Slay Your Dragons - Malcolm Stern

From Chaos to Clarity: Conquering Demons and Embracing Growth on the Road to Purpose and Passion

April 25, 2024 John
From Chaos to Clarity: Conquering Demons and Embracing Growth on the Road to Purpose and Passion
Slay Your Dragons - Malcolm Stern
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Slay Your Dragons - Malcolm Stern
From Chaos to Clarity: Conquering Demons and Embracing Growth on the Road to Purpose and Passion
Apr 25, 2024
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Seventeen years ago, Catherine's life took a turn on the Greek isle of Skyros, a moment where chaos began its metamorphosis into a life of clarity and purpose. Join us as we peel back the layers of her compelling story, where personal demons are conquered, and a future filled with passion and stability is forged. Now a revered podcaster and coach, Katherine shares her journey through the crucible of group therapy, leading to an evolution that has touched many lives, including her own. Her narrative is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the extraordinary power of support and compassion in the face of life's storms.

The path to self-discovery is often lined with the rubble of broken relationships and the sting of betrayal, yet it's here that we find the truest sense of who we are. This episode is a raw look at the complexities of love and the pursuit of stability, as we navigate through the heartbreak of a mother's loss, the isolation of academic life, and the devastation of a marriage ending. Hear how our guest faced the daunting task of restructuring her life, breaking generational cycles, and safeguarding her children's future, all the while searching for an authentic self amidst the chaos. It's a journey through darkness into the light of self-awareness and profound growth.

Community and service emerge as the cornerstones of transformation in our final chapter, where I share the creation of a women's support group and the unexpected blessings that followed. Stepping out of personal drama to focus on others, I found love and strength in places I never anticipated. We also discuss the insightful world of Transactional Analysis with Ian's story, as he navigates the complexities of searching for love through the prism of his professional expertise. The stories of people who've turned their attention outward, finding joy and growth in the process, will inspire you to consider how service can pave the way to personal fulfillment.

This Podcast is sponsored by Onlinevents 

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Seventeen years ago, Catherine's life took a turn on the Greek isle of Skyros, a moment where chaos began its metamorphosis into a life of clarity and purpose. Join us as we peel back the layers of her compelling story, where personal demons are conquered, and a future filled with passion and stability is forged. Now a revered podcaster and coach, Katherine shares her journey through the crucible of group therapy, leading to an evolution that has touched many lives, including her own. Her narrative is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the extraordinary power of support and compassion in the face of life's storms.

The path to self-discovery is often lined with the rubble of broken relationships and the sting of betrayal, yet it's here that we find the truest sense of who we are. This episode is a raw look at the complexities of love and the pursuit of stability, as we navigate through the heartbreak of a mother's loss, the isolation of academic life, and the devastation of a marriage ending. Hear how our guest faced the daunting task of restructuring her life, breaking generational cycles, and safeguarding her children's future, all the while searching for an authentic self amidst the chaos. It's a journey through darkness into the light of self-awareness and profound growth.

Community and service emerge as the cornerstones of transformation in our final chapter, where I share the creation of a women's support group and the unexpected blessings that followed. Stepping out of personal drama to focus on others, I found love and strength in places I never anticipated. We also discuss the insightful world of Transactional Analysis with Ian's story, as he navigates the complexities of searching for love through the prism of his professional expertise. The stories of people who've turned their attention outward, finding joy and growth in the process, will inspire you to consider how service can pave the way to personal fulfillment.

This Podcast is sponsored by Onlinevents 

Malcolm Stern:

Okay, so welcome to Slay your Dragons with Compassion podcast, which I'm doing in conjunction with online events, and it's such a joy to do this. I'm meeting such interesting people and sort of gathering their stories. So what we're looking at are places where people have really changed. What are the resources they've had to gather to themselves in order to do that and what's their story? Where did they start? Where have they got to? Where are they heading?

Malcolm Stern:

And today's guest I met I think it was about 17 years ago in Skiros on a Greek island, and I was reminded of her particularly because she was screaming at me after we'd done some psychodrama work together and she was wailing and something got really released. And I saw this woman who was all over the show and who's since become quite an extraordinary podcaster herself. She's in 108 different countries. Her podcast Gobsmacked, which I've been on, and she does a really professional job, but also she's a real leader in her community and someone who's an outstanding coach and um, and I think, katherine, you've been through hell and high water in order to get to where you got to, so perhaps we could take a look at when we met and where, where that led you yes, so, um, I turned up on the island of Skiros.

Catherine Williamson:

I was two husbands down, both of which I'd left, one after a few weeks, one after about five years. I'd got two young kids in tow and I was leading a very chaotic life. Um, it wasn't going well.

