The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast Episode #213 - Charlotte Fox Weber
I'm a psychotherapist and writer and momma of two boys. I live in London and I'm particularly passionate about the work I do with women in Senegal. I am from Connecticut and went to school in Paris and in the UK and for a long time I didn't know where to call home. I am particularly interested in social norms and cultural influences in exploring our narratives and ways of relating.
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What do you secretly desire? | Charlotte Fox Weber | TEDxManchester
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The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast Episode #38 - Connie Zack
The Science Of Sauna: Heat Shock Proteins, Heart Health, Chronic Pain, Detox, Weight Loss, Immunity, Traditional Vs. Infrared, And More!
finding the right therapist
first impressions with a new therapist
the stories in charlotte's book
charlotte's personal story with therapy
self Empowerment vs. pursuing power
the morality of power
Attraction to power
wanting to belong
discussing race in therapy
planning and the illusion of control
having a healthy relationship with time
the desire for attention
using Absence to get attention
attachments & wanting
the mixed messages given to women in society
modesty & egoism
faking in life or therapy
"giving up" & acceptance
losing your youth and beauty
showing up authentically
trying therapy, and interviewing therapists
speaking up for yourself
Melanie Avalon: Hi, everybody. Welcome back to the show. I am so incredibly excited about the conversation that I'm about to have. This was a really fun, enlightening experience, friends, reading today's book. I am here with Charlotte Fox Weber. She's a psychotherapist and a writer. She co-founded Examined Life and she was the founding head of the School of Life Psychotherapy. And her new book is out and it is called Tell Me What You Want: A Therapist and Her Clients Explore Our 12 Deepest Desires. And so, when I came across this, I was immediately super intrigued and actually thinking back to the-- I'm trying to remember how I first connected with you, because I get a lot of pitches and I'm trying to remember if this was one where it was directly pitched or if I was looking through a lot of lists of books. But either way, I immediately gravitated to the whole concept.
Charlotte Fox Weber: I'm so glad to hear that.
Melanie Avalon: I really am. I was like, "Oh, I have to read that." I'm a huge fan of therapy. So, I've been doing weekly therapy sessions for about a decade now, and I just think it's such a game changer for me personally, for mental health and wellness and just having reflection on your life and the chaos of life and having a through line with somebody-
Charlotte Fox Weber: Oh, I love that.
Melanie Avalon: -that just makes sense of things. A third-party perspective that knows you really well but also can be a little bit more objective. Now I'm going on a tangent. I've also been really excited to see-- I feel like therapy has been stigmatized for a while. Even now I feel like some people think that only people "with problems" go to therapy, which is the craziest idea to me. So, in any case, I'm all about normalizing mental health and wellness and seeing therapists. And reading this book, I had no idea where it was going to go. But friends, it's really, really cool the way it's laid out. So, Charlotte goes through and uses, basically, case studies from her different clients that she's had, and how they represent these secret wants and desires that we universally all might have, or maybe that's a question, if we do universally all have all of them. But this conversation could go so many different ways. I'm really excited to see where it does go. Charlotte, thank you so much for being here.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Thank you for having me. And what an exciting introduction.
Melanie Avalon: So, like I said, I have so many questions for you. Oh, and side note, we were talking right before this. So, Charlotte, as readers know, I love it when authors narrate the book themselves, and Charlotte does narrate the audiobook, and she's a great narrator. So, definitely get it on audio if that's your thing on Audible, because I really enjoyed listening to it.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Thank you. I have a question for you already. In the past 10 years, have you been seeing the same therapist or is it different therapists?
Melanie Avalon: With moving back and forth, I think I've seen consistently four therapists. The most recent one was not because I moved, but in general, it's mostly been because I moved. I love mine now. I'm thinking of moving to Austin and one of the reasons I don't want to is I'm like, "I'd have to find a new therapist." [laughs]
Charlotte Fox Weber: That would be a loss. Finding a good therapist is definitely an important part of it being effective. It's everything.
Melanie Avalon: That's the other thing. Going back to that question or what I was saying earlier about the stigmas around therapy, I think a lot of people also will try to find a therapist. At least for me, I've had to "interview" a lot of therapists to find the right connection both ways for both of us.
Charlotte Fox Weber: I'm glad you did.
Melanie Avalon: Not to start on a bad note, but I've had some crazy first interviews with therapists.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Let's start on a bad note, because I began my experience of therapy with horrendous therapy. I think having difficult experiences of mediocre therapists is an undiscussed topic that should be acknowledged.
Melanie Avalon: Like I said, because to find therapist that I really love, I would go first sessions with multiple therapists. I even had a few instances where I feel like I need therapy from that first session with the interviews.
Charlotte Fox Weber: To recover from the traumatic therapy.
Melanie Avalon: Yes. I've had things said to me in first interviews that just blew my mind. [laughs] I encourage people. It's like dating, in a way, like, find the person for you.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yes. And of course, it can be perfectionistic and idealistic, if you are constantly shopping for a therapist and waiting for the perfect one, because therapists will never be entirely, entirely-- I think it needs to feel possible. There can be greater understanding and rapport and connection.
Melanie Avalon: I agree so much. I feel like for me, I'm really intuition driven. So, when I did have that connection, I would just go with it. My current therapist, who I just love, I just immediately felt that it was the right person for me at that time in my life. I think the feeling of not feeling judged is most important for me. Like, the feeling of safety that I can just say anything and it'll be okay.
Charlotte Fox Weber: I feel like it's paradoxical, because it's when you feel safe with someone that you can-- then take the risk of going somewhere dangerous. Like, you need to have that comfort, so that you couldn't be disruptive and cannot just hold back.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. No, 100%. Do you take new clients now?
Charlotte Fox Weber: I, unfortunately, have been having to say no to new work, because I'm writing another book and I have a full caseload. But that said, I always struggle to say no to new work, because I love meeting new people and having the fresh experiences of just doing initial sessions. Sometimes, even knowing when someone isn't suitable, and I have a colleague I can recommend. I like being a therapy matchmaker just to unhumbly brag. I feel like I'm cupid when it comes to setting people up with the right therapist.
Melanie Avalon: When you do see a new client or a new potential client-- You talk in the book about the role of first impressions, and all the notes you take, and everything. Is it pretty immediate for you if you feel like you should personally work with somebody or does it take time to feel out that relationship?
Charlotte Fox Weber: I think that it takes time going both ways. I think allowing for the uncertainty can be important. There have been times when it's a beautiful start, and the first session is bursting with possibility, and then it can turn into something else. I feel like assessments can be problematic in that way, if there isn't the flexibility factor. In a way, it's like a relationship. When you sign up for marriage, you sign up for something at that point in time, but there should be a allowance for the fact that changes will occur, and there will be unforeseen situational stressors, and you don't know how it will play out.
Melanie Avalon: No, that totally makes sense.
Charlotte Fox Weber: That probably sounds so suspicious of me and I'm not a lawyer.
Melanie Avalon: No, I love it. I'm just thinking back. So, like I said, you talk about these different clients in your book. Did you use pseudonyms for the first names?
Charlotte Fox Weber: I definitely did. So, I have reconstituted clinical material, so that everything I write about is from actual work. But I've changed the details enough to protect confidentiality, so that it's not one person's story.
Melanie Avalon: Okay. I was trying to remember, yeah, if I read that in the beginning.
Charlotte Fox Weber: I obsessed over that issue for many months, and then finally felt okay with. I wanted to honor people's true stories, and be honest about therapy, and not just gloss over it and make it sound overly idealized. But I also didn't want to ask for consent. I'm not even sure that such a thing exists when it comes to therapeutic relationship.
Melanie Avalon: It feels very real. So, all of the moments and examples, are they pretty much all moments and examples from people?
Charlotte Fox Weber: So, they're all real. Everything is from clinical work. But when I say I reconstitute it, I would move a detail or feature from one clinical experience, and then apply it to a different clinical experience. I kept track. It sounds really obsessive and strange, because probably was as a process. Everything comes from somewhere, but I mixed it up enough, so that it's not the same features from the same person if that makes sense. Probably it doesn't.
Melanie Avalon: No. So, in my head, what I see is like this mosaic of all these different, the colors of the people, but then the colors are [giggles] blending into the other ones to create these different pictures.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Because there was something really important about the integrity of actually writing about real therapy. I didn't want it to be fictitious, but at the same time, there were so many reasons it didn't feel right to tell other people's stories as their therapist or former therapist to just reveal their actual life stories.
