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The Ultimate Guide to Recognizing Unethical Behavior in Healing & Therapeutic Relationships

Learn how to recognize the signs of dysfunctional coaching and therapeutic relationships and protect your mental health from unethical behaviors.




"I was unexpectedly physically attacked (grabbed by the throat and choked for a few seconds) by a facilitator of a self-development group (encounter group) in front of ~20 other people. For him, this was not the first time he was physically violent in his groups."


 

Unless you've lived in a cave for the last few years, you must have noticed the cultural trend of self-development.


In recent years, both Psychotherapy and Coaching markets are in explosive growth. And that's both good and bad.


The good thing about it is, that people are leaving behind the stigma that getting help on mental health is a sign of inferiority. Instead, traumas are healed, intergenerational patterns are broken, and human lives are improved.


As a result, people are getting happier and healthier.


However, the bad thing is, that this explosive growth also reveals the market's "dark side". The market opportunity attracts coaches who see "helping others" as a path to easy money, or worse - they unconsciously use "helping others" to satisfy their ego-driven grandiosity.


Eventually, a vulnerable client can be used for financial and emotional exploitation instead of being actually served to get better.


Being in the healing & self-development world for a few years, I've seen fantastic trauma recoveries and personal transformations.


But I also experienced the dark side of it. The initial story I shared was definitely my worst direct experience, but it's not the only one I've had:


- My first "therapist" (in my mid-20s, upon recommendation) spoke 90% of the time, he claimed to see "my energies", he "read my energy field" without me ever asking for it and speaking with me from a superior position of knowing what I should do to "fix my problem". When I started to resist him and point out the inconsistencies in his stories, it resulted in a confrontation, where he used gaslighting to keep his authority. I left the relationship and avoided any other therapy for years.


- One of my clients was calling me, quite disturbed and disempowered. After 2 months of work and great progress with me, he was told by his long-term therapist that his progress and happiness won't last. He should focus more on classical therapy - with the therapist himself, of course.


- I was at a group workshop, where the leader led the entire group through a hypnotic trance, where he used hypnotherapeutic techniques to sell his 4-figure coaching products.


For a person who never did any trauma healing & self-development, these examples can seem extremely discouraging to do any of the work. But remember, that this is a very small percentage of the case studies. There are literally millions of success stories, lives saved and changed for the better thanks to the existence of therapy, coaching, and healing work. My point is not to discourage you from seeking help, quite the opposite.


Why am I writing this article then?


While encouraging you to seek help if you need it, I also want to give you specific hints on how to recognize a 1. person who can help you heal your trauma and grow personally from a 2. person who unconsciously uses you to fuel their own pride, grandiosity, and bank account.


The word unconsciously is important, because I believe, that no person does harm to another person on purpose. Pride and delusion of grandiosity are psychological defense mechanisms. They're helping the person deal with their own painful emotional reality. As long as they're stuck in these mechanisms and playing them out unconsciously, they're unable to help their clients, and they're the first ones who need help.


Therefore my objective is not to stigmatize anyone, and it's not to divide the people in the healing world into good ones and bad ones. After all, all of us have a dark side. My objective is to rather show you symptoms of what it looks like when a coach gets lost in their own ego.


That way, once you start feeling that something is off in your therapeutic relationship, you'll know what to look for to decide whether you can restore the balance between you and the coach or it's time to leave the relationship.





8 Red Flag Signs to Watch Out For In Coaches, Therapists, Mentors & Groups


Table of Contents:

1. Achievement of The Universal Ultimate Goal

2. Suppression of Critical Thinking: Dogmatic & Magical Thinking

3. Authoritarian & Seemingly Superior Healer

4. Assumption of a Faulty Client: "You're Broken"

5. Blind Obedience: Accepting a Belief & Taking Action Without Understanding Why

6. Coach's Inability to Take Responsibility: Victim Blaming

7. High-Pressure Sales Techniques

8. Creating Authority by Polarizing Your Worldview


Note: I will use the terms teacher, healer, coach, therapist, mentor and group leader interchangeably because in this context they're all variations of the same function: healing & personal growth. With each point, I will explain:

- NAME: Essence of the sign & psychological consequence

- WHAT is the essence of the point,

- HOW it is enforced,

- WHY it's dangerous to your mental health,

- and what is the BEST DEFENSE against it.


