#286 – Autism, Alcoholism & Self Esteem With Psychotherapist Allan Clarke (MSc)

Thomas Green here with Ethical Marketing Service on the episode today we have Allan Clarke. Allan, welcome. Thank you very much, Thomas. Thank you straight in. You’re very right bang. Let’s do this. Go back straight in with the intro. Love it. Thank you. Would you like to take a moment and tell the audience a bit about yourself and what you do? Yeah. So I am a psychotherapist in private practice. I was also the host of the Straight Talking and mental health podcast that ran for 125 episodes. So almost almost three years uh before the work load just got a little bit too heavy for me and I kind of had to had to step away from it. The uh the juice wasn’t worth to squeeze in the end. So, um I, I stepped out of it then. So that, that was, yeah, three years, three years of solid work uh started out discussing mental health as we had more guests on that. I think some similar to yourself. I kind of found out a guy, you know what it’s people, stories that are, are really interesting point. So every, every, every week then was a topic. So it was a topic on bipolar or whatever. It was someone that has bipolar and they would talk about their experience.

I’d come in with a little bit of clinical knowledge and then at the end of every episode, there was the words of wisdom. So it was, you know, something that that person is taken from life. Um So that was, that was the three years of the, of the Straight Talk and mental health podcast. Well, it definitely sounds like there’s some, what would you say, some education or some knowledge that I could get from that podcast. So I will definitely, I, I already have had a look, but I can uh I can delve into that a little bit more. So, thank you for, for that. You did mention people’s stories and I do like to uh I do like to cover those. So would you like to start by telling your story? Um Yeah, absolutely. It’s, it’s, it’s what, what point do you do you pick from? Um I suppose as we talk about as a psychotherapist and the mental health journey as it was my introduction to, it was uh grew up alcoholic father, mother, depressed as I look back now, something, you know, something didn’t realize at the time kind of would have had my own experiences of depression over the years starting in adolescence as a result of my parents break up and being the eldest then and you have to step into the role of responsibility and all of that kind of stuff.

Um was a dad at a young age. Had uh I think one of the saving things for me in my, in those adolescent years was uh uh an obsession with hip hop. So I was a huge hip hop fan from the kind of the late eighties, early nineties. Um And from that then I started DJ, my love, love of music. I started D I was asked to DJ for a group. They were like a kind of R and B kind of rap boy band kind of group over here in Ireland. And they were rapping. I was like, Jesus, I could do better than that. And I did. So I went on to become a rapper for a few years. And that’s actually where my former co-host Peter on the podcast. That’s how we met, he was a rapper in the same group, uh did that for a couple of years and again, you know, I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. It was becoming too much like work and went then into acting. So went, went acting uh won some awards for that one, best actor at the All Ireland finals in 2012, just as I was starting my degree.

So kind of had to step out of the acting kind of side of things and started my degree, went on from the degree, went on to do a master’s and joined in a lesson psychotherapy and then kind of through, through college, you know, kind of learning about what I think. I think the module title was atypical development and I’ll never forget that we were in and it was doing like Asperger’s at the time. I know, I don’t call it Asperger’s at the time. But I remember saying in the class, I was like, I had the power point on. I was like, that’s me and the tutor was like, no, no. You know, you’ll, you’ll always find something, you’ll always find something and everything and this kind of thing. But it always, it always stayed with me. And the more I kind of learned and the more I worked with uh autistic clients, uh I was like, I know it’s definitely, you know, this is definitely, definitely resonating. So it was actually there was an account you used to follow on the, on the podcast. It was a Twitter account. I never forget to buy, I’ll never forget the tweet. It was something, it was this autism specialist. And, and they had said just, just remember if you find yourself constantly going back to the fact that you might be neuro diverse.

A SD slash ad D just remember neurotypical people don’t do that. They just know they’re not. And I was like, oh, this is, this is the thing I’ve kept going back to. So uh went for assessments, uh consultations assessment and all that. And then two years ago, I was, I was diagnosed with uh with autism. So a lot of, a lot of stuff then fell into place as a result of having that knowledge. So that’s well, thank you for that. Um And yeah, I do have quite a, a fair number of follow up questions to ask you about. Uh but you did mention uh it, it fell into place for you in terms of the diagnosis just from a knowledge perspective. What, what does it give you to get a diagnosis in terms of uh how you live your life? Um uh understanding, you know, autism is often described as kind of like feeling like an alien on earth. You know, you always feel like a bit of an outsider or more of an observer, which obviously makes me pretty good at my job. You know, people have often said to me it’s like, oh, well, you know, you’d have that kind of mindset because, you know, you’re a psychotherapist and you think that way and I’ve always said no, no, I said I’m not, I don’t, I’m not like this because I’m a psychotherapist.

I’m a psychotherapist because I am this way. This is this is that analytical thought process, trying to understand things, trying to comprehend things and you know, difficulties that I experienced in my life. I was like, oh, there was a reason for that, you know, and you know, I look back, you look back then through your life through the lens of autism. And it’s, you know, there’s not a relationship, I wasn’t affected by it. There’s not a job that wasn’t affected by it. Um That if I had that understanding at the time or, or other people in particular had that understanding at the time, uh life probably would have been a very different experience. So it was hugely validating when, you know, to get that, to get that diagnosis at the time. And I remember, I remember saying to my, to my partner at the time and she’s like, how are you feeling about it? So I was coming up to the third session, I’ve answered all the questions filled in all the paper work. I’ve done all the, the online assessments and the consultations and stuff like that. And I said, yeah, I know, like, I’m a bit nervous about that. She’s like, why is it because what if I’m not, you know, my fear would be like, I don’t know how he’s going to, how this is graded or, you know, what’s the, what’s the threshold?