Catherine Williamson:

My father was deeply underwhelmed by the state of my love life and Skiros called me because, as a singleton, it meant there was a decent holiday and of course, I had a certain vigilance that there might be a nice gentleman to meet in court. Anyway, it wasn't to be love on Skiros, but it was to be a profound encounter with you, malcolm, on your Cour courage to change workshop, which I chose to pop along to because I didn't think I really needed it. Oh, an hour and a half hour sort of an hour and a half later, where, um, I'd done a piece of work, I'd opted you in as the person to play the person that I was currently running and made major angst with. I'd been particularly triggered by somebody else's work in the circle. I'd never done anything like that before and I was gone and you held that space so beautifully and I was projecting all this rage onto. There was like spittle coming out. Then I was in tears, the snot was coming down, um, and I sort of came to at the end of it. I sort of felt totally embarrassed because of the noise I'd made.

Catherine Williamson:

Um, I skulked around the place for the rest of the day, especially at lunchtime when I heard somebody say did you anybody hear that woman screaming this morning what was going on. So I studied my Greek salad with somewhat intensity after that, um, but we shared a taxi that evening and you said to me, catherine, I think you're pretty traumatized and I think you could really benefit for some good quality psychotherapy. And then you put forward the idea that I might join your year group in September and I did and it was absolutely life-changing for me to be in that group therapy environment and what. I attribute that to Malcolm. You're an undoubtedly a skilled practitioner. You know a master practitioner you are. But I could possibly manipulate one or two people, but you can't dupe 40 people in a group therapy environment, can you?

Catherine Williamson:

and um, it's interesting because they did. Some of them bought brand Catherine, some of them certainly didn't. But um, I requested on my first session to help me understand why I just didn't make a particularly brilliant first impression, that I was struggling to form deep connection with people and to help me.

Malcolm Stern:

And that was the gauntlet I threw down and by golly did you lot deliver on that over the course of the time I spent with you and it was lovely working with you and and I think one of the things I've I'm really impressed with with you, catherine, is, once you've got your idea of what you're going to do and you're like a dog with a bone you'll go for it in every way possible.

Malcolm Stern:

And I've watched your life turn around. I've seen you go from ridiculous relationships with all sorts of wild men into a very beautiful relationship which you've been in now for nearly over 15 years around 15 years with a very solid, decent man, and the wildness has gone out of you, but not the passion for life, and I see that that passion for life has been transformed, and it was one of the reasons I wanted to have you on this series, because I really want to know how you managed that. What was, was it that you were? What was it you've become and what? What spragans did you have to slay along the way in order to find your way into some sort of um livable life, that is, that still has passion, but it's also sane all right.

Catherine Williamson:

So there's quite a bit in that. So let me take you back to there's an I can say in my life there's a number of events that would put me into the trauma spin cycle, but particularly the one that I would say played out in my um. The dimension of my love life was, um. I lost my mom when I was 18. She died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. I went to university. It was a very lonely time. I was, I was the oldest of four kids, um, I was in the London University, was doing a course I hated. Um, it was an awful, awful time.

Catherine Williamson:

And um, I came out of that, entered into my career of sales, which I have excelled at, you you know, professionally. Despite everything that's been going on, I've managed to sustain a professional life. But I found him. I met a man, fell in love, moved in with him, was nearly three years together and I was all primed to become the Mrs Chief Executive. He'd gone from pauper to hero. That wasn't the motivation, but we'd gone from nearly having the bailiffs in at the beginning of the career, when his financial director had embezzled loads of money from the business, to him driving a Porsche, a yacht and having flying lessons and I was ready to have the life. I loved him deeply and there was a change in behaviour over a three-month period, from Christmas to March, as it were but you know there's none so blind as doesn't want to see. But he said he needed to go on a business trip, he needed to go and have some time to think. He encouraged me to go and stay with my dad for a week, um, because I didn't like to be on my own in the house. And I came back to the house to collect my credit card bill, opened a card that was addressed to mr and mrs and it transpired he'd got married on the Monday, um, to another woman in, and my legs literally gave way. I had no concept of the fact this, that he was going to get married. I mean, it literally blindsided me. But it knocked me on every level.

Catherine Williamson:

Um, obviously it was an awful way to find out and um, but I think what it precipitated was such a breach of trust. You know there was things that had been tough. You know, at the point where I should have been setting my sail at 18, that was knocked out of me with my mum's death. There were tough years at university I didn't belong. You know I find anchorage in a relationship and then you know, in every sense you could describe him as having done the dirty on me. Now I would, he would say in his defense he tried, but that came as news that that wedding and what happened was I just lost, I just got knocked off my axis and it precipitated this drama, fueled life of trying to get anchorage in relationships.

