CFDS Episode 020: The One Thing Your Therapist Should NEVER Say To You

Picture for episode with food to soothe the gut

My adventures of having a therapist and teacher who put us both into a bit of a situation. And the best food to soothe the gut and recharge your brain.

In addition to this story, at the end of this episode I’ll share with you the best food to soothe the gut, recharge your brain AND bring you strength and connection to who you really are.

OK enough hints from me, let’s get on with the story.

This week’s crazy story

Right, so this story is a bit of a doozy and I’ve never shared it before except with a few close friends. So why not share it all over the internet, right? The reason I’m sharing this story though is because I feel it deals with a really important topic. And that is boundaries.

Let’s talk boundaries

When I say boundaries, I don’t mean fences or stone walls or anything like that. I’m talking about the boundaries that we all set that say to people, “You can come here but no closer”. For those who don’t know, boundaries are our (mostly unconscious) way of telling people what is and is not OK.

So for example your boundaries with your friends are probably very different to those with your coworkers. Friends can most likely get closer to you, not only emotionally and mentally, but physically as well. You probably wouldn’t move away from a friend in an elevator if they were standing fairly close to you, whereas with a stranger, you would. Right? We talk about personal space and that’s one kind of boundary.

Now why am I prefacing my story with talk about boundaries? Well, because this story is all about violating someone’s boundaries – in this case, mine – without even touching them. And this kind of behavior is just not OK. Although it does make for an interesting story, as you’ll see.

It started in a bookstore

This story takes place not in Paris as with some of my previous episodes, but in London, England. And it starts in a used bookstore.

My son was very small – he was about a year old – and he and I often found ourselves in used bookstores, whether we wanted to be there or not, because his dad loves books. He wanted to browse and scour all the shelves searching for whatever books caught his eye. While my son and I were waiting, I spotted a flyer on a bulletin board advertising training in a particular method of therapy that sounded really exciting. I won’t say exactly what it was because this isn’t about name calling and the story involves the founder of that method. And, you know, I don’t want to use real names because the purpose isn’t to name and shame, it’s just to tell a story.

I looked at the flyer and my intuition said, “You need to do this course. It’s perfect for you”. So I wrote down the phone number and the website address and looked it up at home. And sure enough, it looked fantastic. It was a full year of training in a small group to become a therapist using this method. I could even use my vocal skills, so I thought ‘wow that really is perfect!’

Very exciting…at first

I signed up for the course and was very excited on my first day. Beforehand I had already read a bit about the method’s founder, whom I’ll call Chris. I was really looking forward to learning from him.

We were definitely a small group – there were twelve of us, plus Chris and his two female assistants. And the training was very intense. Chris told us that he wanted to ‘break down the walls of our egos’ (and if this sounds like something a leader of a religious sect might say, well yes you’re right. How did you know?)

So what followed were some very long days of exploring our own inner psyches using Chris’ method – we did this in the mornings usually. Then in the afternoons we would do group work, so trust exercises, therapy games etc. We also always had some kind of circle time where we would talk about things that had come up during our group and individual explorations of our inner worlds. Chris was the lead therapist, and we were all like his clients. We were learning by exploring our psyches and then using him and his therapeutic skills to deal with what came up.

Dealing with heavy stuff, and ego-breaking exercises

And I have to say that some of the stuff that came up was pretty heavy. Things that people had repressed for years, or that they remembered vaguely but had never explored. Or that they didn’t even remember until the work we were doing brought a memory to the surface. I can’t go into details for obvious reasons, but we’re talking childhood abuse, family members committing suicide, birth trauma, that kind of stuff. So not exactly what you’d chat about over a coffee, right?

Some of the exercises were pretty interesting as well, as was the homework. One assignment I remember was that for 3 days we had to create a blanket fort in our homes (now that does sound like fun, right?) and we had to live in there. We also had to eat our food without using our hands from a bowl on the floor. Sounds weird, right? I mean now you probably definitely think I’m nuts!

I mean I’m all for self-exploration, but I have to say that my son’s dad thought I was nuts. My son thought it was normal – I mean he spent a lot of time crawling around on the floor anyway so he probably figured Mommy was playing like he was. It was interesting to say the least, and I know I did have some deep realization or other during that process but for some reason I can’t remember for the life of me what that was. But that’s not important.

Is he skilled, or is he psychic?

Anyway exercises like this make you a bit vulnerable, and we very quickly came to depend on Chris in the all-day sessions for his help and support. He was very, very skilled – extremely good at what he did, and he would see things in people that left you thinking, ‘Is he psychic? How did he see that?’ It was incredible to watch. So we all, I think, admired him. Certainly for me, I had him on this therapist pedestal – I admired him as a teacher, a trainer and a therapist. Nothing more than that though.

One day we were learning about two aspects of a relationship between therapist and client that are crucial to understand if you want to be a good therapist. And those aspects are transference, and countertransference. I need to explain them so that you understand what comes next. But it’s pretty logical and I’m going to give a very simplistic explanation here.