That’s like, you know, I was like, you know, knowing my look, I’d be like, oh, we say you have to, you have to be like 50 out of 100. I said no, in my look, I’ll probably be 49 and I was like, well, you’re not autistic. I was like, but I’m definitely not normal leader. Um So when, you know, when he said that he goes, yeah, look, he, he actually said he said, I’m not gonna lie to you. You’re one of the hardest cases I’ve ever had to deal with. He said, because of your job, because of your intelligence, you know, you’ve learned to mask these behaviors, you’ve, you’ve learned so much of how to work around it that it was a really difficult thing. And then when he said it, I just, I just burst out crying. It was a hugely validating experience to go Jesus. Finally, there’s, there’s a reason why I am the way I am or there’s a reason why I’ve always felt the way I felt. So in that sense, it was a hugely validating experience. Thank you for sharing that. Um You, you mentioned some of the behaviors, would you be willing to share what those are? Yeah. Um So a lot of the time, I mean, one of the, one of the common ones or one of the frequent ones that come to mind would be.

Um and, and, you know, this goes to kind of some of the, the, the myths around autism as well. So, you know, when I was, when I was studying, when I was doing my degree in counseling, psychotherapy, it was, you know, here’s, here’s some of the common things to, to look for with, with autism or Asperger’s. Um And it would be, you know, taking things quite literally not good at sarcasm, um stuff like that and um you know, poor eye contact, this kind of thing. And I was like, well, I’ll be pretty poor in my job if I had poor eye contact sarcasm. I’m Irish. You know, we’re gonna take, we’re gonna take the gold medal in the Olympics for sarcasm every, every year. Like, we’re just passive aggressive and sarcastic. Like that’s, that’s, that’s how we do. Like I was like, so I definitely get sarcasm taking things literally. No. You know, it would be kind of like, oh, not understanding turn of phrases or idioms and stuff like that, you know, it’s raining cats and dogs, that all that sort of thing. I was like, no, that, that, that doesn’t apply. Um So as I started to become aware and a lack of empathy then will be another one.

And again, I said, I’m not going to be any, I couldn’t be doing this job if I had no empathy, if I had poor eye contact, you know, if I didn’t understand in terms of and stuff like that. So as, as I looked back, one of the most I’d say in probably nearly every, every relationship I was in. There was always an argument with me turning around and saying, but that’s not what you said and them saying, but that’s not what I meant. I was like, well, if that’s not what you meant, then why would you say that? And then, and you know, when you get all of that you go oh OK. So you know, as someone that trained as an actor, you know, you’re meant to understand subtext. And for me, it was always that difficulty of going well, why would you say that if that’s not what you meant or you meant something else or, or this kind of thing? So it’s having that knowledge to, to be very direct, you know, and, you know, I remember in my last relationship, you know, saying something came up and I was like I said, no, you have to tell me. She said, well, I shouldn’t have to. I said no, you probably shouldn’t have to, but you will have to. So it’s concrete because once I know 100% no issue. But, and actually one of the things I often say to clients is, well, you have to stop with the mind reading, you know, you should know this or you should know that, you know, give them the information because if you give them the information, it’s on them, then so if you don’t, if you don’t give the person the information that’s on you, if you give them the information information and they do nothing with it, well, that’s on them.

So that kind of having direct information is important. And then, you know, as I, as I started to become more aware of this and I started, you know, looking at my own behaviors and stuff like this, the, the eye contact. So if a client is talking to me like I’m laser focused, I’m, I’m, I’m all in them. And as, as, as you probably notice or as I say to clients that might be autistic, you know, and I’ll explain it to them and say, well, what you will notice with me is without me making the conscious effort as I am. Now, when I’m talking, I go around the clock. So I’m looking, I’m looking everywhere else. But when someone else is talking, I’m lasered in and of course, no one cares where you’re looking. When you’re talking, people just want to know they’re being heard. So people don’t really notice it when it’s me that’s doing the talk that I’m not um that I’m not making the eye contact so pieces like that that get learned and, you know, having the information at the time of going. Well, give me, give me direct information and, and I can deal with that. Whereas when it’s a little bit vague or a little bit and the wishy washy, I’m probably not great with that.

As, as most most autistic people tend, tend to be. But the thing with autism is, you know, if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism because it is a spectrum and everyone’s different, you know. So I, I met a friend of mine hadn’t seen her in years. We met for lunch there a couple of weeks ago and her son. So when I knew her, her son was diagnosed with Asperger’s and he’s 17. Now we were talking about, I was like I said, well, you would know, I said so when, when we, you know, over the years, would you have noticed anything with me? And she was like, no, I said, well, I thought maybe some social anxiety. Uh but I wouldn’t have thought autism and I was like, well, I don’t, I don’t feel anxious in social situations. I feel very awkward at times, but I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t experience it as social anxiety. My ex on our first date, she was like, oh, yeah, I kind of know, you know, it wasn’t like that but I thought she was just, again, it was like, I wasn’t nervous. It’s just so the stuff that you learned and afterwards go, oh, no, no one told me here, here’s all the stuff that people were seeing and maybe people just thought he’s a little bit odd.

