I'm a longtime Geneen Roth fan, and think this might be her best work yet, or at the very least, right up there, as she untangles the ways we think about money and food and what they represent. She starts with her own major loss--her and her husband's life savings of one million dollars, which had been invested with Bernie Madoff. But what's really at the heart of this book is why and how she came to invest with him and the assumptions she'd made about money--that caring about it was for "other people" (read: men) and that those who felt moved to act for social change "shouldn't" care about money.
I found so many connections to what she wrote about money and my own relationship...with dating and relationships. It was almost eerie, and I think anyone who's felt that they should look to an authority figure who "knows better," whether about money or another topic, who has purposefully avoided looking at the hard things, thinking they'd either go away or magically take care of themselves, who's used money to soothe themselves, will get something out of this book.
At first, especially if you're someone who lives paycheck to paycheck, the idea that someone with such a nest egg could feel worried about money seems a bit audacious, over-the-top, but it's a very clear line from those who are thin but feel fat, and what Roth does best here is describe that feeling, and how the extreme nature of what happened with her savings forced her to reckon with her previous thinking. The stories about her father's treatment of money (tossing it onto the floor and making everyone else literally scramble on the ground to pick it up) are eerie and disturbing, but Roth never asks us to feel sorry for her. She isn't looking at what made Madoff do what he did but rather how her own attitude fosters her ignorance and allowed her to continue to put money into a category outside of her own mind. This is a powerful book that I will certainly be rereading, and Roth masterfully looks deep inside as well as outside, amongst her peers who lost money to Madoff and their varying reactions as well as in a broader sense, to what money does and doesn't signify in our culture.
on March 23, 2011
Wow, do I hope as many people read this book as did Women Food and God. Geneen has a rare gift for placing everyday suffering and compulsion in a much broader context of spirituality and redemption, and boy did she hit the jackpot of suffering when she lost her life's savings to Bernie Madoff. Anybody who has ever defined themselves and their place in the world by how much or how little money they have should read this book (not to mention it is an absolute must-read for all compulsive shoppers !) I have been reading Geenen's books for over 20 years, and I believe this is her best work yet. One word of warning - the subject matter of this book is at times hilarious but also very upsetting. Of course, many readers will know the post-script that, after the Madoff scandal, Geneen went on to publish her most successful book yet, Women, Food, and God, and we know that Geneen will be fine. Many Madoff victims, whose stories are also told in these pages, like the working single mother who sacrificed years of reading to her daughter before bed at night only to end up with nothing to show for it, are not so fortunate. Geneen too is painfully aware of this, and perhaps her greatest gift is that she does not sugar-coat or condescend.
on November 1, 2011
I had high hopes for this book, as I've struggled with both food and money issues for most of my adult life. However, I became impatient with LOST & FOUND since Geneen "circles the bowl" endlessly and theorizes so much that she rarely reaches any solid conclusions. That said, I came across some interesting tidbits, such as:
<> When money (food) becomes simply money (food) - a means of exchange that allows us food, shelter, clothing, and comfort (nourishment, energy, stamina, strength, health) - instead of the antidote to our low opinions of ourselves, we can begin using it in ways that generate well-being rather than exacerbate insanity. But we cannot have a sane relationship with money (food) until we have a sane relationship with ourselves.
<> Obsession with shopping is a form of autism. But is it the thing/food I want or is it the aliveness, no matter how temporary? If I've convinced myself I need to buy something I can't afford (or to eat huge amounts of highly-caloric food), I need to remember that when my psychological survival is at stake, survival trumps good intentions every time. But if I allow the lack to be there - then there is no shame, no fight, no desperate need to fill it. As soon as I stop fighting the deprivation, I see that it's in the past and what I really wanted THEN was a feeling, not a thing.
<> Sufficiency is an experience, not a given amount. "Enough" is a relationship to what you already have.
