Anxiety and the London Property Ladder

Can owning real estate be a defence for one’s own emotional insecurities and deficiencies? Is that the reason for climbing the London property ladder? Can it reduce our existential anxiety? OK, maybe I’m making a giant leap here in my assumption, but still—no reason for the assumption to be completely off—and not all of the time either.

Getting on the London property ladder is a big thing for the younger generation—any property ladder, in fact. It gives you status, puts you in line (or ahead of) peers and, most importantly, brings certainty into your life, hence reducing your anxiety. How does that work?

When my psychotherapy or counselling client’s enthusiasm in grasping career success is challenged and further enquired, I rarely receive an answer—not an answer that would convince, anyhow. Even more so, they often find themselves posing with more questions than solutions.

If you cannot get certainty in life, you can at least get some certainty having things stuck to the ground—like a house or a flat. Is that how it works? Provided that certainty means a lot to you.

Or is it about status? About keeping up with the Joneses? How do you know whether the Joneses have it well off? Is their grass greener or do they just brush their Instagram photos? Maybe that’s how they get the attention you want also. Is it the attention you want, a life or the “feel good about yourself because others feel good about you”?

Highly paid corporate career might turn other people’s heads—but not as much or as many as one would want to believe. But how does that serve you? Certainty is like gravity—it can feel as though you’re grounded, but it can still cause a blow in your head when you fall.

Take this banker. He started his career after graduating from a top university in the country. Because he graduated from the top university, his social circles were proportionally ambitious to the tuition fees they paid. After graduating, he spent 10 years working 10-12 hour days in the office, evenings drinking—because you have to socialise to keep up—with those same social circles. And weekends… What weekends?

He then got married and got a kid, but had “responsibly” secured a mortgage before that. The lure of the London property ladder made it seem rational. Anxiety levels seemed to have dropped. Now he’s making sure he can keep up earning enough to support the lifestyle he signed off for. He got angry when his wife was in his face for not spending time with her and the kids. He couldn’t seem to convince her he cannot be in two places at the same time. So, she took of with someone that pays attention, while he ended up paying the mortgage and the alimonies. Now, he’s alone and needs to earn even more to get by. And he needs to make sure he keeps the job for it.

Why did he want to get on the London property ladder? To fulfil his life purpose, meaning, calm his existential anxiety? Can you blame him? He grew up in poverty on outskirts of society, made his way up alone. He doesn’t want his kid to go through the same pain, neglect and hurt as he did. So, he’ll make sure he puts her in the best schools and throws money at her. But, he doesn’t acknowledge that even thought the daughter will not suffer in exactly the same way, she will still suffer regardless.

She is now in boarding school, detached form everyday reality of this world and learning to live in a bubble and without appropriate parental relation—waiting for the infliction of the boarding school syndrome.

We don’t really know what life the Joneses live, but we still want it. Do we want it for ourselves or do we just want to be seen living it? And how does getting on the London property ladder serve that—how does it provide certainty and reduce our existential anxiety?