It’s a little bit, a little bit quirky, that kind of thing. Um So stuff like that, the collections, the special interests, the obsessions, you know, and so, you know, again, a common one would be, you know, sort of stereotypical autistic person might be obsessed with trains, you know, and has never been on a train, but they have all the information I can tell you about every train. And I was like, no, it’s not like that. And then, and then you look back and go, oh, I’ve been obsessed with, like, I haven’t missed a race in formula one since the late nineties. And I’ve only ever been to one Grand Prix, which was bought for me as a gift. So I’m like, oh, yeah, that, that, that, that might be a little thing as well. Before that I collect DVD si won’t point out over 1000 DVD s before that I collected vinyl. Before that I collected C DS. So you start to notice these things retrospectively of going. Oh OK. Well, there’s your special interest, there’s your obsessions, things, things like that start to become a little bit clearer um after the fact, but it’s always been difficult because, and, you know, the thing I always said in the podcast was, you know, it was very hard for me to do an episode on the podcast around autism Barrack speaking from my own experience because I don’t know where I end and where the autism begins and I don’t know where the autism ends and I begin.

So it’s like, well, what’s me, what’s the autism? And of course, there’s no separation. But the thing is that you thought, oh, well, that’s just how I am. I was like, no, well, that’s also something that’s, that’s very common for any individual that is autistic. There’s a great answer. Um I’m slightly stepping outside the general general questions and getting very individual level. Um I mean, all of the things that you just said. So every single example that you just said applies to me. Um What do you make of that? And what if someone is in the same position as me right now? Um What would you recommend that they do? Yeah. So with, with clients, I, I kind of joke, I, I’ve kind of become a bit of the autism whisperer. So, you know, someone comes in and I might, you know, sometimes someone just walks in and I’m kind of, you know, I’ve got an eyebrow raised. I can’t do it. My son can do it, you know, you can do that, that one eyebrow kind of thing. It’s like, hm, um and sometimes something straight away. I had a client recently where five minutes and she said one thing about she had a special interest obsession with horses and she goes, oh yeah, like it’s nearly cost me my job.

So straight away, that’s, that’s a kind of red flag for me. It’s like, oh, this is where your special interest or your obsession gets in the way of the job. So what I do with clients is it might pique my interest and I’ll start to ask a few exploratory questions. First thing I would say is it’s not my job to diagnose, you know, this, this is just speaking from experience, personal experience and professional experience stuff that I might witness. Uh I give him the information, I’ll ask you questions, you know, is there any sensory issues any difficulty in social situations, difficulty developing or maintaining social connections, friendships, relationship, et cetera, et cetera. We’ll delve into that a little bit. And then what I say, you know, just, maybe, maybe just go away, go home, have a look at, you know, just look at Aspergers. Um So the, the, the reason we don’t call it Asperger’s anymore. So it’s just a SD so it’s just autism spectrum disorder. Um Hans Asperger who was named after Austrian, psychiatrist, physicist or physician or whatever it was at the time, I can remember uh kind of come out that he may have been a bit of a Nazi sympathizer kind of thing. Uh autistic Children kind of being sent to the Germans never came back.

You can, you can guess what happened to them kind of thing. So they’ve kind of moved, they’ve kind of shifted away from that. But the problem with that is for the lay public person, when you mention autism, people have a very specific idea of what autism is. You know, maybe the kid is having a meltdown down in Tescos might have your defenders on and they’re going around with the, with the flappy hands, this kind of thing. Um Whereas if you say Asperger’s people go a little bit odd, little bit quirky, maybe a little bit, socially, socially, odd, this kind of thing. So some people still use the term Asperger’s. Some people just go a SD. Um and even my own son. So my youngest, my youngest son, he’s seven. And after I got diagnosed, I was like, I better tell his mom just in case the school will ask anything. Um, so in my head, I know I was like, I know how this conversation is going to go, but I have to have the conversation. So I rang her up. What story, blah, blah, blah. I said, look, just to let you know if the school ever asked anything m I diagnosed with autism. And she’s like, oh, I don’t believe in that shit. Just labels blah, blah, blah. I’m like, this is, this is going as expected.

So we just got to chatting a little bit more. And uh I said, well, look just in case he asked, I said, what would have been called Asperger’s? She went, oh, Asperger’s. Oh, yeah, definitely. Like, 0 100% like I was like, ok. All right. Well, there you go. Like that’s, that’s, that’s what it’s called. So I’d often tell people. So if anyone’s coming to me, you know, as an adult, they’ve probably got by in life masking quite well or have developed coping strategies. Uh So it’s, it’s unknown like I had a client come in, he was in his early twenties, he was already a recovering alcoholic trying to deal with, he was an alcoholic as a result of trying to deal with what he didn’t know was, was autism. So the first thing I’d say would be go online, do a couple of tests, uh, do a couple of tests around Asperger’s autism level level, one autism, stuff like that and just kind of use that as a guideline. Um, of course, it’s not going to be anything definitive but it, it might give you a bit of a guidance of, yeah, you might be, you know, this could be something to follow up on and kind of kind of go from there, then it’s an expensive process to get diagnosed.

