Money, Eros, and Spirit Revision

Part of 6 of in
By Xeres Villanueva
Sep 23, 2021 | 6 min read
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As I lie on my bed and scroll through the Etsy page, I can’t help but be in awe of how many beautiful options of ritual kits there are to purchase for my meditative altar spaces. Prayer candles, holy water, conjure oils, herbs, and stones. You name it. As someone who has been reclaiming Catholic rituals and pre-colonial Filipino rituals for liberating my faith, the Etsy page is my version of Disneyland. I have been building a meditative altar practice as a way to keep myself inspired and grounded with God, my relationships, myself, and my career pathfinding. 

As I make joy-filled and budget friendly purchases, there are moments when nagging thoughts and emotions run through my head. Even as I feel satisfaction during the purchasing process, the nagging voices still find a way to enter my headspace. “Are you sure you can afford that?” or “Are you sure this is okay?” Subtle waves of discomfort and guilt around spending on myself get activated. They are mixed with sensations of wonder, joy, and excitement. These thoughts are a byproduct of a combination of my experiences and cultural and ancestral conditioning.

The mixed feelings and trauma response around money, wealth, and material needs and wants are a pervasive phenomenon in my family line, and they are also cultural taboos. I understand them as layered collective and cultural phenomenons in the context of systemic economic injustice that color my psyche and nervous system. Initially, I did not recognize how much social systems, intergenerational trauma, my trauma responses, and my subconscious reinforce each other regarding money, work, and career. It was only when I began looking more deeply at my family dynamics and history alongside social entrepreneurship that I realized how much of my reactions and beliefs on money and finance are inherited from my ancestors as well as personal experiences.

An illustration of a woman standing and holding up a giant circle; the illustration features two large circles colored to mimic the Mastercard logo.

The presence and complexity of intergenerational trauma and epigenetics are no longer lost on me. Estrangement, broken dreams, and financial abuse are prevalent themes running through my matrilineal family history. For example, my mother and my grandmother had a difficult relationship for most of their lives due to my grandmother’s pain around broken dreams and poverty trauma. My mother broke that cycle by carving her own path and starting her own business consulting company in the U.S. when we moved to California. Her choice paved a way for me and my sister to move toward our life vocations. I took up the mantle of uncovering my life vocation and committing to my pathfinding journey when I was a teenager; even with the difficulties that come along this journey, I’ve never looked back. While the realities of systemic oppression, my own limitations, and ableism induced these difficulties, what I did not see coming was how the ghosts of ancestral money trauma and its cousin, the spirit of low self-worth, would haunt me through my subconscious and my body.

The haunting of ancestral money ghost manifested in my struggles to feel safe in visibility, taking up space, and using my voice. I would overthink and be self-conscious of how I talked about my business ventures and freelance work. When I used to do social media marketing, I spent a lot of my time researching marketing and branding strategies for small businesses and potential clients. However, when it came to implementing steps for my own business, I found myself procrastinating, using strategies and approaches that didn’t work for my needs, and berating myself in the process. Looking back, I recognize how my unconscious thought patterns and reactions often focused on proving myself, being hard on myself, and feeling too self-conscious to promote myself. Instead of considering how these strategies and tactics may not have been a good fit for me or that I needed more time, I ascribed it to my lack of worthiness and internalized shame. 

The ghost of ancestral money trauma also haunted me in areas of sexuality and body image. Stories of money, wealth, and sexuality intertwine in my life and often function in vicious feedback loops. For instance, due to being bullied in elementary school and seeing relatives shame my mother by making my autism her fault, I developed a discomfort of being seen and visible. I felt unworthy for being who I am. It created a narrative that I am an ugly duckling who does not belong. This manifested in my body posture where I unconsciously either shrank my presence or became a person who gives the “Pick me! Pick me!” energy. As a result, I began to have habits of going through the motions of self-protection. I spent years of not having self-love and self-pleasure rituals because of wounds on worthiness. One self-protective measure I developed was to utilize my work ethic in a way that overrode my body responses, which held me back from opportunities of growth in my career pathfinding, community building, and relationships. This led to dimming my light and contracting myself, which reduced opportunities to receive financial and material support. 

