Holistic Philosophy Mindfulness

A Holistic Approach to Debt

The degree of financial overextension in America represents the intersection of cultural conditioning and personal responsibility. For most of us, the American Dream was inculcated early in life, instilling the idea that if we got an education, worked hard, etc., then our lives would take shape in a way “better than” that of our parents, grandparents, etc. At the same time, Americans raised at least since the 1960’s have been exposed to unprecedented media images and advertising that have embedded ideals and largely shaped our ideas of the American Dream. Finally, during this period there has been a concomitant ease in the availability of consumer credit which has put the material aspects of the American Dream within grasp of most of us, irregardless of an immediate ability to pay.

The past decade has transformed the American Dream to a nightmare for millions of Americans. Borrowers with subprime mortgages have seen their interest rates spike simultaneously with a downward spiral in their home values. Unemployment is now widespread, and credit lifelines have been cut off for millions of people. The life that many had come to imagine was possible now seems hopelessly beyond reach. There is profound disappointment.  See e.g., Family Net Worth Drops to Level of Early 90’s, Fed Says, New York Times, June 11, 2012.

At some point in the scenario described above, creditors come knocking. This often comes at a time in a debtor’s life at which he or she is clawing to hold onto that last vestige of the Dream. On some level, the debtor feels or believes that this is not how things “should” be.

Amidst this maelstrom, the debtor is likely likely to seek the help of an attorney. A traditional lawyer will inventory the debtor’s assets and liabilities to determine which creditors might be paid, and in what amount. Where compromises cannot be negotiated, bankruptcy may be explored to legally force creditors to accept less than they had bargained for. Even in the case of a favorable financial workout, however, the traditional law practice overlooks the underlying roots that may have led the debtor to his or her current difficulties. Little has been done to tap into the debtor’s underlying thoughts and idealistic beliefs that have precipitated his or her financial overextension, usually over an extended period of time.

By comparison, a holistic lawyer works with the client not only to resolve current problems with creditors, but also to help him or her more clearly identify the conditioned thinking that has led to present difficulties. Through the cultivation of this heightened awareness, the client comes to see how many of the material items that had been so coveted through life had failed to provide lasting peace and happiness. Additionally, by enhancing the client’s ability to more deeply connect with present-moment experience and a grounded sense of being, the client is far more likely to internalize the understanding that he or she need not have his or her future actions spring unfettered from this intellectual notion of the American Dream. At this point, real choice – and personal responsibility – becomes possible.

If you are experiencing financial difficulties and would like to learn more about my Holistic Lawyer approach, please visit, or call me at (415) 508-6263.

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