 


1. Achievement of The Universal Ultimate Goal - Enlightenment/Ultimate Freedom/etc.

(Client's Mind Entrapped In a Closed-Logic Belief System of a Covert Ideology)


WHAT is it?

A group's or the person's teaching is directed towards reaching some kind of ideal that is an expression of Universal Perfection: Spiritual Enlightenment, Ultimate Freedom, Infinite Eternal Happiness, Salvation, etc. The point is, that once you reach this state, there's no further effort necessary anymore, and you're finally "there" forever. Because some "teachers" see the state as universal, they feel entitled to impose it on others too.


HOW is it practiced?

Most of the time, the Ultimate Goal is presented as a common sense idea. Over time, however, a covert (=hidden, undercover) ideology emerges around it with fixed beliefs and a clearly defined process of what must happen for the person to reach the Universal Ultimate Goal.


WHY is it dangerous?

Once the Universal Ultimate Goal gets firmly established in the mind as a common sense idea, the person starts to subordinate everything in their life to attain the Goal.


At first, it seems to make perfect sense.


The Universal Ultimate Goals are usually very noble and highly moral/spiritual outcomes:

- "Of course, I want to be happy and loving forever (that's what we all want)."

- "Of course, I want to experience eternal peace after death (that's what everyone wants)."

- "Of course, I want to clear all my negativity (so I'm happy ever after)."


I put this one on the top of the list not because it's the most common, but because it's probably the most dangerous one.


Once the Universal Ultimate Goal is accepted on a common sense basis, people are easily influenced by the authority teaching the ideology and give up their autonomy and responsibility to the point of suppressing their Critical Thinking, which can have devastating effects on the psyche (and potentially their bank account).


I'll break this down further in points 2, 3, and 4.


Universal Ultimate Goals are attractive because they look like shortcuts to resolving long-lasting emotional problems - which is why they don't work. The idea that you can fix all of your problems at once through the Universal Ultimate Goal is nothing but another escape mechanism from the real problem, which is the repressed trauma, its associated repressed emotions, and the deep disciplined work that's required to overcome them.


BEST DEFENSE:

Notice whether the coach leads you into pursuing a Universal Ultimate Goal and/or whether they're giving you signs they've achieved it.


If they're unable to take feedback and criticism and you always end up feeling inferior around them, the person is very likely using you to prove to themselves (unconsciously) the righteousness of their ideology.


Why?


Because IF you:

1. feel insecure and you need help and

2. you make approve of their solution,

THEN YOUR insecurity-driven APPROVAL of their ideology is the SOURCE of their confidence and power.


That's the essence of how all cult leaders operate psychologically.


They're identified with the ideology so much, that without it, they'd lose it all - their confidence and, consequently, their entitlement to influence others through "help".


Their confidence is an extension of their ideology, it's not coming from self-understanding and emotional self-regulation (ability to proactively deal with emotional tension). Without their ideology, they're lost, that's why they have to protect it by rejecting all criticism and feedback.


Therefore, if your coach is unable to accept feedback and wants you to blindly follow the "system" to get to the Universal Ultimate Goal, you can be sure that he's guiding you into a closed covert ideology, and you'd be better off without them.



2. Suppression of Critical Thinking: Dogmatic & Magical Thinking

(Client Giving Up Autonomy, Critical Thinking & Entrapment in Covert Ideology)


WHAT is it?

A person or group teaches something that "just works" and they can't explain why. The only way for you to experience progress/success is to fully submit to the teaching in order for it to work for you, even if you don't understand it.


Now, sometimes it is necessary to overcome the fear of stepping into the unknown to explore your own psyche. In those cases, cutting the thinking off, getting courageous, and "just doing it" is the right thing to do.


The problem here emerges, when suppression of Critical Thinking is required for the method to succeed. If asking critical questions ruins the result for you, or it's framed as "asking too much/overthinking/resisting the method" and you get psychologically attacked for it, then you're being covertly manipulated.


Now, what if the client does not ask these critical thinking questions and just blindly follows despite his inner resistance to the teaching?


