Ep 2 - Katherine Brooks: Coaching for Men — Avoiding 'Nice Guy' Syndrome, Connecting to Your Body Yes or No Through Tantra, and Fostering Friendship You Can Trust

Episode Description

Today we have a gentle conversation with Katherine Brooks, who provides life-changing coaching for men - with a particular emphasis on supporting “Nice guys”.

We enjoy a wide ranging conversation with topics that include:

  • [05:50] Katherine introduces herself
  • [15:52] Nice guys and nice guy syndrome
  • [00:00] Katherine’s “Work”: impatience
  • [41:50] Definition of healing and how it might be a triggering term
  • [53:59] Boundaries and empathy
  • [01:03:38] Connecting to your body yes or no through Tantra
  • [01:09:41] Letting go and coping mechanism
  • [01:18:21] Empowered moves
  • [01:22:24] Fostering community and friendship you can trust

Show Notes:

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Episode Transcript

Ben Culpin: Welcome back to Dam Kind conversations. Today, we're going to be speaking to Katherine Brooks. She's a coach helping men conquer "nice guy syndrome".  

This was a somewhat personally relevant conversation to be had. Along the way you might see me cringing a little bit, as I realize my goodness, maybe this is me, maybe it's not?  

I think it's also worth mentioning that, I'm responding to a little bit of feedback that I have from friends from the first episode, which was to invite the guest to ask me more questions. Being an introvert with social skills, it's easy for me to hide behind many questions, but in this particular episode, I'm adventuring out into the world and attempting to create space for not just an interview, but a conversation, and therefore respecting the name of this podcast.  

Please bare with me while I fumbled to find my words, but ultimately we get to some interesting places. I want to thank Katherine for matching that vulnerability and coming to this conversation open and ready to share candidly. Thank you.  

Katherine Brooks: So good to meet you.  

Ben Culpin: Thank you so much for agreeing to do this. I really appreciate it.  

Katherine Brooks: Absolutely. I'm looking forward.  

Ben Culpin: So here we are, I'll just give a look a little bit of a setup, even though I've, we've had a bit like a few email exchanges.

But as I mentioned, it's great to have you here. It's funny because we've never met and we barely know each other. You wanted to rent a room for me, but we decided you decided not to come to town and that didn't work out, but we stayed connected. So that's cool. I so my background is that I do research normally for a living.

I interview people, but it's much more around products and commercial applications and On the side. I have made quite a few films which involve talking to people and often those projects take six to 12 months to do. And I do them often in the dark with not much sort of public exposure around what goes into them.

And I've also had a bit of a hiatus from doing those kinds of projects. And so this podcast is is a sort of a, the beginnings of reaching out to the world again and getting this process back into who I am and not just doing the work for work, but also doing a project with my own agenda and my own points of interest and doing it in a way which opens up that process a bit more and trying to be okay with that rawness and vulnerability being more transparent.

I have a, I think that I'm exploring the concept of healing, But then maybe it's actually something else. My hypothesis is that I'm It's a bit of me search on what it takes to heal the practice of healing and you've seen the questions that I'm posing to the world at the moment. It goes without saying, I think you're the kind of person that will just share openly speak from the heart.  

Katherine Brooks: I'm sure much to the dismay of the listeners too openly.  

Ben Culpin: So I think I've said enough of an introduction. It would be wonderful if you could just introduce yourself. Let me know and let us know, because maybe there's someone else listening who knows who you are.  

Katherine Brooks: Sure. First of all I'm just so curious how it's been for you to be in a creative project where this rawness and vulnerability is coming through.  

Ben Culpin: This particular project right now?

I love it. You're throwing back a question at me already.  

Katherine Brooks: I wanted to interrupt and ask that because it seems like that's might be new for you.  

Ben Culpin: I did my first interview last week with my first boss, someone I know. So it was a relatively safe environment. And I found it really energizing really energizing.

I loved it. And. It just, it's giving me more energy to keep doing this and to your question, please do throw any questions here and there and I would set the bar here, that I want to be open and transparent and vulnerable, but I also want to try and not. Make anything too personal to anyone in my life or, to try and come at it with a deeper reflection and to think about things in a sort of more sort of universal way where possible, of course, if that makes sense.

Katherine Brooks: What is it, the more specific, the more universal?  

Ben Culpin: Actually, I don't know, Katherine. It's it's just one of my questions is, we're just going to jump straight in, we're moving around a bit here, but, I will just go straight to it. But how can you be more raw and vulnerable publicly without destroying your own credibility?

This idea of, I think that we, sometimes, with social media and stuff, there's a resistance to share, because you don't. Want to be weak. You don't want to give away too much. You don't want to be misunderstood. You don't want to be seen as, as just out of control and sharing without consideration.

So it's just, it's something on my mind about how one can create a project like this and walk the line of being vulnerable and thoughtful. And careful.

Katherine Brooks: I love that question and I definitely want to dive in.  

I will introduce myself. I will somewhat follow the rules.

Ben Culpin: You can also break them. You can break the rules, too.  

Katherine Brooks: That comes much easier to me. My name is Katherine Brooks, and I am currently a resident of Austin, Texas, previously of Amsterdam, my spiritual home.

I love it there so much. And by day, I... I am a life coach for men, and that is the human professional term for someone who supports other human beings in moving to the future that they actually want. And often that process of moving toward involves quite a bit of destruction of patterns, destruction of belief systems, destruction of habits and mindsets that have gotten them to one point.

And then the next evolution of that is the creation of the new versions of those that can help support who they actually want to be. And of course I'm obsessed with this process because that destruction and creation has been poignant in my life in the last five years in particular. And I love the process of coaching.

For many reasons, but mainly because the foundational principle is that you are the expert on you and you have the wisdom and the intelligence to know what is best for you. You are the acorn who contains the intelligence, the oak tree, and nobody else knows you more than you do. And so I love the process of.

Supporting people and connecting to that intelligence that already lives within them. It's not about giving advice or having an agenda for someone's life. And by night I love to be outdoors. I love to hike and paddleboard. And in Austin there's loads of water sports and canoeing and kayaking. And I lately have been deep into kind of The wellness y side of things, meditation and yoga, and as much as I love that, I love to be at an all night rave.

So I like to keep things open to a broad spectrum of life experience.  

Ben Culpin: Amazing. I'm curious, you mentioned that this has been part of your life the coach, this the facilitation of the destruction and creation of new patterns. What inspired you to pursue this work? Curious.

Katherine Brooks: In 2016, I had a really weird moment one day in my kitchen and it was a tough year.

I'd gone through a really big breakup. I had a job that I loved, but due to my visa status in the Netherlands, I couldn't keep, and my landlord called me out of the blue and said I had to leave my apartment, which I loved. So it was, and all that happened in a matter of weeks. And it was just one of those things where it was like the one, two, three punch.

Standing in the kitchen one day, there was. pasta boiling and I was reading the first couple of pages of the road to character by David Brooks, which honestly, the first couple of pages are the only ones that are really super moving in my opinion. And he asks, not what is your job, but what is your calling?