If, if you’re on a public list, you’re probably going to be waiting a couple of years. Uh If it’s a private, you’re probably going to be waiting a little while, but it’s probably going to cost you quite a lot of money then as well. So typically kind of going that route check online, look up as just look up, you know what, you know, quotation, high functioning autism. Um But that’s, that’s a kind of starting point to go from. Thank you for that. Um You mentioned about the lack of eye contact um or perhaps a discomfort in it. Have you got any thoughts or theories about why that is I, I don’t know the reason for it, but I’ve seen one good description where someone described it as it’s like trying to look at the sun um trying to stare directly into the sun. There’s for me, there’s kind of um there’s a difficulty in in knowing, am I staring? Am I making enough eye contact? Am I not making enough eye contact? So it becomes very, it becomes very conscious then of OK.

Am I making enough eye contact? But for me, then again, it was, and it was a conversation with the clients during the week who she’s going for yesterday. She was actually starting a consultation yesterday for me and, and I can, I can tell you the exact moment I can, I can put it down to, to the exact moment where I learned, you look somebody in the eye. And that was a scene in the movie Boys in the Hood where Cuba Gooding Junior’s character as a kid is talking to Lawrence Fishburn and he’s like, you know, look someone in the eye when you’re talking to them. I was like, ok, that’s what you meant to do. So you’re meant to look someone in the eye. So it’s, it’s a very cognitive process of how you learn to, to do specific things. I had a, I had a client recently. I still see him. I’ve seen him for a couple of years, uh when he came to me straight away, I’m like, this guy is 100% and you know, the more you start talking. And I was like, definitely. So he went away, we had the conversation, you went there, did some tests and I was like, yeah, you might be, you might not be. Um, and I was like Jesus, that’s, that’s where I was a little bit disappointed because I was like, no, I’ve gotten pretty good.

Like, I’m a good spotter now at this point, few months went past, he start talking about something else and in my head it was definitely 100% this guy, you know, is a, went away. I said, try, maybe try a few different test, see what you can find. Um, and he was like, yeah, it was kind of the same thing if you might be, you might not be. He said, but then I did a test on masking and he said, then my scores were off the charts. So as we get into that conversation, he described a situation where when he was in college, he remembers one of his classmates, uh, just making a joke about himself. And he said, and he said, I remember having the thought of going, oh, self deprecating humor. That’s how you get people to like you. So this then became something he did go. Well, if I make fun of myself, people, people will like me, which is quite true, you know, quite disarming for people when you can, when you can make fun of yourself. So that these cognitively learned pieces, um around eye contact, I watched a movie that says, you know, it’s important to make eye contact. Ok. Well, I need to, I need to make eye contact with people. That’s, that’s where I sort of learned about it. Whereas before, I don’t know if I did or didn’t make eye contact because it was never consciously aware of it.

But when you become consciously aware of it then, then it’s like, then you’re going to start to overthink it. So it’s natural for those that are not that way. Yeah. And it’s, it’s either learned or not learned if you are autistic. Yeah, pretty much. Yeah. It, it, it, it certainly becomes something that you become, well as you become aware of it, you become very self conscious of how much to look. Am I looking too much? Am I staring? Am I, am I not making enough eye contact? So then you’re trying to overcompensate for it by making more eye contact and things like that. So yeah, it’s more of a conscious effort. OK? And um you mentioned in your, at the beginning of your story, uh alcoholic father, um I find uh people who are, are brought up that way. They have different learnings or um implications about what that means uh to them. So what, what lesson did you take from that personally? Well, the first thing was, you know, I was nearly 21 the first time I got drunk and that was by accident at a birthday party uh before that it was a very conscious avoidance of alcohol.

Um And there’s that piece, but there’s also, there’s also a thing called AC O A, it’s called adult child of alcoholics. So these are particular behaviors that are quite common in people that have grown up as a child in an alcoholic home. But what, what I suppose, what I learned was, you’re never that important. You’re never as important as drink. Drink is always going to come first for an alcoholic or any person that’s had to deal with any person with addiction. You’re always going to be secondary to their addiction. Um, So, you know, growing up with that uh kind of, I suppose intrinsic lack of self worth, too many other things. But certainly that as, as, as one aspect of it as like you’re just not that important, I’d rather be drinking than be with you or be at home, that kind of thing. So, so that, that sends a message then and, and the impact of that, I mean, my, my father is probably still, you know, I’m not sure we have a kind of, I wouldn’t say a strained relationship.

We have a distant relationship. But the, the funny thing being is that after I got diagnosed and the more I learned about it, I was like, my father is 100% autistic, 100% autistic. And then you go, is that why is that why he was an alcoholic? You know, was that his way of dealing with something that he had, he had? No, no, no uh information. So looking at it from that point of view, it becomes a different entity then just to make it all right. And, you know, he’d never accept it or he’d never bother to look it up, but it’s a different entity than kind of going. It’s more through the lens of curiosity, but it’s, it’s way too late at this point. You know, I’m 46 now, you know, whatever, over the last year or two, retrospectively looking back. But, you know, that, that experience as a child of, well, the Pope is more important, the arguments in the home as a result of his drinking, you know, the fights around money, the fights around him not being there, you know. Um, so one of the things I would have put down to, you know, my father would make anyone that’s, that’s, that’s grown up and alcoholic.