Melanie Avalon: So, was your first client in a hospital situation?
Charlotte Fox Weber: My first client, it still feels so incredibly vivid and real to me, because it was and she was. But again, I've changed just enough details with that one to still protect her confidentiality, even though she's no longer alive.
Melanie Avalon: What made you decide to be a psychotherapist in the first place?
Charlotte Fox Weber: So, that question has always evoked strong, weird feelings in me, because I feel different things at different times. I feel like, "Uh-oh, I should say the right thing. I should say to help other people, because I'm really curious." There are so many reasons I tried-- Not tried. So many reasons I was always interested in therapy. But the real reason is because I have been conflicted about therapy itself since I had it as a six-year-old, I had a terrible experience of being forced into therapy with someone I didn't connect with, felt judged by. It was so unhelpful to me that it was pretty much traumatic. I think it's that-- Maybe it's like a revenge fantasy in some-- Again, all the things I shouldn't be saying, because it's not just about that, but there's definitely a darkness to it that I grew up feeling a kind of determination to correct or repair what had gone wrong in my experience. I wanted to do the opposite of this man and how he was as a therapist.
Melanie Avalon: Wow. How long were you in those sessions with him?
Charlotte Fox Weber: How long was I in therapy jail? I was forced to see him for close to two years by loving, well-meaning parents have to say.
Melanie Avalon: Wow. Did you continue therapy after that?
Charlotte Fox Weber: I did. One of the reasons I had therapy from such a young age was because I'd had heart surgery as a five-year-old and four-and-a-half-year-old. I felt a lot of death anxiety. So, my parents wanted me to feel less anxious. But my understanding of that was, "Uh-oh, my anxiety has gotten me in trouble. I've now been sentenced to have to sit with this person and miss out on other things because of my feelings." I would sit in these sessions and not say anything, and he would stare at me and not say anything. I know you asked if I went on to have other experiences of therapy, but I'm still obviously hung up on this one.
I told him that I didn't want to continue therapy. And the more I resisted, the more I was told that I needed therapy. Like, it was a sign that I needed therapy, the fact that I didn't want to be there. I just couldn't stand him. I would sometimes spend an entire session just spelling out one word, and then he would report the word back to my parents, and I would feel like I'd gotten busted for the one thing I'd said. It was a very unsafe, weird space. But my parents said to me when I was protesting-- I had a tantrum one day and said, "I don't want to go anymore. I really don't like going. Please don't make me go." I remember them both saying it together and being completely united in this, and they both said, "You can say anything you want to him. It's your space to just say anything." And I said, "I can say anything I want?" Somehow, I hadn't realized that and it was utterly exhilarating.
So, I got very excited for the next session. I was in the waiting room of the clinic where I would see him. This story makes me seem totally nutty, I realize. But this therapist came to collect me and I said, "Hello, pig face." I felt something incredibly powerful. In a way, I think that's where therapy can be transformative. Not that you have to call your therapist, pig face, ever, but saying something that feels really difficult to say and that you're maybe not supposed to say anywhere else and going there and saying the unsaid thing, and I think that's when something shifted.
Melanie Avalon: Wow, that's really powerful. That really resonates with me, because I think, for me, one thing I love about therapy and I actually wanted to ask you this and you talk about this in the book. Like the view of the ego, I'm always haunted by the ego and not being selfish and all of that. And so, just talking about yourself from my perspective always feels selfish. And so, in therapy, I'm like, "Okay, this is the one place where it's okay for me to just literally talk about myself [laughs] for an hour." And then also, like you said, it is this sacred space where you can literally say all these things that you can't say to anybody else. My therapist is the one person who knows all the things.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yes. Actually, I didn't say that thing last week. I lied to you last week. I didn't tell you that I was really hungover in our session or whatever it is. You can sometimes admit that you faked something even in therapy.
Melanie Avalon: One of the things you talk about in the book is the role of power and how it's really confusing wanting power and then what's the difference. This blew my mind. I never thought about this. The difference between power and self-empowerment and wanting power is not okay society wise and we judge it. But self-empowerment is amazing and that's what we're supposed to want. I'm like, "Why is that? [laughs] How are those different?"
Charlotte Fox Weber: I feel like we're going all over the place, and at the same time, there is a definite theme that threads the different topics together in our discussion already around admitting whatever is really going on. Ego and power and empowerment, we're not supposed to really acknowledge whatever it is we want. Especially, I think, to make a generalization, especially as women, we're supposed to not seem greedy in every way, whether that's work wise or wanting something too much or being desperate. Even in our own minds, it's hard to acknowledge what it is you seek, even though it's definitely possible and completely worthwhile. But I think with self-empowerment or just empowerment versus power in my research on this subject, I became really annoyed with-- I love female empowerment. I love empowerment, but I became really annoyed that there's no space for talking about wanting actual power.
There might be exceptions to that in the corporate world, but it's still a little bit vulgar or aggressive seeming to admit out loud that you want power. I don't know how you feel if you'd agree with that, like, saying to someone or even saying to yourself in a friendship. For example, I want power over this person or I want more power in the workplace.
Melanie Avalon: I agree completely. I guess, it's a really-- because now I'm just thinking about it more intensely in the moment, that example of in comparison to another person in a relationship saying you want power over them versus saying you are empowered. Either way, you have power. But I guess, one is about you and one is about what you're doing to the other person?
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yes. By the way, I'm not saying that having power over another person is a good thing, because power has a darkness to it and it's not entirely moral, which makes empowerment a lot less threatening. If someone is empowered, it's more modest. It's just about their own life and they can quietly reclaim the self-respect, and dignity, and esteem, and feel good about their lives. But there is something about power over others or having an impact on others, I think still should be allowed, it still should be explored, even if it's not acted on. But why is it that you want power over this other person? It doesn't mean that you have to act it out in your life, but I think it's really helpful when we can actually confront ourselves in these ways.
Melanie Avalon: I was thinking about this before as well. Why certain wants and desires are seen as good or okay or neutral or bad, and why others aren't. Even in the power situation, there're shades of gray with power. So, there could be somebody who has a lot of "power," but the power is, they're doing good things and the people trust them more like a guru type situation compared to on the flipside and by the guru, not one that goes crazy cult documentary route, but doing good things.
Charlotte Fox Weber: But in subtler ways, yes. Wonderful people who are effective, but still are powerful in complicated ways.
Melanie Avalon: Exactly. And then you can have somebody on the flip side like a dictator situation where it's very, very bad. So, as far as defining what's good and what's bad with these different ones and in this situation, power, do you think it's intuition? We just know if it's "good or bad." Or, do you think it is society telling us what's good and bad? Where do you think that comes from?
Charlotte Fox Weber: When it comes to assessing the good power from the bad power, it is ingrained in us in various ways for how we think about these things for who's entitled to want power when power is allowed, when it isn't. So, if you're playing a sport, you're allowed to want to win. But if you are secretly wanting to feel superior to your friend because you have nicer clothes or you think that you're prettier, that's a different, less acceptable thing to say out loud, but it still can play out in so many hidden ways. I think that we can be on to ourselves when we just admit that we all have shady parts of ourselves and shadowy depths. There's darkness in everyone when it comes to thinking about your actions and your choices.
I think having relationships in your life where you can get a degree of honest feedback is really important for keeping things in check. And that can come from different sources at different moments. But power gets out of control when someone is in an echo chamber and has power over everyone in his or her life and no one can really say how they truly feel about this person's behavior.
Melanie Avalon: When I started it, I was like, "Oh, this is fun." I was like, "I wonder which clients I'm going to most identify with." Really, every single person, there was something I identified with. Some were more strong than others, but it definitely makes you feel not as crazy. There would be examples that you would give from these clients saying something and I was like, "Whoa." I was like, "That's exactly how I feel." So, it's crazy. These things that you think are so secret and unique to you that maybe they're more universal than we realize.
Charlotte Fox Weber: But they can feel outrageous and they can feel very specific and we can feel really alone in our struggles.
Melanie Avalon: Yes, definitely. Just to circle a little bit more on the power thing, is that a common desire or something that you see people struggle with in your clients?
Charlotte Fox Weber: Well, so, I am a little bit provocative about that one, because one of the reasons I identified 12 desires and power was, one, I was particularly excited about was because sometimes, I think therapist is that honest feedback for someone who might otherwise be in an echo chamber or be surrounded by people who are denigrating. It doesn't mean that therapy should be an attacking space. But I think sometimes, I need to provoke someone to acknowledge that actually they do want power in a situation where they're not comfortable facing even the word in themselves, like, even saying it out loud. So, power is a word that I think men-- I am making the gender generalization, so I apologize because there are, of course, exceptions.