Transference and countertransference

Transference is a process where the client unconsciously transfers feelings that they have for someone in their life onto the therapist. So for example let’s say a therapist is helping a woman get over her difficult relationship with her brother. At some stage in the therapy, that woman can start to transfer her feelings for her brother – good and bad – onto the therapist. The mind does this to help us work through those feelings, because the therapist is a ‘safe’ version of her brother. The client can rant and rave or say things to the therapist-as-brother that she perhaps wouldn’t feel able to express to her real brother. And a good therapist knows about this process and is smart enough to work with that transference.

For example if the woman starts ranting at him in the way she used to at her brother, the therapist can use that dynamic to respond to her in a way that can help her move forward. This is very simplistic, so if you’re listening and you’re a therapist, please forgive me. I know it goes deeper than that but I’m just trying to get across the basic idea because of what comes next in my story.

An example of countertransference

Let’s say then that the woman is ranting at the therapist because in her unconscious mind he has become her brother, in a sense. In a perfect world, the therapist wouldn’t take this personally. He or she would be thinking ‘Well her transference is that I’m her brother, I know this, so I won’t take this personally’. But therapists, like the rest of us, are human. And they do react to the client’s transference – which we call countertransference.

In the case of the ranting woman, the therapist’s reaction – his or her countertransference – could be anger. It could be fear. It could be any number of things depending on the therapist’s own personal history. And a good therapist will recognize that if he or she starts to feel a strong emotional response, then perhaps the client is unwittingly triggering some of the therapist’s own personal stuff. Cause we all have our personal stuff, right? We all have buttons that people can push, regardless of how much personal development we do. It’s just that usually the more personal development you do, the more difficult it can be for someone to push your buttons. But the buttons are still there.

And now the story gets tricky…

So here’s where my story gets tricky. One day we were in our circle time talking after we’d done some group work, I think this was about 3 months into the course, and Chris wanted to talk about his reactions to each of us as people. Well, as clients. He wanted to do this because he was convinced that his reactions to us were based on our stuff. In other words, his countertransference.

He went round the circle saying things to people like “With you, Jim, I feel on edge a lot of the time. I wonder where that has shown up for you in your life?” or “With you, Anna, I feel protective, like I want to look after you to make sure no-one hurts you. Where could that come from?”. Then he got to me – and he said the thing that (according to the books I read that he recommended we read) NO therapist is ever supposed to say. He said, “With you, I feel a lot of sexual energy, a very primal kind of attraction”.

No, no, no! Therapists are NEVER supposed to tell a client that they are sexually attracted to them, countertransference or not! Clients – and students – are fragile people. And we were in the middle of a very intense psychological process of breaking down barriers and uncovering any unresolved issues in our lives. It was hard, scary work and none of us needed this kind of complication. Especially as we were such a small group, working together in one room for 8 hours a day 5 days a week.

Delayed hearing? Yup, that’s a thing

Now Chris threw this particular bombshell 3 months into the course, but interestingly I didn’t actually hear him say it until 3 more months had gone by. My mind literally blocked out his words in the moment he spoke them, it wouldn’t let me hear them to protect myself. Unfortunately my subconscious heard them and the dynamic between us changed after that day. You might think that’s weird, but this does happen. There are moments when we just don’t hear something because, yeah, our mind protects us and it just gets blocked out.

Whereas before, he was the teacher, therapist and innovator that I admired, now he was a dangerous threat. The problem though was that because my conscious mind didn’t let me hear his words until months later (when a comment from someone in the class unlocked my memory), I didn’t understand why suddenly I was afraid of him. During our group exercises there was so much tension between us that it affected everyone, especially me, I think.

The worst part though was that as the course progressed, I started to get more and more upset, and he somehow had managed to convince himself and the rest of the class that I had “started it”. He was convinced that his attraction to me was simply his countertransference due to “my stuff” even though he was the one who had said to me out of the blue that he was attracted to me. And he had some of the other students believing that I was more than a bit like unhinged. Which was just really annoying, especially once I’d remembered what had actually happened.

My ego was having a great time

And the other annoying thing or challenging thing was that there’s a very thin line between massive admiration for someone and attraction. So as the course progressed it was difficult to not feel a response to the mega teacher saying he was attracted to you. I felt singled out in some way, and if I’m honest, it made me feel important. Right? Suddenly I had something that no-one else on the course had.

Well I know now that the whole scenario was pretty ridiculous if not embarrassing. I think of it now and it makes me (almost) want to laugh, but how often have we felt important over something that actually wasn’t that important at all? My ego was basically having a field day. So I’m sure that’s happened to you, right?

Anyway even with the huge cloud of tension hanging over my head, I did manage to finish the year. Ironically when we had completed our last assignment, he gave me the only compliment for the entire year. On the last day.

How Chris really saw me

In our final circle time, he went round to each person and said what he wished for them and/or what he could see them achieving with what they’d learned. And as usual it was super perceptive and absolutely incredible, actually. It was one of those moments when again you were like, ‘is this guy psychic?’ When he got to me, he said “Out of everyone here, you’re the one who I can most see doing what I did. You’re the one I can see creating your own method and taking it out into the world to affect change”. So of course I felt like screaming – if he thought I was that good, why on earth couldn’t he have told me that, instead of talking about his feelings of attraction and stuff. Anyway!