You’ll get all these empty promises, you know, when they’re drunk. Oh, we’ll do this and I’m going to do here and I’ll bring you there and of course I never follow through them when they sober. So for me growing up, you know, I was like, well, if you’re going to do something, do it, you know, I hold myself, I hold that for myself and I hold it for anyone else. Like, you know, if you’ve got plans, you follow through, in your plans. If you, if you’ve got a commitment, you follow through in your commitment. And I would have thought that was as a result of that. But then as a result of autism is like, well, difficulty with changes of plan changes to schedule. Um, and that’s where the difficulty comes in of going. Oh, well, I just put that down to as a result of, you know, my father being very unreliable and then it was like, yes, it can be that. But it’s also even more difficult because you’re someone with autism that has difficulty with changes to routine and, um, things like that. So, my interpretation of your answer is that um there’s a, a self esteem problem that comes up with being viewed as someone who is, uh let’s say secondary in terms of priorities if that’s the case.

Um How would you recommend someone deal with or go through the process of dealing with that with self esteem issues? Yeah. Yeah. Um Well, one, I’m Irish. So we, we, we, you know, we’re a nation with an inferiority complex thanks to, thanks to your people, certainly bred in by being colonized by the British. Um But we are a nation of, of, of people with an inferiority, complex and low self esteem. And 11 of the things around the podcast for me would be so in Ireland, there’s an expression called, you know, you can’t have notions so, notions of grandeur, but it, in, in Ireland, it gets, it gets just shorten the notions or just that has fierce notions of himself. You know, it’s uh you kind of, you got to stay in your lane. You know, you can’t be having delusions of grandeur, notions of grandeur that you want to better yourself. Because like, oh Jesus, you’re a man there. So you’re a man there now with the big car and he only growing up down the road there now. And you know, and you look who he thinks he is now. This kind of attitude to syndrome. Oh, is that what that is? Yeah, we just, we call it notions.

So this and this, I think that that for me, that was probably a detriment to the podcast because like, I have a real difficulty selling myself because it was like, oh, well, well, who am I? Who am I to be saying? This is, this is how great I am or this is all that I know. And you know, people that are, you know, and I would have had it on uh one of the podcasts and people are emailing to be a guest and, you know, people are just particularly the Americans, the Americans sell themselves like, and they have no problem with that. And there’s, and there’s a famous story that’s kind of attributed to Bono as in an interview of uh you know, people in Ireland, you know, they see the guy with the mansion on the hill with the electric gates and I was like, oh, Jesus, look at your man who does he think he is? Whereas you go to America and they see that and you go, oh, that’s gonna be me and they’re going up, hey, how did you do that? How you know, how did you get to be like this? What can I do? How can I be like you that I can, I can achieve this for myself? Whereas in Ireland that’s, that’s a no, no, like that’s, that’s begrudge. So there’s that inbuilt inferiority complex.

And then the thing that I always say to clients is parents are mirrors, Children are sponges, whatever the parent reflects the child absorbs. So if you grow up being told, you’re a good boy, you this, you that you’re great, always really good. And you know, all we all we know now to the research is, you know, we, we praise effort rather than uh the kind of outcome. So, you know, you praise, praise the child for studying really hard. They might have got the a that they wanted, but they studied really hard and you know, you praise them for the effort rather than going brilliant. Oh, you got an A oh, you are an a student. That’s great. That’s great. That’s great. What happens then when the child gets to see so then then their identity becomes rocked because like, oh now I’m not an a student. But if you can, if you praise the effort, that’s, that’s what’s, that’s what’s more important. So if you’re brought up to be told, you’re a good boy, you’re great. You’re this you’re that, well, you internalize it and you have that well to draw from of self esteem that it doesn’t become as reliant on uh external validation.

Whereas if you grow up being told you as one client to have as you know, the famous one, he was told us you were bold since you were born. So this is what, this is what he was told his whole life. Now, this person is, you know, had, was diagnosed ad D and stuff like that. But you know, you’re bald since the day you were born or oh, you ad d since the day you were born. But he’s internalized that. And when you’re told, you’re bold, when you’re told you’re naughty, you’re this, you’re that, you internalize that and then you will act accordingly. So you will act out you, you will have those, you know, negative behaviors. So those 1st 10 to 12 years, we are whatever mommy and daddy say we are mommy and daddy say we’re good or we’re bad. We’re good. We’re bad. Those next 10 to 12 years, we are whatever our peers say we are. So if, if the, you know your friends, the gang are saying, oh, he’s crazy. Oh Thomas Thomas is mad. What Thomas is the mad lad. Well, what’s Thomas gonna do? Tom is going to be the lad to jump off the roof. Thomas is going to be the guy to, to break into the shop because that’s his role within the group. So everything as social creatures is absorbed and, and perceived to our own lens of experience, to influence who we are.

