The Human Fascination with Winning the Lottery

It is a natural human instinct to want to be a winner. Being a lottery winner helps one not only become enormously wealthy and feel uniquely blessed as a “special individual”, it also leads one to experiencing drastic financial and psychological transformations not familiar to most people

Currently, The North American lottery system is a $70 billion-a-year business. On January 12, 2015, an 80-year-old retired School Principal was the sole winner of $326 Million Dollars, New York’s biggest lottery prize ever. He chose to receive the annualized after tax sum of $130 Million Dollars and plans to help his family and his community. Other prize winners in various states have been younger, some of meager means whose new fame and fortune overwhelmed them.

Regrettably, after the initial glow of their good fortune, euphoria and celebration, many lottery winners enter the quagmire of managing their new funds, managing numerous requests for money, become overwhelmed by decisions they have never tackled before, encounter resentful and entitled relatives, may be besieged by communities’ and charities’ requests for donations and lose their privacy. Their every step is watched, judged and criticized as they scramble to get familiar with their new life status.

In a “Money Watch” article dated October 2, 2013, Robert Pagliari cited several examples of individuals who suddenly became rich. He stated, “Initially, they are exuberant. I call it the ‘honeymoon’ stage of sudden wealth where ‘Anything and everything is possible.’ Sometime later, some lucky winners gain a new perspective of their newly acquired distinction. Willie Seeley, who won a $450 million Powerball jackpot with 15 of his co-workers stated six months later, “The drama is nonstop,” and his wife remarked that the money is “a curse.”

How do we explain humans’ strong quest for riches co-existing with the disdain for the affluent? Psychologically, if money is a gauge of worth, significance and value, then the dislike for those who have attained or inherited money, is illogical. At the same time, our culture also holds in high regard those who climbed from rags to riches. These “self-made men and women” are often admired and looked-up to. Is there a difference between earned and inherited riches? The answer appears to be dependent upon the observer’s viewpoint. Those who feel good about themselves, regardless of their financial standing are psychologically and emotionally richer and more blessed than those whose comparisons with others leave them feeling demeaned.

We can all be richer and win a lottery by:

  • Valuing people by their essence rather than their financial standing.
  • Appraising the wealthy individual’s treatment of others, including their kindness, caring and generosity as criteria of worthiness rather than by his/her financial assets.
  • Accepting that earned money is a greater asset than lottery winnings.
  • Appreciating that even lottery money may become a hindrance rather than a blessing.
  • Valuing ourselves and others by our kind and decent treatment of others rather than by our/their assets.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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