In an ethical healer-client relationship, this should not happen as the healer should be able to notice the resistance and address it. Why? Because it helps the client get better results, and supports his autonomy, and his ability to replicate the results on his own - which are all goals of an ethical healer.


HOW is it practiced?

When teaching becomes confusing and you start asking critical questions to get more clarity, the teaching itself is

1. either used to stop your critical thinking "([Insert practice] is better than trying to figure it out.")

2. or you're being attacked for questioning the teaching ("You're thinking too much, like that's going to help you...").


WHY is it dangerous?

Because it creates an impression that the only way how you can get ahead and feel better in your life is by repressing your own common sense, gut feeling, and critical thinking AND fully submitting to a person/ideology. Not only it gradually robs the client of his autonomy, but also it can be grossly abused to maintain the teacher's pride, power, and grandiosity while exploiting the client financially. If you stay in such teaching for long enough, the sunk costs will make it more and more difficult for you to reject it and leave.


BEST DEFENSE:

I'll quote Buddha here:


"Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.

Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.

Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.

Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.

Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.


But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."


If asking critical questions is detrimental to the success of teaching, or if a healing system is fragile to critical thinking, it's most likely dysfunctional.





3. Authoritarian & Seemingly Superior Healer

(Weakening Clients' Autonomy & Creating an Inflated Sense of Self)


WHAT is it?

The coach uncritically presents himself as a case study for everything that works, creating an impression of perfection around his identity: "This is who I am", using it as a basis for his authority.


HOW is it practiced?

The coach often creates an impression that "He made it." This gives him the authority and a mandate to teach everyone. As a result,

1. he often has glorious and absolutist statements about his area of expertise and he shuts down discussion or questioning every time (overt types),

2. OR even if they answer your critical inquiry, you end up feeling more confused than before you asked the question (covert types). And because your sense of inadequacy rises with your inability to understand the confusing statements, you'll give up and accept the "teaching".


WHY is it dangerous?

Because you do not only learn from the teachings presented by the teacher, but also from the teacher's embodiment of the teaching. The person can have superior skills and knowledge, but they can't be superior to you as a person - that's just an inflated ego. If a person embodies superiority and inflated ego and you're accepting that in the relationship, you're unconsciously working towards inflating your own ego in a similar way.


What's wrong with living with an inflated ego?


It's extremely impractical. Mental health and inner confidence do not come from a short-term inflated sense of importance but from a deep-seated awareness of one's own dignity and inherent worth, and an ability to regulate one's nervous system and emotions.


Furthermore, what's inflated tends to cyclically compensate - by deflation. I believe the temporary short-term highs are not worth the deflated emotional lows. Fruits of sustainable growth taste much better.


BEST DEFENSE:

Does the coach lead you to see him as an equal or is he putting himself on a pedestal? Observe humility. If the person shows no signs of humility and perceived equality with others, they're very likely stuck in Pride and an inflated ego.



4. Assumption of a Faulty Client: "You're Broken"

(The Fixing Attempts Reinforce the Client's Toxic Shame Instead of Healing)


WHAT is it?

There are several categories of this point:


1. Beginner healers. Innocent attempts by novice coaches to get results for their clients by force. They see their clients like broken engines and they see their jobs as mechanics who need to "fix" them. It's a matter of mindset and a lack of experience. It's exhausting for the coaches and it's ineffective for the clients. Most healers eventually grow beyond this stage.


2. Narcissistic tendency. The narcissistic tendency in this context is a coach's need to prove to himself that he's adequate through his clients getting results as a result of his work. It's not personal. Healing work can be demanding and exhausting. Sometimes the healer feels like a failure because the client isn't getting results and consequently, he might slip into this tendency. I believe every healer is vulnerable to this as it is part of human nature. An experienced and ethical healer is aware of this, actively managing his own narcissistic tendency to give the best value to his clients.


3. Narcissistic Personality Disorder. These are extreme cases, where the leaders are driven by their delusion of omnipotence (grandiosity). This delusion, being their own psychological defense mechanism, makes them see themselves as universally superior. That makes everyone else inferior to them. People in these positions need to be fixing those they work with in order to keep their delusion of omnipotence going. Paradoxically though, they can't heal anyone because if someone "got to their level", their superior position created by a grandiosity-driven ego would be threatened. Therefore, they keep their followers in the chasing mode as long as possible. (Their superiority tells them, their clients MUST get results, therefore if they don't get any, the clients get the blame.)