So, it’s identifying our self worth what it’s based on and, you know, what we can do about it then of going, oh, actually that’s not me. That’s my programming. I’ve been programmed to believe I’m bold. I’m this, I’m, that I’m worthless. I’m, you know, I shouldn’t want more, you know, to want more is to be greedy, this kind of thing. So, you know, and for, for people in business and as well, I’ve gone, where does that lead? If you’ve got those internal beliefs around yourself that leads then into the likes of self sabotage because you don’t deserve it and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy that, well, I’m no good. So I’m not going to achieve anything. Um, and then, you know, you’re on the, you’re on the verge of doing something good and you blow it all as one client. I had used to say he goes, you know, big, big guys, like I’m getting ready to pull the pin. He said I could feel it. It’s coming. Things are going too good. He’s not used to it. So he was getting ready to pull the pin on the grenade. Well, a couple of things that I picked up from that answer is, um, picking your peer group very carefully because it has such an impact on you and then also, uh, therapy to work through those things or those beliefs.

Have you got any others that you would add around the same, is it or? Yeah. Well, there’s, I mean, there’s that, there’s that saying of your vibe attracts your tribe. Um, you know who you are? What kind of that? The old one of you, the average of your five closest friends or something like that. But it’s also, well, your vibe attracts your tribe, your tribe affects your vibe. So this is that, that peer, that peer sort of things like. So if you’re, if you’re with a, like, I’ve got, I’ve got a friend and he’s in, he’s in the financial sector and, you know, we talk about growing up in a small town. We both, you know, we went to school together and, you know, it’s like, oh, it’s just that, that town, it’s so, it’s just a begrudging. It’s just so negative, you know, you know, people want to pull you down. You can’t be, you can’t be wanting more this kind of thing. And, and he’s done quite well for himself in business. And I’m like, and I’m like, you know what, I’m delighted for you. Absolutely, delighted for you. And I’ve got this going on. I got that all delighted, brilliant, fair play to you. Jeez. You know what couldn’t be happier for? You could not be happier for you if you surround yourself with loads of people like that.

But that’s going to give you the confidence to go. But you know what, I’m going to be supported in endeavors here. It’s not going to be people that are going to be delighted for my downfall or people that are worried that I’m going to outgrow them. So absorbing that will have an influence and likewise the negative side of it. So becoming aware of it, you know, who’s around you and then working through those, working through those uh that stuff in therapy, I doesn’t even have to be done therapy. One common exercise I would use with clients. And, you know, if, you know, if you read any of the self help books, it will tell you all this sort of stuff of, you know, uh, or write down a list of all your positive qualities. Now again, I’m Irish, I work with typically Irish clients and I used to do that. And so the way my, the way my office is laid out is, you know, in one corner, 11 side of the room is just a therapy chairs, just a couch and then on the other side, it’s like it’s my desk and laptop and stuff like that. So I will have clients do an exercise to go. All right, you know, take a few minutes, get a pen and paper, write a list out of all, all your positive qualities.

And sometimes no sooner had I sat my arse on the other chair. And they be like, OK, I finished and I was like, OK. Right. And you know, and I was saying to them go, you know, just what would your good friends say about you? What would your family say about you? You know, you, you think of, you know, these kind of things and, and I really struggled with it. So I got to the point where I was like, this isn’t working. So what I started to do was like, OK, I say, all right, we take, you know that inner bully, you know that inner critic that tells you your, this your that, you know, blah, blah, blah, give that, give that inner critic, give that inner bully free reign. And I said, and I want you to write down everything that you think is wrong with you. Everything that, that critic that bully says is wrong with you and Jesus sometimes there’s smoke coming off the page, you know, just going, going, going and going and going and going like uh page page and a half, 22, a four fools, blah, blah, blah. So then what I started to do was like, all right. Ok. So you’ve got, you know, you’re worthless. Ok. Well, ok, well, let’s, let’s just take that and I’ll go through them one by one. I was like, where did, where did you learn? You’re worthless?

I said, no baby is born believing they are worthless. No child doesn’t believe the worthy of the breast doesn’t believe the worthy of the bottle. Every child is, that’s, that’s just not. So where did you learn along the way that you’re worthless? And what they started to start to reflect then going, oh, well, my mother used to always say this to me or I had this teacher in school and, you know, you start to break it down a little bit and you know, typically what happens then eight times out of 10 when they start to break that down, these aren’t my believes this is internalized. So one client was like, oh I’m difficult. I was like, OK, but where did you, where did you learn? You’re difficult? Oh Well, I was always told, you know, you’re a difficult baby. I was like, well, you have no, you have no recollection of being a baby. So where did I was a difficult baby come from? Well, that’s what my parents always told me and then she’s gone through life then believing she’s difficult. So when you start to break it down and start, start to identify the sore, it becomes a different entity of going. Oh, actually, yeah, I, I never used to say that to myself.