And I had never really heard that question before. And I stood there pondering and two words dropped into my head. And it said motivational speaker. And it was so out of the blue. It was the same thing as if someone said underwater scuba dive rescue person, like it was. So out of left field that I didn't even immediately dismiss it.

It was like, someone told me I was going to be like a professional gymnast, having never done gymnastics a day in my life. And so I was just like, that is funny. It's really funny. And it was some kind of seed planted and I've been interested in personal growth. The idea that. Humans have brains and the concept of neuroplasticity where we can change our own brains was always just riveting to me, but in the same way that it's riveting to me that like birds can fly, like that's amazing.

And so I've been interested in the concept and I've always been fascinated by human behavior, but I think maybe that seed planted and opened up. new channels of enthusiasm to explore what personal growth even meant. So I went deep into just a media rabbit hole. It was constantly consuming podcasts and reading books and that opened up pathways to start to explore coaching and what that even meant.

Ben Culpin: So I'm curious, right? I'm in therapy. I have a therapist. I don't have a coach. What's the difference for you and why should I consider one?  

Katherine Brooks: Great question. So there are a couple ways to look at this. One way is that therapy is often backward looking. So what happened in your life previously that's showing up today and may not be supportive for the kind of person you want to be or the life you want to live?

And how can we look backward to learn about today? Coaching is entirely future focused. So where are you in this moment and where are you going? So with some of my clients, we will never talk about their past. We will never say what happened to you when you were five that day when you came home from school.

Moments of their past absolutely show up as we start to build new patterns and take action in a new direction, but the focus is future. And I was going to say, just one other way, really simple way to think about it is therapy is designed to help the unwell get well, and coaching is designed to help those who are already well get to thriving.

Ben Culpin: Okay, that's clear. I like the analogy. So you explained very clearly like how they might be different. Where would there be a crossover? Do you think?  

Katherine Brooks: So there are a couple of modalities of therapy that I use in coaching that a lot of coaches use. One is internal family systems. If you're familiar parts work, so that's a therapy model that ..

Ben Culpin: Would you explain it just for the sake of anyone who's listening who may not know what it is.

Katherine Brooks: Sure. So the concept of internal family systems, which was created by Dr. Richard Schwartz, who was a pioneering therapist, his idea is that we contain, we are made up of many different parts. There's the part of me who loves to party all night. And then there's a part of me who loves to wake up at seven in the morning and drink a green juice and meditate for an hour.

And there's perhaps the part of you who, Loves to be in these rich conversations. And there's probably the part of you who loves to hang out with his friends on Friday night. Somewhere really fun.

Ben Culpin: Or just take a bath on a Thursday. Yeah

Katherine Brooks: Perfect. Yeah, in silence. So we are all made it the concept of we contain multitudes.

We're made up of many different parts and IFS suggests that when we're having an anxiety or a fear or attention in our lives, a part of us Needs attention. I'm totally not an expert on I F S, but I do love the concept because it's a very compassionate look at ourselves. So that would be one place where coaching and therapy might have some overlap.

So like in actually some of the tools, another place is, I think they're, they could both have a similar agenda. Maybe someone is in therapy and coaching because the way that their relationships are going in their life right now is really unsatisfying. Therapy could help them look at what was modeled to you when you were growing up and coaching could help you look at what are the actions you want to take and the skills that would be helpful for you to learn to make your relationships feel really satisfying.

Ben Culpin: Yeah, I can see where there would be a harmony. I think some people may not be able to do both at the same time. Some people may have to make choice choices and prioritize one or the other. I couldn't, I think for myself, the focus is therapy. But there's a part of me that gets scared by coaching.

I think the coaches I meet, the mind, the sort of like the energy that coaches bring is wonderful. And also quite intimidating.  

Katherine Brooks: Ooh, say more.  

Ben Culpin: Because I'm off. I have some dear friends who are coaches. What's wonderful about them is they ask questions that force you to think.

That force you to think about the unknown future. It's often it's, I'm pointing it's always here in my head that it makes me squeeze like in the front. But that is a conflict with another part of me right now, which would actually much rather be leaning into what's happening in the body.

An understanding somatically what's going on. But yeah, that's continuous conversation. Maybe by the end of it, you have convinced me.  

Let, talk to me about nice guys. When I first discovered your social media presence, it said "life coach for nice guys".

Which made me chuckle literally out loud and since knowing you I've, I'm very curious to hear more about your point of view on nice guys. So tell me about nice guys, please.

Katherine Brooks: So nice guys, there are a group of men who suffer from nice guy syndrome and we're all really familiar with imposter syndrome and what that feels like. And when you level up in your career, you might have these moments of, I feel like a fraud and it feels like imposter syndrome is so a part of our cultural narrative.

Nice guy syndrome, I believe, deserves a larger, louder place in the zeitgeist because it's pervasive, it affects so many men and it creates a lot of unnecessary suffering. So you may know a nice guy in your life and to describe him, he is really agreeable. He's easy to be around. He usually turns up on time to the birthday party.

He says yes if you need to ask him a favor to help you move, to help fix. A tire that's flat, he's over the top, yes, and he's over the top agreeable. The nice guy lives by the worldview that if I'm nice and I'm agreeable, then that means I deserve love and belonging and to get my needs met. So he's really hooked into this transactional agreement with the world.

I'm nice and I don't ruffle feathers and. I show up in a way that appeases everyone. And in return, you give me love and you give me praise and you give me recognition. The bulk of the men I've coached have been nice guys, by the way, I've dated nice guys. And some of my dearest friends are nice guys. So they're wonderful human beings who are hooked into belief patterns that create a lot of anxiousness and misery on a daily basis because they need others to build them up. They're not building themselves up. And so the way that this looks is the nice guy completes a really big project at work and he cannot feel settled or good about it until he receives recognition from his boss, his team, the client, whoever it is. There's a lot of waiting in the world of the nice guy.

He's waiting to hear back. He's waiting for someone to tell him that he did a good job. And there are other parts that make up the persona of a nice guy. That's the foundation. Coaching can really support him. To building, to the destruction of one belief system and the creation of a new one that just allows him to be himself.

Because the nice guy is actually really living for everybody else's expectations. So he's hiding a lot. What's going on with him.

Ben Culpin: I'm two questions for you. So you mentioned that the nice guy syndrome is pervasive. And what do you think it is in the world that has created so many nice guys? And what's the moment that these nice guys approach you?  

Katherine Brooks: So there are a couple of factors that go into creating the nice guy, and one can be something that can be helpful to explore in therapy, and it can be a rupture with a father figure and a man deciding, I do not want to be like him, whether father figure was emotionally unavailable, or there was some neglect there, or had anger issues, something like that, and a guy deciding I'm not going to be that way.

So that's one way that nice guy syndrome can occur. Another way that I've noticed is this internalization of a lot of fear around being the toxic masculine dude. And so the response to collective disdain for toxic masculinity is what if I'm just the most agreeable guy in the room and if that compromises me and my integrity It's worth it because the fear of being considered the asshole or "The Jerk" like the shame of that is just too scary.