Men can talk about power more easily when they have it, not when they don't. Women struggle to admit or acknowledge that they are powerful when they have power, when they want power. It's a hard word to say, especially in the UK where I am. It might better in America. That is certainly the sense that British people often have about Americans. Like, you guys are really comfortable with ego and power. That's something I've heard so many times in England. I don't think that's entirely true either, but I think it's a struggle in every culture to really be comfortable with power.
Melanie Avalon: I find this so fascinating. Yeah, it's so true. Well, it's interesting for me as well. I guess, with any want or desire, there's the want within yourself to have it, and then if you're attracted to it and other people-- I'm trying to think if that would apply to the other ones. But for me, for example-- This is hard for me to say and I think it speaks to the societal judgment.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Oh, then please say it.
Melanie Avalon: [giggles] As far as being attracted romantically to people, the thing I'm really attracted to, I guess, I would say is like achievements or drive. So, I'm very much attracted to people at the top of their game.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Powerful people.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, so, it's so funny-- This is so funny. So, I was telling a friend recently about somebody I was very attracted to and then they're like, "Oh, so, you're just attracted to power." And I was like, "Wait, no, I'm not attracted to power." I was like--
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yeah, it sounds wrong.
Melanie Avalon: I was really thinking about it. I was like, "Am I attracted to power?" I was like, "Is that what I'm attracted to?" Because then I was thinking like, "Well, I'm not attracted really to--" If somebody's like a politician, it's not that.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Not like the power suit necessarily. It's your own bespoke idiosyncratic version. Power means something different to everyone. Each desire that I describe has its own specific meaning. I think that is an important thing to honor in ourselves. Sometimes, we're attracted to people who are powerful in some ways, but actually we also like their weak side. So, we can also be really contradictory in what draws us to someone. I don't know if the people you're attracted to also have a vulnerability that appeals to you, if they end up being monstrous or there're so many questions I could ask.
Melanie Avalon: It's so interesting, because that attraction that I have is the same attraction, but it's like, if I call it something else, then it feels okay to me.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Right. Repackage it as effective.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. If I call it like, no, people who are doing a lot of things in their sphere and are making an impact, I can say high achievers. That's sort of okay.
Charlotte Fox Weber: High achievers sounds much more acceptable than "I like powerful people." But also, is it because you can then have some of that power, will it make you more powerful? Will they allow you to have power?
Melanie Avalon: That's another something I've thought a lot about and something you talk about in the book, which was this idea of, can you win in life and succeed without others losing or if others win and succeed? Some people will feel really threatened by that. Yeah, is that a loss to you? So, it's contradictory though, because there's that concept, but then there's also this concept of wanting to be surrounded by powerful, successful friends. I often wonder having successful or powerful friends, do some people want that and enjoy that, or some people are they always threatened by that? I'm really fascinated by that.
Charlotte Fox Weber: It's usually full of ambivalence and mixed messages. You can be drawn to someone powerful and then end up feeling very powerless. It can go in a lot of different ways, which is why I think paying attention to power in yourself and thinking about it in others is an ongoing process, because there can be rivalries that sneak up on you, where suddenly you realize that you're not wishing someone well or you're feeling weirdly pissed off that your friend has just gotten a major great thing. Like, why is someone's success bothering you? I don't know if that ever happens to you, where you just feel weirdly bothered, but you should be feeling happy and excited for this person.
I think we're constantly assessing ourselves, unfortunately, in relation to other people. It's a kind of one up, one down sense a lot of the time. I think when we cultivate a strong understanding of those factors and we have a clearer picture of ourselves, then we don't need to feel as precarious about these issues. Your surroundings don't have to determine your worth to such an extent, I think if I were to say what the goal of therapy often is really about, it's something to do with that.
Melanie Avalon: I love that so much. So, with this recent situation with a powerful person that I was alert by my therapist. First of all, I love my therapist because she's so supportive and safe and nonjudgmental. So, anything I want to do in my life, she's supportive of it. But the theme, she would keep going with that situation. And it ties into what you just said about not letting the environment determine your sense of wellbeing. She would say, "Remember your own agency in this situation, and you're doing this because you want to. It's not about the power of the other person," which goes back to this idea of the self-empowerment versus the empowerment. On the social side of things though, the social threats, I think what a lot of people-- Because we'll think about evolutionary needs like food, shelter, and sex, basically. I guess, those are the three. But there's the social aspect and from an evolutionary perspective, the social aspect is actually the biggest threat to an animal or our evolutionary ancestors' wellbeing and safety, because you could survive a while without food, you can survive without sex, you can survive a little bit without shelter, but if you get kicked out of the tribe, you're gone. Like, you're dead. So, this intense need for social acceptance and alignment, I think is a huge evolutionary drive that, I'm on in a soapbox, but I feel like people, we look down at it as a shallow want to be socially accepted, but there's like a--
Charlotte Fox Weber: Want to belong.
Melanie Avalon: Yes. I loved the chapter on belonging. To go down that route, because you talk about how with wanting to belong, never to assume that you know where people want to belong and never tell people where to belong. Do you find with your clients that most people do know where they want to belong or where's the spectrum of wanting to belong?
Charlotte Fox Weber: I think it's one of those things that can go in surprising or it should be surprising, can go in surprising directions. So, you could be in therapy for years, and then realize that actually you have been holding on to a wound emotionally from feeling that you didn't belong in your family, feeling that you didn't belong at a social situation like at a school. In so many ways, we have invisible circles where we are in or we're out or we don't know if we should want to be in or out. I think that belonging is a really fascinating desire. At the same time, there's so much social programming where we think we're supposed to want to belong, if that makes sense. We're assigned these roles. We should belong to the workplace, we should belong to motherhood, friendship groups like whatever it is.
It's mapped out in a way that very often is at odds from how we feel. I feel like more of an outsider. Sometimes with certain relatives, I feel much more foreign and alienated and disconnected and misunderstood on different planets with blood relatives than with someone who's from a completely different culture and background where we don't necessarily belong to the same group of genetically connected people, but there's more of a sense of emotional belonging.
Melanie Avalon: The belonging chapter that you had in the book with Dwight, you went into the role of race and worldview.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Which I was terrified of doing, by the way.
Melanie Avalon: It even came across in that chapter about concern. So, for listeners, in the chapter, she has this client, Dwight, who was an African-American former football player having issues with his wife. It took you a while to even-- Because he wasn't bringing up race, right?
Charlotte Fox Weber: So, he wasn't bringing up race. There is a really strong movement in this country. I don't want to be boring talking about another country than when your listeners are in, but there's a very strong movement, I think, also in America for therapists to name the race issue, like to bring it up with a client to acknowledge otherness, and not be colorblind, and oblivious. At the same time, it's a really delicate problem or dilemma anyway, because sometimes, a black person can go to therapy with a white therapist and not want to talk about being black and sitting across the room from a white therapist. That may not be the most pressing issue for that person. A white therapist insisting on bringing up race can be really imposing and annoying.
I think in a way, there's going to have to be clumsiness one way or another when it comes to discussing race in therapy. There should be clumsiness, like, thoughtful clumsiness. But not bringing it up and being the frozen-- I've worked with black people where I have just not brought it up and I felt worried about saying the wrong thing, and I think was a missed opportunity in some of those instances. At the same time, if I just go about any session with a black person by saying, how is it for you to be black and sit across the room from me as a white woman, that's already too directive for the conversation. So, I think it usually is a topic that comes up at unexpected moments and with the acknowledgment that it's not going to be totally comfortable.
Melanie Avalon: You talk about how you'll never be able to understand worldview wise some things that people of other races experience. I guess, there's probably not a yes or no answer to this. But in therapist patient relationship, it's beneficial that people are more similar worldviews or more different worldviews?
Charlotte Fox Weber: I think that difference and sameness is a lot more symbolic than how we script it a lot of the time. I've worked with plenty of people who are from my background, who are the same ethnicity, even the same culture. I can then end up over relating or there can be an assumption of sameness when actually there are differences. I have just written about my own experience of a very traumatic, sexually violent relationship I had when I was young with an older, powerful person. I'm aware that people who have been in therapy with me, a lot of them have experiences of sexual trauma and still there are differences. It's never exactly the same whatever the common ground may be.