Catherine Williamson:

I did get married. One was a rebound marriage. In reaction to that relationships, I did get married. One was a rebound marriage. In reaction to that, you know, I did have a, a good marriage, but I was, as soon as I had a whiff of any form of that awful experience rolling in again, I put the kids in a car and I went off into rented um because I was just running on trauma and basically it just got faster and faster and faster.

Catherine Williamson:

It was like the if I describe as a piece of clay that had gone onto the wheel half an inch off center and the higher the pot went and the faster the wheel went round, the bigger the distortions got, because I was, in the core of me, traumatized. I had as a raging extrovert personality, I didn't really have a strong sense of who I was. I had no problem in recruiting men that was probably to my detriment. I bought into the desperation idea that there were so few decent men to call that's ridiculous. That was a poverty mindset, all of which brought me into a place of you know. It was awful because I was getting trashed romantically, but I was recreating the same scenario time and again.

Malcolm Stern:

That's the thing. When we spot that, that's when we've got a chance to change things. When we're unconscious and we just bounce like a pinball from situation to situation, we are victims. But you are very, very far from a victim, Catherine, and I think that's. What's extraordinary is, you've come out of being crushed many times and come out shining somehow well, I feel part of my um.

Catherine Williamson:

One of the things that I'm really relieved about my personality is, by and large, I don't hold grudges, even though if I've been deeply hurt, um, I can be sad and distressed, but I'm not really on the not. I sort of move through. Now. That doesn't necessarily always bode well, but it means I'm not connected to loads of anger towards people and such like. It's like I've got an understanding that they turned up to show me something. Now, fairy godmothers you know people that come into our lives on. If you put characters on the stage of our show, people don't get to play the fairy godmother often, do they the bad boss? You had the failed love, you had the difficult friend that you know. They're the ones that are the anvil for our growth. We don't particularly love it. But if I move to that point with your course particularly um, I knew something had to change and I was just. I was so worried that my children were going to be, I was going to recreate in their childhood what I felt had been definitely some of the backdrop in my own, and so I was desperate when I got on to that into London, to Highgate, in that room, to be in the room, sat on beanbags, barefooted, with a load of people, and they were. You were attracted to sort of very angsty, middle class, highly professional type of person, don't you? You know it was lawyers and judges and you know it wasn't. And we were all sat there with trying to sort it out and the point came of great transformation.

Catherine Williamson:

About five months in, I'd done a piece of work which had plainly angered the entire group to greater or lesser degree, and we did a circle of feedback for me and it went something like this, and it was a bit like going through a slicer and, catherine, you're so dominant, you don't give anybody else a chance. Catherine, you're you use risque, you. You you know your sexual inappropriateness marginalizes other women. Catherine, when you're flirting with me, I find it offensive. I don't know whether you want to be a friend or, uh, catherine, it's always, always about you. Catherine, your attention seeking just drives me mad. I mean, bit by bit by bit, it came around, and even the people that would say my best is on your course, even you had to go, malcolm, um, just, I and I was having this strong sense of disintegration because I was listening to it and I was just and I felt like it was just collapsing inside.

Catherine Williamson:

As the final word was said. I jumped up, ran outside pouring with rain I'd seen some Winston cigarettes in the metal lighter don't smoke, but they're outside rain coming down trying to get this cigarette lit drowning, and two women had been come to speak to me. One wasn't my absolute bezzy on the course, I've got to say. The other one was far more nurturing, but they got me to have a pizza because my flight mechanism was to get the hell out and never come back. And we got back after lunch and I said I'm going and this is the end of me in this course. And the girl that's not my number one bezzy but actually was in massive service of the greater good for me said Catherine, we just spent all morning on you. If you leave this course without saying goodbye or explaining yourself, we'll spend the rest of the weekend feeling guilty. So will you please at least make peace with the group before you leave. Anyway, that was a bit of a masterstroke, because I stayed for the weekend, uh, but didn't say another word felt very fragile. Psychological safety wasn't in mass supply, malcolm.

Catherine Williamson:

On the Monday morning I barely felt able to shift out of bed, people started to send texts saying oh, that was a bit tough. How are you doing so? I was getting a bit of mollification. Tuesday I was still feeling quite nauseous and shocked. Wednesday I woke up like a spring lamb.

