The Isolation of Abundance

“Robin Williams worried about faltering career,
struggled with survivor’s guilt, sources say,

by Hollie McKay, August 12, 2014,

“…Very few people in this world reach the level of fame Robin Williams did and could understand the type of depression he dealt with,” Veteran Hollywood publicist Michael Levine added. “There tends to be a lack of compassion – ‘So what, you’re famous’ – and it’s hard for people to then empathize. People like Robin often feel like they have to completely isolate themselves from the fishbowl they live in, and are so isolated they are afraid to ask for help.”

As I read this paragraph in Hollie McKay’s article, I found I was startled by the echo of isolation I have encountered many times among my wealthy clients. In fact, one of the reasons my practice exists is that my clients need a person whom they can confide in and count on for empathy about many, many thoughts they have never felt free to express with friends or family. They begin to explore with me the big qualities of life: identity, relationships, communication, and certain parenting questions. In all of their questions, their financial wealth is a central force.

One of life’s most difficult challenges is coping with any pain alone and the isolation of having no one you trust to share the burden. When the pain escalates, greater isolation results from believing that no one can possibly understand. No one. And believing nothing can make the pain stop. Nothing. When this mindset persists, it can lead to depression. Even surrounded by material abundance, depression can wield its grip. And there’s that lack of compassion you know to expect from others: ‘So what, you’re wealthy.’

Abundance is a concept that, at first glance, looks overwhelmingly positive. Yet for some it carries the question, “Why me?” and a sense of guilt for having plentiful resources while millions of others don’t have enough. Those who lack resources can be envious. They are sometimes eager and skilled at taking advantage; hence it can be difficult to sort out who, if anyone, truly cares and is trustworthy. Wealthy individuals can feel overwhelmed by the choices: fun, helping others, saving and building more wealth. Very few manage a healthy balance of these three priorities.

Our wealthiest individuals have a lot in common with successful movie stars. It is easy to view celebrities’ lives in the media. Both movie stars and very wealthy individuals typically live in fishbowls and can feel they have little in common with others. Both have an abundance of assets highly valued in our culture, assets which are often envied and misunderstood by outsiders. The thing is, no one gets a free ride through life. It is simply not the human condition. The human condition is that we all have challenges. Yes, they vary a lot, and someone else’s challenges inevitably will look easier to you, but nevertheless, everyone has challenges. Everyone.

Sometimes we forget how we can benefit by our connections to others. On the one hand, we make assumptions about how someone else’s life is easier than our own; and on the other hand, we truly forget how much we have to offer others. All of us create our own isolation at times with our assumptions and forgetfulness. It can be helpful to have reminders of the importance of who and what is present in our lives.

A few years ago our pastor, Bob Sanders, gave an inspiring sermon series, “The Ministry of Presence.” His theme was not only God’s presence for us, but the presence we can each provide for others.

We are all ministers of God’s love, every one of us. This includes those of us who feel we have nothing to give. But we all have something. Each of us is in a web of relationships, even thin relationships, and it is in these relationships that we are each called to be there for others. I have always admired people who instinctively know when someone needs attention. While this is a gift, even the most awkward of us can be kind and can listen. We can affirm a person whose pain feels unmanageable to them and restrain ourselves from giving advice. And as many of us have found out, there is nothing more fulfilling than knowing you were there for someone at a critical moment.

One of Bob’s most salient points came from his mentor, Bob Oerter, senior pastor of the first church where Bob served. He remembered Bob Oerter saying something he’d never heard anyone else say: “It would be to a person going through a tough time, a person he cared deeply about, and there often would be tears in his eyes as he said it: ‘Don’t waste your pain.’ I asked him what he meant, and he said, “It means if you have to go through this pain, don’t miss what it has to teach you. Don’t let it make you bitter. And don’t be in a hurry for a happy ending. Let God use it for good in you and in others.”

If isolation and addiction has gripped the life of someone important to you, I encourage you to read Bill Messinger’s recent blog:”Wealthy, famous, powerful and addicted,” at

It is with great excitement that I introduce the Longbow NXG: Four-day “Taster” Program in the UK, October 11-14, 2014, in which I am advising and teaching. Longbow is the leading center for the development of purpose and potential for significant wealth inheritors. This introductory weekend retreat brings together a small group of like-minded people who are committed to transforming what is possible in their lives. I will be there to help you discover and build on what really matters to you, introduce you to skills to overcome limiting thoughts and behaviors and develop a plan of action to create your future. After the retreat, you could continue to work with Longbow either through a multi-faceted year-long program or by selecting any one of their bespoke services including personal assessment, coaching or executive mentoring. For more information, visit
© 2014 Thayer Cheatham Willis. All Rights Reserved.

The Navigator is a quarterly newsletter for all who have an interest in wealth. The rich really are different, but not in the ways most people think. Many envy the wealthy and presume they have no problems, but in fact, they face unique psychological challenges. Thayer Willis, LCSW, wealth counselor, speaker and author of Navigating the Dark Side of Wealth: A Life Guide for InheritorsandBeyond Gold: True Wealth for Inheritors, helps her clients develop the meaningful lives we all treasure.

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