. Christian Grey, who can cry into a pillow stuffed with $100 bills, is simply not on par with his less well-off equivalent, who desperately needs therapy and meds and yet cannot afford either.

And the idea that “coming out” as super wealthy is similar to coming out as queer, as per one of the quoted therapists, strikes me as offensive. A person can’t decide not to be gay so as not to alienate his boss, or her parents, or whatever; whereas Richie Rich can always give away some cash. Problem (at least partly) solved.

That’s my biggest problem with the piece, really: it treats wealth as an inherent condition, like being left-handed or Albino. If you’re uncomfortable being rich, there’s an app for that! PHILANTHROPY. Make like the Gateses and use your money for good. Support Kickstarters. Fight disease. Endow a chair at Xavier University. Cities will throw you parades! It’s hard to mope when you’re being showered in ticker-tape and applause.

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