It resonates I coached a man who was in his late 50s who? every single day before going home, he would respond to everything and he was The number two at a large, fast growing organization, and he would respond to every slack and every email, every ping he had received before he would leave every day, even if it meant missing family dinner, missing kids sports games, because he didn't want to be seen as the asshole who was like the leader who was too big for his britches who wouldn't respond.

And we're talking, someone pinged him and said, where are the extra trash bags in the kitchen and the real reason behind it. And he said it out loud. He said, I don't want to be the asshole. If it doesn't respond.  

Ben Culpin: That's a question that is not written down anywhere, which is like, when does it explain it? Or maybe it's a statement. If you're a nice guy, you're an asshole.  

Katherine Brooks: Ooh, I love that.  

Ben Culpin: Do you know what I mean? In the sense that you are, I think I got it from your materials that you were sharing around. If you compromise on your boundaries, that it can often lead to a rebellion later or a destructive pattern that can also hurt other people.

That's what I'm trying to say.  

Katherine Brooks: Absolutely. Yes, it's really common for nice guys. Everybody needs a release valve and if they're bottled up and the real them is... Never coming out. The release valve can look like pornography addiction. It can look like emotional eating. It can look like being screen addicted, having some type of sexual compulsivity.

It can look a lot of ways. We see this with public figures all the time. Tiger Woods comes to mind who everyone thought was this like perfect polished athlete and his release valve was, partying. And so nice guys all have a release valve and it's interesting. Sometimes it looks socially acceptable.

It could be working out. It could be personal growth activities. I think sometimes when clients come to me, their release valve has just been every trendy personal growth thing. Plant medicine ceremonies. ayahuasca, reading the latest books, buying the latest courses, but none of it's taking because they're not getting to the root of the issue.

They're not actually changing that worldview that's keeping them hooked into, That whole pattern.  

Ben Culpin: Yeah, so so the second question I asked you earlier, which we haven't quite touched upon But i'll just say again, which is what's that moment that a nice guy comes to you? What's why has he come to you?

Katherine Brooks: The presenting problem is never the problem we say so it's not because he's raising his hand and says nice guy syndrome is really limiting my whole life. It's often, he feels stuck in his life in a category and when we look at it Nice Guy Syndrome is holding him back, but he has not labeled that it's, that's a pretty advanced level of self awareness.

So it could be something like "I'm ready to leave my corporate job and start my business. I've had my business has been alive for a year. I've done nothing with it and I don't know why I can't understand why". Another reason could be, "I need to leave my job. I need to find a new professional setup. I don't have time. My life has no balance." Another one could be around time. I've coached a couple of men. Calendar. It's their life feels like every second is booked to the brim. And I had one client who came to me and said, I should love my life by all measures. My life is great, but I have so much stress that I can't enjoy a day of it.

So there's something that's really tangible on the outside and that's where we start.  

Ben Culpin: Okay. When you, once you've got them in the room, let's say, what are some of the kinds of things that you're trying to encourage them to do what skills are you imparting on them or fostering within them that can help them with this moment of transformation?

Katherine Brooks: The biggest most groundbreaking shift that the nice guy can make is in his relationship with himself. So as we move through. Let's say it's the guy who in six months time wants to leave his corporate job and be full time in his business.

Yet, any time he makes even the tiniest mistake, like he forgets to buy one thing at the grocery store, he berates himself. There's no way that entrepreneurial life is going to feel satisfying in the way that he thinks it is when that's the relationship he has with himself. An actual skill? That we often start with is how do you speak to yourself kindly?

And if kindly is too much of a stretch, how do you speak to yourself in a neutral tone? So we start there because so much of coaching is taking action and evaluating. What are we learning from that? And then taking action again and evaluating. Or attempting an action and we didn't want to take that. Why not?

So a lot of what we do is. What does it look like to take action in a new way, fuck up and not beat yourself up? Because the nice guy is extremely hard on himself.  

Ben Culpin: That was what I was going to ask you actually, was you talk about encouraging the nice guy to be kind to himself, but that suggests that there's some self loathing going on or some shame or,  

Katherine Brooks: Shame.

And the shame is coming from this sense of I'm not good enough, hence the reason I need you to tell me that I'm good enough and needing the approval from other people. There are a couple different ways that the nice guy interprets shame. Sometimes he knows it's there, and that's perhaps the guy who's been engaged in other types of personal growth activities.

There's the guy who doesn't know it's there, but it is absolutely driving his life, and he's living in shame avoidance. And living in shame avoidance, like personal growthy term that really means you're doing whatever it takes for someone not to criticize you. So it's, you're responding to every message so that no one can say, "yo, where have you been?"

You're showing up to every social activity you've been invited to. You're not saying no. Even when saying no would really serve you because then you get to avoid all this criticism. So you're constantly trying to be in other people's brains and think, what could I do to ensure that everything I say or do is approved in their minds?

This is an exhausting way to live. I often notice with this type of nice guy, he is worn out. He's totally worn out. And he's often looking for. What is a new way?

I'm not good enough is a really common belief. I have felt that deep in my bones. It's taken me a long time, and it still shows up, but it's taken me a long time to remove that from my daily goings on. And the shame that it creates is so real. And shame feels like shit. We all want to run from the feeling of shame.

And so whether that's scrolling or whatever our preferred numbing behavior is going for a run, whatever it looks like humans do not want to experience shame. And so it's totally natural to have coping techniques, but shame is at the root of nice guy syndrome.

Ben Culpin: So there's a one question I have, which I haven't quite formulated in my head, but it's something to do with what you said, shared earlier about a therapist helping with the past and a coach helping with the future.

But this idea of the nice guy feeling like he needs validation, that's rooted in his past, surely. How do you explore that with them and provide that support structure whilst also helping them define a way forward?  

Katherine Brooks: So all habits were formed in the past. Whether it's wanting validation from someone else, whether it's smoking cigarettes, but we only ever have this moment to make a new choice.

And so personally, I don't actually care when that was formed or how, because we can make a new choice, one small choice at a time. Starting today.  

Ben Culpin: So if a nice guy should be less nice, let's say, what should he be? What are the? So again, referencing therapy, you have like younger self and core self being present day self, one of confidence and courage and, feeling grounded, all this kind of stuff.

What is the version of that in coaching? For the nice guy,  

What are the goal states that we're trying to get to don't veer him into being an asshole again?  

Katherine Brooks: So I already bristle at this question because I don't think anyone should be any certain way. However, if someone comes to me and says "there's a lot of unnecessary suffering in my life"; whether that looks like anxiousness or low grade misery or just a shitload of dissatisfaction in their day to day. And they express there's gotta be something out there that doesn't feel like this,

then I think a goal state could look like. Where you're living from a place where your words, actions, and your values align. So that, and when we're living from that place, that feels different. That feels different for you than it does with me. For me, there's a lot of peace with that for other people that brings up joy for other people. It's just like a state of contentment.

