This week’s episode is a special episode, especially if you’re an achiever (like most of our listeners are). Leon, a long-time subscriber from South Africa, reached out for a one-time session that doubles as a podcast interview.

While your situation might not be exactly the same as Leon’s, if you’re an achiever or struggle with abandonment issues or neediness, there will likely be several themes that apply to both your life, as well.

I treated this interview like an initial consultation. Listening will give you insights into how you could accept your inner child parts that have been filling you with emotional turmoil (even if you don’t have the same exact problems as Leon does).

Best part?

Well, about a week after we recorded this interview, Leon reached out to give me an update. It blew my mind—and his initial progress will blow your mind too.

If you feel stuck, abandoned, needy, or just can’t get over your desire to achieve (because you’re unconsciously looking for love), this episode will help you get on the right path.

Listen now. 

 Show highlights include:

  • How being a “Parentified Child” forces you to take on your parent’s emotional struggles and become a needy adult (and how to break free from this restraint after growing up) (0:29)
  • What to do when you feel lonely on your self-development journey and constantly ask yourself when your journey will actually end (8:52)
  • How to start opening up and being more vulnerable when you feel like you’ll be ridiculed and judged when you do (13:01)
  • Why resisting reality is the most painful thing you can do (and how your life starts to change subtly as soon as you accept reality) (23:04)
  • How living in a single closet in a big city as a single man can present you with more exciting opportunities than having a lavish house in a small town (26:53)
  • Do you constantly worry that you’re not meeting your potential? Here’s why it’s impossible to fulfill your potential (40:40)
  • Why meeting your therapist in person is actually the worst way to leverage the therapeutic process for your self-growth (48:17)
  • How to stop being ashamed by your neediness (and how to use it to find the relationship you want) (1:00:09)
  • Why learning how to embrace sadness, anger, and fear is one of the best ways to embrace love (1:07:18)

Does your neediness, fear, or insecurity sabotage your success with women? Do you feel you may be unlovable? For more than 17 years, I’ve helped thousands of people find confidence, fulfillment, and loving relationships. And I can help you, too. I’m therapist and life coach David Tian, Ph.D. I invite you to take this quick quiz to access my free Masterclasses on dating and relationships at now.

For more about David Tian, go here:

Emotional Mastery is David Tian’s step-by-step system to transform, regulate, and control your emotions… so that you can master yourself, your interactions with others, and your relationships… and live a life worth living. Learn more here:


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Note: Scroll Below for Transcription

Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in relationships, attraction, success, and fulfillment. Now, here’s your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.


Welcome to the Masculine Psychology podcast. I’m David Tian, your host, and in this special episode, I’m interviewing a man from South Africa, named Leon, who is a longtime podcast listener, and the main theme that emerged in our conversation was the effects of abandonment as a parentified child.

A parentified child as a child who is made to feel responsible for his parents’ feelings. In this case, for Leon that happened before he even turned four. He was made to feel responsible for making his father feel secure or safe. He was made to feel responsible for making his mother feel happy. The parentified child is forced to take the parent role for his own parents, to caretake their feelings, their emotional wellbeing. [0:01:03.2]

As a result, the child is abandoned psychologically and emotionally. He’s busy trying to meet their emotional needs, while no adult is focused on helping to meet his emotional needs. As a result of being forced to sacrifice his own emotional needs in order to caretake his parents’ emotional needs, he’s not learned how to meet his own emotional needs himself. A parentified child grows up to be a very needy adult.

This is incredibly common. I hear it in the questions of those who can’t even fathom wanting a relationship without being needy for it. To them, it’s sort of like, If I can meet my own needs for worthiness and security, and love and connection, why would I need to have a woman? Why would I need a relationship or want a relationship? [0:01:51.5]

That’s because for so much of their lives, they’ve only experienced parasitic relationships, and the most important relationship growing up, the primordial relationship is the one of the child with his parents, and if the model that is set at that time is that “We are incapable of meeting our own emotional needs, and so require a parasitic relationship upon someone else,” in this case, the child himself, then that is the model the child unconsciously picks up and adopts for himself and lives through. [0:02:20.8]

The parentified child is not actually seen, heard or understood for who he actually is as a human being. Instead, his parents use him as a kind of emotional crutch or like parasites toward a host. He is not truly seen, heard or understood for who he is and his needs, because his needs are secondary to theirs.

As he grows into adulthood, of course, this is the only pattern or the main pattern that he’s been taught and modeled, so he’s naturally unconsciously going to be looking for a host that he can be parasitic on as well, because not only has he not learned to meet his own emotional needs, but he doesn’t even realize that that’s something that you’re supposed to do and can do. Instead, he repeats the toxic pattern that he got from his parents and engages in toxic, needy, parasitic relationships as an adult. [0:03:13.8]

That’s the main theme that emerged from our free-ranging discussion, but we touched on a lot of related topics and issues, and without further ado, I’m just going to get right into it. I think just before we hit record, we were discussing his travel and that he had lived briefly in Shanghai. That’s sort of context for what we’re going to get into, and without further ado, let’s get right into it.

Leon: Yeah, look, I’m going to give you a little preface of all this. It’s that I am familiar with IFS therapy. I find it very fascinating, Richard Schwartz’s work. I’ve practiced it a few times. I do check in with all my parts from time to time just to see what’s going on and try to get their curiosity going, so that’s been helping. It’s just you have mentioned before that this is a journey, right? [0:04:05.6]

But it gets to a point where I’m just like, Man, when does it end? I’m 39 now. The further I get along in life, it seems to be getting a little more difficult in terms of interpersonal relationships, keeping relationships, meeting friends. My career choice is wonderful. I love what I do. I’m a digital artist. I set my own hours. I’m able to build a side hustle. My discipline is quite choppy, but I’m working on it. I strength train, so I’m quite active. I recently quit all of my vices.

These are basically a lot of coping mechanisms that I used to use before that are completely void in my life now, so I think that’s why I’m having a bit of a difficult time, because usually I could just go outside and have a cigarette or five and that would sort of ease my mind a little bit, or go out with friends, go have a drink, but I don’t do any of that stuff anymore. [0:05:14.8]

So, I started a small drawing community. Every month, we get together, get drawing for about two hours or something, getting creative. It’s an excuse to get together, right? That’s sort of like it’s on number six this weekend, so it’s kind of fizzling, fizzing out. I’m not too sure. It’s very thin at the moment. It’s not very big and I’m not too sure if it’s attracting the type of people that I want, that I’d like to associate with, okay?

Look, I’m very well aware that the people that you associate with the most is who you become, and just not finding those people anymore. I did, but they’re just sort of all living their own lives or I’m losing them as friends. David, I’ve got to know, is it me? Is it them? Is it a combination of the two? [0:06:12.2]

David: Losing them as friends. The ones that you’ve lost were the type that you would like to associate with?

Leon: Yeah, but then they turned out to be a little bit psycho, you know?

David: Oh, so they’re not the type you’d like to associate with.

Leon: Yeah, they were in terms of their sense of achievement and their discipline. They were my gym buddies. But they also had some underlying stuff. Let’s talk about more of the recent thing that happened. One of those people was a girl that I met, okay? She and I got very close in the last year. I helped him move to another city, and during that time, we were thinking, Wow, this could actually work. [0:06:56.1]

But she had just gotten out of a 12-year relationship with some guy, a guy, by the way, that used to be our trainer. And you’re going to love this, you’re going to have a field day with this, Doc. He’s now dating my ex-girlfriend. I dated his ex-girlfriend. We became close and we’re all training together and it was fantastic. It was so much fun. But that whole world fell apart. Apparently it was bound to happen whether I came in there or not, okay?

