Economic bust plays on emotions

Downturn surfaces self-blame, fear

Money is closely related to people’s feelings of shame and pride, and to their sense of self-worth, says behavioral economist Sara Wedeman. This crazy, roiling and flailing economy where nothing makes sense is pushing many Americans to the fight-or-flight instinct.

"The more people have followed the rules and tried to meet social expectations, the more frightened they are," says Wedeman, a principal with Economic Behavioral Consulting Group in Philadelphia. "People are having to choose between blaming themselves or admitting that everything that promises us safety is out of control."