Through several crossroad experiences, God guided me to face the money ghosts that have haunted me and my family line over the years. First was the death of my grandmother after years of dialysis treatment from renal failure. Processing the death of someone who did not get to live out her dreams and who projected that pain on to her own children while managing to love them still is a resurrection journey. That process planted in me the passion for ancestral healing and breaking generational cycles. Another event was when someone opened my car door and punched me in the face to take my phone. With the support of family, friends, and my independent living instructor, I was able to go to the police station to file a report. However, the process of the LAPD excluding the assault charge in the report traumatized and angered me just as much as the assault itself. That anger sparked a new passion for embracing my dignity. From there, I began to receive therapy and coaching, which sparked my journey of mental health, emotional well-being, and trauma recovery. Finally, a pivotal experience was when I had an operation for a growing fibroid in my uterus. I had to dig deep and was forced to be present in my body at another level, right at the edge. I received financial support from friends to have the operation, which floored me. This operation paved the way to integrate sensual pleasure and to reclaim my sexuality and womb care in my life. As difficult as these experiences were, it set the foundation for my healing journey with wealth and money.

The journey of freeing myself from the money ghosts and even befriending them has been like a spiraling staircase. I may be walking up or down the stairs and still uncover layers. It has not been a straightforward ride. It has required shifting and de-conditioning my sense of self before being motivated to seek out money mindset therapy and financial literacy work that does not reinforce prosperity gospel, bootstrap mentality, binary thinking, or economic injustice. What has helped me to shift and de-condition has been experiencing workplaces where I am paid well and can enjoy a unique and vibrant work culture. Seeing practices like lunch being provided or having work equipment expenses covered or reimbursed impacts my mindset and sense of possibility. It gives me a vision of what kind of workplace I want to lead and create. Discovering social enterprises and fair-trade companies has been another shift for me. Learning about impact-driven marketing solutions and building authentic relationships as modeled by my friend, who is a socially conscious sports marketing professional, has helped plant a seed in my vision of what’s possible if the right enterprises and communities receive money and support.

Another integral site of shift for my sense of self has been the practice of martial arts. Before practicing Aikido, I was neutral about my body. I used to have the narrative that because I tend to be clumsy, I don’t need to explore or train my body. So when I first started Aikido, I found myself feeling thrashed and out of shape for just doing basic moves. As I stayed committed to the practice, my body started to become more fluid and resilient. I became more aware of how I move and what my body is capable of. I began to develop a sense of confidence, rhythm, and power within myself. My confidence went to the roof when I finally was able to do a roll on the mat. My martial arts experience prepared my body and soul to face myself. That preparation also gave me the capacity to eventually face and heal my money ghosts and shame around my desires. This, along with going to therapy, leadership development, support groups, and participating in nervous system regulation practices, has helped me to integrate new rituals and practices for healing.

The road to wholeness and freedom is long and nonlinear. Ancestral money ghosts come back from time to time whenever I step into a new territory or when life changes occur. More layers of conditioning and patterns from my family, society, culture, systems, and experiences get uncovered. At the same time, I am getting better at being a steward of my body and spirit through expanding my relationship skills, practicing nervous system regulation, and ongoing investment in chiropractor treatment. I ask God daily how they can help me to expand my capacity to ask for what I need to be nourished and to receive them fully, which is a shift from asking God what I need to give or to get things. I am also reclaiming the art of petition and intercessory prayer when I own the truth that I am inherently worthy. Because I am reclaiming my inherent worthiness and living into my call as a worldbuilder embodying shalom in the now, God and I can co-create a vision of prosperity and vitality that forges a new liberating legacy of my own.

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Xeres Villanueva

Xeres Villanueva (she/her/hers) has deep roots in community building, social entrepreneurship, spirituality and activism. She is involved in community building projects such as Tuesday Night Cafe and various social justice groups. She has been in the worlds of freelancing, small business and non-profits throughout her career. Xeres is also a co-founder of the WE Empowerment Center, a grassroots financial receivership organization dedicated to support liberatory community and creative projects. Her interests are media and pop culture, cultural and art activism, liberation movements, economic empowerment and food.

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