HOW is it practiced?

If you don't feel accepted for where you are before you're being coached on your next steps, you're most likely worked on to be fixed. Fixing, in essence, is about rejecting the state THAT IS and changing it to something, that SHOULD BE. You will feel that you are being fixed instead of feeling understood, accepted, and guided in the direction that meets your needs and Goals the best.


WHY is it dangerous?

It's easy to slip into a "fixing" relationship with a coach because many people, especially early in their self-development path (or after significant trauma), believe they're broken and they need to be fixed. This mindset is often created by shame about their identity (toxic shame): "I'm not okay the way I am."


(If you can notice these feelings inside you, this article will help you.)


Put simply: The only way to grow is to learn. Learning is, accepting what is, receiving an experience, and reorganizing your understanding of yourself and your existence to a one of a higher order. The experience feels good and makes you more efficient in life. That's learning. Growth. Progress. If you're fixing yourself, you must assume the position that you're broken, which means you can't learn. How can you learn anything if you're broken? The idea that you're broken is an illusion created by trauma and held in place by toxic shame ("I'm not okay the way I am."). If you're in the "fixing yourself" mindset and your coach is encouraging that, you're NOT receiving guidance into personal growth, instead, you're reinforcing your toxic shame.


A particularly dangerous aspect of this point is the situation where you're feeling like you're broken because you're unable to successfully implement the practices of the coach. This mechanism is the essence of what gets people sucked deeply into destructive cults. This resource describes in detail how this mechanism works in the case of Mormonism.


BEST DEFENSE:

Share the truth. "I feel like you're trying to fix me and I'm getting frustrated and this conversation is getting more and more difficult for me." If you get a compassionate answer and an attempt to understand you at a deeper level, you're in good hands and this might even fuel your healing process. But you might also get attacked for "not being coachable", "not trying hard enough" or "not understanding enough yet". If you'll get rejected for sharing your truth even more while the fixing attempts become more concentrated, it's a good idea to leave the relationship.





5. Blind Obedience: Accepting a Belief & Taking Action Without Understanding Why

(Weakening Client's Individual Autonomy & Creating Blind Confidence in Dysfunctional Behaviors)


WHAT is it?

There is a risk common to all points 1-4: Losing your freedom to act autonomously and giving up your power to choose what's right to an external person (or ideology).


The consequence: Instead of developing a Character by repeatedly doing what YOU believe is the right thing, you'll develop Pride (superiority) in always knowing "the right thing" intellectually, based on an ideology or someone else's method.


(Note: This point is really a culmination of the #1 The Ultimate Goal, #2 Suppression of Critical Thinking, #3 Authoritarian, and Superior Healer, and #4 Assumption of Being Broken)


HOW does it happen?


#1 ULTIMATE GOAL: IF you're pursuing a Universal Ultimate Goal that's superior to everything else in the world, THEN you're at THE RISK (=Losing your freedom to act autonomously and giving up your power to choose what's right to an external person (or ideology)).


#2 SUPPRESSION OF CRITICAL THINKING: IF you give up Critical Thinking in favor of something that supposedly transcends Critical Thinking, THEN you become unable to uncover lying and fraud and you're at THE RISK.


#3 AUTHORITARIAN & SUPERIOR COACH: IF you accept the idea that your Coach is Superior to you as a human being THEN you won't even come up with a Critical Thinking inquiry out of fear (dressed as reverence) and you're at THE RISK.


#4 ASSUMPTION OF BEING BROKEN: IF you assume you're broken, THEN any inquiry coming from a broken person can be easily disproved by the person's inadequacy "You just don't get it yet." and you're at THE RISK.


Again, THE RISK = Losing your freedom to act autonomously and giving up your power to choose what's right to an external person (or ideology)


Now, bear in mind, that this is not BAD at its core if it's a choice. I have a sports coach and I'm happy to outsource my decision-making (what I'll work out, when, and how) to him, give up some of my autonomy here, and just follow.