Catherine Williamson:

I jumped out of bed because what I realized was that I had been in the past much better at reading when I had upset people or got it wrong and other people said, oh, they're just jealous or oh, it's not your fault, they've just been a bit touchy. Actually, I had seen that I'd lost them, I had seen I'd disconnected them, I had seen I'd hurt them, but I just kept talking through it all. Anyway, I took all those comments, malcolm, that had been said about me, and I flipped them. So I could see now very specifically the behaviors that were upsetting people. I could see what was causing people to react.

Catherine Williamson:

When I was trying to find anchorage, connection, intimacy, I was pushing people away with this big, loud, leery personality that was so far away from the girl I was at 16, who took her wisdoms from Elizabeth Bennett and Jo March from Little Women, who was quite a smart character, who had an interjected Atticus Fitch, from To Kill a Mockingbird as my moral framework, you know, and suddenly I'd been on this nearly two decade whirling experience triggered by that sort of relationship breakdown, and I started to just practice being lesser of the two. So you know, I'd always been too emotional too out there to the, so I became less too. If that's possible, I just tried to affect a bit more volume and that's it.

Malcolm Stern:

I sound like you turned down the dial because a big part of you was keeping people at bay. By expanding, by filling the space. You you were entertaining and people liked you, but they weren't going to get close to you. In that way, it's almost like you had a sort of a force field around you that pushed people away. And yet what I've seen in the last few years that I've known quite a lot of years that I've known you is you actually are like a magnet for people in your local area, that actually you provide an environment of honesty, of integrity, of consciousness, and there's been an enormous shift in you that's taken you to that place.

Catherine Williamson:

I read the book the horse whisperer. I don't know whether you're familiar with it, but of course it's traumatized and what sort of. Essentially the metaphor that happened in that room that morning was essentially I'm gonna the visuals might be, but, but you know I was literally tied to the floor. In the metaphor of that horse you remember in the book he's literally the horses is down to the floor. It's very distressed, stressing to the onlookers, but it's what the horse needs to do to heal and it. It looks distressing but actually when the horse is released it's healed. And I wouldn't say I was healed, but what I was able to see was I defected an alter ego.

Catherine Williamson:

In my 20s I was in a world of sales. I was earning a lot of money, I was doing extremely well. You know this sounds very crass, but I could take home £10,000 a month. It was a hedonistic life. Salespeople get, you know, lots of recognition. They get lots of them. You know they get feted in many ways because they can save the company. They're bringing in the bacon. But I'd lost. I just disconnected such a long way from that girl.

Catherine Williamson:

I was at 16 and I think from that point onwards I was able, clunky as it was. I mean, what happened was I pretty much went quiet for quite a long time because I knew how to do loud, so that was very quiet. But eventually my pendulum did find a new resting place and I think because it was profound work and I mean it was profound work, it wasn't the only piece of work I was to do with you, but that was the one where really the group, we all were in it together in that group, and it was going to be where's I going to stick in and see it through. And many people would have said I had every right to have liked it and so we I sort of forged a respect. I think that came from taking it. I didn't go on a vendetta to the people that said it. I did feel a bit shh, you know, wasn't exactly 100% itchy about it all, but we rolled in together and I built deep connection on your course and I've still got, you know, my dear friend Mark is the dear friend that came off that course. You know sustained relationship.

Catherine Williamson:

But it was the beginning because I could now understand. I was sort of blindsided as to what I was getting wrong. I could understand what I was getting and doing that was irritating people so much. And so I do see that, even though it was tough to hear it and I can see now, malcolm, with the benefit of hindsight, that I was getting other stuff projected onto me, that there was definitely other people's in the mix everybody meets got something they potentially project onto you. You need to be just a better, you need to be just less antagonistic to most people's stuff, and I think what's happened now in as I've progressed, I've drawn people to my side and I think there is a more authentic self. But I challenge anybody to be authentic or who's who's seeking to be inauthentic if they don't really have a clue who they are.

Malcolm Stern:

You know that's, that's the life journey. Isn't it really to find our authenticity and to be? Robert Louis Stevens has said? To be who we are and to become what we can become. That's the sole purpose in life and and I think I absolutely I used to have that on the front of my flyers actually that quote and uh, and I can actually see that that's the reality is that you have found ways of being who you are that work for you now and that actually you're genuinely loved and liked by a lot of people because you can be relied on to be straight, to be honourable, to be honest and to care about people, and there are an amazing set of skills that we develop if we choose to.

Catherine Williamson:

I feel really emotional to hear you say that, malcolm, because it's wonderful. I've always felt that you've held this sort of patriarchal role in my life. I lost my dad, who was a massive part of my life, um 14 years ago and you know, all I wanted to do was make daddy proud as a kid, and I did a pretty good job for a long time, but the old failed marriage just wasn't going down well, um, but I I feel that, um, I've got a stronger certainty in who I am now. I'm absolutely still desperate to be liked and admired and adored. I run the gauntlet that all the time, but I am a lot more discerning about whose opinion matters.