So, there will always be a space between-- I think it's important to have that humility in a way as a therapist that even if you have similar worldviews, that doesn't mean that you know exactly what it's like to be this other person. But you can acknowledge that and you can try to understand. So, I describe in my final chapter about control. I describe a man who was anticipating his wife's death and agonizing over it. I felt so, so close to him, and yet, I also wasn't having his experience. We had shared values in certain ways and shared attitudes and characteristics, and there was great rapport, but there's also that gap that I think is just part of any human life where I couldn't fully relate to what he was going through.
Melanie Avalon: He was the one-- I guess, if it's a mosaic anyway, it might not matter if it was specifically him, but was he the one where you weren't originally going to work with him ongoing?
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yes. Well, the first and the last clients time came into it in all sorts of ways, so it was going to be time limited. Yeah, what you set out to do-- If you start by saying you just want six sessions and then it turns into six years, it's always interesting to think about time and desire.
Melanie Avalon: I loved that chapter, especially the control aspect. I'm fascinated by planning and I hadn't really thought about this until I read that chapter actually, because I am such a planner.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Are you?
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. Everything is planned. That's what makes me feel free, is having plans.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Oh, interesting. Because some people feel trapped and some people feel free.
Melanie Avalon: I was thinking of that. I was like, "Why is that?" Like, "Why do some people planning is what makes them feel free and in control and then some people with planning that they feel controlled?"
Charlotte Fox Weber: Right.
Melanie Avalon: Why?
Charlotte Fox Weber: So, fascinated that planning makes you feel free. Do you feel like you're in charge of those plans? Do you make the plans or are they other people's suggestions?
Melanie Avalon: I plan out everything and then they could be other people's plans. But if they're other people's plans, it's me accepting the plan and adding it to my plan. So, I'm still--
Charlotte Fox Weber: So, you're still appropriating.
Melanie Avalon: Mm-hmm. I won't agree. That's something I've had to work on a lot. [laughs] It's like saying yes versus no to things.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Right. The two hardest words in the English language are yes and no. They're so complicated. And then even the movement kind of "say no to more things," it's often subtle. We have mixed feelings about what we're saying no to, or we can start saying no too many things. I think it's just so important to really pay attention to why you're saying yes or no to something, just starting with that basic question. I think when it comes to you and plans and freedom, it sounds like you have a sense of being able to design your life and choose your path and know what's coming next.
Melanie Avalon: Mm-hmm. What's interesting about it, because I think you even commented on this in the book, we don't actually control anything. Well, we think we are in control, but we can't determine how things go. So, maybe it's a little bit of a--
Charlotte Fox Weber: A farce.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I love that word, by the way.
Charlotte Fox Weber: You love the word, farce?
Melanie Avalon: Yes.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Oh, I like that. I've never thought about it.
Melanie Avalon: I always say, like, "such a farce" is like one of my favorite phrases. But then again, I think with planning, I don't know how I'd be doing my life and everything that I'm doing right now if I didn't hardcore plan everything. So, it does feel effective.
Charlotte Fox Weber: I think that education should teach us how to think about scheduling and planning so much more. I don't think it's in the curriculum unless it's incidental. It would be the most useful class to have every year pretty much throughout school to think about the choices you make when it comes to plans. Like, even as a seven-year-old, eight-year-old, the plan that you have with your friend, that you arrange through your parents, what is it for, what is it about? Not obsessing over it. But even when it comes to scheduling therapy sessions, plans are a really significant part of life. Life doesn't always cooperate with our plans. We make plans and then unexpected things occur. If we don't make plans--
A lot of people who are petrified of committing to plans and don't want to be locked into something and refuse to plan, there's deprivation that comes with that. It's hardly freedom if you've refused to plan anything for your birthday, for example. That happens all the time. I've done this myself. If you don't make a plan and won't make a plan, it doesn't feel so great and in control when you're then disappointed, because you do things that you don't want to do that day or you do nothing at all. We're actually hoping that something magical would occur. We have to be able to make plans and also be able to change them.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. Two comments. One, I dated a guy for a while and he could not make plans. He would literally say to me--
Charlotte Fox Weber: Terribly hard on you.
Melanie Avalon: He would say that he could not, that he did not have the skill or the capability. Like, he tried, he just can't.
Charlotte Fox Weber: That's learned helplessness.
Melanie Avalon: I was like, "I don't know that that's accurate." I'm pretty sure. [laughs]
Charlotte Fox Weber: That's passive aggressive sounding to me. But also, something suited him to have that policy, even if it backfired. Yeah, there's a lot that could be explored with that idea. But in any case, did it make you freak out that he refused to make plans or did it allow you to boss him around? What happened?
Melanie Avalon: On a superficial level, it worked fine because he didn't mind me making all the plans, because then I was stressed because I knew he actively didn't like plans. So, then I was stressed that he would be annoyed by me planning things, but he was fine with it. So, on a surface level, it actually worked really well.
Charlotte Fox Weber: It's a bit of both of you.
Melanie Avalon: The issue was he just couldn't show up for plans. So, then that was the issue. Not so much the creating the plans to that point. And also, I wrote down a quote. I have a note about how to have a healthy relationship with time, which was, again this time control chapter. And you said, "Be reliable with it and discerning how you spend it." And so, I love that. So, basically, this idea of being reliable. So, I think showing up for other people, making plans, honoring commitments, I think is so important.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Tell me you're not in a relationship with this guy still.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, no, I'm not.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Referred to him in the past. Hopefully, he isn't listening to this. But this is where I would be very opinionated and am very opinionated as a therapist, which, I mean, I allow space and support whatever choices a client makes, but I also would voice concern about what you've just described, because that is a maddening dynamic. Setting you up to be the planner and then not only refusing to talk about the plans, but not showing up, it is a recipe for making you potentially anxious and obsessive and demanding. I don't know if it activated those things in you, but if you refuse to make a plan, then how does anything happen.
Melanie Avalon: I'm going back to the control thing. I know I have a lot of control. I don't know if it's control issues. Like, I'm very controlling with my own life, but I actively do not ever want to control other people. Because I used to be really bossy when I was growing up I think, because I am very controlling. I remember, I think in middle school maybe, my best friend at the time told me I was bossy.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Oh, one of those words.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. And after that, I like, "Oh." I was like, "I cannot be like this." So, actively since middle school, I've been like, "Do not be bossy. Do not control other people." So, I'm so glad she told me that. It's crazy how one person can say one thing at one moment, it can have such an impact on your life.
Charlotte Fox Weber: It's such an impact. That is why each of us has idiosyncratic relationship with different desires for what it means. It could be something you watched on TV, something a teacher said a moment in time that ends up being formative for how you think about yourself and an issue. But I also think that you're allowed to revise and update your relationship with that desire. So, I'm wanting to push you, I mean, I'm just admitting this out loud. You can tell me to shush, of course, but I'm wanting to push you to allow that you might still want to control people occasionally, even if you don't. Even if you aren't controlling the desire to control another person, it certainly seems to come into a lot of people's minds more often than we end up admitting to.
Melanie Avalon: Well, what it's like is-- I don't know. Do you listen to Taylor Swift ever?
Charlotte Fox Weber: I love Taylor Swift.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, good. [laughs] Okay. Well, she has her song, Mastermind on her Midnight's album, which is basically this idea of her in a relationship being the mastermind and planning.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yeah, this is why I love her, because she's so bold and she says the things that are kind of taboo that we don't want to admit, but she says it and it's liberating.
Melanie Avalon: So, that song has resonated with me, because like you just said to me, so actively, I don't think if you met anybody that knows me-- I don't want to speak for other people, but I'm pretty sure you could walk up to anybody who knows me and they would say, I'm not controlling. That would not--
Charlotte Fox Weber: Controlling. Right.
Melanie Avalon: But going back to what you just said about wanting control of other people, maybe I try to come up with the perfect plan to get what I want from somebody without them feeling like it was me controlling the situation.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Right. I think the great thing about therapy and connection, in general, it can come from different sources, is radically accepting that we can have all sorts of longings and desires and fantasies and thoughts. They're not all nice by any means. But there's a world of difference between what we think and feel and how we behave. So, I worked with someone recently who was shocked to realize that she absolutely wanted to control her father. She wasn't behaving in a controlling way. She was actually behaving in an overly compliant way, but she was incredibly upset by a situation. That was really the kind of crux of it in a way that she didn't want to feel, didn't want to want, but she wanted to control him and tell him to do something and fix him and maneuver him. It's not as if she then went on to do those things with her father, but facing it in herself allowed her to forgive herself for wanting to control someone and realize that she couldn't and didn't have to be controlling.