So I, would never create an agenda for someone, but what the promise is on the other side of nice guy syndrome is. You actually get to be who you are and that creates peace period.

Ben Culpin: Okay, so I'm just looking at my questions here. I think you get a little bit of a head classic interviewer structure here in my mind Okay, we've covered the basis. I really want to talk about nice guy, and I think we've covered that I think actually one more question actually because I think the nice guy needs help And so what advice would you be to partners and friends of nice guys, because he's not in it alone.

Katherine Brooks: That's a good question. One piece of advice is, if he doesn't want your help, don't give it. I've had so many people say to me, you coach men, could you please talk to my partner, brother, cousin, neighbor. And when I have those conversations, they go nowhere if the person isn't all in on making a change themselves.

Ben Culpin: Okay, what are you working on right now, personally? They talk about the work. I'm curious.  

Katherine Brooks: Do they?

Ben Culpin: I've heard this phrase multiple twice in my life.  

Katherine Brooks: Great question. Something that I recently have gathered some clarity around is impatience. And, I've experienced impatience for a lot of my adult life. That was a gift generously handed down to me by family members. And lately I've really felt that impatience is a big distraction for me and not supportive. And so I've been getting quite a bit of coaching around, what is that really? What is that where I'm thinking I should be somewhere where I'm not, or I'm impatient for the next level of my business or a partner because I'm dating, like where's this impatience coming from?

And I just recently realized that it's actually a mask for vulnerability for me. And so impatient shows up when I don't want to feel vulnerable in the moment. And so something that I'm actively "working on", being with, is noticing when impatience is come coming up, I say to myself, I think I'm actually feeling vulnerable right now.

Could I just take a minute to feel that? And that's really new for me.  

Ben Culpin: So could you articulate that vulnerability in an example if you feel comfortable?  

Katherine Brooks: Yeah. I think it's easy to say with dating. I've been on a handful of first dates recently and none were amazing, none were terrible. And I'll notice myself cooking in the evening thinking, how many more of these just mediocre fucking dates am I going to go on?

Like when am I going to meet someone and have a real connection? And I'm, and that kind of spinny, mental, impatience feels really icky. And that's why I started to explore it. I was like the rest of my life, like I have wonderful friendships. It's not that I feel alone right now. And a partner would really help.

So I'm like, where is this coming from? And I think when I pause, and actually say, "Hey, what's really going on right now?" I noticed, and I can feel it actually right now, like a big sense of vulnerability with just, the kind of emotional unzipping that comes when you're dating and the sense of actually having a desire for partnership, but it's not here yet.

And the desires there, I have no idea when that will come into my life. And meeting a bunch of strangers along the way is kind of part of the process. And also... It's so vulnerable. Oh, I can feel it right now.

Ben Culpin: So if I hear you it's not about the impatience to find someone, for the want of a better phrase, it's not maybe very well said but is not because you feel lonely and like you need company, but it's the unzipping and maybe zipping repacking of oneself every time to a complete stranger?  

Katherine Brooks: It's that and the inherent helplessness, having a desire for something that I cannot 100 percent control, there is a role that. The cosmos play in this process and or life itself and feeling out of control in that way makes me feel vulnerable.  

Ben Culpin: Do you have any other comments or anecdotes about dating at the moment? I'm curious.  

Katherine Brooks: Oh, I could go on. We could have a whole separate thing about dating.  

Ben Culpin: What's it like to date in 2023 in Austin, Texas?

Katherine Brooks: Let's see, two weekends ago, I cried on a date. On the first date. Which I think that was the first time in my life that's happened. I cry fairly easily. Especially with sweet moments. If I see a sweet moment, I tend to go right to tears, or if I have a wave of gratitude, right to tears. I cannot make a toast at a wedding or a birthday party or anything without just bawling.

And I was meeting this guy for the first time, we were having a coffee, sitting outside, and he was asking just some great questions. And I could tell he has done a lot of capital W "Work" and really knew how to hold space. And one of the questions he asked, he must have seen a flash of emotion across my face.

Cause he said, "how did that make you feel?" When I really tapped into it, I had some sadness coming up. And I just noticed some tears and I said, I think I'm feeling really sad right now. And I just closed my eyes and it was just a waterfall down my face and he just held it down. I really have to hand it to him, just held it down.

And I was trying to describe why I felt sad. I was like, I think that's touching on this thing and blah, blah, blah. And he said, you actually don't have to go into the story of it. You can just sit there and process the emotion. And I was like, so relieved that. He didn't need my explanation.

He was not disturbed by it or darting his eyes left to right thinking, oh my gosh, I got to get out of here. Like she's about to implode. And when you really actually process an emotion, often something like gratitude or love is underneath it. So then I just had this big wave of gratitude for meeting a stranger where I felt safe enough.

To have that moment. So then I had a whole second cry right then. And he was like, I'll just get you some napkins. And he did. And I like to think that we attract into our lives, people's situations that are an energetic match for where we are. And so I walked away from that actually not feeling a romantic connection, but feeling a curiosity about possibly being friends and a huge gratitude.

That the type of people who I'm attracting and who are coming into my life are at that level of understanding, just empathy.  

Ben Culpin: I think it's lovely that you just shared a story that wasn't icky. It was a really wonderful story of just someone having incredible compassion and accepting your openness and you feeling comfortable in that moment.

How nice. What a lovely date.

Katherine Brooks: It really was. It'll totally The one that I never forget.  

Ben Culpin: So I'd like to pivot a little bit to the questions I shared with you via email. My burning questions that are evolving and close to my heart. I don't have the answers to them. That's why we're here to talk to you. I'm hoping if I talk to enough people, these questions will start to field some answers.

Katherine Brooks: Would love to hear your take too.  

Ben Culpin: Oh, yeah, sure. I'll do my best to fumble through an answer for you. But first i'd like to just before we get into them. I'm curious about the topic of 'healing". How would you define healing for yourself? And could you describe a situation where you've witnessed or experienced a particularly powerful instance of healing?

Katherine Brooks: I'm triggered by the word i'll be honest.  

Ben Culpin: Yeah, tell me.

Katherine Brooks: It feels so Pop Culture-y right now, and I have been put off by the word healing, because I fear that it implies that we're broken somehow, and that we need to heal, and even when we've experienced really tough things and it's showing up in our lives and all sorts of ways that are unhelpful.

I still don't believe that anybody's broken.

That being said, have I personally experienced a profound healing? I have multiple times and I'll share one that comes to mind that just makes me feel emotional. Even thinking about, so I have one sister, younger sister, she is two and a half years younger. And through our whole twenties, we couldn't get along.

We couldn't be in the same room. We couldn't be in the same space for more than 24 hours without getting in a fight. We were really hot and cold long distance. We were fine. Our relationship was mediocre. Anytime we were. Nearby, it was some kind of explosion, someone either in tears or a cold shoulder. It was so confusing to me because I would always say to our mutual friends, if she wasn't my sister, I think we would be best friends.