So, I helped her move. We became close, but because we lived in different cities, we decided not to commit to one another. Okay, but we kept in touch. It was good. There was that sense of security that she was really somebody that could open up to and we had very similar values. We were into the self-development space. We had growth mindsets, and now she’s becoming more and more busy and I’ve found myself looking back in retrospect, realizing that she was basically the only friend that I could confide in here in my hometown. [0:08:13.5]

My family and I don’t really get on the same page. The friends that I’m worth, it’s a different culture here, I used to live where she lives now and I’m finding it hard to adapt. Last thing to run sort of is that I think my solution now is to just focus on my work, focus on my self-growth and try not to take things around me too personally.

The problem lies, though, that the support system is kind of thin. I feel lonely sometimes doing what I do. Being an entrepreneur and a digital artist, it’s a lonely gig, especially if nobody else is doing what you’re doing. I guess there are online communities that you can get hold of, but so many of them, man, and so I don’t really know. [0:09:08.2]

Meditation and breathwork is a part of my daily practice. I journal consistently. I drowned myself in self-help information. But, David, it’s gotten to a point where I can’t take any. They’re all starting to say the same thing now. I’ve gotten to a point where it’s reached an apex. I have a lot of cognitive dissonance and my brain feels overloaded now.

David: Boom. Tell me about the cognitive dissonance.

Leon: Okay, so it’s, what do I do now? I know it’s healthier for me to move on with my life without this woman, because I’m not going to invest in someone who’s not investing in me. All right, but she was the one that inspired me. She was the one that motivated me. Now I have to find my own motivation. These things that are so excited about, they’re not so exciting anymore. What do I do? [0:10:06.7]

Is this the right career path for me? I’ve been doing this most of my life and I love to do it, but it’s not as cool . . . it’s not glamorous. I’m really opening up to you now, all right, this is a bit weird for me, but I think it’s important to be honest and open about this, okay? It’s good to get all the information out. Look, I want to be noticed. I want to be loved. I want to belong. I want to do well in my career. I want to succeed at my businesses. [0:10:51.8]

And all these things I know cognitively. I know these things rationally that failure is inevitable. It’s a part of the journey. You must fall down a few times to succeed. But, man, it gets a bit much sometimes, you know? And she kind of used to be my support and now I can’t rely on that anymore. It feels like I’m being too needy. That’s where it is.

David: Good. Just a moment ago, you were saying, “I’m really being vulnerable here and really opening up,” something like that, and just at that moment, what were you feeling then? You were telling me about finding your own motivation, the career is not glamorous, and then you came out and explained that you’re being very vulnerable. What was the worry or fear, or what was the thought that came up just then?

Leon: David, when I described you to other people, you’ve been one of my mentors for years. It’s kind of scary. [0:12:02.2]

David: I’m flattered.

Leon: Yeah. I mean, you’ve taught me so much, and the thing is me being vulnerable like this, especially to another guy. Yeah, that’s the thing, I’m not used to that. In this culture, in my hometown where I was born, hard people. They’re all massive dudes and they don’t talk about their feelings and things like that. But that’s how I communicate, you know?

David: So, if you were to open up to one of them, what would be the response?

Leon: Hypothetically, right? Because we don’t do that over here.

David: Because one of the things that I’m curious about is what is the fear that this part of you had in recognizing that you were just being vulnerable? “Oh, damn, I’m just being vulnerable there.” Maybe you could articulate better? [0:12:58.7]

Leon: Sure, let me try. Let me try. This fear, and there is definitely fear there, is that I won’t be accepted for my vulnerabilities. I feel that I will be judged. I feel because I’m an honest person and I try not to spew the truth out, especially if it’s in a judgmental tone or anything like that, but I say what’s on my mind most of the time, okay?

But I’m afraid because I’ve lost so many friends, have tried to avoid conflict, even though I know conflict is sometimes necessary, and if I open myself up too much, I lay myself out for ridicule and judgments, and ultimately, more pain. That leads to more fear. That leads to more pain. [0:13:59.0]

David: Yeah. We’ve just got this one conversation. I’ve got some little techniques that kind of speed things up, so how about I ask you a couple of questions and then you just spit out your first gut reaction.

Leon: Okay.

David: Okay. Don’t judge. Just spit out whatever the first thing that comes to mind is.

Leon: Okay.

David: So, growing up, whose love did you crave the most, your mother, your father, or someone else, maybe the caregiver?

Leon: My mother.

David: And you had written to me in one of the emails to our team, I think, that your mother had just passed last year, right? Sorry.

Leon: [Yes.]

David: Right. Okay. Just pause there and notice how you’re feeling.

Leon: I guess I’m still dealing with it, you know? There’s the mature side of me that says this kind of thing happens. It’s a part of life. But my inner child misses my mum, you know? [0:15:01.4]

David: I’m not sure if the mature part of you, if that’s mature or if it’s more of an achiever energy of just power through it.

Leon: Yeah.

David: Not be with the sadness. Your sadness is in proportion to your love, so you could just love her less, and then you will be less sad. But that’s not very loving, is it? That’s not very good.

Leon: I guess not. I just . . . yeah, I don’t know how to process it. There’s nothing I can do. It’s out of my control.

David: How about we process it? Let’s talk about it. The next question is, who did you have to be for your mother back then?

Leon: Her happiness, to be honest.

David: You had to make her happy? How did you have to be in order to make her happy back then?

Leon: What I remember from my mid-20s when I started the self-development journey is that I had made all these amazing self-discoveries. I was full of energy and full of life, and I was dating a whole bunch of women, and, yeah, I was achieving so much in my life at the time. And I remember she would call me just to hear and feel my energy, and she would say things like, “My son, you are my soul.” You know, that kind of thing. [0:16:19.8]

That generation, they are known for sort of dumping their problems onto their kids and things like that, so I understand. It doesn’t make it right, but that’s what happens from time to time. But it brought me great joy to make my mother happy. If I made her laugh or made her smile, then that was awesome, and in turn, she cheered me up, you know? When she was happy, it made me happy.

David: And how did you make her laugh and smile? [0:16:56.2]

Leon: She had a great sense of humor, you know? She told us some lewd jokes, yeah, and she’d laugh, because at that time she was just coming out of a divorce with my dad, and because I was doing so well in my life, I just wanted to spread the joy. I don’t know, I don’t know how I made her laugh. “Oh, Mom, this crazy thing happened to me the other day and you’re not going to believe this,” you know?

David: Okay.

Leon: “I was on a date with a girl and something happened,” blah, blah, blah, that kind of vibe, you know? She would just laugh at these crazy antics that I would get into and that made me smile. It made my day.

David: Okay.

Leon: I mean, I often heard when I was on the phone with my mom and a girlfriend was around, they often commented on how wonderful our interaction was between the two of us and they really admired that. I was like, okay, cool, maybe that’s a good sign. That’s a good sign. [0:18:07.8]

David: Okay, the next question then is who could you not be to mom? You couldn’t make her not laugh or not smile, or not happy?

Leon: Awesome, David, this is actually relevant. I became very active. I became healthier. I was following the path of growth, and she was back in my hometown, suffering from depression and alcoholism, and she fell and sort of broke her leg and then she was recovering from that, and then she became bedridden. And do you know what I couldn’t be? I couldn’t help her. I couldn’t save her. There was nothing I could do. I tried to get her treated. I tried to motivate her. I couldn’t save her. That’s it. [0:19:05.3]

David: And how long had you been trying to save her? When did you first notice the depression or the alcoholism?

Leon: Years. It was I’d probably say about five years that I consciously knew about that. I tried to motivate her and tell her what this was, “You could fix this if you just did this with your life,” and eventually, I actively gave up. There was nothing. Only she could make the decision and I realized that and then I decided, the best thing I can do for her is just support her, and then she was gone. [0:19:55.8]

David: You notice it five years, the last five years.

Leon: Five.

David: So, when you were about 33?

Leon: Yeah.

David: When you were a child, did you notice any depression or alcoholism, or any kind of substance addiction?

Leon: Yeah.

David: What was one of the earliest times that you could recall noticing that or suspecting?