Melanie Avalon: Okay, that's such a good-- because there was a really similar mirror situation I had reading your book, The Attention chapter, when you're talking about wanting attention, you gave an example of people wanting attention. Often, it's like showy, like people doing all this stuff to want attention, but also it can be the opposite. It can be not being present to give attention. So, I was like, "Oh." So, for example, me not texting somebody, that's allowed, but that's actually me still trying to get attention. It's the same want.
Charlotte Fox Weber: But we're covert. We're very cloak and dagger with how our desires play out. There're so many sneaky, hidden, camouflaged ways of expressing ourselves. And again, when we can be onto that and just recognize what it is that we're really doing whatever is really going on, then there can be a kind of congruence, but I'm going to fixate over this now probably. But the guy you described who refused to make plans and then didn't show up, that is a very impactful position to take. It is a plan in itself. The refusal to make a plan, that's actually a lot of work already that he's set up. And whatever plan you were making and then waiting for and then would he show up or would he not show up, that's so present.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, it was like planning for me to fly to see him and then being stood up-type situations. [laughs] It was not good.
Charlotte Fox Weber: That's just actually terribly rude and not acceptable as behavior, but also, it's making him utterly significant. One of the things I've noticed is, when people are-- I can be guilty of this, definitely, but when people are really chaotic and unclear about their plan, like will they be there? When are they coming? Do you know when your friend is going to be there? Is she going to the wedding or not? Will they arrive or not? You can be sitting at a party dominated by the person who might show up, but might not show up. It's an impactful move to be unreliable and to be avoidant in those ways.
Melanie Avalon: No, I'm feeling it viscerally on my body. It's very impactful. I remember one time, just not to give a specific, but we were driving to see each other, both of us driving four hours to see each other, and we were texting the whole way. So, clearly, it was going to happen. I was going to meet him. I was texting him. And then after driving four hours, he stopped responding. He had so been that way throughout the whole relationship of not showing up or maybe showing up or changing plans that I was like, "Okay, he's not showing up." He did show up. But the fact that I had that feeling of not getting a text after driving for four hours, I was like, "Okay, it's a good mirror for me to realize the effect it has had on me as far as how it's controlling me and the relationship" or I'm letting myself be controlled.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Right. It's hugely labor intensive, what you've just described. The amount of emotional labor that goes into wondering if someone will come or not, it's so stressful and it's so preoccupying. Then you're trying not to seem worried and be annoying and demanding and controlling. Oh, you're doing things acrobatically in your own mind trying to accommodate someone who could just actually make things simpler and clearer. I think when it comes to plans, we can all be tricky as well. No one is perfect about plans. If you're perfect about plans, then that in itself is problematic. But we all have uneasy, interesting relationship with plans and time.
Melanie Avalon: Huge question from that, because first of all, I will say, so that relationship was-- I have nothing but gratitude for what it was and what I learned and what I experienced and what I learned from it for going forward. It was really bad at points.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Interesting, because [laughs] I'm feeling darker things just hearing about it.
Melanie Avalon: No, it was very, very dark. Actually, it's like one of your clients talking about regrets. I don't really have regrets, because I had beautiful moments and I learned so much from it. And going forward, I learned what to appreciate more, I learned what to look for, which this goes to a huge question I have as far as the concept of red flags and yellow flags and-
Charlotte Fox Weber: Beige flags.
Melanie Avalon: [laughs] -other flags. So, after that experience with that person, I created a rule in my head where I was like-- This wasn't for necessarily romantic. This was just for engaging with anybody. I was like, "If I make plans with some--" because I'm always doing calls with people, because I'm meeting people constantly. So, I was like, "I'm going to have a rule where if I'm making a plan to meet somebody for the first time like for a phone call or something, and they stand me up, like, no second chances, unless they got in an accident or something."
Charlotte Fox Weber: So glad that I did not mess up in our meeting.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, no.
Charlotte Fox Weber: I like it. It's hardcore.
Melanie Avalon: Well, that's my question though, because at first, I was like, "Okay, this is my rule." Like, "No second chances, unless it's something where obviously it makes sense." They got sick or if it's just a no show.
Charlotte Fox Weber: It better be a good excuse.
Melanie Avalon: Mm-hmm. Yeah, but then I was like, "Is that a healthy approach to take?"
Charlotte Fox Weber: I think if someone stands you up and isn't in touch and actually sorry about it, then that's not considerate behavior and believe people when they show you who they are. So, I think it's an understandable protective measure that you took after the no planner guy to not be messed around again. When we're traumatized by a relationship or by something, there is a very strong, healthy desire to make sure that never happens again. But at the same time, we can work against ourselves, and weirdly repeat, and reenact different versions of it happening again and again.
Melanie Avalon: The takeaway I took from it was, for me to not show up for something, I have to be like dead or-- I will at least let you know. If I got in a car accident, the first thing I probably-- If I was meeting somebody, I'd be like, "Okay, tell this person." What it says to me is whether or not you value somebody else's time.
Charlotte Fox Weber: And respect. I think respect is such a huge part of plans and time.
Melanie Avalon: Something else that you touched on not wanting to want things or wanting to want things. I'm really fascinated by this concept of-- You talked in the book about how we don't like the feeling of desperation and we don't like the feeling-- Yeah, well, really of desperation, of wanting something so bad that we don't like that feeling. I had that experience recently and I was actually thinking about your book when it happened, because I found myself--
Charlotte Fox Weber: Because we all have moments of desperation, by the way.
Melanie Avalon: Little parts of things from your book pop into my head now when I experience different wants and desires in life. So, I found myself in a situation where I was really wanting another person, and I hadn't had that experience in a while. The thing I was saying out loud on repeat to my girlfriend that I was with was, I don't like this-- Again, I had a lot of wine in me though too, but I just kept saying in repeat, I was like, "I don't like this feeling. I don't like this feeling."
Charlotte Fox Weber: It's out of control for one thing. If you like control--
Melanie Avalon: So, what do you find with people with the wants and the secret desires that they have and enjoying that want versus not wanting to want things? You even had one client who didn't want to care about things. That was the Freedom chapter.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yes. You're so retentive. I feel so read by you.
Melanie Avalon: It was very, very engaging work. So, how do you feel about this concept of wanting things, wanting to want things, not wanting to want things, feeling free if you want or don't want something, attachments? What are your thoughts in that world?
Charlotte Fox Weber: I think that we should lean into the discomfort of wanting and not having and having some of it, not all of it, potentially losing it. Desperation and helplessness happen to all of us. Whether we want it to or not, there are desperate moments in life. I think that if we can tolerate that and surrender to that, that is not the same thing as completely collapsing and just giving up. But facing the really helpless, delicate part of ourselves and being strong about the delicacy, I think we can be more comfortable with the discomfort if that sounds possible. Like, you can breathe more easily when you realize that actually. Of course, you're going to have feelings of desperation and terror and out of controlness being sexually attracted to someone, romantically infatuated by someone who might not like you back or who might like you back, but might mess you around or might even make you happy, that too can be overwhelming.
But there are all sorts of risks involved in feeling desperation or admitting desperation to ourselves or to someone else. But it doesn't make you a desperate person. I think what you said at the beginning of our conversation that not feeling judged by a therapist is really the most important thing. Part of that I agree with you and part of that is because we are so harshly judgmental of our own minds and working against that. Even the bossy remark, I want you to lean into that and embrace and love the bossy side of you. It's all part of you and it's all acceptable. Like, feeling desperate, feeling powerful, feeling free, feeling trapped, whatever it is, you can actually survive it. So, I think not being freaked out and intimidated by our own minds is a big part of what helps us deal with desire itself.
Melanie Avalon: I'm so glad you said all of that. That's definitely been a theme in my own therapy sessions, which is-- It goes back to what I was talking earlier about being haunted by this concept of the ego. I'll talk with my therapist about different parts of me. She does give me that perspective that you're giving right now of loving and accepting these parts of myself that I very severely judge. When she first was saying that, I was putting up a lot of resistance and barriers to it. I was raised really religious. I have these ideas of thinking, "No, this is wrong. These things are definitely wrong. This is bad. This is good." And so, it's really hard for me to not judge and not feel guilty about a lot of stuff.