The problem emerges when this is happening covertly and you're not aware of it.


HOW does it happen?

Blind obedience is either actively enforced by the coach/group leader (overtly) or it is indirectly embraced as a result of the influence of the person/group (covertly).


Examples:

#1 Ultimate Goal: dogmatic repeating a formula or a process, that's supposed to bring them permanent happiness,

#2 No Critical Thinking: people paying tens of thousands to get the additional piece of advice to finally reveal the secret to becoming a millionaire,

#3 Coach Superiority: couples cursing at each other in anger (and worsening the state of their nervous systems) because their therapist told them it's an expression of love and caring,

#4 Fixing Brokenness: people working hard to get rid of their egos in their (pseudo-)spiritual efforts because having an ego = still not being "there".


As you can see, these things are interrelated. What they all have in common, though, is blind obedience to a person or an ideology.


WHY is it dangerous?

Well, this is quite straightforward. If you blindly obey someone and you do things without understanding why you might end up doing something really dumb.


In light cases, you might lose some time. In moderate cases, you might lose some money. And, in hardcore cases, people lose friends, families, and savings.


BEST DEFENSE:

The answer is the same as in point #2: Critical Thinking. As an autonomous being, you have a right to ask critical questions and get an understanding. The reason, alongside intuition, makes you better distinguish right from wrong. If someone is unable to give you reason for their perceived "right" and they make you responsible for their inability, then your strange feeling about the person is fully justified and it's the right thing to leave the relationship.



6. Coach's Inability to Take Responsibility: Victim Blaming

(Client Leaving With the Impression of Being Broken & Strengthened Toxic Shame)


WHAT is it?

Victim blaming occurs when the victim of a wrongful act is held entirely or partially at fault for the harm that befell them. If you received a service where you were promised big results, followed the advice, took adequate action, and yet received no results, it's a professional failure of the service provider. If despite the facts, the service provider makes you responsible for the failure (twisting facts or using the ideology) - you're experiencing Victim blaming.


HOW does it happen?

The research ACE (the Adverse Childhood Experiences) discovered that children who experienced significant trauma in childhood (0-17 yrs) are statistically more likely to experience similar traumatic events in adulthood.


An extremely simplified interpretation of this is, that they unconsciously seek these situations so that their bodies can express the repressed emotional pain stored in the nervous system, and ideally release it.


It's one of the key principles of Trauma - the pain wants to get out of the body, so the body recreates similar situations as opportunities to express & release the pain, get closure and let it go.


This principle can wonderfully support people in their suffering, create compassion for themselves, snap out of the victim mindset, put them back in charge of their lives, and facilitate healing childhood trauma.


Now, in a coaching relationship, the client is expected to take action - that's why he gets results. If he doesn't take action, he won't get results.


However, when the client puts maximum commitment and effort into taking action and still gets none of the promised results, then the trauma principle can be grossly butchered into a justification of the coach's failure:


"You got NO results in the time frame I've promised - despite following all my advice, and using the system I designed - because YOU were not trying hard enough (or you've got more work to do)."


You can either cut the losses and move on or - if you're stubborn/ambitious enough - you buckle up and keep trying harder to get those results and... become stuck in the "therapeutic" relationship.


WHY is it dangerous?

If the coach is unable to take responsibility for failing to deliver in the case where he was previously confident to do so, then the responsibility is absorbed by the client. This strengthens the toxic shame in the client ("I didn't get the results because something's wrong with me. He did not do anything wrong, it's all me."), it discounts the progress the client made, leaves a bitter taste, makes it less likely for the client to seek out help in the future, and lengthens his period of stuckness in life. On top of that, many people, rather than cutting the losses and moving on, will continue with the coach and try harder (sunk cost fallacy), only to get similar results - which can also be costly financially.


BEST DEFENSE:

Put down the facts and ask for a second opinion (ideally also a third) from a trusted friend or a mental health professional who is not involved with the coach/system you're dealing with. Your Critical Thinking might be biased by continuous exposure and emotional attachment to the coach. If you come to the conclusion that you're experiencing Victim Blaming, then bring it up in one of your sessions in a way similar to point #4 Assumption of a Faulty Client. If the coach is unable to CLEARLY RECOGNIZE his behavior and TAKE IMMEDIATE RESPONSIBILITY and restore trust, then walk away from the relationship as there is nothing that can be done.