Leon: Geez, man, I guess I was young, between five and 12. I remember some memories. She looked off for us. My dad was always working and it was stressful for her. I could see. She’s raising six kids, man.

David: Oh, wow.

Leon: Yeah.

David: Where do you fall on a birth order?

Leon: I’m the second youngest.

David: Okay, you’re not at this moment close to your siblings? [0:20:52.0]

Leon: We all used to be closer. In fact, the whole family used to be closer. But since my folks got divorced, then the family started to dissolve, and then when my mom died, even more so. In fact, I rent an office here in the building of my sister’s company. She and I used to get along quite well, but she has a life of her own, her own kids, and we’re cordial to each other and friendly and we used to go for dinner once a month, but she’s become so busy now as well. So, I guess in a sense, I’m feeling this constant sense of abandonment. I don’t know [unclear 0:21:34.7].

David: I can see that. Yeah, I understand.

Leon: I actually want to just get to the part where I don’t need any of that validation, where I can just do it for myself. [0:21:51.7]

David: In the interest of time, I’m also curious as to how to best use these single-session type of discussions right. Now I’m thinking, after having experienced a bunch of these, that maybe the best thing to do is to let you see how I might see it as I’m getting to know you. But normally, it may be kind of jarring to hear an analysis and it’s just completely just a hypothesis, a hypothesis forming as I get to know you.

Leon: Sure. I mean, yeah, look, I’m a bit apprehensive.

David: Oh, good, and what are you apprehensive about?

Leon: I don’t think anyone wants to hear what’s wrong with them, David.

David: Oh, okay, yeah, I get that.

Leon: I do.

David: So, I’m steeling you for it. Now, if you say you don’t want to, I mean, because maybe I should have been asking, “What are you hoping to get from this session?” in talking to me.

Leon: Maybe some answers, man, like what I should do next, you know? [0:23:00.5]

David: What if the answer is a good coach would always say nothing. Part of the problem is there’s an assumption that there’s something wrong with you. The answer is that part of– That’s a bigger thing we haven’t quite gotten to yet that you started with, as you put it, a journey, and you want the journey to end, and if you’ve listened to my podcast, you know the journey never ends. The journey is life and you’re supposed to embrace this. Exactly what you’re going through is part of the beautiful tapestry that makes up your life when you look back on it, and part of your pain, a big part of your pain, is resisting what’s actually happening.

Okay, so there’s that. Resisting reality is the most painful thing. Once we accept the reality, then we can recognize it. In many ways, there’s nothing to be done about it. It’s something to be enjoyed and it’s very difficult to even get to that point, so we don’t have to go there yet. But in terms of your mentioning about your friends, this ex-girlfriend, there’s a common pattern that goes back to childhood for you and it would be, I think, beneficial to know what it is so that, if you have a desire to discover more inner freedom, then you can lean into those, lean into that, lean into those directions. [0:24:16.0]

Leon: Look, I don’t know, you’re using reverse-psychology on me, but go for it. I mean, I think it would be beneficial to know where I can take it from here.

David: Maybe we don’t have to go to the depth of childhood yet. Maybe we can go back to the first thing you said because there’s a part of you that wants solutions, right? What to do. “What do I do?” Part of it is “What do I do now?” I heard that question and that had to do with the girlfriend and something, right?

Leon: Yeah.

David: “What do I do now about the girl? Because she was my crush. She motivated me. I can’t motivate myself. I’m worried I’m being needy towards her, so I’m worried she’ll lose attraction for me. Because I already broke up, so I don’t know why that’s scary,” but so then you might be not attractive and that would close the door forever. I guess you can never go back. I need a crush. Yeah, and that connects to mom, too. But maybe we go back to the whole needing a solution, needing something to do about it. [0:25:14.3]

Leon: Okay.

David: The obvious thing is that you want to be able to discover passion, I guess, motivation for yourself without requiring a coach. If you’re just using her, if the main thing is that she motivated me, of course, you miss her and her energy and the good times together, of course, all of that, but if “What do I do now about it?” is you’ve decided to be apart, so I guess is part of what you’re debating, “Should I move back to that city and be with her?” Is that feasible practically?

Leon: It’s actually the goal at the end of the year, but I have to find something for myself. I don’t want to move down there because of her. [0:25:57.4]

David: Yeah, that’s good. You’re also saying that that bigger city has a lot more friends and networking opportunities.

Leon: Yeah, my whole network is over there.

David: And you’ve moved back to the smaller town for financial reasons, right?

Leon: That’s right. That’s right.

David: I’m not very good at giving advice for people in small towns. The small town where I ever lived in had 100,000 people and I hated it and I couldn’t wait to get to leave. I literally drove an hour out just to find good food. They didn’t have any Chinese food.

Leon: Oh, wow.

David: Like I was asking you about, if you lived in a big Asian city, we got kind of sidetracked because you were telling me that you haven’t traveled as much as you would like. But I was asking that because Shanghai has over 20 million people in it, and even in 2010, it had that many people, and that’s a mega city, so I’m used to that level of city. I would say, living in a closet and living in a big city is going to make, for most single men, a lot more exciting opportunities. But that’s, of course, if it’s financially feasible. You can’t even afford a room in a shared apartment, then that’s obviously not going to work out. [0:27:11.2]

Leon: While we’re on that actually, I’m having this sort of mortality thing going on that I’m 39, I’m approaching my 40s. I’m still single and I’m okay to be single. It’s just in the other city that I lived in, it’s everyone is healthy and they’re active, and a lot of them are single and beautiful people. In this town that I’m in, the culture is everyone takes pause for every single ailment that they have and they get married and have kids as soon as possible. I mean, talking 22 years old. In other words, this environment is not congruent to what I prefer my lifestyle to be. But I’m trying to give it a chance because, I don’t know.

David: Because you’re broke?

Leon: I don’t want to be too judgmental I guess. [0:28:06.1]

David: Why is it judgmental? What about it’s just a matter of taste?

Leon: Yeah.

David: I like jazz. I go to jazz clubs. I don’t expect everyone to appreciate it. It takes quite a lot of education and taste to appreciate it, so I get it. I kind of prefer that I don’t have to pay a lot to watch jazz in a stadium. I like being up close and personal in a nightclub. It’s to the detriment of the jazz musicians. They can’t make much money that way. But that’s just me. It’s like I know me and that’s what I know. I know big cities. I love the energy of the big city. Maybe when I get to retirement age, I will appreciate trees and nature more. As I get older, I do, but there was a time when I didn’t give a damn about any trees or grass. I didn’t even notice them. Now when I go back to Singapore, I start to notice how much of a garden city it was, but I never noticed it when I was living there.

Leon: Come on, David. Come on, that’s great. [0:28:58.0]

David: I was always out partying, women, owning the town, owning the city, and it was a lie. The F1 came in and I was just– and that’s just part of being young. The environment that you live in is a huge contributor to your happiness, because for some people, they want some bucolic heaven and I totally get that, and it’s actually scientifically proven that that is more beneficial for most people. But if you find that you don’t have friends who are like you–

For instance, I’m an English-speaking Asian person. I don’t fit in. I don’t find my normal, the people don’t look like me, they don’t like the food that I like, if I just go to an all-white town, and I can’t do without Asian food for a long time, so I can’t stay there very long, so that’s me. I don’t fit in there, and it’s no knock against them. If they were to move to Shanghai, I expect that they would feel even more alienated than I would there because they can’t even speak the language, so that’s just natural, right? So, it doesn’t have to be a judgmental thing.

Leon: I see, but . . . [0:29:59.2]

David: But these are just surface-level solutions that whatever it might actually not have occurred to you, you might have this guilt around rejecting your roots and that’s something we should always go back to Mom and five years old. But notice that all of this stuff can be. You have a resistance around these practical logistics and then one of them has to do with, it seems, owning your desires, owning your taste. Right? That’s one.

But there’s another like the journey needs to be done, and then I never got to the cognitive dissonance so much yet, but there’s some kind of internal turmoil or pain and a big part of it I think is loneliness, and I’m very curious about the friends, because I understand the girlfriend situation, the ex. Why were these friends leaving you? That seems very final.

I have friends that I don’t keep in touch with as much because we moved out, we’re not in the same country or whatever. But if we ever happened to be moving back, and I might in some cases, then I expect us to pick up again, but just the time zone differences, geographic ones, that’s natural. But I don’t consider it to be like they’ve left me, like it’s just over. Right? It’s just more of a practical “I’m not willing to wake up at 3 a.m. and he’s not willing to wake up at 3 a.m.,” so that’s just normal. But in your case, there seems to be some kind of finality to it. [0:31:16.8]

Leon: Right. Yeah, the friends that I have in the other city, in Cape Town Bay, we’re all still friends. We still stay connected and that’s why I’m feeling a bit confused. It’s that, why do they accept me for who I am? In fact, they really cherish me as a person. But over here, I’m trying to make me friends, but all my interactions are–

David: Can you describe some of them? I have no idea where here is, so can you describe some of the differences between Cape Town and here?

Leon: It’s very conservative, very Christian, if it was a sign for a lawyer or an accountant, or there’s not a lot of creative people here. Let’s see. [0:32:05.8]

David: Does that mean that the real estate is high, like price?

Leon: No. Actually, it’s cheaper here than it is down at the coast. 

David: Okay, and how far of a drive is it?

Leon: Between the two cities? We’re talking about 12 hours.

David: Oh, wow, okay.

Leon: Yeah.

David: Okay, so that wasn’t a drive. You’re flying, I assume?

Leon: Yeah, I usually fly. But I mean, I did the drive last year.

David: Wow.

Leon: It was last time. But my point is–

David: Did you do it in two days? Just curious.

Leon: Yeah, yeah, that’s it. You stay over. Then you go onto another. Yeah.

David: Oh, road trip.

Leon: Yeah.

David: Wow. Okay, 12 hours away. And it’s conservative and Christian. I assume you’re neither of those or you don’t identify as much?

Leon: No, sorry, man.

David: No problem, I get it. I don’t know how much– So, right now you’re saying you don’t jive with your values? You’re not fitting in with the sort of conservative, even career-wise it seems like you’re saying. [0:33:03.2]

Leon: Yeah, I feel like a–

David: Imagine a black person trying to fit in in the capital of the KKK. Just sort of like, dude, it makes sense that you wouldn’t fit in, because that’s an extreme example and the closer you get to the extreme, the more it’s like that. Move, or I guess change it, but I don’t know if you want to. Then it’s a moral judgment, right? In terms of conservative Christian, which is your town that you’ve described. You don’t have to judge it morally. You can just say it’s not for you.

Leon: Sure, David. Look, I have this resistance. I don’t want to run away from my problems. That’s the thing. I don’t want to. I want to try and build the resilience, build the strength.

David: What would have happened if you ran away from your problems as a kid?

Leon: What would have happened?

David: Did you ever try to run away from your problems as a kid? [0:34:00.7]

Leon: Sure. Of course, of course, yeah, yeah.

David: What happened then? What was the problem back then?

Leon: Oh, man, first memory that comes to mind is my brother fell out of a tree. A big branch was sticking out of his leg and I ran away. I don’t know why. I don’t know why. But I was like–

David: How old were you then, four?

Leon: About five years old.

David: Did you run to get help?

Leon: Not necessarily.

David: You ran home?

Leon: I ran home.

David: Home has help, right?

Leon: Yeah.

David: Did you stay quiet about it?

Leon: Yeah, I stayed quiet about it until adults came around and then I told them about it. Man, I can’t understand why. I don’t know why.

David: I can guess. You spend much time with any kids, like your sisters or brothers that have kids, four years old?

Leon: Sure.

David: Okay, so you’ve seen kids. Alright, okay, good.

Leon: Yeah, we did.

David: One thing is shock and another is, when you’re around an incident, sometimes you’re wrongly blamed for it being your fault. [0:35:03.2]

Leon: Oh, I see. I think they taught us that, and that’s one of the reasons I did a first-aid course at the end of last year. I think it was because of that memory actually. I was helpless to do anything, so I thought I’d do something about that.

David: How do you feel toward the four-year-old you now?

Leon: A little more compassionate, I suppose. It’s okay, a little buddy. But I just didn’t know why I ran away like that and not help my brother, you know?

David: You keep saying that, but I’ve just given you two hypotheses. Two reasons.

Leon: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m just saying that I didn’t know that until now. I didn’t realize the whole thing until now, so thank you.

David: Oh, my pleasure. One of the things I’m noticing is, and maybe this was at the surface –

Leon: Go for it.

David: – which is that you’re saying you don’t have anyone else to talk about these things with?

Leon: No, that’s true.

David: So, even in your old town, your buddies there, were you talking about the time when you were four and your brother fell off the tree? [0:36:11.4]

Leon: Yeah.

David: Would you bring up that sort of thing? Maybe you might even laugh about it and say, “That’s why I did the first-aid course.” Because they asked, “Hey, what did you do last week?” I did this first-aid course, because I’ve just had these memories hit me. Talk about that?

Leon: No, David, that wouldn’t come up. That wouldn’t come up. Really, not that kind of thing.

David: Okay, you need new friends. It really is hard to find people who are at the maturity level where they don’t have to pretend to be tough and then they don’t have to just stay on the surface about achievement and stuff, where you can get real with them and they can ask you, because now I feel like I know you a lot more now that I understand that before that you froze and you hid in a way, but you also went home, which is security, because this scary thing just happened and you didn’t know what to do about it, and you were freakin’ four. Lots of adults don’t do crap about a bad thing happening on the street. [0:37:12.0]

Leon: Yeah, I suppose. Yeah.

David: At four, the expectations were already quite high that you would somehow fix or rescue or save.

Leon: Yeah, and that’s why that’s why I feel strongly against running away from problems.

David: But one of the issues was no one was there for you. Who was there for you at four?

Leon: Yeah, I didn’t really have any. Nothing. No support like that.

David: Yeah. Instead, it was the opposite. Do you have to make Mom happy? You had to make her laugh and smile. Through her depression through her addiction?

Leon: Yeah, and my younger brother suffers more from this actually. What do they call it in Japan? Like Kirimo– [0:38:04.1]

David: Oh, hikikomori.

Leon: Hikikomori.

David: I think it’s that. So, he’s just shut in?

Leon: Yeah, and he was closest to mom in the last couple of years. Yeah, I think that contributes to the pain I feel as well, because I can’t help him either. But lately and throughout my entire life, I was trying to help my brother, but I got to a point where it was affecting me negatively and I realized that there was nothing I could do. I have to accept that that potential that he has is going to be squandered or wasted, and it’s not an easy thing to accept, especially someone who’s good-looking and as talented as he is, and I think this is why I strive so much so hard to, I suppose, prove myself, I suppose to be somebody. [0:39:07.5]

David: To be somebody.

Leon: But I want to be more than that, David. I want to achieve my potential, because I realized that human beings are amazing. We are incredibly amazing, and I think a lot of us hold ourselves back with negative thinking, negative beliefs.

David: How will you know that you’ve achieved your potential?

Leon: How will I know?

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Leon: I always figured that I would just know when I got there.

David: How about this as a negative belief that you have to achieve your potential? How is this as a negative belief that if you don’t achieve this mythical potential, that you’re somehow bad or you’ve let someone down, and that’s horrible, I suppose.

Leon: Yeah, it sucks. [0:40:53.1]

David: What is potential? I mean, I had the potential– I had the potential to be a great lawyer I think. Who knows? I have the potential to be a great jazz musician I think, or at least a mediocre one. I could have been mediocre in either of those, but I think I would have had the potential for it. I have the potential to be an accountant. I have the potential. I mean, but now I’ve made choices. I’m almost 50. I’ve made choices and now I’m in this timeline in this possible world. It’s impossible to actually fulfill your potential, even though I know this is such a lie that is so deeply ingrained in achievers that it’s their curse. They can’t shake it, unless they get lots of therapeutic work, and so they will respond to titles like “achieve your potential.”

But potential is such a big deal, because I guess somewhere along the lines, you said you have to be somebody or you’re going to let somebody else, Mom or Dad down, and that’s really what they were afraid of, letting Mom or Dad down, but they think that the way to prevent that from happening is achieving this mystical, mythical potential. But it’s impossible, because every choice you make shuts down another choice. You have the potential to be an athlete or a musician, or an artist or computer programmer. If you were born in a different time, oh, God, I would have been even different, more different. [0:42:12.6]

Leon: Yeah.

David: I think I could have been a pretty damn good computer programmer. When I was in the sixth grade, this was in 1980-something, I was coding away with a class of all these adults and I kicked their butt. But then my parents, the next summer, didn’t put me to programming school. This was when no one had computers, personal computers. They put me to music theory and I kept doing music theory, music history. Looking back, what the fuck were they thinking? I could have been up there with Bill Gates? Who knows? But that time–

Leon: Yet [crosstalk 0:42:37.9].

David: Yeah, I could’ve been a great pianist, but every time you make a choice, you shut down a potential that you could have had. There is no such thing as all– you cannot fulfill, literally, all of your potential. Philosophically and logically, it is impossible. It is even impossible to name all of the potentialities you could possibly fulfill, because they are mutually exclusive because there’s this thing called time. [0:43:02.8]

Leon: Yeah, that is true.

David: So, I ask people whenever they say, “I have to achieve my potential,” what the fuck is this potential? Write it down. And you can’t, and notice that this is part of the burden. This is the irrationality of the achiever. This is their torture, their demon that they can never shake unless they face it. That is their thinking.

Leon: All right, David, look, how about this, then? Let’s lower the bar a bit. Financial freedom? How about some financial independence?

David: It sounds good to me.

Leon: Getting there.

David: At least enough so that you can live in the town that would make you happy. I mean, that sounds like a good start. Yeah, I’m all for that. If we now get into this specifics, I have Lifestyle Mastery course, we can talk about this. I don’t know if this isn’t going to be as relevant to our listeners, that would take us into a different realm where we actually hack your lifestyle and get you to the amount of money that you would need in order to live comfortably in the town that you would most want to be in or that you fit in the most. It seems like you were there not too long ago, so I don’t think it’s going to be that much of a stretch. [0:44:13.3]

But sometimes you’re stuck like I was in a town of 100,000 people, because I was going to school there for grad school, so you just toughed it out because it was the best program at the time, so tough luck, you just try to enjoy what you can out of it, and then scheme your way out as soon as you can.

So, I totally understand when your finances don’t allow you to live in the thriving metropolis that you’re dreaming about. But you’ve got to have some kind of plan and start putting it in place to get there. You’re talking about the brass tacks of business strategy around your art business and I can’t get into that here. You can see how you can be perfectly happy in this transitionary stage you’re in. Part of the pain is the resisting of this stage. You’re old enough now to remember when you were in transitionary stages when life was kind of shitty, but that’s because you were a student or something. [0:45:08.3]

Leon: Right.

David: Now, if a student was comparing himself to a lawyer who has already graduated as a lawyer, and he’s in law school now, so he can barely afford cup noodles or whatever so everything’s a struggle, even the Starbucks coffee, and he has compared. “Why am I not having financial freedom like this lawyer?” It’s stupid. Dude, you’re in law school, that’s why, right? You’re not making any income, that’s why. Just wait. Just finish this. Notice that he could be in so much pain if he didn’t remind himself that he’s in school.

Leon: So, how does he enjoy that moment instead?

David: Oh, God, do you know how much I would enjoy school? I’m almost 50 fucking years old. One of the best times in your life is when all you’ve got to do is study. It’s one of the easiest, and when you tell a student that, he’s like, Fuck you, you don’t know shit.

Leon: But, David, that’s the thing. This is the thing that the self-help realm is forgetting. It’s that in the different stages of your life, you don’t appreciate what you have. I think it’s a human being thing.

David: It is, absolutely. [0:46:00.7]

Leon: You don’t appreciate what you have right then and there. It’s only in retrospect that you’re really like, Oh, wow, that was really amazing. The purpose I’ve realized.

David: Right. You’re old enough now to know, blah, blah, blah, right? Hopefully now you’re old enough to know that you should have damn well appreciated university more when you were there. But none of us did because we thought that failing the exam was the end all, be all, that that was it and we were going to die if we didn’t get an A on that exam. How ridiculous, right?

I wish I could have reminded myself back then to stop and smell the roses. I’m even thinking about going back to university just for fun, just so I can get a little bit more of that as a student, not as a professor anymore, but as a student, where all I had to do is soak in knowledge and I could grill the professor and you could get away from me.

So many people just get away from me. They don’t want to continue their line of questioning. I have so many parts that are craving that, just like you, craving the philosophical dialogue that I was drowning in when I was a philosophy professor. So, I’ve located online communities around this and my wife has been beating me over the head to sign up for these different conferences and so on, just to get that stimulation. [0:47:04.8]

But, no, I don’t get any of that in Taipei, Taiwan, where I currently am, so I’m not going to– Because I don’t have it now, I look for the solution for it and then I go to myself, “Until that’s solved, I shouldn’t add on more pain by resisting the current state.” You mentioned I think that you had an injury that was preventing you from training, and while you have this injury, your focus is to heal. Imagine if you beat yourself up every day because you couldn’t do the strength training? It’s because you’re recovering from this injury, so make the most of that period, because it will end. Hopefully, if you stick with your physio or whatever, right? It will end.

Leon: You know this consciously, rationally. You tell yourself that, and even with the girl, you won’t die. I keep on telling myself, you’re not going to die from this, man.

David: We’re not doing any experiential work, unfortunately, so I’d asked you, is it because of financial reasons you’re not seeing a therapist right now? [0:48:04.8]

Leon: That’s one of them, but it’s also that I don’t want to waste my time with a run-of-the-mill therapist here, especially in this town. I don’t think of using that.

David: Yeah, don’t.

Leon: [inaudible 0:48:18.6] I’ll go physically.

David: With that therapy, you’re not limited to in-person. I think in-persons are really not a smart move, because you have to travel there. There are all kinds of other– You actually end up spending a lot more time, which is money. You can do it all over remote. Plenty of IFS therapists who could explore what’s really at stake and you’re starting to get there, because what you’re saying is “Intellectually, I understand,” so that means that there’s no cognitive dissonance. It’s not cognitive, the cognitive. You have emotional dissonance.

Leon: Yes.

David: So, there’s no confusion intellectually. You understand what you’re–

Leon: Fine.

David: Okay, great, great. That is huge. That alone is recognizing the work is actually in the emotions, which is connected to the unconscious. [0:49:02.3]

Leon: Okay.

David: And that goes way back to when you were already at four years old, you had frozen and wanted to go back to that, to the home, which is totally normal and natural. But part of it is also that there wasn’t, it seemed like, any kind of support there for you.

Leon: What about just attachment with these girls that I see, you know? Because in the beginning–

David: I’ve already blurted out now since I’m only probably going to say this one time, so hopefully you will keep emailing me and give me updates so I’d like to hear, but part of what you’re dealing with is abandonment, abandonment issues. We’ve only gotten to Mom, so maybe very quickly you could tell me about Dad who you saw less growing up, right?

Leon: Yeah.

David: You said he was working a lot and then they got divorced. Who did you have to be for Dad?

Leon: Good, perfect, and he–

David: That’s different for different people, so what’s good and perfect for him? [0:50:02.4]

Leon: Look, he always discouraged anything that I did. This is all the stuff that I’ve discovered in hindsight now recently living with him. He’s become better in his old age. He’s chilled out a bit more. But, yeah, it was a lot of why I have a lot of fear around the things that I want to explore, new things that I’m exploring.