Charlotte Fox Weber: That's so honest and real. You've been socialized to evaluate your character in these ways and undoing that. Like, even the pressure to not be judgmental about yourself, it's really hard and it doesn't just happen instantly.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, which actually, this ties back into something I wanted to talk about earlier, so this brings it all together. Going back to the concept of-- well, it's a lot of concepts that we've touched on. But power and also women in society. There was one client who I think it was your longest client, and she was talking about how-- She was haunted by her youth and her beauty when she was younger. She was talking about how--
Charlotte Fox Weber: The Attention chapter.
Melanie Avalon: Wait, was it Chloe or Astrid? I think it was Astrid.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Or, was it wanting what you shouldn't? Alice.
Melanie Avalon: Alice. Yes, it was Alice.
Charlotte Fox Weber: The one who becomes healthy, but misses the self-destruction.
Melanie Avalon: Yes. So, she talks about this idea that-- She said that she would pretend to be more critical and doubting than she was, because she was saying that she couldn't be pretty intelligent and fun all at once. She couldn't be that. [laughs] So, she would dumb herself down. Or, if she had something like with her abuse situation, then it was okay for her to beautiful. She was basically saying that, in society, you can beautiful if you're broken, but you can't beautiful in all these other great things and not have issues, then you're, I guess, a threat to society. What do you feel about this idea of women in society and how it's not okay to be--? Like I just said, you can't be powerful and beautiful and intelligent and all these things. That's not okay or you judge yourself for it.
Charlotte Fox Weber: It's not okay. I think it is okay, but yes, we are told in so many ways that it's not okay. We're given mixed messages. So, on the one hand, love yourself, respect yourself, empower yourself, even have gratitude. But on the other hand, don't be full of yourself, don't be greedy, don't be demanding, don't be needy, don't be bossy. There are so invisible injunctions like rulebooks that we're carrying around in our heads that come from different voices of authority, and systems, and cultures, and religions, and family values, and friend groups. We get really judgmental about actually liking ourselves. It can be weirdly difficult and totally worthwhile to let yourself enjoy the moments of really liking yourself, liking how you look, liking how you sound, liking something you've achieved, liking just how you feel, whatever it is.
I think we need to encourage ourselves and each other to just really be okay with that. But we're stop starting a lot when it comes to ego, because there is some ego in that. Ego is not the same as narcissism. Ego is sense of self and individuality. And yes, it can be out of control, but so can everything. I think it's a really unreasonable and punishing message that we should have no ego. Get rid of the ego. We say it a lot of the time-- I used to say it or hear myself saying it years ago like, "No. That's egoey. I don't want ego. It was a dirty word." If we allow that we have ego, then it's a healthy thing that can be worked with. It doesn't have to make you a dictator or make you unbearably arrogant, but pretending to have no ego or really diminishing yourself and feeling diminished to the point of not thinking you matter, it can make your life just so miserable.
Melanie Avalon: Like I said earlier, I'm haunted by this idea of the ego. And like you said, we make it a synonym for narcissism.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Like bad. Basically, just bad.
Melanie Avalon: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Where you could have, I guess, a more appropriate synonym for the ego or maybe would be just the authentic self like this is--
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yeah, I love ego because it's just three letters. And ego is my amigo. [laughs] It's one thing I like to think of. It's so simple. Yeah, you could find a replacement if ego is tarnished as a word. But I think part of the problem with the word itself is that it has so many different meanings and definitions and interpretations, like, even just historically, for what it means. But a sense of your own worth that we are worthwhile, and even more than worthwhile, we can be fond of ourselves. We can enjoy our own company. We can really like something that we've done or something about who we are. So, I think that desire comes into all of that, because if you don't consider your own desires, then you can't really have a picture of who you are.
Melanie Avalon: I read a quote and it was saying that, "The way that we should view ourselves is basically like we're a picture that somebody else painted." For self-love, like, "Appreciating something that we didn't create." There's no "ego" in really appreciating a picture that somebody else drew. But if you drew it, then it's like, "Oh, then it feels egotistical." So, it's like, if we could have that perspective, just a third-party objective.
Charlotte Fox Weber: If you could see yourself through rose tinted glasses.
Melanie Avalon: Yes. Or as another person appreciating yourself.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Or even just through clear eyes, like, just seeing yourself with enough air to have an actual viewpoint. But I think we get so locked into our own heads that there's this great expression, the eye cannot see its own eyelashes unless you get eyelash extensions, which I'm in favor of if you want to. But it's hard to see your own eyelashes. If you try it right now, in this moment, you can't really see them. You can't really see yourself in your own wonderfulness or difficulties with absolute perspective. I think that it's important to not think that you can really, really know exactly who you are, because it's not as if you're then able to arrive at ego confirmed and then that's it. It's an ongoing process and it's an interesting, curious, playful, adventurous process of discovery and change and growth.
I think sometimes just knowing that we can't yet see ourselves with clarity is a really big revelation. So, whatever confused and contradictory picture we have of ourselves, we don't really understand exactly how we think about ourselves.
Melanie Avalon: Well, it's so interesting. I remember one of the things my therapist said was, I was judging a part of myself, and we were talking about the ego, she and I.
Charlotte Fox Weber: I'm so glad that she goes there.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, yes. Because like I said, I have to unlearn a lot of what I was taught growing up. One of the main things that was drilled into my head, which did have positives, but I think it also had some negatives, which was like, be modest. That was like don't tempt the men. Humility, I think, is really great, but it was very much like be modest, like, don't draw attention to yourself. But what my therapist was saying was-- I don't remember what it was that I was judging and talking about ego, but she was saying that the part of me that was judging myself, that was actually-- the negative ego was the part of me that was actually trying not to have an ego.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Oh, I like that. Your therapist sounds really good, by the way. She sounds bold, and onto things, and pushes you. Pushes is another word that can sound wrong, even controlling, but nudges, provokes, and you are comfortable with her. But it's so difficult to realize that even your critical side, your complainy side, your helpless side, it can be full of hidden ego agenda. So, being bullied by your boss and committing yourself to that kind of egomaniacal boss, something I have certainly done, there was some part of serving and wanting to please this other person and judging myself, hating myself. There was some part of that that was also my own twisted ego that got misdirected and played out through that relationship if that makes sense. Even though I was diminished and subservient in a way, I was actually secretly wanting to be more powerful and be more like him.
Melanie Avalon: 100%. Actually, I used to have very long esoteric debates with my friends I remember in high school, and it was around the question of, can you do something you don't want to do? Because I remember thinking, I think everything you do is actually what you want to do, even if you think it's what you don't want to do.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yeah. I think we're usually really ambivalent and have mixed feelings.
Melanie Avalon: With every action.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Well, with every action. I think there are different parts of it. I think that we sleepwalk through a lot of life, unfortunately, and that is the thing to work against. We can go into autopilot where we are doing things, and not thinking about why we're doing them, and not even having feelings or knowing about the feelings. We're in autopilot and we're going through the motions of life without really feeling alive. But I think when we pay attention to why we're doing something or how we feel about something we're doing, usually, it's for mixed reasons. Some part of you wants to do it to please someone else. Some part of you wants to do it for another hidden reason. We're never exactly as we seem. I feel like I'm making us sound surreptitious and tricky, but we are.
Melanie Avalon: Even in the sleepwalking through life situation, it feels like, at that time, that person, what they want is to be on autopilot.
Charlotte Fox Weber: It's not like the ultimate vision of the glorious life to be a sleepwalker, just like going through the motions of going to the same place every day, having the same conversations, doing the same thing again and again and again, and not doing the things that actually interest you.
Melanie Avalon: At that moment, that's what they want. Because if they wanted something more, another option more, then I feel like they would do that. Like I said, I would have this debate for hours with my friends in high school. I don't know how you do something that's not what you want to do. I don't know how that's possible.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Interesting. We could debate for hours on this one. I think that we can do things for reasons that we haven't considered and actually we really didn't want to be there. We really didn't want to do that, but we did want something else, which is how we got into that situation. So, when you find yourself just raging with resentment, I don't know if this happens. I get resentment debt that sneaks up on me where suddenly I've addressed this pattern and I try not to go into resentment debt by acknowledging fast and often when something bothers me.