That’s what was said to me. And you, you know, it just becomes a different entity. Then then what happens? You know, I’ve had clients come back, then we might come back to the exercise. I remember one client is like, I can’t, I can’t read that. I was like, why not? I said, I can’t believe that’s how I used to speak to myself. I was like, ok, we’re getting it, you know, you’re identifying these negative thoughts that have plagued you throughout your life and now you’re reading back on Jesus. That’s, oh my God. I can’t believe. Wow. Can’t believe that’s what I thought about myself. So, it’s just 90 90% of therapy is always at the client is awareness because awareness creates choice. So when it’s unconscious, we’re just, we’re having those thoughts. Yeah. Your, your, this your that. Yeah, of course, because that’s what you’ve always believed. Then when you feel it coming and you become aware of it, you go, oh, there’s that thought again. Am I going to follow that narrative or will I challenge that narrative? Uh That’s my, that’s my father speaking. Oh, that’s my mother speaking. That’s that teacher. That’s that teacher I had in school that used to always say that to me. So the awareness then creates, is it a reaction a nonconscious reaction or a conscious response?

And that’s why therapy awareness is, is 90% of it. You’re essentially breaking the habit that someone’s been doing through that exercise. As a client, a client said it, you know, I, I’m, I’m reprogramming and I was like, that’s the perfect description someone’s installing, you know, it’s not even new software. This is new firmware. You know, you’re getting a new motor board, you’re getting new, you know, the, the core pieces are getting, getting uninstalled here because it’s so deeply ingrained. Hm. Thank you for that. I think it’s, uh, it would be very interesting for people to do that exercise if they feel they fit that criteria. So, I appreciate that, uh, from all of the clients that you’ve spoken to. Um, have you, uh, let’s say, come to any conclusions about the human being other than the ones we’ve talked about so far. Um for better or for worse, you know, and this is the podcast taught me. This client work has taught me this, it come down to love the power of having it, the power of growing up feeling safe, you know, being soothed in her discomfort, uh feeling seen and then the absence of it.

So, you know, I’ve seen seen, you know, many clients with addiction, you know, as a result of the absence of all the good stuff. So people, you know, when people come to me, clients come to me and one of the common questions I will ask them would be, you know, any significant events from childhood to stand over you and automatically maybe it’s an Irish thing. People go sexual abuse as a country. We had a had not as bad now, fierce history of sexual abuse incest. I know you’re a former guest around incest. Um So people are thinking sexual abuse, physical abuse, you know, this kind of thing. That’s where everyone goes to. So everyone goes to the presence of bad stuff because everyone knows, well, that’s going to affect you. That’s going to have an impact on you. If you go through that, that’s going to affect the true life. Absolutely. It is. But what people aren’t aware of is what also has an impact is the absence of good stuff, feeling, seen being suited in her discomfort. You know, the common guest in the podcast, he was, he said, well, he said like a fair dose of parenting in Ireland in the eighties.

That was his way of describing getting battered growing up, you know. Um And again, that’s, that, that sends a message, you’re no good. Therefore, I’m going to use violence against it. So the absence of the good stuff has as much of an impact as the presence of the bad stuff. So for people that have had the good stuff typically, and, you know, we get into attachment, then, you know, people that grow up then with a secure attachment style, all the research shows they, they do better in their jobs, they have better relationships, they have better friendship groups as a result of internalizing that love from their caregivers. Growing up, the absence of that has the exact opposite effect. And people that have experienced that love, then, you know, they get that love, they get that secure attachment from a partner. They’re the ones that can turn their life around because they can, where they don’t have it, you know, kind of what I was saying on the self esteem where they don’t have that to draw from. No, they’ve now got a partner that’s letting them know how much they appreciate them, how much they love them, how valuable they are to them as a person and now to start to absorb that a little bit, now there can be a natural defense against that where, where we reject it.

But the, the more the presence of that you just kind of absorb it a little bit. And it’s like, you know, you’re not, you might not be going around saying you’re, you’re brilliant, but you might be going around going, you know, may, maybe I’m not as bad as it at all. It was so where we have the good stuff, the feeling safe being suited in our discomfort, feeling seen to know that we matter to, you know, to feel that we’re important that are, that are value was held or that we’re held in mind. You know, I remember my youngest son when he was in and I used to, I used to pick him up. I’m a single dad used to pick him up from crash. And I remember every so every day I’d pick him up the days I pick him up and crash. And I remember saying I was like, oh, you know, I give him a big hug. I missed you so much and, you know, I love you. I miss you so much, blah, blah, blah. And I remember I was bringing up the crash and the following morning I was like, oh, I’m going to miss you so much. He’s like, you’re going to miss me again. Like I miss you all the time. But that’s a message of your health and mind. Even when you’re not there, you exist with me and these messages that are, you know, we can have the explicit messages, you know, telling someone they’re really good or, you know, telling someone they’re really bad or, you know, someone comes to you crying and you know, the common one in Ireland was, I’ll give you something to cry about.

You know, you hear stuff like that big boys don’t cry, I’ll give you something to cry about. So there, well, your feelings are irrelevant. You get away from me. Now, I’m not going to deal with it with your discomfort. Ok? I don’t matter. My needs don’t matter. And you know how we’re spoken to the explicit messages of your good boy, your, this, your that. And like I remember one time, um I was going to, I was, my daughter was over in Canterbury. I was, I was traveling over to Canterbury and um so single dad. So I was working the day before I was in, I was in the clinic. I had my son then had to go from there, rush from there to go and get my son, go home, get him ready for school the next day, pack for the next day and that night and everything sort of packed ba ba ba. I was like killing it, nailing it. Look at this psychotherapist private practice, single father packed, ready to go the next morning. Delighted with myself. Everything sorted the night before. Get about 10 minutes out the road in my head and go. Oh, shit, forgot my passport. So, oh my God. And I’m in my head going. How, how would I forget? How would I forget that? Turn around. I’m max for stopping it back home.