So why can't we have a relationship that's even smooth? It doesn't even have to be amazing, but why can't it be smooth? I was going to stay with her in 2019. She lives in New York and I was going to stay with her for Thanksgiving for a week and staying with her for a week was already a huge risk. There was going to be a family thing and I was going to go to New York to visit.

It just so happened that. By a series of events, I got connected to an energy healer in Amsterdam, who I had never met before. I was unfamiliar, really, with the concept of energy healing.  

Ben Culpin: Would you take a moment to explain what the concept of energy healing?  

Katherine Brooks: Yes, I'll do my best. So the way that I interpret it is...

We store traumas, memories they're stored within us as energy. And when you said a big focus for you right now is being in your body and less in your mind. When I've been in spaces like that, it's actually been because I want to be aware of how these different traumas and memories are showing up for me physically.

And we do know that emotional pain can manifest as back pain, jaw tension. It can show up as real physical symptoms. And what an energy healer does, can do is heal you, can undo where that energy is stored in your body. And so they're actually connecting to that little, like when you're getting a massage and they feel a knot underneath the knot is like a ball of energy that they're digging out.

So an energy healer can be either via touching you or not touching you goes in there and undoes those little balls of energy. So I had never had an energy healing. But I met this woman and felt very pulled to connect with her. And I went in and we were she, the way it works is she just starts asking questions and you can say, Hey, here's the thing that's on my mind.

And actually at the time it was my love life. I felt like I was having one casual, highly dramatic fling after the next. And I was like, what is going on here? Something's got to change. Why do I keep falling in love with these people who are definitely not interested in me. And, I had at least the awareness to know it's, I think I'm the common denominator here.

We're sitting in there and having this conversation and she just starts to ask big questions of big questions and the whole time you're in a meditative state. Lond story short, what came out or what wanted to be addressed in that moment was actually my relationship with my sister and I was leaving I think a week later to go visit her and she took me down.

She kept asking questions and kept asking questions almost like a good therapist does and took me back to a memory that I had not thought of in so many years of when I think I was four and she was two and my sister had slipped on the pool ladder and her head was underwater, and I just pulled her head above water and my parents saw and rushed over and pulled her out of the water and that moment formed a lot of our dynamic.

I had no idea about this. And so as I'm talking through that memory. She is doing her energy healing, and what she asked me to do was share the memory as I recalled it, and then share the memory in a different way. So at first I shared it as I recalled it, which was my parents freaked out. They were like, oh my God, she could have drowned.

They pulled her out. Everyone's in a frenzy. They said to me, we're going to get, we're going to buy you an ice cream because he did such a good thing. I honestly had no idea what I had done. I just felt like her head should be above water, but I wasn't really conscious of everything. And then what kind of formed was my sister was the helpless one.

And I always needed to take care of her. In an adult life that created a lot of resentment on both of our parts. My thought was "grow up, you're an adult". And her thought was "stop bossing me around. Stop telling me what I should do. I'm an adult". And it was all formed from that one moment. And so then the energy healer had me talk through that memory in a new way, whereby afterward my parents didn't put us in those roles. And I was able to say to my sister, I love you, give her a hug. But we stayed on equal ground. And we weren't put into those positions. So again, I had never had an experience like this before I leave this session. And I thought, "wow, I feel a lot lighter and I can't really describe why". My relationship with my sister has done a one 180 since that moment, we have never been closer.

We'll have a couple of spats here and there, but we have the type of relationship that I always thought was possible. And so for me, when I think about the word healing without, kind of bristling against it. I think that to me is a clear healing and that's now four years ago that happened.  

Ben Culpin: Did you tell your sister about this healing process that you went on and did you, do you think that it was the treatment that you received or do you think it would be possible that it's just the confession and the realization that maybe you had these roles and that was maybe also what led to the healing of your relationship?

Katherine Brooks: I did not tell her until two years later because I figured she would have just laughed at me and said, That's ridiculous. And two years later I said something like, Do you realize like how much different our relationship is? I want to tell you something that happened before that Thanksgiving visit.

And she said, and I told her about it and she was like, "huh, I just thought you were being nicer to me. And she was like, so I was nicer back". And I now understand at such a deeper level that in a dynamic, it only takes one person to radically change the dynamic. Both people do not have to change, but a dynamic is fueled by the two.

And so if one person changes, it can shift the whole thing. So your other question was what I've needed that session. I needed support and I had no idea why our relationship was the way it was. So whether it was the energy healer or a great therapist, someone to take me back to that memory. I needed help with that because I was not connecting those dots, but I think that process is something that a therapist or a coach could also do where you rewrite that memory and I just had no idea the power of that.

Ben Culpin: Yeah, it's such a, it's such a wonderful thing to, I've done this exercise a few times with things from my past. Where you essentially go back and place present day self alongside younger self and with all your current day tools and presence, knowledge and wisdom and all of the good stuff. Give yourself what you need, what you lacked in that moment.

And to, as you say, rewrite the experience and for me, it's almost send my little self on their merry long way afterwards. It's such a great experience.

Katherine Brooks: Do you then notice a big difference in your life after doing that?  

Ben Culpin: I wouldn't say big difference, but I'd say that the difference is accumulative.

doing this exercise numerous times over the last years has helped for sure.  

So I wanted to just ask the next question if you feel ready. And also, I love that you're asking me questions as well. That's great. But, to our conversation earlier about, the nice guy, here's a question for you.

How do we maximize empathy without getting lost in the other?

Katherine Brooks: Where's this question coming from?  

Ben Culpin: I think it's to do with. Something that you mentioned around a nice guy always thinking about the other person trying to second guess what their needs are. And you said also to get the validation that they need. Empathy is a great thing. It's a wonderful tool. And I think the question comes from the perspective of someone who is sensitive and empathetic and is looking to find out where they draw a line.

And it's to do with boundaries.  

Katherine Brooks: Definitely. In a word, boundaries is the answer there. That is so cut and dry black and white and does not take into account the emotional factors.  

Ben Culpin: But to push, boundaries is a word, but, how would you put some meat on the bone there to facilitate an answer?  

Katherine Brooks: So a conversation I had last night is coming to mind.

So the question is, how does one maximize empathy without getting lost in the other? And the way I'm interpreting that, and you tell me where I'm wrong, is without losing yourself, without compromising your integrity because you've given too much, or are in the other person's business.

So I was at a dinner table with friends last night and... The woman sitting next to me, she and I were talking about when we go to get a wax and she loves when she is getting a wax to have a whole long conversation with the person who's waxing her about their life and how's your brother doing and did your dog's tumor get resolved and all of that and she said she loves it and she loves to hold space for that person while she's in this Dynamic.

I am the complete opposite. I want dead silence. I do not want the technician to be speaking to me. I don't want to hold space for them. I just want to get in and get out. That's my boundary. My boundary there is, and I'm open to saying it, but sometimes we'll just be in silence. Hey, I've had a long day.