My conclusion

My conclusion looking back on all of this is that circumstances can create feelings that aren’t real. As soon as a few weeks had gone by, after the course, the whole attraction thing felt false. And while he really should NOT have said what he did, it taught me a lot and I’m very grateful for the experience.

I learned that our minds can create all kinds of stories, his and mine and everybody else’s. And if we take a step back from the situation – or in my case a couple of years’ distance – we can see the experience in a different light. Which makes me question how much of what we experience in our day to day lives is real truth? How much of what we think is happening, or what we think others are thinking and feeling comes from our own stories? We speak a little bit about this in my episode with Corrina, with Corrina’s story which I’ll link to as well.

The other things I learned were within the method itself, which is absolutely amazing and I do use it for many things today. I gained an invaluable tool, even though it cost me a bit of heartache to get it. And I also learned how strong I can be and about the different kinds of people that I can help. So was it all worth it? Definitely. It’s all life experience, right? Even the blanket fort and eating out of the bowl. All good!

Can you disappear from Google?

I never found out what happened to Chris after that, except that he left the country shortly afterwards. And his two female assistants left the course at the end of the year, at the same time I and the other students did. They would never say why, but I do wonder why they both left.

A few years ago I even tried Googling Chris to see what he was up to, and I found…are you ready? Nothing! Nothing! A founder of a fabulous therapeutic method who has written several books…and I found nothing. It’s like he’s disappeared from the face of the earth. But even so, like how can you disappear from Google? Right? Amazing. I guess it’s possible.

Anyway, I share this story for anyone who ever starts a therapeutic journey. Yes I learned a lot, but it was definitely the hard way. So make sure you’re in good hands, and if your therapist or trainer starts making noises like “Oh I find you attractive”, take my advice and run the other way!

Food to soothe the gut

So, I mentioned at the beginning of this episode that I’d share with you the best food to soothe the gut, recharge your brain AND bring you strength and connection to who you really are. And that food is… avocado!

Benefits of avocado

There are so many benefits of avocado, it’s ridiculous. Avocado is a great food to soothe the gut because it can actually help restore the lining of your stomach and intestines. It also has anti-inflammatory compounds that work like aspirin but without thinning the blood. So if you have any kind of condition where your digestive system is upsetting you, so things like IBS etc, any kind of irritation in your digestive tract, then you definitely want some avocado. Because as a food to soothe the gut, it’s one of the best.

Also avocados are one of the best-known foods for the brain. Their omega 6s can help restore our central nervous system and can help alleviate conditions like Alzheimer’s, dementia, ADHD, things like that. So I don’t know about you, but my central nervous system could definitely use a reboot sometimes. And yeah, avocados are just the thing.

They also have anti-ageing benefits: they’re great for the skin and they can even help reduce dark circles under your eyes. And they’re even great for your hair – you can mix some avocado – ripe avocado obviously – with your favorite conditioner and use it as a hair mask.

The other neat thing about avocados is that the fats that they contain are similar to those in breast milk! It actually makes an amazing first food for babies along with bananas.

And on an emotional level, avocados are like a ‘mother fruit’. They nurture us at a very deep level. Think of them as the supreme ‘comfort food’ – that’s actually good for you. The next time you want to reach out for a comfort food, as many of us do, reach for an avocado instead and see what happens.

How to pick and store avocados

Here’s the best way to tell if an avocado is ripe: Press gently near the stem. There should be a bit of give. If it’s too soft, it’s too ripe and may be stringy. You don’t want that. If there’s no give, it’s too hard and isn’t ripe yet. The color should also be uniform, where possible, whether it’s the lighter or darker green variety.

Now for storing avocados, they’re best kept out of the refrigerator because cool air spoils their flavor. It just ruins them. Keep them at room temperature until you’re ready to eat them. I have heard that people freeze avocados, I haven’t tried that myself. You can try that if you want. I know it’s possible but I haven’t done it, I always eat them fresh.

How to eat avocado

The easiest way to eat avocado is to obviously just slice them down the middle, take out the seed (just stick a sharp knife into it and pull) and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. You can puree it with a fork if you’re giving it to a baby, or if you just want to make yourself some speedy guacamole. Just mix in some diced tomato, a squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of sea salt, maybe a bit of chili powder if you like spicy things, and then instant guacamole!

I have lots of recipes that go great with avocado in my 5-Minute Salads & Sauces ebook, and I’ll post the link in the show notes.

Have YOU got a story to share?

Which brings us to the end of this week’s story – and if you’ve got a true story to share (and you’d like to know what food could have saved the day or enhanced your particular situation), I’d love to hear from you!

Got a question, or a comment?

Got a question, or a comment? Pop a note below in the comments, that would be awesome. You can also subscribe to the podcast to listen ‘on the go’ in iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn.

I hope you have an amazing day. Thank you so much for being here with me to share in my Clean Food, Dirty Stories. Bye for now!


5-Minute recipe ebooks:

More about the benefits of avocados here:

Article on avocados as first foods for babies: