Staying safe in the world of soul work

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Recently Buzzfeed ran a story on Tony Robbins. They’d done a pretty lengthy investigation of the guy and his work practices which led them to report evidence of sexual harassment towards his staff, abusive behaviour towards paying customers at his events and the use of racist slurs in his work.

A few days later a friend of mine, Leah Ida Harris – whose work and thoughts I respect hugely – ran her own related piece on Medium, reporting on her experiences with a “life coach” who’d caused more harm than good, and posing the question: Is it time for the “wellness” industry to be more regulated?

Leah’s article is well worth a read as it’s seriously bloody good. But also very thought provoking… and it certainly got me thinking.

You see over the years I’ve worked with and gotten to know some bloody amazing healers, teachers and guides. Aaaaaand I’ve also met and worked with some not so good ones.

While I’m about to share my stories around that, my cautionary tale isn’t the point of this post, which is more to do with keeping you safe. To try and help with that, I wanted to share the five most important things I’ve learned when it comes to looking for the right person to put faith in on your Soul path, not just as a fully accredited coach and therapist myself, but also as a long term client of this wellness world.

My story

Photograph of a lit candle visible through the heart-shaped window of a light coloured medal box. Photo by Cathal Mac an Bheatha on Unsplash

Yup, I too had an experience with a coach who charged me a small fortune to “transform my life” only for me to realise later that not only had she lied about her experience (and encouraged me to lie about mine), she’d also used her very clever sales techniques to talk me out of the ideas I'd taken into our work together and instead convince me of something that went totally against what I believed to be right... a decision that set my confidence – and my business – back by at least a year.

To be honest, working with her didn't just put me off enlisting any other expert help or support, it also put me off referring to myself as a coach or offering coaching sessions to clients for the longest time; even despite the fact I’d spent almost two years qualifying to do that job!

Actually, it was these people with less than positive ethics who first convinced me to get into the field client work…

Back in the days I was a practising medium spending at least one night a week at local Spiritualist churches, I started to recognise that a lot of the people coming into those meetings were similar in many ways to those coming into a counselling or coaching room; they were lost, possibly grieving, stuck and in need of some support, guidance or wisdom.

Unfortunately some of the people they came across – while talented at connecting with the spirit world – didn’t necessarily think too much about who they were talking to.

I’m talking about the time I heard a man say to a woman in a room of 40 people “I have your mother here. I feel like before she passed over she was incontinent”; and the time I heard of another medium tell a woman “I see a baby in Spirit right next to you. Are you pregnant? There’s definitely a baby with you” only to be told that the woman had just miscarried…

Even writing those things makes me shudder.

Photograph of a life ring floating in an outdoor body of water. Photo by Lukas Juhas on Unsplash

And so I decided that if I was going to be dealing with people who were struggling, then I’d make damn well sure I was confident that I was doing all the right things in holding space for those people. And when I started to realise that a lot of my clients were looking to take direct action on their places of stuckness rather than simply let go of and work through things from their past that may have been holding them back; then I did some more.

I’m not telling you that every Soul worker has to take the qualifications – I’m proud of mine and I firmly believe they’re vital for anyone working directly with mental health and wellbeing, but I also recognise that you can’t get a degree in everything, and nor do you need to. Hell, I’m not even sure it's right at the moment for every Soul worker to be registered with some sort of professional association or regulatory board – although some are super supportive and enforce great codes of ethics, they’re also expensive and can be pretty restrictive.

But I do think we all need to find a way to ensure that the people we’re working with – especially those we’re entrusting with our Souls and everything they involve – are the right people to work with; that they will keep us safe and that they’ll help rather than hinder us.

So how do you spot the bad ones and stick to the good ones?

The short answer is that there’s no definite way to guarantee this, and maybe that’s important… After all, although I’d never want anyone to work with an abusive or dangerous coach or healer, when it comes to the simply “less good” teachers and guides, often they’ve been the ones to teach me the most important lessons on this journey of mine so far.

Still though, for me there are five key things to watch out for when you’re trying to avoid these people and go for the good ones.

Five steps to keeping yourself safe when it comes to finding healers, teachers, coaches and guides

1.What does your gut say?

I’d encourage you to ask this question about any person, situation or idea you’re looking to incorporate into your life, because frankly it’s the single most important question you can ever ask.

What does your gut say when you hear this person talk, read the words they’ve written, or think about their work?

If the answer is a deep resonance that makes you say “yes, this is my kind of person!” then my friend, feel free to jump in with both feet.