7. High-Pressure Sales Techniques

(Penetrating Client's Boundary With Guilt, Shame & Insecurity for Financial Exploitation)


WHAT is it?

Using confrontation to penetrate your boundary about pursuing a coaching service. If you're being confronted because of your decision not to buy (or enroll in a group), then you're being pressured into sales.


HOW does it happen?

In coaching, once the person is clear about their situation, motivated to change and they're excited to take action, then a sudden step back is often an expression of fear of change. The progress might appear too big to handle and create a feeling of psychological lack of safety. This step back, then, is an unconscious attempt to process the fear and get the feeling of safety back by backing out from their decision to change.


In this case, ethical and high-quality coaches are able to lead the person through the fear, towards their goals and this ends up being highly valued by the client.


Unfortunately, this is also an opportunity for an unethical coach to non-consensually manipulate you into submission.


This is done by the coach 1. asking you penetrative questions, 2. without your permission, seemingly to help you, 3. creating an impression rejection is an inferior choice.


"You know what, actually I think I need more time to decide if I want to work with you."

"How much time do you need to decide if you want to spend your days feeling lonely and impotent and instead get your confidence back? Is that REALLY a question for you?"


Logically, it sounds true, but emotionally, you feel defeated and this has massive consequences on your relationship with the coach.


It's a whole different Universe, when you give permission to be led through your fears while being explained what might be happening in your psyche and you are still given a choice to say no.


"You know what, actually I think I need more time to decide if I want to work with you."

"I see, I understand that you want more time to make a decision and I respect that. Can I share with you my experience regarding that?

"Yes."

"In my experience, this could be an expression of two things:

  1. Commitment to change is simply not the right thing for you right now. If that's true, I don't want to do it either and I want to honor your decision because if you'd continued against your best interest none of us would end up being happy.

  2. You might feel a sudden surge of fear of the unknown, fear of changing dramatically because your transformation is suddenly getting real, which feels very unsafe and you want to make yourself feel safe again by taking a step back, which is a self-sabotage to your progress.

Would you be interested in exploring which of these options you're in, so you can make the best long-term decision for yourself?"


Can you feel the heaven and hell difference between the two?


There are multiple variations of unethical pressuring, but what they all have in common is penetrating your boundary with aggressive questions to get a sale.


WHY is it dangerous?

Allowing your boundary to be penetrated and accepting disrespectful behavior is creating a basis for a dysfunctional relationship, not an empowering personal transformation. Entering into a coaching/therapeutic relationship must be consensual, otherwise, the entire effectiveness of the work is jeopardized. Also, if you're unconsciously accepting disrespectful behavior, you're damaging your autonomy and dignity. And what's more, you're also normalizing penetration of other people's boundaries, which will most likely cause you a lot of trouble in life.


BEST DEFENSE:

Observe how you feel in your body. Usually, when your boundary is penetrated, it doesn't feel good in your body, you can notice that in your gut feeling. In order for a coaching relationship to work, it must feel good, it must be based on trust and it must be consensual. If it's not, then going forward might not be a good idea.



8. Creating Authority by Polarizing Your Worldview

(Creating a Non-Existent Enemy to Install Fear Into a Client and Gain More Psychological Influence)


WHAT is it?

If a coach makes you believe, that someone has a negative intention (fear-inducing) and then he offers you protection against his negative intention, he'll create in you a false feeling of psychological safety. If you're unaware of what's happening, the safety will appear very real, he'll earn your trust and gain more influence.


Several studies have demonstrated that once people perceive an individual or group as hostile or threatening, i.e., as an "enemy," cognitive biases enter their processing of information in regard to the actions of that individual (or group) and their choice can become more irrational - in favor of the "coach".


HOW is it done?

By first identifying an enemy with a negative intention, and then providing a solution to protect you from the enemy (and their intention):


"Government doesn't want you to be happy and healthy, they only want to control your mind, so they can stay in power and keep your money. People in power have destructive agenda, that is damaging to your health and well-being. The only way to protect yourself is by [understanding our philosophy] and then getting our [service]."


