Ten Money Questions for Ken Page
Ken Page, LCSW, psychotherapist and lecturer, is also the director and founder of numerous LGBT personal growth events including the upcoming LGBT Spring Intimacy and Spirituality Retreat. He is also the founder of Deeper Dating, a dating event for singles committed to deeper values which has received much attention in the New York LGBT media. He believes that LGBT people hold unique gifts, and that healing involves rediscovering and embracing these gifts, which have often been shunned in our families and by the larger culture. Ken is also the proud father of five-year-old David Page.
1. Time Out New York magazine calls Deeper Dating “the new-craze dating event … a combination personal-growth workshop and singles mixer.” It also costs money. What are participants paying for?
Participants at Deeper Dating have the opportunity to meet people of depth, and to refine their dating skills in a safe and exciting learning environment. Our facilitators are all highly skilled educators and therapists who I personally know and respect. People often leave feeling inspired and hopeful; not what you might expect from a dating event!
Our culture trains us in such primitive ways about how to date and meet each other! So what we teach in Deeper Dating is how to identify the qualities that we value most in ourselves. We help participants practice being brave enough to lead with those qualities, and wise enough to choose people who appreciate these qualities and complement them. The people who attend Deeper Dating tend to be compassionate, smart, and committed to deeper values such as personal growth, service, and building community in their lives.
For their money, people can expect to practice exercises which will be illuminating and interesting as a vehicle to meet other people. We call it ‘speed dating with soul’. The same commitment to safety and the building of community apply to the retreats that I run, including the upcoming Spring Intimacy/Spirituality Retreat.
2. On your Deeper Dating website, you write “For those of us who base our lives upon deeper values, it is essential that we choose others with similar commitments … both as friends and as romantic partners.” Have you observed that money issues put LGBT people in conflict with ‘deeper values’?
I think that in our culture, money issues put just about everyone in conflict with deeper values! We’re hit with three different whammies. First, our culture relentlessly equates happiness and self-esteem with purchase power, and that can be incredibly seductive.
Secondly, as LGBT people, the larger culture has historically tried to rob us of the places of deeper value in the human community: family, partnership, children, and a place at the table of spirituality. And it is precisely in these arenas that we often find the deepest feelings of worth and belongingness.
The third whammy is the one that we do to ourselves as a community. As queer people gain acceptance, we place greater value on the trappings of inclusion such as wealth and status. There is certainly nothing wrong with wealth and achievement, but when our own culture confuses economic worth with personal worth, then we become our own enemies. This is what I would call ‘glossy queer culture’.
But in many traditional cultures, the queer people have been the shamans, artists, teachers; we have been the keepers of spirit and beauty. As we continue to assimilate into the mainstream, it’s really important to hold on to these invaluable cultural gifts, because we are in a position to lead the world with them. Queer people are so often remarkably adept at straddling the gifts of both genders, and this capacity is a skill that the world desperately needs right now.
3. You have spoken about about primary joy, secondary joy and addictive joy. Could you define what they are, and how they relate to money?
A mentor of mine and a great pioneer of the LGBT movement, John J. McNeill, author of The Church and the Homosexual among many other titles, says that that we need to discern between our different joys in order to discover which bring the most authentic happiness. This process of discernment is really a process of developing maturity. I like to think of our joys and pleasures as falling into three groups, with frequent overlap between the categories:
“Primary joy” is the most valuable joy, the joy that we most are looking for. When we feel primary joys in our life, we are struck by their sense of personal weight. They don’t just bring emotional height; they bring emotional depth as well. We have a sense that they are connected to our deepest roots, and they feel somehow more permanent, less evanescent. When we feel primary happiness, we sense that it is something worthy of building our lives around.
Primary joys are probably the least tied to money, although they might be facilitated by money, for example donating to a cause you deeply believe in, or taking care of someone you love using money. But money and its acquisition is only a means toward achieving primary joy.
“Secondary joys” are the pleasures of life, often but not always more connected to acquisition. They don’t necessarily feed the deepest parts of us, but they are to be celebrated. But we need to watch out with our secondary joys, so as not to get lost in our efforts to obtain them. Of course, the best deal of all is when you have both primary and secondary joys; that’s just pure delight.
“Addictive joy” is ephemeral, marked by a sense of itch, an urgent desire for something, followed by a sense of hollowness or continued craving when that high is done. All of us need to look at what are our addictive joys. We need to see where we have them, because in an ongoing way, they erode our primary joys. When it comes to addictive joys, those are things that we really need to try to work on and move away from. With our entrenched addictive and compulsive behaviors, willpower and intelligence are actually some of the weakest tools for addressing these problems; it’s more effective to seek external support.
4. How do we discover what our primary joys are?
That’s a really urgent question for all of us: what are our primary joys? In creating a life plan, in budgeting for our own life happiness, it’s the first question we need to ask ourselves. Naming and then claiming our primary joys is a lifelong task, but here are two helpful exercises:
After hearing the above description of primary joys, list three or four of those things that you might consider your primary joys.
Then, think of three experiences in your life which were deeply, deeply gratifying. Think about what primary joys were reflected in these experiences.