David: Okay, at five years old, what did he discourage?

Leon: Oh, man. So, homosexuality wasn’t a thing back then. Because I wasn’t as tough or big as the other farmer boys around that, I was more effeminate apparently.

David: Oh, so you were into visual art. Is that one of those things?

Leon: That’s right.

David: So, he discouraged art.

Leon: Yes, so he discouraged art.

David: Any kind of art, like dance and drama?

Leon: “Art” art, as in visual arts. [0:51:00.0]

David: Right. Did he discourage all expression of emotion like in other arts?

Leon: I think so. He did.

David: But definitely visual art, right, okay, and that’s a huge thing for you clearly. This is the career that you have found meaning and enjoyment in.

Leon: Right, and everything that he wanted me to be, I couldn’t be necessarily.

David: Big, tough. Was it like fighting? What did he want you to be, like a jockey?

Leon: Yeah, he wanted me to be a rugby player. A rugby player of all things.

David: Was he a rugby player in his youth?

Leon: Yeah. Yeah, of course.

David: Did you have any discussion? Did any of your brothers end up being that way?

Leon: Yeah, my eldest brother was a rugby player and, yeah, he also stopped the team eventually, after a while. He became a bit of a delinquent, but he’s much better off now. He lives in Scotland. He has his own family. He’s doing good. He’s doing good.

David: Okay, good to hear. I think I cut you off there, you were saying big, tough rugby player, but then there were other things that he discouraged. Is that right? [0:52:07.4]

Leon: Yeah, I mean, traveling was one of them. David, it was like a reaction for him, a natural reaction for him. If I said that I wanted to do something, he’d always find a reason not to do it. It’s too dangerous or you’re going to get hurt, or something.

David: I understand why you had to explain your travel history.

Leon: Right.

David: Because a lot of your life since then you’ve been trying to reject what Dad had given you.

Leon: That’s right. That’s right, I had to.

David: So, you couldn’t individuate with travel. That would have been later in life, obviously, as a teenager or college age?

Leon: Mid-20s.

David: Okay, right, but even at five, six, you had a natural proclivity for art that was discouraged? [0:53:06.2]

Leon: Yeah, that’s right, and they recognized that I had the talent but always discouraged me from doing that as there’s no money in art. That was the consensus. That was the culture. But I didn’t know what else to do. It was the only thing that I was passionate about. It was the only thing that I felt I could do well, so I proceeded anyway regardless.

David: Did your mother encourage with art?

Leon: Yeah, my mother encouraged me.

David: Oh, okay. Did they ever fight about that?

Leon: Yes.

David: Who would win those fights? Anyone?

Leon: Who would win? I suppose whoever yelled the loudest.

David: Okay, so you have a lot of memories of them yelling at each other?

Leon: Yeah, yeah. Man, this is . . . this is weird. [0:54:00.7]

David: Tell me what’s weird about it.

Leon: I mean, David–

David: I do this all the time, so I have to remind myself that people find this weird. So, what’s weird? How do you feel weird about it?

Leon: This is strange.

David: You don’t have these conversations normally.

Leon: Yeah, I don’t really. I don’t really.

David: You don’t get real.

Leon: I guess I open up quite a bit to some of my close friends. They’re great, you know? Not supportive, super supportive, but there’s only one or two, and this girl that I’ve had to leave behind, she was one of them, but, yeah, yeah. But talking to you, trying not to fanboy over here. Yeah, it’s weird.

David: I’m very awkward. I live in a kind of bubble of my own, so if it helps to pop that, to destroy and undermine whatever pedestal you’ve put me on. I want to dissuade you from that. [0:55:01.5]

Leon: I’ve got to be honest, I love this chilled version of you. I remember you so high-energy and you were always– I think it was because of your marketing. You were trying to get that energy across and I understand that, and now you’ve just, I don’t know, it seems to me that you’ve done a lot of work and I was just like, wow.

David: Yeah.

Leon: When the Masculinity podcast came out, I was like, Wow, man, this transformation is amazing, and it’s obviously because of all the hard work that you’ve put in and I appreciate that and it really inspired me to figure out what was going on with me as well. Can I ask you a question, if I may?

David: Of course.

Leon: You came from this world of dating so many women and enjoying life, the way that a 30-year-old and later on would be enjoying their life, I suppose, and then you decided to get married. [0:56:00.4]

David: I was married before. Part of the story is I was a conservative Christian, the two things that you’re not, so I understand that small town. Then I got married at 24, 24 and a half. That was what I was supposed to do. I was on track for my master Christian plan, “Now I could have guilt-free sex.” That’s part of what a Christian boy at 24 would be thinking about when he gets married.

But, luckily, we didn’t have any kids, because we got married for all the wrong reasons, and Christian, the evangelical Christian view of psychotherapy is incredibly thin, if not completely rejecting the field, so I didn’t respect the field, and I didn’t have any background in it so I didn’t know there was anything we could do about it. I thought if we just prayed to God, read the Bible, everything should be hunky-dory and it was the opposite.

Shortly after we separated, I met this guy who was– Shortly after we separated, the game came out, Neil Strauss’ book, and it happened to be that I found out about that book from this guy who was running the second largest dating skills company in America at the time or in the world, and this was like serendipitous. This is all these coincidences in a way. [0:57:09.6]

Leon: The master.

David: I got this inside behind-the-scenes view of that, that world. I realize and I think a lot of guys didn’t believe that it was possible, but I saw it happening every weekend from behind the scenes, so I knew it was possible so I just kept at it. And I partied and was a player for over a decade. Then I tried to settle down. That didn’t work out. I’ve done videos on that. Then I went searching for deeper answers and I finally took psychotherapy seriously and got into that, and then a couple of years or a few years into that, I met my now wife. I was your age when I met her, so I was 39 when I met her.

Leon: Okay.

David: So, it’s not too late. I have friends I was partying with at the time we were single and five years older than me, and then they’ve now gotten married and have three kids. So, as a man, it’s never too late, as long as you keep on top of your health and you can still sire children, I mean, if that’s what benefits you. A male who’s delayed has his maturity. [0:58:13.2]

Leon: Look, man, I don’t necessarily want to have kids and I don’t know if I want to get married either. But this last girl –

David: That’s a good attitude.

Leon: – she and I could share life, and that was the whole thing. Even she liked the idea. But then on my last trip, I don’t know, I don’t know, man, I don’t know what happened. I think . . . yeah, I don’t know what happened. Something changed the connection between us. She was really focused on her business and I suspect she’s still dealing with a lot of the stuff that came from a previous relationship, to be honest, and I was ready, man. But at the same time, I wasn’t sure either, and that’s the thing. That’s what I wanted to ask you. When do you know that you’re sure that you want to settle down with somebody? I thought I was, but it turned out to be bunk. [0:59:18.0]

David: Why did it turn out to be bunk?

Leon: She’s there. I’m over here. 

David: And why are you over here? I thought it was for financial reasons.

Leon: It was.

David: So, make more money. Are you just dropping the ball on the money thing?

Leon: Yeah, I think the money.

David: I mean, you’re an entrepreneur, right? If you can crack the nut on getting your captive audience and creating your irresistible offer and all that stuff and scaling it. Part of it is I think you’re in the wrong market, but the way you described your hometown, it’s not an art market, and so you’re in the wrong place. Right, that’s a big part of it. Can they appreciate what you’ve got? But anyway, once you fix the business thing, then you’re back in that town, if it’s purely because of that. But it’s not, is it? [1:00:00.4]

Leon: No, it’s not.

David: Because part of it is, the way you’ve described it is, you’re in a way using her emotionally and a big part of it is you’re afraid that you’re needy. I made a lot of episodes on neediness and guys beat themselves up about it. It’s really sad because neediness is not something to be ashamed of. It’s something to pay attention to. It means that there are certain needs that you’re not able to meet on your own.

Leon: Yeah.

David: And that’s your segue, that’s your foot in the door into the work that you’re supposed to be doing, and by the way, that journey never ends. Hopefully, you’ll never stop meeting parts of you that need help or attention. It’s a beautiful feeling when you discover that. It’s such a big release.

Leon: I’ve heard it. I’ve stumbled upon it and I’ve done two of your meditations with you.

David: Oh, great.

Leon: It was amazing. It was amazing.

David: You reach a point in your journey when you don’t get that high anymore for a long time because you’re doing the same. You’re going on the same track and then it’s sort of sad, because it’s a real high when you discover fucked up shit about yourself and then you get to grow out of it. The growing out of it is this huge thing. It’s so pleasurable, actually. [1:01:12.3]

I’m directly attacking this journey and the end of the journey, just trying to finish the journey and that limiting belief there. Finding that you’re needy is great, great, but what’s the need that’s not being met? In the interest of time, let me see if I can speed this up and then see how it lands for you. What you’ve described about your childhood is quite sad for me.

One last question actually I’m curious about is when you were pursuing art and you couldn’t be the big tough rugby player that your dad wanted you to be, what were the consequences for continuing to do the thing he discouraged and not doing the thing that he was encouraging? What were the consequences? [1:01:59.0]

Leon: He berated me and he always compared me to other people, always. Always. Always, and I think that’s why I have a big problem with comparing myself to other people’s successes. I think it’s linked.

David: Right.

Leon: Yeah. I mean, there was physical punishment obviously.

David: That wasn’t obvious, but now I get it. I mean, it makes sense.

Leon: Yeah, it’s something that I’m not really . . . I think there’s some toxic shame around that as well, you know?

David: Right, that’s something to be addressed in your individual work. That’s great that you’re recognizing the toxic shame. But, of course, it’s not your fault that he was toxic. If anything, it deserves more compassion. And you’re still living with him, right, now?

Leon: Yeah, so that’s the thing, right, if I think a part of this part of resolving a lot of this. Our relationship between him and I became so much better when I lived in the other city, and I mean, now that I’m here with him, it was important for me, I think it was supposed to happen this way that I could see what was going on. [1:03:14.4]

David: That’s a good reason to stay, in addition to getting your finances together and him helping you that way, which is great.

Leon: Yeah, but now that I know all this, I can’t stay with him. I know we’re family and I love him, and I’ll do anything for him. We both have very strong personalities.

David: He’s still not supportive of the art, of art?

Leon: Yeah. I mean, he’s very proud of me, he says, with what I’ve done with my career, and even though the odds were against me, I persevered. And, yeah, he just wants me to be happy, you know? But he’s still stuck in a lot of his old ways. Parents, they don’t see their kids as adults from what I’ve found. It’s that they see them still as their little children. Sometimes I get that this is a crock. [1:04:13.6]

David: That’s the parents. That’s something the parents should work on. It’s not that all parents are like that. It’s just bad parents are like that. 

Leon: Sure, that’s the thing. It’s not my responsibility to try and control that or fix that.

David: Yes, great.

Leon: What I can do is leave.

David: How far are you from the financial? You’ve figured out the number that you need to hit and how long you need to hit that in order to move back or move to a more thriving city? How far are you on track, or you’ve got the plan at least?

Leon: Yeah, the plan.

David: It’s coming together.

Leon: It’s coming along.

David: Part of it is you know you need to have a plan. So, right now you’re making the plan. [1:05:03.7]

Leon: Yeah.

David: Yeah. I mean, that’s a painful thing to be in, but it’s a necessary stage. It’s also kind of exciting for its own sake.

Leon: Yeah, definitely, definitely. Tell me something. The plan doesn’t just formulate in one day, right? What I’ve been doing is accumulating the plan as it goes along. Really, I mean this, writing it up, budgeting, finding out. On my last visit to Cape Town, I was even speaking with real estate agents to find out what the property market is like, writing those numbers down, seeing what I need to hit.

David: Great, wow, okay. So, you’re doing it. You’re asking, “What do I do now?” You’re doing it, it sounds like.

Leon: Yeah, it’s just progress isn’t linear, right? 

David: Yeah. On a long enough timeline, you might be able to see it as being linear. I mean, if you call it progress. [1:06:00.0]

Leon: Yeah, if you can call it progress, right?

David: Yeah, so you’ve got to keep your head and come out of the forest every once in a while.

Leon: All right. Okay, so David, can I ask you about this then? And I know, what is it, 11 o’clock now, my side? 

David: Yeah, we’re a few minutes over the time I had allotted. Maybe you can ask a question and then I’ll say the last thing, and then we can wrap up for now.

Leon: Is this normal? Are our setbacks normal? I mean, this might be the odd [inaudible 1:06:34.1].

David: The setback here, you’re talking about the financial thing and then the girlfriend not working out?

Leon: The girl. Yeah, this was recent, the girl, the girlfriend, right? Yeah, and I feel like it’s going to get a little bit more painful down the line. But today, I’m feeling okay about it. I’m dealing, you know?

David: So, you’re asking, is it normal to have some financial setbacks in your art.

Leon: I feel bad. Is it normal to feel bad during these? [1:07:04.0]

David: What’s bad? What is the feeling that feels bad?

Leon: Sad, angry.

David: Are you saying is it normal to be sad and angry?

Leon: Yes.

David: Yes, and fearful?

Leon: Yes.

David: Do you have the answer to your question now that you’ve spelled it out? So, if you use the word “bad,” it’s not helpful, right? It’s, what are the feelings that feel bad? Right now the sadness, anger and fear feel bad for you. Does it blow your mind to think that someone like me, or maybe someone at another level you attn. in the future will embrace sadness, embrace your anger, embrace even a state of fear? Because it’s sending an important message to you of something maybe you’re overlooking, or for sadness especially something that is very precious to you and needs to be spent more time with? [1:08:00.6]

Leon: You have mentioned this before and I acknowledge it. It’s just how long do I have to embrace the fear, sadness and anger? Until I get to resolve what is what it’s trying to tell me?

David: Oh, if you’re trying to embrace them to resolve them, then your whole life. But if you come to them with no agenda, for instance, the one that’s afraid, and you come to it with open arms and in curiosity, “What are you afraid of? Point it out to me,” and maybe it is a real thing like death and that’s something that is ingrained in us to have a fear of that, and now we can embark on a new journey or a tangential journey of facing our death fear or death anxiety, which at the end of it, if we pursue it, persevere in it will be incredibly liberating. But the fear is pointing out something important. [1:08:59.1]

I’m always asking what you’re afraid of and then usually it’s some kind of surface answer and then we have to keep going, “Why are you afraid of that? Why are you afraid of that? And why are you afraid of that?” Eventually, you’ll get to the root fear. And the thing now we can maybe segue to, what I’ll leave you with is the root fear is that you will not be seen. You will not be supported. You will not be held.

I haven’t yet gotten to before four years old, but already there wasn’t emotional support. In a way, your mother was emotionally supportive, but in a way that forced you to be her parent. You ended up making her happy, making her laugh and smile. I keep telling my son, because he’s already very sensitive to Mom. “Mama happy. Mama angry.” Then she’s also reinforcing, “It’s not your job to make me happy. It’s not your job to make me smile,” and you’ve done that with your dad, so your reaction to him as the opposite. [1:10:02.8]

You’re constantly trying to individuate against the dad in your mind, but the one that’s keeping you most– already on the surface, you know Dad didn’t see you, didn’t appreciate your gifts and your talent, and who you are at your core, but you said he’s mellowed out now. In addition, the thing that maybe you haven’t realized fully is that Mom abandoned you, too, and what you’re trying to make up for it with now in adulthood is that because no one was there for you, this girlfriend was and now it’s being taken away.

