Is it Easy Being Green (and Powerful)?

President Donald Trump’s controversial executive orders and press conferences have sparked conversations about power, personality and mental health. “How could he say that about immigrants?”  wonder some. “I read an article that says he’s unhappy as President,” say others.

Coincidently, each March, Pulse explores finance and power. Full disclosure: I’ve never treated Trump, and the Goldwater Rule established by the American Psychiatric Association prevents psychiatrists from commenting on personas whom they have never met before. Therefore, I cannot speak to Trump’s state of mind, but I can speak generally about power and finance and how they may be related to psychiatric issues.

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In the 2014 study “Wealth, Power or lack thereof at the heart of many mental disorders,” Dr. Johnson et al. explored perceived definition of power and confidence and how they vary in some mental disorders. Researchers asked 600 people to describe their social status, motivation to gain power and a personal sense of pride. The authors concluded that there is a correlation between perception of power and the highs and lows of respective mood disorders, such as mania or depressive features. For example, those who may have been in a manic phase described feelings of happiness, increased self-confidence and a greater need for power. The opposite held true for those who felt depressed.

Another interesting article published in the Journal of Financial Planning in 2014 looked into some attributes of top income earners in the nation. People in the high earning group, defined as anyone in the US who made $154,000 or more (the top 2.5 percent of earners in the US), were analyzed on factors such as money scripts, financial behaviors, wealth motivation, financial knowledge and demographics.

In the conclusion, researchers left us with an important takeaway: The value and perception of money in high earners is more intertwined with one’s self value than previously thought. “Individuals endorsing the beliefs that self-worth and net worth are intertwined, that success is defined by how much money they earn, and that money helps give their life meaning were more likely to have attained a high income level.” It may sound like a no-brainer to some, but it is a data-driven opposition to the idea that money can never buy happiness if top earners become so dependent on their net to constantly re-fuel their successes in life.

This isn’t to say all people can buy happiness with currency. It ultimately depends on the person and their individual wants, needs and values. My advice in these often-polarizing discussions is to use your sense of self to define success.

dr. uruj kamal

dr. uruj kamal

Dr. Uruj Kamal is a third year resident in Psychiatry at Baystate Medical Center-University of Massachusetts Medical School. A Stony Brook native, she enjoys combining her knowledge of mental health with healthy living. Dr. Kamal has a special interest in outpatient adult psychiatry.