But if I pretend to be okay with doing something that I'm not actually up for doing and I commit to something that actually doesn't suit me and doesn't serve me and isn't working for me, but I'm still going along with it and giving more and more and more without really wanting to. I think there is this resentment that just festers and it grows. It can be deadening and de-spiriting and it can play out in different ways for us. It might come out as rage. It might come out as lost motivation and apathy and disconnection, but I think that looking at what you're doing in your life that you really don't want to be doing, it's really important to think about it and think about why you're still doing it. Sometimes, we have to do things we don't want to do, like, pay taxes, and go to an event that is just really important, but you really don't feel like going. But I think that understanding why we've made that choice gives us an individuality and honesty in a way, emotional honesty. So, like, "Okay, I'm going to that wedding because it's really important to this relative of mine." But I also know that I'm dreading it, and going begrudgingly, and maybe it'll end up being more fun than I expect it to be, but just actually being unvarnished in our own way of thinking about ourselves.
Melanie Avalon: I love this so much. My sister and I talk about this all the time. We're big proponents of not doing things. Again, there are exceptions where you really do have to go for whatever reason, but basically, not going to things that you don't want to go to just for other people. Like, just don't.
Charlotte Fox Weber: The people pleaser trap, because it tends to not work well for you, sometimes for the other person. Sometimes, when the people pleaser can say yes to too many plans and then disappoint everyone by falling short in some way everywhere, it doesn't necessarily even achieve the goal of pleasing someone when you just go along with something that you don't want to do. I think that clarity is kindness. Actually, if you know that you don't want to do something, it's also not fair to another person to resentfully, dutifully go along with something and not be honest about wishing you were anywhere else. I even include the role of being a therapist with that.
I describe some of the struggles I've had with clients, like, when I'm pissed off with them or feeling frustrated or holding back from saying something. Sometimes, it's really difficult to bear witness to a person who's making damaging choices or thinking about something in a way where I think about it in a different way, my ego is getting in the way or they're denying something. Whatever it is, I think that actually being silent about how you really feel, it comes at a cost.
Melanie Avalon: I agree so much. Two things, one is, you know when you have that urge, I definitely feel it in my body when you feel like you should say something or you're not expressing a want or a need. I don't want to make blanket statements, but I like what you said about clarity is kindness. I just feel like being honest about the situation can be so helpful. And same thing with boundaries. Because I think people often look at bound-- I'm like all about the boundaries. I feel like people see boundaries as selfish that if you have boundaries that that's just thinking about yourself. But I honestly, genuinely believe that.
Charlotte Fox Weber: It's kindness.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. The only way you can really show up to the world and be the best version for yourself and others is, if you have, I think, boundaries in your life.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Because it's that paradox as well that you have to have. You have to have railings in order to then have the freedom to wander. Like, you have to know the parameters in order to then be playful and know what you're in for. I once went to a time management workshop, where the woman running the workshop, she arrived late, which really pissed me off. I was just actually so annoyed.
Melanie Avalon: It's a time management workshop.
Charlotte Fox Weber: She didn't acknowledge the irony. Had she arrived late and admitted that this was an instance of getting it [giggles] wrong with whatever timing thing kept her from being on time. But she acted like she wasn't late, and then was confused, and gaslit the audience. But then she ran over, which again would have been fine had she said that that was the plan, that she would make up for having arrived late by running late. But she ran over by such a huge amount of time that I became really agitated and anxious about then being late to the next thing that I had planned. I found myself trapped in this time management workshop that was meant to help me. It did help me, but not in the way I expected it to.
But boundaries like, say what you mean. I don't want to go on that trip, because I don't want to go there. It can be so helpful for the other person also, rather than pretending to be okay with something, and then acting hostile or weird or mute or having to put on a show and fake how you feel, like, it can actually be such a relief. Just be straightforward. It's efficient as well. It's efficient and you can deal with it whatever it is.
So, one of the clients I describe-- I ended up not including this detail in the final version of the book, but this person asked me if he was boring and he had a fear of being boring, and I pretended to not ever find him boring for quite a while, because saying to someone who's in therapy with you, "Yeah, you're boring." Oh my God, it feels so mean and so horrible and unkind. And yet, he was an interesting person who had become incredibly bored by certain issues in his life. He was bored and he was boring himself. I was pretending not to see what was happening. It wasn't actually fair to him to keep pretending to not be bored by what was boring. So, I finally acknowledged to him in a way that was respectful and not aggressive or a wholesale put down, but I acknowledged that actually the way he was talking about something again and again and again, and the details that he was focusing on were not as interesting as they could be.
Then I did say the word. I'm even awkward about the word right now. I finally said it was a little bit boring, but not as a person overall, like, we're all occasionally boring and we're occasionally aggressive and we're occasionally bossy and occasionally domineering and occasionally clumsy. Whatever it is, we can embrace it without thinking that that is a kind of definitive label on who we are.
Melanie Avalon: How did he respond?
Charlotte Fox Weber: Oh, it was one of the best breakthrough moments. If I sound braggy, it's because I'm really glad that I finally went there. He was incredibly relieved, because he knew he was being boring. He knew he was bored, but then he was trying to convince himself that he wasn't ever boring. He had this fear of a part of himself when actually he could relax about it. I was denying reality in a way. Once I could just acknowledge that something was boring and not deeply fascinating, it was survivable. The work became energetic again. There was something stimulating about it, I think, for both of us. Not in a sexual way, but there was energy and fresh life, because we had just finally clarified. The emotional truth, I know it is a cliche, but the truth does set you free. It doesn't mean that you have to go around telling everyone everything or say absolutely everything or think that you know the only truth, but actually embracing whatever the feeling is, whatever the thought is, and knowing that you can handle it. Desperation definitely is part of that too.
So, when people say, this is a desperate side, I feel desperate, I don't want to be desperate. I will say again in a way that I hope is thoughtful always, but this is desperation. What of it? It's not a shameful thing to feel desperate. It's uncomfortable, it's unpleasant, but it's not something that we have to be horrified by.
Melanie Avalon: That's so interesting as well. That's actually one of my few fears that I do have in therapy. I always am worried that what if they're bored. Actually, the reason I mentioned I said earlier, all of my therapist changes were because I had moved, but the one that wasn't was a therapist I had, and we were doing brainspotting.
Charlotte Fox Weber: EFT.
Melanie Avalon: It wasn't EMDR. It's similar. I think it's called brainspotting, but it's not EMDR.
Charlotte Fox Weber: It might be brainspotting.
Melanie Avalon: I have a company I work with also called BrainTap. So, that's why I'm getting confused. I think it was brainspotting. But in any case, she actually fell asleep during one of our sessions, [giggles] and it was like all of my worst fears about therapy because I have this fear, maybe not so much that I'm boring, but maybe by extension that's what it would be. I have this worry that the therapist doesn't want to be there. Like, they don't want to be listening to my problems right now. Yeah, she fell asleep.
Charlotte Fox Weber: That they won't like you or find you interesting and wonderful.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, they just don't want to be there and that I'm just going on and on. But I remember she fell asleep and I was like, "Do I keep talking right now?" [laughs] It was the most awkward moment.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Oh, my gosh, I'm so intrigued by this. What happened next? Did you call her on it?
Melanie Avalon: I think my eyes were closed for that. I wasn't looking at her. So, it was the moment where-- It was the whole thing, like, when you're in school and you're falling asleep and your head drops and then you wake up again. But then she actually did fall asleep. And so, then I just kept talking.
Charlotte Fox Weber: [laughs] She settled into a full sleep.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. So, I just kept talking. I was like, "I'll just keep talking until she wakes up again" and I'll just pretend like I didn't see that happen. I didn't leave the next day or anything, but it was around the timing of the pandemic, and we just stopped seeing each other for a few sessions, and then she never reached out again, like, ever again.
Charlotte Fox Weber: She didn't say it either.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, she never reached out again. I was like, "Oh." I've been seeing her for a while. So, that was a little bit surprising to me. My therapist now, if I didn't reach out, she would be like, "Where are you?"
Charlotte Fox Weber: So, this person couldn't also admit that she cared or was concerned about you.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Wow. I'm having a very strong feeling about her and the ex who refused to make plans or show up. So, you didn't say anything in the end and it never got--
Melanie Avalon: No, I didn't say anything then. But I've been thinking that maybe I needed a new therapist, because I wasn't quite feeling the connection. I didn't feel like we were connected. And so, then when that happened, I was like, "Okay, I think that's the sign to find somebody new."
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yeah. But isn't it fascinating how things can be repeated and reenacted, even in therapy, because you were pretending. I've pretended so many times, even after my breakthrough of saying, "Hello, pig face," at the age of seven to that therapist. I went on to have therapeutic relationships, where I pretended to find the therapy helpful when it wasn't, and pretended to not be struggling with certain shameful things that were too awful to admit to and would instead talk about safer issues. I pretended and therapists pretended back. I had equivalent moments, like, I worked with a therapist where I said, "I feel like you're really bothered by something that I said earlier." And she said, "No, I would never judge something that you tell me." It didn't feel true. Had she been able to say actually, even the next session or after that, actually, I was bothered. It was actually about something else, or maybe it was something to do with me, maybe it wasn't, whatever it was.