Malcolm Stern:

That's very good.

Catherine Williamson:

Yeah, and I never if I use your term Sanger, once it's in my presentations. I know I got it from your podcast, it's in your book. But I think it's so important to recognise who you surround yourself with. And there's one thing who's in your sangha, who's in this accountability group of people that can be relied upon to tell you what you most need to hear, in a way that you can best hear it and do something with it, rather than just be trashed and try and act upon the advice without having to pull out the spikes of venom. Um, but the people that are you surround yourself is absolutely critical.

Catherine Williamson:

But the question I've challenged myself on a lot is am I worthy in somebody else's sangha? Will I step in and say and have that conversation when you can see somebody is self-sabotaging or through low self-awareness or you know? Am I prepared to step up and have that courage to be in service and run the gauntlet of initial rejection for the long-term gain? And as an executive coach of 24 years, essentially I'm. That has been my job. I mean I'm, I'm paid to convey a message that the company sometimes bottles with a very I tend.

Catherine Williamson:

I tend to have a client, a typical client, which is highly extrovert no, highly ego driven, not necessarily extrovert, but very sort of big personalities that are talented beyond belief but could be the greatest um, the greatest salvation of an organization and you know its greatest asset. Or should they um, derail, could drag that organization down profoundly. And you know one of the things I've loved about our relationship and the people I've got in my life now and the person I seek to be, is that person that can hold your stuff when you open your heart and speak to another human being that can hold your stuff when you open your heart and speak to another human being that can hold your stuff. It's a massive gift in life and and a lot of people just not through lack of care or desire, they just can't hold our stuff, they're just not equipped to deal with it.

Malcolm Stern:

I think that's the thing. They haven't built the resources necessarily, and we build the resources through the school of hard knocks in my understanding that every time we suffer we have the opportunity to either roll over and and sort of give up or to find something in ourselves that will make sure that that suffering doesn't have to keep visiting us again.

Catherine Williamson:

And I can see that you've done that yeah, I, and one of the the salvations for me is I'm a good cook and I did a bit of Kabbalah for um six months now. At that time I was single parenting. I was going through the recession of 2008 as a self-employed coach. It was devastating, you know. Budgets were being slashed right, left and center and I was lying in bed at night just absolutely wracked with fear about lack. It was all about lack. So I saw this um adverse and advertisement to go down to the Kapala center and do something on manifesting prosperity. And did I want to study an offshoot of the Jewish faith that involved numerology and astrology, or did I want to hope to meet Madonna? Um, anyway, first session, we were coming invited to the um. Uh, given an understanding of the idea of tithing and um that 10 of all that we own is energetically not ours and should be passed through, and it's an 11th century english tradition.

Catherine Williamson:

But kabbalah at that time was going on better. They wanted 20 of your money tithed, not to Kabbalah as they have not to them. There was a charity at the time, but basically they said, between week one and week two, I had to give away 20% of my income. Now I sat up a bit like a meerkat going. This is, this is not as I expected. I'm trying to try to make money, not give it away. Anyway, they explain the metrics of energy of money and you've got to move it through and it's gone.

Catherine Williamson:

That week, malcolm, because I was dutiful to my homework, because I thought something's got to change, I gave. I didn't realize I was signing up to those charity direct debits. I didn't realize I cared that much about donkeys and lifeboats. I signed up for the lot but I turned up the next week. I've been given 20% of my income away in that week. You know my earnings. Anyway, I was doing it totally from a calculated perspective. If I give it away over there it's going to come in back there. I didn't really get into the metrics of giving.

Catherine Williamson:

But they also talked about the concept that you can tithe your time and your energy and I thought I don't want to keep giving away cash. It's too painful but I can cook. So I started making soup. I made loads of soup for the church. I made soup for the elderly people on the street. I was manifesting vegetables into soup like you wouldn't imagine. The soup dragon on the clangers couldn't have been as productive as I was, but I remember this old gentleman returning me pots going no more soup anyway.

Catherine Williamson:

I wasn't deterred, but I set up a soul and soup, uh group of women um, it was a and it was the beginning of putting women around me with a bowl of food, and you know, when I've invited you to my home and I've put the talks on, there's always abundant food and I think there's something about putting food in front of people that allows them to connect with some warm feelings of nurture and you know.

