Yes, it did take a while because I’m the kind of person who really opens myself up to learn in these kinds of situations and to defer to the expertise of the teacher. But when I started hearing things that I knew weren’t so, that I was being told who I was (as if someone else knows that better than I do), then I really balked. I’d already done a lot of shadow work and so I knew a lot of what was there in my blind spots. My first teacher, who interestingly, was also named Jamie, fit the profile you describe and in retrospect I should have paid greater attention to the red flags. For instance, she lamented that she didn’t have any real friends and I excused that away when I shouldn’t have. It was a real lesson in paying greater attention to my instincts and my emotions and not finding ways to excuse those away.

Fortunately, after her I had a wonderful teacher — a guy who not only does his own work consistently, but who actually hires someone to come in and critique his workshops so that he can get objective feedback on how he can improve. This man, who trained me as a coach, fully believes that we never know what’s right for someone else and that it’s our role to help facilitate them accessing their own inner brilliance and deep wisdom — not to tell them what’s wrong with them or how they should follow our advice. That perspective saved me down the road.

And even having had that experience, I still was brutalized by teacher number 3 for refusing to knuckle under to his tyranny. And I was enough under his sway that it took getting away from the training program before I could fully stand up for myself and think clearly. It was potentially the most traumatizing thing that’s ever happened to me, and I’ve had some bad shit in my life, but the breach of trust, the public humiliation, the blatant power dynamics — once I got a bit of distance I could really see it clearly. And, what I got from that, even though it came at a big cost, is that I was ready to stop handing my power over to others and to believe in my own inner voice. I was ready to take on being my own teacher and to own what I already knew and that was a great gift in the end.

Narcissists feed on empaths and highly sensitive people and the personal growth industry is unfortunately rife with them for this reason. If I ever take on another teacher, I’ll look for one like the second one, who was actively doing his own work and had no illusions that he knew what was best for others. The last guy reminds me of a quote I saw soon after that time, “If you seek to do good and do it without a pure love in your heart, you may end up actually doing harm.”

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Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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