And James says he goes like, oh, what’s wrong with that? He, I forgot my passport. He was like, so he’s only seven now. I think it was maybe 6, 5.5, 6 time was like, oh, I said, oh, do you not have that on your phone? I was like, no, that’s your board passes, but you need your passport. You have to show them your passport. I was like, ah, do you know what I said? I, I’m just a silly goose. He goes. No, you know, he just forgot it. Ok, I remember just, just this moment of going, wow, you know, internally I’m kicking the shit out of myself and again, it’s, you know, it’s that internalized parent. I’m speaking to myself, how, how I’ve been spoken to and he, he, he hasn’t been spoken to like that. He was like, man, you made a mistake. What’s the big deal here? Like he’s saying to you what you’ve said to him? Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And of course, and I’m saying what’s been said to me. So you are becomes I am, you may not thank me for this follow up. But uh as we, um as we have talked about previously, uh I’m very literal. So, uh I’m interested to know what you, what you make of this, uh this question.

And I’ve also um to some degree, you have answered it partially already, but I’d still like to ask you anyway, what is love? Um Yeah, that’s a big one. II, I suppose I’m, I’m torn between the logical part that knows what secure attachment is to be safe, to be seen, to be suited and all of that kind of thing. Um versus that feeling of love, to feel that comfort, to feel accepted. Um I don’t think, you know, I don’t think romantic love, I don’t think can be experienced unconditionally, you know, we’re humans and, you know, our behaviors affect the other person. Um But I think more acceptance rather than nonacceptance, um encouragement, support and, you know, and I always joke to clients is like if everyone had the parents, they needed growing up, I wouldn’t have a job. So someone is going through something at the moment that might have a difficulty of work and they’re looking for some counseling in the year and now.

But if everyone had that, you know, I would be partially, fully, partially employed. So I suppose it’s, it’s, it’s extremely difficult to give, to give that answer to that. But it is certainly, it contains those elements of feeling, seen, knowing that you matter, um, knowing that you’re held in mind, feeling safe. You know, if we translate it into, into romantic relationships of, you know, your, your partner is the person that it’s safe to talk to. You can share your, you know, your wins and your losses with them and to know that you’re held in mind, you know. Oh, I’ve seen, you know, I’ve seen this little thing there. I picked it up for you. I know. You know, I don’t know, maybe it’s a bar of chocolate that annoy you like those little things, send that message of you’re held in mind even when you’re not with me. I, I’m thinking about you. Um and particularly important is to feel safe. So, you know, was, was your home life, you know, one of the things I said to growing up, did you feel safe growing up?

No. Well, then your brain, you’re not ready to drive in an environment, whether it’s a romantic relationship or your, you know, your experience growing up. If you do not feel safe, then your brain is rewired to survive, not thrive. And when we, and we have a relationship or, you know, whether that’s friendship, group or romantic relationships where we feel safe. You know, I’m accepted. You know, these people will be here for me. These people will come from me. We can try it, we can, we can go out into the world as a baby. You know, when the kids are learning to crawl, you know, they, they’ll crawl a little bit and then they’ll look back at the parent and the parent is going. Yeah. Yeah, it’s ok. Go on. It’s ok. And the child explores a little bit more and they will look back and go. Is it, am I ok? Yeah. Yeah, you’re ok. And then of course the child takes off and like, oh, get back here, get back. You’re gonna, you’re going too far. But we’re, you know, we’re looking back to go. Is it safe? You know, the parent is the secure base is the safe haven. As, you know, as primates, we don’t build burrows, we don’t build nests and stuff like that. Our source of comfort and every, every person will see this if you ever, you know, stop to talk to someone that has a kid, a young child in the, in the, in the supermarket or something, you know, that the child might be standing behind mommy or daddy’s leg as you’re talking to them.

I was like, this is my source of safety. The problem then occurs obviously, when that person is also a source of unsafe and then that creates huge difficulty that creates an an ambivalent attachment style. So whether it’s our parents, whether it’s our peer group, whether it’s our partners to safety, too, to thrive, to have the secure base, to have that safe haven, to feel, seen, to feel supported, to be suited in her discomfort. I think if you take all of those in and you experience them, I think that’s probably the, the feeling of love, great answer. And thank you for taking a crack at it and you weren’t prepared for it. So that was, that was a wild swing. Had a golf lesson yesterday. I was taking some wild swings. That was a wild swinging. I may, I may have hit it or I may have sliced it like I usually do. I think you hit it. Thank you for the answer. Is there anything I should have asked you about today? No, you asked what you asked and uh for people who want to get in touch with you, connect with you.

Where do they go? Um The podcast, the podcast, all of the, the social media and the website is still there. So the website is uh stmhpodcast.com. So that’s straight talk mental health podcast stmhpodcast. And that’s the, that’s the handle and across all of the, the social media channels as well. Uh The youtube, um Instagram, Tiktok, Facebook, all at STMH podcast. Allan, thank you for being a great guest today. Thank you, Thomas. Thank you. Thank you for having me.