Catherine Williamson:

And so I looked for intentional places to give, because I started to find that I was feeling so much better about myself when I was doing good works and and not ringing up people. People were friends with the drama, but an invitation come to mine or come and listen to this, and that really was a redemptive journey because I the doing this and the the desire to express love and and actually to say sorry for the hours and hours of time I'd absorbed in people as I careered from one drama to the next, ringing them up in a state of distress, wanting to be sort of made to feel better. I just wanted to start doing something to reverse the trend of my behaviour and I've been walking that path for the last 16, 17 years and and I think it's a quality in me that attracted my husband John in most unexpected. That was, I was absolutely off blokes when he he showed up, but I didn't go for my type the night. I broke my type when I met John not, I was still so that you broke your type there.

Malcolm Stern:

But you also broke patterns. But what you've just described is you've been breaking patterns by exploring. It's like this being having a big personality, as you have. There's the capacity to be able to shift gear and see yourself in a different way. So you broke your pattern because actually, you went into service, you stopped having it all be about Catherine. It became about what your gift was to the world. And now what you're talking about is and I you know John. John would never have struck me as the sort of man you'd be with, and he's a beautiful soul, and that's what you've managed to create for yourself because you've dared to break patterns.

Catherine Williamson:

I I was doing, I was training on. I was trained to be a psychotherapist I'm not one, but I was training um in transaction analysis and it was a fantastic guy there, ian, who was one of the original founders of um, the um ta center up in uh loughborough, and we were sat one day on the stool and he was talking about. He was sat on the stool talking about this idea of autonomy, about when you this is really a spy to place in TA where you make decisions not based on your early childhood experiences, not placed based on your parental messages. You do them from your total self, from it. And and I was listening to him because I was thinking he'd recently got married I was thinking how does a bloke that's written books, is a recognised world renowned on this, had hundreds and thousands of hours, well, thousands of hours, of therapy therapist?

Catherine Williamson:

How does he find somebody to love? How does he find somebody? How does he find his worthy person to love? And I said so. How did you meet somebody equal to you find his worthy person to love? And I said so. How did you? How did you meet somebody equal to you?

Catherine Williamson:

He laughed at me and he said Catherine, he said you work on your dramas, you work, you heal your stuff, there'll be a whole group toned of men that you would reject out of court, that you would see as boring and, um, you know, lacking advantage. You would just flick them away. And he said and they're perfectly decent men that will be more than equal to love you. And he said you do the work on yourself and then suddenly you'll find that they these type of men. Because he said, then I hope for you that you'll start to pick up on the the dog whistle of kindness and tenderness and contentment, as opposed to what I love, which was drama and washing. And he was so right. But it took me to start shoring up that part of me and I had absolutely no appetite for more of the same. I think you do have to get to the point where you've run out of um. You know you run out of runway. Basically, there's no tarmac left to continue on the path you're on well, it's interesting.

Malcolm Stern:

It reminds me of a William Blake quote, and he said the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. And there's something about you know, I know that there. And there's something about you know, I know that there's been movements before where people, especially in the sort of like the 80s and 90s, were sort of excessively having sex. But after a while you realise there's an emptiness about it. And I think if we go to excess all the time, it can look really exciting for a while, and then after a while we realise that we're just playing out the same drama again and again. And you've trodden on a different road, you're happier, your work is profound. Still Nothing's been taken away from you, but something's mellowed in you as well, and it's not ageing so much.

Catherine Williamson:

And I would say that if the type of gentlemen suitors that I would have been attracted to before, if any one of them had turned up at the bottom of the gate now, I'd have a brush, I'd just brush him down the path. There's just no way. It's not even that I brush him down, because that's the reaction really. I just can't spark that up in me. I've got no appetite for it whatsoever. And I can see, with the stability of a good marriage, you know, I can see what I'm achieving in my life, and I don't mean aspirationally. There's there's headlines, malcolm, I can see I'm more respected. But I dissipated so much energy on my love life, you know, and it knocked me off course for years well, I would say there's not so much your love life, it's more your addiction yeah, fair dues manifested in various areas of my life and that's what we do, we.

Malcolm Stern:

We play out our addictions to the point where we don't want the addictive pattern anymore, we don't want the dramas anymore, but you want something gentler and more loving and more connected, and that goes into all the areas of our lives, doesn't it?

Catherine Williamson:

yeah, and and addictive is the wrong thing, but it it just builds, because you can start to feel a much deeper connection with people. You can see that there'll people. People seek me out for support and wisdom. I'm a go-to person now when somebody needs often my form of tough love. But it feels wonderful that you can recycle some of that chaotic experience to genuinely say to people yeah, I genuinely have walked that path. I've not. You've walked the things that have happened to you. You know, god bless how you. You've stayed upright through your life experiences.