So, now you’re finally forced to hopefully at this juncture in your life at 39, which is a fine time to discover this, this is the time when I was in that mellow period of singlehood and looking to perhaps settle down, but I was very skeptical just like you. “I don’t think it could work. I’ve been married before. That didn’t work,” a great place to be in. [1:11:00.7]

Keep your standards high. Don’t beat yourself up about it, but this is the time in your life, perhaps when you’ll finally take it upon yourself to see yourself fully, including the parts that are afraid, they are as worthy of love and attention as the ones who aren’t afraid.

And the parts that are angry, they might have very good reasons to be angry, and so you can understand their anger and let them know you understand, and especially the parts that are sad, because they’re the ones that are closest to love and you can join them in their sadness so they don’t feel alone in their sadness and you set aside time for their sadness, maybe just five minutes to grieve. Maybe if you have some time in the weekend, a whole hour to grieve, maybe going by your mother’s tombstone and grave and spending time with her there and giving them that, and looking through the memories and honoring her. These are all ways of taking care of those parts of you that weren’t taken care of when you were a child. [1:12:02.8]

But as you build your relationship with them with full acceptance and curiosity, not needing them to change how they are, but you just being there for them the way they are, then they will naturally let go of the pain, give it up to you. You will finally be the parent that you’ve always needed and now want. But they’re little kids, so they might get sad again. They might get angry or they might get afraid, especially if your business goes belly up or you’re in the wrong market. Here’s a good reason to be afraid. Don’t keep doing this if it’s not working. This fear makes a lot of sense.

Should I not feel the fear? No, feel the fear. Change your market. Change your offer. Move something around. This is good and the fear is helpful. If it’s paralyzing fear, then there’s something we can do of unblending from that. But the part has positive intent, showing you something that maybe you’re ignoring. [1:13:01.1]

So, imagine to be afraid of the fear, now we have double fear. You didn’t have to be afraid of the fear. Embrace the fear. At least there’s only one part of you afraid, not both of you are afraid, because now that guy is afraid and you’re afraid that that guy is afraid, too. Now we can’t handle the fear at all. Recognize that maybe you don’t have to be afraid of the fear. You can just notice it and turn to it to see what it has to tell you.

Leon: Okay. How do I figure out what they’re trying to tell me?

David: Okay, so this is very difficult actually to do on your own especially. You might get the hang of it after a dozen sessions of being guided through it. But that book that you have now, Jay Earley’s I think, Self-Therapy, I found that to be far more harmful than helpful to people. [1:13:55.4]

I’ve had to meet people who have gone through it and they’ve actually messed up their system more, because protected parts of them are with an agenda, trying to get parts to change, and they go through this process to try to get them to change. Then there’s a whole period, months, or even maybe almost a year or so, when we’re having to re-earn, earn back the trust of those parts that were run roughshod over through that, trying to do it yourself.

So, I’d recommend maybe 10 sessions with a good IFS therapist, and keep in mind, from my anecdotal experience, maybe half of the ones on the directory are decent. Maybe a quarter of them are good. You might want to try four and see if they have a trial session kind of deal so you can try them out for a session or so until you find the one that connects, that works well with you.

Leon: I suppose this would be something well worth investing in, right? Because this is my health we’re talking about here. [1:14:54.0]

David: Yeah, the thing is, if you’re talking about money, right, so part of what I’m seeing now with my clients is that when your parts are in harmony or that you’re able to be with them, you’re able to work a lot easier at work. Your career goes a lot– you’re able to make decisions a lot smoother, without all of this friction inside, and you’re not overwhelmed by debilitating feelings so that you can notice the fear and not be taken over by it, and that obviously couldn’t make a huge difference at work, or if in your business, you’re making decisions about the offer or the market, or the customers and clients. 

Leon: Look, I don’t know if this is worth mentioning, but I feel like it is. A month ago, when I went to Cape Town, I went to go visit her, but that wasn’t the main thing. The main thing was to try and deal with this, the death of my mom and what I was going to do for the rest of 2024. I went there with a journal and an agenda. I went from place to place, stayed at different places, and I can’t tell you the amazing effect that had on me. [1:16:03.0]

I’d never been able to articulate myself so clearly without any breaks in what I was saying because I just felt everything was in complete and utter harmony. All of my parts were happy with what I was doing. I was confident that my train of thought was so clear and courage was just there. It was like breathing air. Yeah, I don’t know. But now, now it’s gone.

So, I thought maybe there was a novelty thing. Maybe it was what you feel when you go on holiday or something like that. You get that holiday feeling. None of your responsibilities are weighing you down. And maybe I’m feeling that, what do they call it? They call it reentry syndrome. After the holiday is done, the net weight of the responsibilities coming back. The point of what I’m trying to tell you is that I felt what it felt like to be completely and utterly aligned and it was working for me. [1:17:03.1]

David: Yeah, great.

Leon: It didn’t require therapy, although I did do a lot of journaling.

David: Great. Then try that again. Good. Okay.

Leon: It’s the point where I’m just like, Ugh, man, I can’t write anymore, although when I do, when I force myself, then it actually does help.

David: Then you’ve just gone back on your argument. If your point was that you could do it yourself, you just now said you can’t go any further yourself. So, it’s up to you, and obviously, you make the choice, but if it’s an investment decision, you can think about it in terms of your biggest problem right now is you’re stuck in this town that doesn’t jive with you and doesn’t connect with your values, and that makes a lot of sense, so you need to make enough money to get out of there. Even then you still probably want to make more money and one of the things getting in your way is that you have these emotional blockages. They’re not cognitive ones. [1:17:54.3]

Imagine that, I mean, you could just think clearly and act on the things that you intellectually understand. Life would be. You would have figured out your business problems already. But then you could move back to Cape Town and then you could pick up with her again. Yeah, that’s in terms of a business or finance proposition. There is a payoff on that side.

Alright, it’s great talking to you. 

Leon: You, too, David. Thank you so much for this. This is great, some great insights on this, yeah.

David: My pleasure.

Leon: Thank you so much for your time today. I appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

David: Alright, my pleasure.

About a week after our conversation, Leon sent me an email and I will share with you his updates.

I want to thank you, David, for taking the time to have a session with me. I’m not sure if you can use it or not, but I appreciate it all the same. I initially wanted to email you the day after to let you know what I had started to do already, but I decided I’d ride the wave out first to see where it takes me. [1:18:53.5]

I’m happy to tell you that many positive and painful things happened after our talk. I started to feel that exhilaration of the wonderful tapestry we call life, as you described it. You had brought a few things to light that I may have been in denial about and that perhaps I wasn’t honoring at the time. It allowed the toxic shame to subside when you told me there was nothing wrong with me and that I just needed to go through this and realize some things about myself, my past and my current situation.

You hardly mentioned the girl I was upset about. Yet when I had my moments of emotional expression at the end of the day, I realized my troubles had very little to do with her after all. It was this severe grief that I feel for losing my mother along with a feeling of abandonment, losing my way and lack of emotional support. Once I expressed my emotions fully in the privacy of my car, I was set free. My Self came to the surface once more to guide me that my parts needed to express themselves fully first and not be corrected or consoled. [1:19:56.2]

Like I said, positive and painful things happened after our talk. I opened my investments and savings and consolidated them and began to formulate my plan for my great exile. Motivation and a smile came back to me, and so did my sense of sovereignty. I started working on my business website again and redoubled my efforts on my client work. This has been consistent and exponential throughout the week. I’ve also been sleeping much better, and wouldn’t you know it? The city I live in doesn’t seem so bad anymore. (I’m still getting the heck out of dodge, though.)

Look, I know one session isn’t enough to fully dive into things, but it was enough to get me started on a positive path of recovery, so thank you. You really helped me and I appreciate it. All the best to you and the family.

Thank you, Leon. It was an honor and privilege to speak with you and to get to know you.

I thank all of you out there for listening. If this has helped you in any way, please share it with anyone else that you think could benefit from it. Thank you again for listening. I look forward to welcoming you to the next episode. Until then, David Tian, signing out. [1:21:00.3]