I'm not open to conversation right now. And that's because it's not authentic for me in that moment to be engaged with that person's personal life. And so it is getting lost in the other and compromising my integrity. If I were to sit there and say "man, I've had a hard day and, I found a great coffee shop in my neighborhood that just opened".

That would be me getting lost in the other. And we know when that's happening because it just does not feel good. It doesn't feel a connection and it does not feel good. What I notice in my body when I'm getting lost in the other, it's like a constriction. It's like my shoulders just want to come in. When you say as a sensitive and empathetic person that there's this risk that can happen. I think that's true. And I think that the aim shouldn't be perfection. If we want to live lives with rich connections, which is a beautiful way to live. In my opinion, sometimes we might totally overstep and really want to be there to support somebody and go to sleep that night thinking, holy shit, I just gave way too much of myself.

And so one thing that has been a real benefit in my life is saying, yeah, it's just okay to mess up sometimes. And it's okay to have really wanted to be there for that person and maybe. Said the wrong thing. How many times have I done that or overstayed my welcome at someone's house when I was just trying to be helpful, realized it the next day thinking, my, that's embarrassing or get really wrapped up in someone else's breakup or job loss or family drama and feel like you're their number one point of contact when actually it's starting to feel icky.  

Ben Culpin: So Zoom, so I love that you gave that example of like your shoulders going forward when you know where your boundaries are being compromised. Could you give some other, imagine You know, I'm trying to figure out or anyone listening to this is thinking about clues for when their boundaries have been compromised.

Can you give some more examples for example, to the references you just gave about helping a friend out too much, which is wonderful. It's good to be there for a friend when they need you, or, staying over at a friend's house too long. The other examples you gave, it'd be great to know what the telltale signs are.

The clues to stop you crossing that line.  

Katherine Brooks: So there's a situation you've been in before, you might know, here's my boundary. Hey, I have a friend who's going through a breakup, they need a lot of support, but I have three hours of attention in a week that can actually dedicate to that. So beyond that, it's going to be a no for me.

There might be moments that are situations that mirror situations before, where you know your boundaries in advance. You know what? A lot of things are brand new. And we don't know our boundaries in advance. And that's so okay for me, how it feels when I'm starting to tip into overgiving is there's a part of me that wants to emotionally check out.

So it starts to feel like physically leaning back or my brain wants to take me somewhere else. What am I, "what do I have on tomorrow?" I want to check out from the experience as a way of protecting my energy when I know that happens, that's when we are being nice guys who are assholes because that's like completely inauthentic, especially if it's somebody we love right there.

So that's a moment for me where I'll say something like, "Hey, I'm noticing that was all the energy that I have to give that I want to show up for you when I'm resourced. I'm feeling complete right now. Can we pick this up another time? If you still need some support". Another thing that has been really helpful for me that I've been using lately is when I might be the one where someone else when I'm asking for support from someone else now with my friends, we almost always ask for consent. So I'll say, "Hey, do you have 15 minutes for me to vent today?" Or "I'm really stuck on this thing. Would you have 30 minutes over the weekend to coach me on it?" And asking for a specific amount of time, is really helpful because the person can yay or nay that amount of time.

And I have one friend who regularly tells me no, and it's so funny. She'll just say, no, I don't, I'm not available for that. Or you can negotiate on the amount of time. So if that has been a really helpful habit with friends. So in advance, we're both totally clear on the amount of support that we're here to give.

Yesterday, I was on the phone with someone who is just having a tough day at work and she had asked for 10 to 15 minutes and we were at the 30 minute mark. I did not feel like I was yet over giving, but I was probably five minutes away from that. And so I did say, "Hey, I totally hear you. This is a really tough day. I'm going to get back to what I was doing. I love you." I was going to see her in the evening. I was like, "I'm going to see you tonight. And if you want to have another debrief, let's do it over the weekend". And that was even when she was in the thick of it. And one answer to your question is, you just have to be willing to be uncomfortable.

That was uncomfortable. I would have loved to sit there for an hour and a half and say, "yeah, that fucking sucks!".

But an hour of that would have been inauthentic for me. Yeah.  

Ben Culpin: And for the instances that you describe, which I think for me, I see in my own relationships is just being able to, to speak from the heart in a really caring, loving way. And to be, know that you're being heard and that whilst that other person may in a small instance, feel upset that you've got to go or that they need to, you may need more.

They can, they still have enough capacity to go yeah. Thank you.  

Katherine Brooks: What works for you? How do you ensure that you don't overgive?

Ben Culpin: I'm really trying to learn this at the moment. Hence the question.

It helps for me to be able to talk about it, talk things through, if not with the individual, with my friends, to be able to externalize it, to verbalize it. Because then in that instance, I can often hear. What I need to hear but then also in the same instance it's to do with energetically how I see those people that i'm sharing with respond to what i'm ruminating on. So there's the energetic response also, but I haven't not cracked it.

Katherine Brooks: Are you familiar with tantra?  

Ben Culpin: Yeah, but i'd love for you to explain for our many many listeners.  

Katherine Brooks: Absolutely. Millions of listeners need to know. One, I've just started learning about Tantra, which is as giant as is the word yoga and yoga can be used to describe so many things, breathing styles, movement styles. Tantra can be used to describe communication styles, ways of living. And one exercise in Tantra is connecting with your bodies. Yes or no. And it's just a short meditation to connect you with, is this a yes or no for me?

And I have found that to be one of the most powerful exercises for life because we are not taught how to know what's a yes or what's a no for us. And so if I'm walking into a situation where I might really need to know my yes or a no, Let's say it's just a big house party, or I'm walking into a situation with a friend who needs support, I will quickly do a meditation and just close my eyes and ask myself, what does a yes feel like?

And then I listened to what my body says. And often for me, it shows up in my gut, just like the word. Yes. And then I'll say, what does the no feel like? And I wait to hear from my body what the no feels and that's just calibrating. So then it's a lot easier in the moment to recognize, Oh, I feel a no right now.

Ben Culpin: You mentioned Tantra, are you getting into it? Could you tell me a little bit more?  

Katherine Brooks: So I guess this is, ooh, this is definitely vulnerable, but it falls into the healing category. So there's a large Tantra community in Austin, and we often think of Tantra and sex as being related, but Tantra's this vast array of communicating your wants, needs, your desires.

Being in integrity with yourself, really understanding your own yes or your no. That, those are the, some of the principles that I have gathered that I really like from the practice. And I have been to some Tantra gatherings where the entire gathering is rooted in those conversations. Where you have a conversation with someone and you express your fears, your desires, your boundaries.

And all being just very clear with yourself and that's the starting point. For me, that has been very healing having been in experiences in my life where I have been physically violated to be in a setting where with men in particular, I'm expressing my fears, desires, boundaries, and they're receiving them and a hundred percent honoring them has been really important for just my relationship with.

Ben Culpin: I think that uh, thank you for sharing. I think it's really I don't have a lot of experience with tantra. But I am on the periphery of a couple of friends who are interested in it I look upon it with fascination and interest for that very reason that you talk about in the sense that you have this absolute honesty about what's going on.

And I've heard wonderful stories of the people that run these sessions. And how they just have incredible capacity to hold space for such a large group of people in such a very particular sort of instance. I'm really pleased to hear that you've had a really wonderful healing experience from that.

. Where do you want to take it next? If anywhere.  

Katherine Brooks: Actually, for me. I'm pausing my experiences with that whole world of Tantra, it pushed a lot of edges for me, and in doing so gave me some skills that I really needed and didn't know I needed, but how to be so present with myself that I could actually speak fears, desires, boundaries clearly.

and trust that the person there could receive and honor them. And admittedly, some of those experiences were just, it was like a continual pushing out of my comfort zone. And I have recently made the decision to just be in my comfort zone for a while.  

Ben Culpin: That's awesome. I love that. I love that. That the whole like yeah we're, it's such a sort of thing on a meme on the internet.

Go outside your comfort zone. I love that you're like, no, actually, I think I'm going to just stay in my comfort zone for a while. Nice.  

Katherine Brooks: Out of my comfort zone is a no from my body. And so we're just going to listen to that.  

Ben Culpin: All right. So that was that question bore a lot of fruit around empathy.

Interesting. Okay. So I have a question for you.

Katherine Brooks: This is so much fun, by the way.  

Ben Culpin: Yeah. You're having a time. Okay. I'm glad to hear it. Me too. Me too. It's it's more intimidating for me for this section because it reveals more about what's in my mind, it's easier than an interviewer to hide behind the questions. Here we go.  

Katherine Brooks: It's bold.  

Ben Culpin: How do you, how can you let go without totally unplugging? And I'm referring to alcohol. Oh. And in this, let me, yeah, let me rephrase that. I don't drink. I have drunk in the past and I'm, it's rooted in that idea of like when one is going through struggles, they can use alcohol as a crutch. And it's rooted in that question, but it's more broadly this idea of just how can you be present? And show up and acknowledge everything that's going on and not be afraid by it or run from it.

I guess I just i'm thinking a lot around my relationship to consumption generally sugar, caffeine, alcohol, drugs. And so this question of how can we let go of whatever's bothering us without totally "unplugging", it's rooted more within alcohol and drugs, I think, but I think I'm just thinking a lot about. How consumption can help or hinder as, as we move through this world and what is your, drawing on your experience that you have with clients, for example, you must have people, humans who visit you who have consumption issues, for example, how do you work through that?

Katherine Brooks: the presenting problem is never the problem, right? Yeah. So the consumption indicates something's below the surface and an inability and or unwillingness to be with a feeling, whether the feeling is overwhelm, whether it's anxiety, whether it's shame. I'm thinking of a client who really had a big desire to overcome emotional eating habits. And when he felt social anxiety, eating was a way for him to numb that.

And interestingly, we never worked on the eating. We helped him take action and he had some nice guy tendencies showing up, but we helped him start to say no when he really meant no. And when someone was to ask for his opinion, as small as, Hey, where do you want to go to dinner tonight? Practice actually stating the answer that was true for him.

And that alone. Started to reduce the emotional eating because the anxiousness of constantly thinking about what does this other person want me to say was fueling such an uncomfortable feeling that he wanted a coping mechanism to deal with that.

I would never work with somebody who has actual addiction that wouldn't be a fit for my type of coaching and would require different type of help. We all have coping mechanisms.

Ben Culpin: Yeah, I think that's, I think I figured out the question. How can you, how can you let go without falling into your coping mechanisms?  

Katherine Brooks: And what does let go mean?  

Ben Culpin: Of the thing that is provoking this, inverted commas, negative behavior.  

Katherine Brooks: Got it. Okay. Do you have an example that's been coming up for you lately?

Ben Culpin: Do I have an example?

Yeah. Binge watching a show on Netflix. over a day because I want to put off dealing with something that I know I need to do and I'd rather get lost in a world, fictional world, for a day and it's great for a while. And it's also it's rather like heavy on myself to say this, just to just like to convey the point of what I'm trying to explore here, because it is nice to sit on the sofa and chill on the weekend can be nice thing to do.

But there are instances when it's actually, no, you probably should get up off the sofa. And you should be doing something here. Yeah. Yeah, acknowledging your limitations around something or a relation, like it can be silly stuff, like an audio that you really need to reply to or, like paying your bills and realizing actually you don't have enough money to do X, Y, Z, because you've spent too much on whatever else. Yeah, I don't know if that helps a little bit.

Katherine Brooks: Why is it not okay to just have the Netflix binge?  

Ben Culpin: Yeah, I totally agree. Why is it not? Because there's like a voice inside of me and many of us saying we should be doing more. It's like that thing you talked about with impatience, right? The impatience to get up and do whatever or have something now.

Yeah, there's a, there can be a heaviness.  

Katherine Brooks: I'm hearing, you tell me when I'm wrong, that you're making yourself wrong for not replying to that voice note or not paying your bills or putting off these things that a productive and civilized person would do absolutely on time the minute they came in. What if it's not wrong?

Ben Culpin: Yeah. No, I think I, I pendulate between these two. I know that, it's important to be kind. To yourself. And but we're not always in that state where we can be. And there are sometimes moments when we can be quite harsh on ourselves.

Katherine Brooks: A question could be if you notice that you're not doing the things you want to do. Let's just put it at that. Insert whatever those things are. I always, when I notice I'm in a space like that, I just like to ask myself, what's really going on here? And then sometimes I will burst into tears and it's I'm completely overloaded.

I actually seriously need three hours to just read a novel with classical music in the background and not have anyone asked me anything, or I need to go to a concert and dance and listen to a band that I love. And when we I love mindfulness for so many reasons, but if we were to take just the root of mindfulness, when we're recognizing that we're in a spin or we're just, disconnected, asking what's really going on here can be the simple game changing moment that actually allows us to pivot or to actually say a lot of anxiousness coming up right now, and that's actually going to make paying my bills a very uncomfortable thing.

So I'm going to go take 15 minute walk around the block right now. But it just, it offers us the opportunity to make a different decision than the coping mechanism. And we can opt for the coping mechanism too. If that's the call in the moment. If it's I do need to finish out that series on Netflix and I'm just gonna do it.

Ben Culpin: Yeah, no, I agree with you. I think I think it's a healthy reminder to remember that. Not all coping mechanisms are self destructive And they're there for a reason that I had to help you and sometimes they can be the appropriate measure okay. I'm aware. I just looked at the clock.

I can see we've been on the call for 90 minutes.  

Katherine Brooks: Whoo!

Ben Culpin: I don't want to keep too much of your time and but I will just ask a couple more questions. That's cool. Let's do it Alrighty, cool. I've got a question here. What's your empowered move? And I will give you the question. There's like the stimulus behind the question. I was this summer thinking about, applying to jobs and, I was like, I was, it was like quiet over the summer, as a freelancer, you just have to go, okay, what are we doing?

Oh shit. Like when's the next thing going to come in? It just happens. And so I started applying to some jobs, but the process was quite demoralising .