The principle in play is the same as in conspiracy theories (except in conspiracy theories, the philosophy IS the service).


Once you accept the fear as justified, then accepting the entire philosophy (and an idea of receiving the service) creates a powerful psychological reaction:

  1. relief from the fear of the enemy,

  2. the feeling of superiority (pride) to those who are uninformed (because the enemy exists even for them, they just don't know),

  3. the feeling of belonging to the group of those who know the "truth".

  4. safe relief anger by projecting it onto the enemy.

Put simply: Now they're the bad guys, it's safe to hate them, you're the good guy and you know exactly how to be safe from the bad guys (or fight them).


You feel better in exchange for accepting someone's philosophy and eventually, getting their product.


All because of accepting a primary premise:

The enemy with a negative intention exists.


WHY is it destructive?

The purpose of the healing work is to help the client find more inner peace. Whether it's done by a coach, therapist, or group leader. The peace that comes from the reconciliation of inner conflicts, releasing of repressed emotions, getting more clarity on life's purpose, and achieving goals that create fulfillment.


This naturally creates better emotional self-regulation and confidence in self-expression. It brings a person closer to themselves and improves their quality of life.


One of the core practices that can make healing possible is the assumption of positive intent. Whatever the client does, feels, or says - it's always coming from a good place. Even if it appears negative and destructive, it's either a defense mechanism or a covert cry for help. When the client sees it on his own, he can accept and release the emotional pain that's underneath it and experience long-term relief, acceptance, and self-forgiveness.


The assumption of positive intent is a trauma-informed approach because it sees the root cause of the dysfunctional behavior in an unprocessed past, not in the person themselves.


Having said that, polarizing your worldview poses two risks for the client:

  1. If a coach presents the enemy with negative intent, it says a lot about his lack of trauma awareness and his impaired basic assumption of the healing work. (Instead, he unconsciously projects his own repressed emotions - fear and anger - to the external world.)

  2. If a person is led to believe that someone else is out to get them, the fear of the enemy can lead to paranoia and activate other cognitive biases that will lead to a distorted view of oneself and - sabotage the entire healing process.


BEST DEFENSE:

Notice if the leader is painting a picture of the world with an enemy that he can protect you from or help you fight. If that's the case, you can be sure that it's either an unethical marketing tool or his own unconscious shadow that he's fighting out there. Cherry-pick from the teaching what you find is relevant and useful, double-check with other sources the validity of the polarizing statements and discard what's conspiratory and polarizing. The safe bet is to leave the teaching and find someone who does their teaching ethically.





 

Recently I was listening to a podcast between Tim Ferris and Derek Sivers. After interviewing hundreds of high-performing guests, Tim said, that there is one thing that consistently shows up in his interviews: All his guests who have significantly improved their confidence in life experienced it after either having worked with a coach or a mentor OR through being influenced by a girlfriend.


Pete Walker, great psychologist and the author of Complex PTSD, believes in relational healing. He noticed in his own life as well as with many of his clients that psychological healing happens through a healthy relationship between the therapist and the client. The client internalizes the way he's perceived by the therapist and learns to replicate the dynamics in the external world.


In other words - psychological healing will happen in the same place, where psychological trauma emerged: in relationships.


For this reason, choosing the right coach or therapist is a very important task. I wouldn't be who I am today if it wasn't for many coaches, mentors, and guides (and close friends) who shaped my self-perception over the past years. They saw in me more than I could see in myself and I wanted to live up to that. And the absolute best ones even shared with me, how much they've learned from me throughout our work. That made me feel even more proud and grateful.


The purpose of this article was not to discourage you from asking for help, quite the opposite. If you're struggling, I can tell you with 100% certainty that there are other people just like you, their condition was healed or significantly improved and you too can get better with the right person.


Furthermore, now you know what to look for once you start feeling discomfort in the therapeutic relationship and you know how to take care of yourself.


So go out there and ask for help.

It's worth it.


 

I'm a coach helping men to build confidence grounded in strong mental health. I help men grow the amount of emotional tension they can handle and enjoy using Masculine Core Integration in their dating lives, relationships and business world. To learn more about my work, join my FB group and get my best free content in e-mail.

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