That's what was useful for ME to read - but it took slogging through a couple hundred pages to glean that. Now that I think about it, I've had the same problem with virtually all of Geneen's other writings - there's too much hypothesizing "filler" and not enough substance! Still, if you've got the time and inclination, this book is not without insights.
on March 26, 2011
Yesterday, on the flight from Detroit to San Francisco, I read Geneen Roth's new book - Lost and Found - Unexpected Revelations About Food and Money. The book is an eye-opening exploration of how the past and our unconscious attitudes about money can wreak havoc in our lives.
Geneen pulls no punches in the book. From "grovelling for dollars" to "Madoff rage" to the "specter of homelessness," Lost and Found is a candid revelation about what Geneen learned by losing her life's savings in Bernie Madoff's Ponzi Scheme. The book gives us insight into Geneen Roth's open-ended inquiry into her relationship with money, her unconscious attitudes toward money, her life habits around money, and how she has begun to free herself from it all through awareness & inquiry.
It takes a lot of courage to reveal so many personal and intimate details as Geneen has in her book. The gift of it for the reader is that we can connect with her and her experience in a real way. Lost and Found isn't a dispassionate treatise on the effects and insights of falling victim to one of the greatest con men of all time, nor is it a tale of "woe is me." Lost and Found is more a journey of revelation from a person responding to a "wake up call" from reality.
We are fortunate to have a person like Geneen Roth who can show us the beauty and power of bringing awareness and inquiry into all of our life.
on August 25, 2011
In _Women Food and God_, Geneen Roth illuminated how the way we approach food mirrors how we approach life. In her newest treasure _Lost and Found_, Geneen shares a similar discovery of how our relationship to money also reflects our core attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors for life in general. In both the cases with food and money, it's not about the actual material substances themselves, but how "our relationship to both substances are expressions of unconscious beliefs, family messages, outdated convictions, and painful memories."
Writers write what they know, and just as her years of suffering with disordered eating allowed Geneen to write life-changing books on the subject, the loss of her life savings in the Madoff scandal resulted in the profound discoveries she is able to share with us in _Lost and Found_.
When I read _Women Food and God_, I found myself having so many aha!-moments and writing down pages of notes to capture points that I wanted to be sure to remember. Similarly, while absorbing every word of _Lost and Found_ , my wow-this-is-a-fascinating-idea-I-want-to-revisit pages of notes started to become a book of their own.
Here's just a sampling of some of the insights she stumbles upon in her lost-and-found journey:
Seeing what you don't have:
"When you believe in accumulating, you see what you don't have, not what you do have." (p. 8)
Obsessions as a way to change your mind's channel:
"When we are obsessed with anything--food, drugs, alcohol, making or spending money--the obsession takes on a life of its own--and then defines how we spend our time, our energy, our resources. Obsession is a form of autism, a way to cover our ears and block out the background noise, a way to protect ourselves when the situation feels vulnerable or dangerous or anxiety producing. Obsession is a way to change the channel when you don't like what's barreling across the screen of your mind." (pp. 48-49)
Survival instincts hijack long-range perspectives:
"When the imperative to shop (or eat or drink or take drugs) takes over, nothing else exists. It's why diets don't work, budgets get thrown out, credit-card debt keeps accumulating. The momentary imperative of survival will always, in every situation, hijack long-range perspective." (pp. 50-51)
Decoupling associations through awareness:
"When we associate love with shopping for twenty or thirty years, or when we pair any kind of discomfort--anxiety, boredom, fear, loneliness, sadness--with danger (fragmenting, collapsing, falling apart), neural pathways get established in the brain; our responses to situations will endlessly follow those same pathways until we establish new ones. Until we uncouple shopping from connectedness or anxiety from danger, we will repeat the same behaviors again and again." (p. 51)
The courage to change:
"It takes motivation to see through the patterns. It takes the courage to actually see that we don't want to see. It also takes confidence that it is possible to get to that other side. That there is something better than an immediate fix: knowing your own mind, contacting your own heart. Tell the truth. Understanding that feelings won't kill you." (p. 52)
It's not about the food or money:
"Since both food and money--nourishment and worth--are inextricably woven into the fabric of love and lack of love, they trigger feelings of deprivation, abundance, sufficiency, giving, receiving, entitlement, needs, wants, pleasure, suffering--and survival itself."(pp. 65-66).... "Our relationships to food and money are reactive and unconscious. They are ways we express ancient, outdated beliefs about meaning and loving and living. About wanting and giving and receiving." (p. 73)
"The impact and meaning of a catastrophe are not in the event itself. The ability to tolerate it is a function not of what happens but of our relationship to ourselves and our own minds. In that simple realization is absolute freedom." (p 94)
The true disaster:
"The big horrible thing isn't about the plane crash or the earthquake or the diagnosis. When those things occur, we act, we know what to do. We live or we die. Hell is what we do in the meantime. It is the ways we starve our souls as we prepare for the future that never comes as planned. The true disaster is living the life in your mind and missing the one in front of you." (pp. 95-96)
The cost of being loyal to the unconscious:
"If you are not willing to face that which will destroy you, you will never discover that who you truly are can never be destroyed." (p. 119)
Addictions--trying to fill an emptiness that can't be filled:
"The nub of any addiction is the belief in your own deficiency and the assumption that it can be fixed by a tangible substance...If you're trying to fill something that can't be filled with what you're using, the emptiness never goes away and you keep wanting more." (p. 143)
Questioning your beliefs:
"Whether it's the relationship with food or money or drugs or alcohol or shopping, the main factor in any kind of change is whether or not you are willing to truly question your beliefs about yourself and the world. Whether or not you are wiling to listen to yourself in a way you've probably never done." (p. 195)
OK, I'll stop the review here before I give away too much more of the book. But, I'll close by saying that if you're ready to find answers by uncovering, questioning, and revising your deep-seated beliefs (whether it be about food, money, or other tangible stand-ins that may have put you in a trance), then you'll likely find _Lost and Found_ to be the perfect find.
on April 10, 2011
Little did I know how much reading Geneen's newest book would impact me and how I live my life. When I read Lost and Found the first time, it didn't quite sink in...that could have been my first clue. OMG, how I noticed something huge had just happened was how I was seeing what I was doing for work and with work and because of how I worked. This of course is so closely connected with what I do for money. Now I am reading the book outloud to my spouse and doing inquiry each day into what comes up. I have already made some huge changes in how I chose to use my energy in work. No more expending all the energy I have doing things I don't really want to do. What was I thinking?
Geneen, I have one more book for you. Write about our relationship with illness and pain. I work with people in pain and it's the same darn thing. It's really not about the injury. The injury is the easy part. It's how we see ourselves when we are injured or sick. You know. You had all those years after you had shingles and then after your near fatal accident. It's a whole nother arena for exploration. Pain and illness is yet another portal. You have such a gift with words and clarity to get this message out. Include both men and women. People, Pain and Illness...see, you'll have to even do the title.
Thank you for helping me change my life. You were able to help me see why I've been sitting on a cushion for 20 years! Doing inquiry has blown the lid off this underworld of concepts and believes that have driven me all these years. What an amazing exploration to just be curious and "see" what drives the me/mine. WOW!
on June 2, 2011
I like this book for the examination of the overlap of mindless spending (and investing as a type of spending) and overeating. Similar concepts have been brought up by Peter Walsh in his books "It's All Too Much" and "Does This Clutter Make Me Look Fat?". I think Roth does a better job with this fuller examination of the unstated reasons for out of control behavior. I think this book has lessons for people beyond the stated food and money, it could help with many types of overindulgence.
The book shares many of her patterns of behavior and the shows how they sprang from core beliefs that were not right. It took a lot of courage to admit that she thought her husband was responsible to provide the necessities of their life, and her money was for play. She tells us how she conveniently "forgot" to bring he wallet when they went shopping at Costco, so he would have to pay. She works through many examples of this kind of thinking, where it came from, and how she addressed it. She makes it clear that she is still a work in progress.
I think this book is needed for many people, but I think Roth generalizes Her feelings to the general population. She has a left of center political approach which will dampen her message for some people. She does not even consider that moral people can differ from her values. Roth writes from a Buddhist perspective and refers to many Buddhist writers and their works, so it helps if the reader understands some of the beliefs beforehand.
I think this would be a great book for a book club, it is a good read. I wish there were a study guide with discussion questions. If people were able to tolerate the discomfort these subjects bring, the discussions could be enlightening.
on December 23, 2012
Roth seems to want to make a virtue of the fact that losing $1 million to Madoff did not change her life significantly - she discovers that she and her husband did not need the money (no doubt because she already had a lucrative business running retreats for compulsive eaters and writing books about the experience). This does a disservice to those to whom the loss of life savings would be truly devastating - contrary to what Roth would like to believe (and would like us to believe to the tune of the book's price at $25.95), this is not just an existential experience. And then there is the issue of the learning curve. It turns out that she and her husband had been swindled out of a quarter of their savings by a previous financial adviser and still put their fate into the hands of an opaque operator such as Madoff. She wants us to view that as emblematic of the human capacity for denial. Maybe so, but the more pedestrian view is that she is just a slow learner. And please, don't liken obsessions with food or money with the condition of autism - anyone who has an autistic individual in his or her life would be insulted by such an opportunistic comparison.
on April 6, 2011
I really loved this book. I've read several of Geneen's other books and was intrigued when this one came along. I was also a bit tentative about reading it because it was about the 'great god' money and that's an area in my life where I've been all over the map emotionally and mentally. This is exactly what she describes in the book. I was also tentative because I was afraid that while I was reading I would feel shame about my relationship with money but that's exactly what didn't happen. Geneen described my feelings and behaviors to a tee and in such a gentle and accepting way that I couldn't help but feel gentle and accepting towards myself. In fact, I feel up to the task as well as eager to be more in touch with my finances. Thank you Geneen, for the courage and talent you used in bringing this lovely work to fruition.
on April 20, 2011
In her new book, Roth recounts the devastation she experienced after losing "thirty years of retirement savings" in Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme at the end of 2008. This event, among others, forced her to reevaluate her relationship with money. Lost and Found serves as a helpful companion to Roth's #1 New York Times Bestseller, Women, Food and God. She admits, "My relationship to money was no different from my relationship to food, to love, to fabulous sweaters: Because I was never aware of what I already had, I never felt as if I had enough. I was always focused on the bite that was yet to come, not the one in my mouth. I was focused on the way my husband wasn't perfect, not the way he was. And on the jacket I saw in the window, not the one in my closet that I hadn't worn for a year."
Roth's statemet reminds me of a statement in the Old Testament: "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income" (Ecclesiastes 5:10). King Solomon, the likely author of Ecclesiastes, notes that chasing appetites is often like chasing smoke: once you grab it, it evaporates. We never become fully satisfied by what we consume (eating, spending, etc.).
Lost and Found is divided into two main sections: (I) The Way We Eat is the Way We Spend and (II) Cash and Consciousness. Roth is characteristically open, honest, and confessional. She speaks candidly about her mistakes, fears, bad habits, debt, and shame. She offers helpful suggestions for her readers to enjoy a balanced view of money (and of life). Roth shines a bright light on what many of us want to keep hidden: our irrational tendency to overspend (indulge, binge), feel guilty (ashamed), and then retreat into a siege mentality (hoarding, self-deprivation, etc.) when it comes to basic purchases. This, as she notes, produces significantly negative effects on the health of our relationships, emotions, and of course, our finances.
Lost and Found is a well written, fast-paced book. This is a great introduction to Roth's life and work, and also a helpful resource for those who want to gain control over their addiction to consumption.
In 2009, Timothy Keller published a very helpful book that deals with these topics as well. His book, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters, provides a distinctly Christian perspective on the dangers of money (food, family, etc.) as an idol.