These exercises should give you some sense of what your primary joys might be.
In this model, money is really just a helper. It becomes part of our life plan, one of the key tools to help us build the life we want; one that is largely centered around our primary joys. Each of us needs a life plan to help get there. I call this process “happiness-based budgeting.” Identifying our primary joys is the first stage of happiness-based budgeting.
5. So what’s the process of “happiness-based budgeting”?
Our key resources are time, money and effort. In budgeting these resources, we need to think about a life plan with our primary joys right at the center..
Here’s an image that helps capture it: Picture your life as a complex maze. The treasure in the middle of the maze is primary happiness.
Most of us approach a maze in the typical way, starting from the entrance, bumping up against the walls and often getting lost along the way. But there is a much simpler way to do it. If any of you have cheated in doing a maze, you know that the simplest way to win is to just start right on the end goal, and then work your way backward to the beginning.
And that’s the way to start with your life plan. You start with your primary joys, and then plan with them as the first priority. Sometimes we think we need to start where we are first, and have happiness as a later goal. But I encourage everyone to assess to what degree, right now, we are using our time, money and energy to obtain primary happiness. Most of us spend the bulk of our time striving for secondary happiness, seeing primary happiness as a future goal that we’ll somehow get to. That’s a result of our culture’s training, and it is a huge mistake.
My advice is to stop waiting! Even more than saving for retirement, budget for primary joy. Start building it into your life right now! I guarantee that no investment will bring greater returns.
6. Several years ago you adopted your son, David. How do you compare your attention to your career and finances before and after you became a single parent?
Early on, I felt children would be a primary joy for me. At 43, single, and certainly not rich, I decided I had better not wait much longer, and I began the process of adoption. But before I did, I worried a lot about finances. When would I ever be able to retire? How would I be able to pursue the joys of travel, how would I be able to have any kind of rich life in addition to my life as a parent?
But someone said something really wise to me, an old German saying that “a child brings its own luck”. They said to me, “you are imagining your future based solely on your own ‘luck’. But your sphere is going to be widened immensely as a result of this child, and the possibilities that are going to arise when you have this child are going to be much greater than the possibilities that exist now for you”.
And I’ve found that to be absolutely true. The influx of love into my life made my career flourish, gave me a reason for order, and healed many self-esteem issues which were blocking me from my own potential.
7. What is the most important lesson you hope to teach David about money?
It’s so easy to feel like money is senior to us, or to ignore it out of fear and I’ve been prone to both of those tendencies. What I’m working on, and what I hope to teach my son, is to have a comfortable, eye-to-eye relationship with money. That means really knowing your numbers, knowing what comes in what goes out, and being comfortable with the choices he makes around that.
8. As a psychotherapist, one of your areas of specialization is working with entrepreneurs who have a commitment to personal growth in addition to career success. What aspects of therapy are unique with your entrepreneur clients?
One thing that has been really enjoyable for me in working with entrepreneurs is that they tend to have a sense of joy around experimentation, creativity and even risk. I help them to recognize the value, and the rarity of this gift. One thing I have also found is that people with this capacity tend to be naturally generous, and they can get taken advantage of by people around them that don’t have the same capacities. This often leads them to a sense of independence that can be isolating. The task is often to learn to receive as well as to give.
Just like for all of us, the task of choosing people who are likewise trustworthy and generous is essential for these entrepreneurs. Another task for entrepreneurs is to understand the ways in which their relationship to their ventures mirrors their relationship to themselves.
9. If you could buy one thing right now what would it be?
There’s this tiny little machine called a stress eraser, which helps you monitor your own stress and reduce it through biofeedback. I think it’s really cool.
10. Money can buy you a lot of therapy, spiritual retreats and Deeper Dating events, but can it buy happiness?
In certain cases, money can buy health, money can buy protection and security, and money can buy some things that produce true joy. This is very real. But essentially primary joy and money are different entities, and primary joy brings the truest joy. Money used in the service of that joy comes closes to bringing true happiness.
More about Ken Page
Ken Page, LCSW has been a psychotherapist, lecturer and workshop leader in the LGBT community for over twenty years. He has created and directed numerous events, most with the goal of supporting LGBT people in building family and community, and integrating personally meaningful spirituality into their lives. He is the director of the upcoming LGBT 12th Annual Intimacy and Spirituality Retreat from April 27-29 in Garrison New York.
He is also the founder of Deeper Dating, a highly popular dating event for people committed to deeper values. Time Out New York has called him the “dating guru”, and his work has appeared in many media sources including Life Magazine, Time Out New York, and numerous LGBT publications and websites. Ken was for many years the director the Rowe Labor Day Retreat, one of the largest and oldest GBT men’s retreats in the country. He is currently a director of the Easton Mountain Labor Day Retreat.
Ken has been a featured speaker on the Rosie O’Donnell cruise, and has done much work in the community in supporting queer people (including singles like himself) in making the choice to bring children into their lives. To join his email list for retreats and lectures, please write to him at email@example.com. To join the Deeper Dating mailing list, visit the site at www.deeperdating.com.
For information on lectures or to inquire about psychotherapy, please contact him at 212-420-0394 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.