Catherine Williamson:

But in the areas that people want to seek some hope, I can offer them hope that it can change and our fortunes can change. But it ain't going to come by izzy whizzy and somebody just giving you a magic spell. It's going to come by being prepared to listen and to see the people that are serving us at the highest good aren't bigging us up and giving us five, you know, giving us a like on facebook. They're the ones that have stood the course with us and I've had the opportunity I've had. I've had the willingness to, to challenge our behavior. So I've ended up as being regarded as an extremely challenging coach. Now this is a chronic people pleaser. But I know why I'm seen like that because I cannot in all conscience let people carry on if I can see what they're doing is into their detriment, and the skillset is to find a way of communicating that to people where they can act upon it and not just feel devastated and that is the skill.

Malcolm Stern:

The skill is in being able to say the difficult thing without trashing the other person, but also without sort of paying lip service to something either. I listened to one of your um podcasts recently that on your gobsmacked series who is a guy called Matt and uh and this guy is dying, I believe, and he's a young rugby player and but what I heard in you was the capacity to to engage with compassion and not shy away, and that's a great skill to have to be able to be in the face of another suffering and to keep your compassion but also to challenge him sufficiently that the real story came through as well.

Catherine Williamson:

Yeah, matt gallagher was diagnosed with motor neurons disease last october, and so he's reeling at some level. But there's but there's a steel in him. There's a total steel in him about how he's going to tattle it and he's come out fighting. But he didn't want to sit on the sofa of the gobsmacked podcast and be served up you know a sort of pleasantries and he. He sat there because he wanted to advocate for, you know, people supporting motornyrders, but also that, how to speak to him in the street, how to deal with him.

Catherine Williamson:

So he almost did a an en masse communication. Talk to me about it. I want to talk to you about it. I need to make the time I've got left work for me. I don't want you to shy away from it me or you know, but we've got to get this done together and I think that that could only be done by leaning in um, but leaning in a way where it released him to say it for himself, and and I think that's that comes with experience of knowing just sometimes desperate for that release, aren't you?

Malcolm Stern:

also that's very key that actually you have the capacity to be patient enough now to allow things to come through themselves, and that is the real skill of a therapist. I understand that you. You know, I know you're a very, very good coach, but I know that you'd make a very good therapist if you chose to go down that route because you're spacious now in a way that when I met you, you were so far from spacious. It was like you were wild.

Catherine Williamson:

There's something exciting about wild but there's also something deeply satisfying about spacious capacity. I couldn't contemplate at the time when I was training to be a therapist so that would be yes, sort of in and around the time. Yeah, so I think I got spurred on by meeting you, but I was just too overwhelmed by connecting to emotions that I didn't know what to do with and and I think I would be far more able to do a good job at it now you know if I chose to do it. But I do say I think the thing, malcolm, is that I do like to be drawn to people that are happy, and I listen to problems every day of my working week, which surprises me, because I don't.

Catherine Williamson:

I understand the service of that because truly in my personality type, there's a lot of hedonism in there. I think we've established that. But to listen and share a problem and a burden with somebody is a certain act of service. But I have to really be good to that service because it can crash me down, um, and there's been times where I've seriously considered giving the whole thing up because it's just made me feel so glum and and I've learned better strategies. But the very thing that makes me good at my job.

Catherine Williamson:

My empathy and my intuitiveness is the very thing that makes it a burden to carry when you're touching in at that, that use, that, that distress that other people don't receive. But you can pick up loud and clear. So I know that's the path of the therapist. But I wish somebody had told me you know that you lose sleep as a therapist about your clients and because I always thought everybody just did an hour, did some notes, rolled on to the next one and I thought, well, I don't, I feel absolutely rubbish, I can't sleep. Well, I've learned to manage that a bit. But to serve in the way that therapists serve, for the money that they're paid, it's the potential to be really glum and miserable and I've had to work hard to understand that the greater good is being served by carrying that burden for others. But I haven't always loved it.

Malcolm Stern:

I think there's a real skill and, interestingly enough, and the way that synchronicity works is quite extraordinary, because Jung said that everything is synchronicity. Just before we came on this podcast together this, this episode we're doing I was talking to John Wilson from Online Events, who runs the show there with his sister, sandra, and we were talking about the next tranche of what I'm going to offer for online events and one of them was about how, as a therapist, you can deal with this very heavy stuff and what resources we've got and how we can manage that. And I think, because you've done the work as a coach and you're hearing some of that stuff and because you've got empathy, it's something that will happen to you. But there's also ways in which you can look after yourself and I think there's there's probably some learning here to still travel about you not getting caught up.

