Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thoughts on Secret Fears of the Super Rich

by Tara Deliberto

I came across this article "Secret Fears of the Super Rich," and thought it was pretty interesting. I posted a link to it in an online forum, and one of the readers responded with this Ayn Rand quote: "Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth, the man who would make his fortune no matter where he started."

Here are my brief thoughts on this marvelous quote from a psychological perspective:

Being in my line of work, I'm acutely aware of the fact that people need to build their own sense of mastery. Without mastery, feelings of helpless set in and a general lack of motivation is fostered. Translated into clinical terms, people become depressed and anxious. So perhaps if an individual is given everything, their sense of mastery can be diminished because they have not had to take opportunities to succeed on their own.

There are several possible reasons why these opportunities are not taken. For one, when the bar is set so high by a family member who built a fortune, it may be too frightening to even approach success. It is seems safer not to attempt anything at all and live a comfortable life. But is it better for one's own well being to never have tried?

While fear of failure might drive this behavior, the possibility also exists that it is that once wealth is attained or inherited, there may simply be no perceived need to achieve. Perhaps if the same person who inherits wealth and chooses not to engage in tasks to build mastery is put under real pressure, he or she might very successfully build resources. But without ever needing to, attempts are not made to earn one's own living.

In short, I'm conceptualizing two paths, the first would be an anxiety-avoidance path while the second is a contentment/maintenance path.

Whether or not they want to, people who inherit money may benefit from continually engaging in mercenary tasks where failure is possible along with adopting an accepting attitude that they may never achieve at the level of their family members. The idea is that when any amount of success is achieved, their own sense of mastery may increases, motivation can ignite, and life many feel more purposeful.

I think this idea fits nicely w/ Ayn Rand's - one needs to be motivated to achieve for their own sense of self-worth. Sometimes having an inheritance can take away one's own sense of importance while increasing entitlement. While importance and entitlement are often linked, perhaps they are very different constructs. While a person may not view themselves as being meaningfully able to contribute to the world (importance), they may think they deserve everything (entitlement).
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