Because as a human you look at the bullet points that you don't fulfill rather than the bullet points that you are, it just happens when you look at a job description, you can't help it unless you're most confident person in the world. Anyways, I applied to a few jobs, but then I realized this is really not serving me.

I'm actually veering away from my proposition, what I, my integrity, the kind of roles I want to do, clients I want to work for. And I was like, I'm going to rent out some rooms in my apartment and I'm going to start a podcast. And so this is my empowered move. And I, but what happened was I, the energy changed in my body also.

So I was able to go, there's just a succinct shift in, in how I was showing up for myself for want of a better phrase. And so my question to you is what is your empowered move and you could put in brackets of late, perhaps.

Katherine Brooks: Love that story. So exciting.

One is saying no to continued Tantra experiences because. I pushed so many of my edges that I'm feeling raw in that realm. And a lesson that I'm in the process of learning is when do we push past fear because it's stretching us and we're doing things like starting a podcast and we're doing things like starting a business and we're overcoming the fear of what's unfamiliar and when is fear telling us stop.

And I love to push past the fear of trying new things or traveling somewhere new or putting myself out of my social comfort zone. And it was a really empowered move for me to say. No, I'm going to listen that this fear is carrying a message that I need to hear and this is a no for me and I want to be within the bounds of my comfort zone right now.

Ben Culpin: So you're acknowledging that fear was a genuine message rather than some sort of track of your mind playing out from a previous time. Is that, am I hearing you right?  

Katherine Brooks: Yes, like some of the situations started to feel scary and scary is different for me than well, I'm stretching myself into something new and this feels like I'm about to do a public speaking gig and scary feels different.

And sometimes that can be absolutely the medicine and this was a no for me and listening to that no feels really empowered.  

Ben Culpin: Amazing. Okay, last question. What do you trust in?  

Katherine Brooks: Hmmm I trust in my community, my friends. I have, I'm extremely grateful, must have done something fabulous in a past life to deserve the friendships that I have now. They're really rich and I deeply trust in the support and love and connection there.  

Ben Culpin: I was actually thinking the same thing.  

Katherine Brooks: Really?

Ben Culpin: Yeah, I have great friends.

Katherine Brooks: Is there a moment when that really anchored in for you?

Ben Culpin: Yeah, it's that word healers again, healing I have made two very close friends in the last six years all at a pivotal moment. In our lives, I'd say and I don't know why, but we just started this WhatsApp group called the healers and one of them is coach and one of them is a therapist and I'm just myself, but it is a relationship with three men in this city who have the same values, the same consideration and care, know how to express themselves, know how to express love know how to ask for help.

And that's one, pocket. I have other wonderful pockets of friends too, but that's the first instance that comes to mind. But yeah, community,  

How did you foster it? How did you foster it?

Katherine Brooks: I do think, I do not have many skills, but one skill that I do have is making friends. I'm naturally outgoing, which is helpful. I'm extroverted, which is helpful. But I also moved to Austin, not knowing a soul. And last year I was here on my birthday over the summer and I didn't know anybody, but I still wanted to celebrate.

So I sat at the bar at this restaurant by myself, ended up having a wonderful time, but it was a different type of birthday. And I celebrated my birthday this summer, I had a really fun party and 20 friends were there. And I just that moved me to tears. It was so special. And sometimes I think about this because I also when I moved to Amsterdam, I barely knew anybody.

And six years later, when I left, I had just a rich community. And so sometimes I think about what Have I done to cultivate meaningful friendships that people in my life who don't have those types of connections like they haven't done? I think one thing is I follow up with people. If I meet someone even briefly in passing at a co working space, I'm going to ask them to have coffee and get together.

Definitely. Or if I meet someone at a party or something, I'm definitely going to ask for their contact information and say. We should meet up and go to that yoga class you mentioned. So I do follow up. Another thing is, and this is a little more on the Coach-y speak, but I also have the belief that I'm good at making friends.

And so I think that then manifests in the external world. I cannot stand the cultural story that it's hard to make friends in your 30s and 40s. I can't stand that. I think it's completely false, and it's a self fulfilling prophecy. If you want to believe that, it's just going to make your whole world a lot harder.

And it's just factually untrue. Part of it is being open to the idea of making friends. In my 30s putting myself in spaces like I go to a lot of events and things that are themed around things that I like and then just following up, but I guess that's like how do you connect with people initially?

I think that's less Sort of how do you turn those connections into friendships that really mean a lot?

Ben Culpin: I have a confession I feel conflicted by your statement because in some instances I do think it's hard to make friends in your 30s and 40s I would I don't know if I'm going to say it. It's hard as a guy to make friends in your thirties and forties.

I feel like to find people who can express that they want to hang out or something like that. I don't know. But and I think what I'm trying to say, it's harder because people in their thirties get more into a groove with, their life and their lifestyle, they become maybe less extroverted.

I'm making a lot of like assumptions here, but just let me just get this out on the table. Then there's some people have kids for example so they have, not just work ties they have and their relationship ties. They also have to raise children. However, I do believe in your statement that you have to believe that you can get out there and want to make friends for it to actually happen.

But I do think there's a huge barrier to entry still.

It took three years for me and those other two guys to make a WhatsApp group and you were friends for three years before you, on the periphery of a social network, looking at each other from across the sort of like party going, you're cool. Maybe we should hang out. That didn't actually happen until like years later.

I think maybe what it lacked is what you're talking about, which is like a follow up, a bit of confidence. Maybe it'd be a bit more extroverted. Yeah. And to.

Katherine Brooks: So I, to me thinking to yourself, it's hard to make friends at this age is the same thing as thinking to yourself, like a natural disaster could strike at any time. There could be truth in that, but is that helpful in your life to be thinking that, and if you have the choice. Why choose that story for some reason?

I am very activated by that story. I can't stand it. And I think because it's so limiting, like there may have been resistance for you in making meaningful connections. But look, you have and it's what you would say. You trust it.  

Ben Culpin: Yeah, for sure. And I was a different person eight years ago.

Katherine Brooks: What happened eight years ago?  

Ben Culpin: Nothing specifically, but just, being a younger person something did happen. I won't go into the detailed details, but I was engaged and called off a wedding. That's, there was a significant milestone for sure but I think sometimes it just takes time to I think it's probably an age thing too. I think, yeah, maybe it is harder to make friends in your 30s, but you're more equipped to do it. That's the reality. You actually can find really fucking good friends in your 30s.  

So I think that's a great place to leave it, Catherine. Community and friendship.  

Katherine Brooks: So important.  

Ben Culpin: Thank you so much for your time today. I'm really grateful.

It was wonderful to meet you and get to know you better. to hear your stories, to experience your vulnerability. And I thank you for that. Thank you so much. This is such a treat and fun to get to know you in this way.  


Ben Culpin

Researcher, Strategist, Film and Photography Documentarian, and Podcaster.

All disciplines centre around an innate need for perspective, a sensitivity to the world.