Malcolm Stern:

Because I don't carry very, very rare and I've heard some terrible things in my time. I don't carry that into my sleep. I don't care, you know I can. I might carry that, but it's something also quite joyful about grief beautifully expressed, rather than depression, and how we can turn that depression into grief that actually is wanting to come out of the body and that those of us who have the skill to help it come out and you're one of them, and I'm one of them can find our way of doing that without being burnt out ourselves yeah, and I think part of what I'm enjoying, malcolm, is, despite my protestations and my deepest, darkest fears that I'd um really snarled up and compromised that.

Catherine Williamson:

You know my children's childhood, by leaving their dad when they were sort of seven and four, all my fears about what I subjected them to. They seem to be remarkably well balanced and adjusted. So they've both gone into good jobs and good relationships. They seem to have a good circle of friends. They've moved out of the area.

Catherine Williamson:

So I've been offered, at this nearly 60, this whole piece of life, um, where I've got energy and purpose and space, and you know it's really exciting. I cannot believe I'm. I'm on TikTok, I've got a podcast in 108 countries, I'm on the socials. It's a really exciting life and one of the things I've done is sat and listened a lot for 24 years. I'm not anywhere near as good as listening as I still need to be.

Catherine Williamson:

I'm still going to get my gob in the in the way, but you know I've managed to just co-create sufficient space in the coaching assignment for me to speak, um, but I do find there's something really lovely about finding my voice and then shutting it all back down again to listen and interview people, um and use a way of of the inquiry, of the podcast um, to be intuitive and and to create platforms for other people. Because the thing I hadn't appreciated that's only dawned on me in the last few weeks is there's been a series of people recently that have done podcasts for the first time and as they've arrived they've looked absolutely nervous as hell because it's a deal and then at the end of it they felt completely delighted that they had the bottle to do it, that they've done a bit of a life test and that they felt a bit healed by the experience. And I thought actually, you know, just having somebody on your podcast, even if another human being doesn't listen to it, that intensity of that inquiry and the intimacy of that space is just, can be so healing to the people that feature on your. As a guest, I never saw that. I was always thinking audience Listen it's.

Malcolm Stern:

It's all about relationship and and actually bringing our unique gifts to the world. And that's what if we're if we're lucky, we get to practice that as well bringing our unique gifts to the world. And and that's what if we're if we're lucky, we get to practice that as well bringing our unique gifts to the world. So we're coming to the end of our podcast today and it's been really great dialoguing with you. It's been a while since we've had a good chat, except on your pot, on your gobsmacked podcast, and I'm just wondering what you would like to to close with, with a thought about what's what's happening for you in the future, where you're going, or anything else you'd like to share with us as we close.

Catherine Williamson:

I'm going to go. You're the master on quotes and I love it, but there's one quote that has followed me through my life. It was one my dad offered me up when I was about to make a radical decision to reduce my salary by 60,000 pounds to take a job. That I thought was crazy and he said was you know the beginning of you know the great, bold adventure? And I actually did it. And this quote was uh, ships in harbors are safe, but that's not what ships are built for well, I like that.

Malcolm Stern:

I've never. Never heard that one before.

Catherine Williamson:

I love it yeah, it's by a chap called John Shed and I just think that comfort zone harbors. They might seem like safety but they're not. And if you've, if you've got your, you've got your, your sort of um, your sextant, to just go out there and and be lead with a bit of vulnerability, holding your heart, your positive intent and sort of um seek to do right by people, then you've got your north star and your sextant as you hit the sea. And that's what keeps fueling me on.

Catherine Williamson:

I have my dark days and my difficult days, but all the things I just won't let, the things that have happened me, to me, prevent me from being part of life. So they fuel me through the door, and so that's been my strategy. Some of it is I couldn't sit still, because if I sat still the feelings that would invade me would just be too difficult to bear. So I was. But now I feel purposeful in my busyness and I'm just really enjoying life at this stage of you know where I should be, sort of powering down. I've just really enjoying life at this stage of you know where I should be, sort of powering down. I've just got so much excitement for going on the high seas.

Malcolm Stern:

Well, interestingly, because I often quote the George Bernard Shaw quote where he says I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, but the more the harder I work, the more I, the more I live, and there's something about you're living a rich life. More I, the more I live, and there's something about you're living a rich life. And thank you so much for coming here today and having a chat with me and being part of our series here, so look forward to see you again soon, catherine, and thank you so much and you too, malcolm.

Catherine Williamson:

Thank you thanks.

Personal Transformation Through Life Challenges
Navigating Betrayal and Personal Growth
Journey to Authenticity and Self-Discovery
Breaking Patterns Through Service