If it’s “ohmygodsIneedtoworkwiththemrightnow!” I’d encourage you to ask a deeper question… why? I ask that because although sometimes that sort of excitement comes with a hefty dose of that resonance we just spoke about; it can equally be a sign that we’ve been triggered by something that makes us feel less than, as though we need to work with them to somehow fill a hole in ourselves... something they may be very cleverly working to tell us through their marketing techniques.

And if it’s “everyone else is talking about this person but honestly they make my gut churn and not in a good way”? Well then I think you have your answer right there on whether this is the right person for you to work with or the right work for you to do right now.

2.What do other people say?

That said though, of course there’s no harm in also listening discerningly to what other people are saying.

By all means listen to the recommendations of those you trust; or even do some extra research to see what the general consensus is about this person.

Of course not every client testimonial or piece of feedback will be trustworthy; and of course just because your best friend in the world loved working with someone doesn’t mean that you will too, so again be sure to combine other people’s feedback with the urgings of your own gut.

But remember that when it comes to looking for someone to trust with the deep work of your soul, real people’s views and experiences tend to be much more important to trust than any sales pitch or social media follower number.

3.Are they walking the walk?

Before you commit to working with someone, do your research and see what they're talking about, saying or doing. Does it truly resonate with the work they claim to do?

If this is someone who is talking all about love and light, but is also judgey and negative in all of their Insta posts, then maybe think carefully before you work with them. And if they're all about giving their clients a safe space to work, but their own energy feels overwhelming, intrusive or super leaky then maybe consider that too.

That's not to say that all healers, coaches, teachers and guides should be perfect mind you... actually I'd argue that the best ones are those who claim to be nothing of the sort. After all, no one is perfect and we are all working through our own wounds and stuckness every single day.

But in order to do that effectively for both ourselves and other people, we need to be authentic in the way we approach our own lives and the wider world. Go for the person who recognises and owns their shit as much as their strengths, and for the one that truly feels authentic.

Maybe that is about their experience or their qualifications - after all those aren't necessarily vital for everything, but they can be really important; maybe it's in the story they tell about their journey so far; maybe it's in the ways they talk about themselves, their clients and their work, or maybe it's something else entirely. Whatever the guiding point, authenticity is so important when it comes to finding the people you can trust to walk your own journey with you.

4.Do they seem like a good person?

I once heard a teacher I worked with tell me she was planning to curse someone who'd upset her. Then there was the past life workshop leader I heard had told a client that her multiple lifetimes as a sex worker meant she was "the slut of the Universe." Seriously.

Quite simply, look for the good people. They're not necessarily the ones who talk about nothing but sparkles and rainbows, and nor are they the ones who never swear or who talk like they're completely pious every single day. In fact sometimes they're completely the opposite of that (remember that point on authenticity?!).

But they are the people you'd actually like to be friends with (in fact some of my best teachers are the ones who have become friends, because I not only resonated with them, but also loved and trusted them so deeply); who are fun, confident but humble and who never pretend to be anything other than they are.

5.Avoid the fake gurus

Which leads us on to this one. Because of course there are some genuine gurus out there in the world.

But there are plenty of others who would simply like you to believe that’s what they are.

You know the folk I’m talking about; the people who do their damnedest to convince the world that they know all there is to know about life.

The ones who try to tell you that they’re absolutely perfect and exist on a level way above the rest of humanity.

And of course the people who’ll say that you need them, because only them and their work can “fix” you or change your life.

Bullshit. Every last bit of it.

You don’t need to be “fixed”, you don't need anyone, and the people who will do the best job at guiding, coaching, teaching or supporting are almost always the ones who embrace their humanity as much as their soulful-ness.

But if you do want to make the changes that will help you to change your life then there’s only one person who has the power to do that... three guesses who that is.

When it comes to those fake gurus who offer to change your world and take you out of yourself, give them the widest berth you possibly can.

And instead go for the ones who offer support and to hold space, and for the people who teach and guide as they walk the path with you.

This blog post isn’t a sales pitch. Of course, if I’m someone you want to work with then by all means reach out.

But equally, know that I won't be the right person for everyone to work with, and that there are plenty of other utterly amazing people out there that you may want to work with... Of course I could point you in the direction of some of my favourites, and maybe one day soon that whole idea of a network of soul workers you can trust is something I'll absolutely jump into. But for now, I encourage you to follow the five steps above while you head off on the journey to find the right people for you to work with.

#soulwork #soulsupport #counselling #coaching #healing #spirituality #energy #selflove