When we're faking it in therapy, I think it's more problematic than faking orgasms. But it's like, who are we doing that for when you're lying to your therapist, essentially, like, putting on a show for your therapist? It's so interesting. When it happens, even when you're a fully formed adult and you're so grown up and so powerful and so successful and so capable in so many ways, but there's a child part of you that wants to cooperate and sees that person as an authority expert and doesn't want to say something rude. I mean, not to speak for you.
Melanie Avalon: No, I was just thinking about how I am so grateful. It definitely takes time with therapist to reach the level of comfort where I do feel like I can say anything. But even now, I was thinking about where I do see myself still censor myself, even if it's just like a tiny bit.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Right. Even loving your therapist, it's wonderful. But also, there will be or should be a time when your therapist annoys you and disappoints you in some way, and you can address it and survive it and get to the other side rather than slinging away and not making a thing of it and not really explaining. So often, my friends and people I work with will describe some really difficult thing in therapy where their therapist did something or they felt something, and I'll say, "Did you say that to therapist? Did you say any of that?" And they'll say, "No, I didn't say it to the therapist. No, I stopped going." I've done that, politely ghosting therapist thing. But it's really invigorating and useful and transformative when you can actually just say what hasn't been helpful, what hasn't been okay with you.
I don't know if you would email therapist now saying, "You fell asleep and it bothered me." You don't need to necessarily do that, but although, I'm fantasizing about that happening. But with your current therapist, if she does get something wrong or you are pretending something, like, actually calling it out could be interesting.
Melanie Avalon: I can think of things that I censor.
Charlotte Fox Weber: She does no wrong so far.
Melanie Avalon: I really can't think of anything where it's created that feeling in me.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Right. You can start with that. She sounds perfect.
Melanie Avalon: She's definitely really great for me, yeah, in my life right now, and I'm so, so appreciative.
Charlotte Fox Weber: But I'm wanting you to also not insist that she be perfect.
Melanie Avalon: Yes. No, definitely.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Interesting though, because not to dive too deep into your psyche, you can have your boundaries and tell me to back off.
Melanie Avalon: No, I love all this.
Charlotte Fox Weber: I think that when you've also been brought up with strong beliefs-- You said you've had a religious upbringing and I don't know if you're religious now in the same way, but it can also redirect itself, come into other relationships where actually, it's like an unofficial religion that you wholeheartedly believe in this therapist and have faith in this therapist and you're all in. I have this tendency myself. I wasn't brought up religiously officially, but in a psychological way, yes, to believe in certain people and ideas and values. It's a kind of devotion and it can be very helpful to think about how your sense of self comes into that.
Melanie Avalon: The religion thing has been really interesting in my life and definitely, one of the biggest things I've worked on with my therapist. Not so much the religion per se, but just the ideas that were instilled in me and reevaluating how I feel about them now and what they mean.
Charlotte Fox Weber: So, what if you disagree with your therapist?
Melanie Avalon: I guess, a good example would be that one I said earlier where I was saying-- I don't remember exactly what it was, but basically, it was the selfish, ego discussion, and she was saying that basically that I was being overly judgmental about things. I didn't agree. I was thinking, no, there are things that are right and wrong, and this is not okay in me, and I do need to judge this in me. That's been like an evolution. And when that happened, I definitely did give her some pushback in the session about it. I don't know if I'm completely to where she is, but I definitely see the benefit and value of what she's been working on me in that aspect, and it's been very freeing and helpful.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Of course, it can go the other way if you're just constantly combative in therapy and that happens, just disagreeing with everything. That isn't so useful either, but interesting that you allowed yourself to find the edges and consider your own thoughts separately from what she was telling you, you should be feeling or not feeling.
Melanie Avalon: You can't see things objectively. It's so hard to try to look at yourself objectively and find the right mirrors in yourself and other people to think that we're all doing that all the time is crazy.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Well, and I think that this sounds very Wednesday Addams of me. I love Wednesday Addams. I think that she's actually brilliant as a character from the Addams family. In her darkness, I think there's something encouraging, and real, and also whimsical about it. I think that giving up can be a great thing, which I know sounds really downbeat. But giving up on the idea that you have to constantly be searching for validation that will determine your worth or know exactly who you are. I think giving up on the idea that you're going to arrive at total fulfillment and then have it figured out or get the perfect relationship or even giving up on always feeling gratitude at every moment and being healthy. I think that when you acknowledge that it's a constant work in progress, there's a kind of shift that can happen. It's like life becomes wider and more expansive when you give up on the strict instructions to somehow get it right.
Melanie Avalon: Would you equate that to acceptance, just like accepting that things are okay the way they are?
Charlotte Fox Weber: I think it's paradoxical when we accept something, we can then actually make changes and adjustments. So, that includes like, I begin my book with Tessa facing her death. She was really desperate to acknowledge and accept and talk about the fact that she was about to die. But the people around her weren't really accepting it or admitting it and letting her talk about it. I struggled to accept it, because it's unacceptable when people are dying and they don't want to be dying. So, even accepting what is absolutely unacceptable, it doesn't mean that you endorse it or like it or have to indulge it, but accept the feelings and thoughts that come into your mind and allow for other thoughts to come in also. It doesn't have to dominate and be the defining, definitive, conclusive thing if you accept anything about your life.
I want to say that more concisely. You could accept that, actually, it's really unacceptable that your therapist fell asleep in the session, didn't say anything about it, and you felt unable to say anything about it because it's awkward and embarrassing and uncomfortable. She should have actually acknowledged that she'd fallen asleep, if she realized that she'd fallen asleep. She probably did, but maybe was too ashamed to admit it or hoped that she'd gotten away with it and that you hadn't noticed. But in a situation like that, accepting it now, it doesn't mean, so behave however you want to behave. But I think it's accepting what's there, even if it's terrible, even if it's dark, whatever it is, and then figuring out your next steps and what you can do.
Melanie Avalon: One of the most powerful moments I had in therapy, and this was when I was in California, I had a different therapist at the time. But I went through this period in my life which I call my black hole dark phase. So, it was like a year and a half or two years where I had a lot of health issues I was working on. I think it was probably two years. I didn't do anything socially with anybody. I didn't take any pictures. I just worked. I did my serving job and I did the podcast. I wasn't depressed. I didn't feel depressed, but I felt very-- I wasn't allowing myself to have really happy emotions, because that would make me sad to have happy emotions because I missed my old self. So, I was just like numb, but I didn't identify--
Charlotte Fox Weber: That's so beautifully put.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, it was just like chosen apathy because I was too scared to feel. But I didn't identify with the depression terminology. Even now, I don't think I was depressed. Interestingly, talking about the acceptance, because you use this word in your book, and I was like, "Oh, this must be a therapist word because this was the word that she said to me at the time," and I found it so freeing, and then you use it in your book, which was the concept of liminal space. I remember the specific example was-- It was Christmas and I was sad because I wanted to listen to Christmas music. But if I listened to Christmas music, it would remind me of my old self, and I wanted to be at a different place, and I didn't want to tarnish--
Because when I think of Christmas, it's all happy things. I don't have any negative associations with Christmas and I was like, "I can't listen to Christmas music." Because then, associate this part of my life with Christmas and I can't taint Christmas, but I feel like I should listen to Christmas music. So, it was like this whole thing. She just said so simply.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Pushing away the feelings.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. And so, she just said so simply, she was like, "Melanie, you don't have to listen to Christmas music this year and that's okay." I was like, "Oh, you're right. It doesn't have to be this whole thing. I can just not listen to Christmas music right now and that's okay." [laughs]
Charlotte Fox Weber: You don't have to be in a labyrinth torturing yourself about, should I do this, but I don't want to do-- We get stuck in mazes and actually we're allowed to exit. What you've just described is a beautiful example of giving up in a way, like, giving up on the dilemma or the agonizing over Christmas music. Not giving up on all of life, obviously. But giving up on thinking that you needed to be tortured and sort out that particular problem.
Melanie Avalon: I just felt so free. She was like, "This is a liminal space that you're in. You don't have to listen to Christmas music. Maybe you will next year." And I was like, "Okay, [giggles] that's great."
Charlotte Fox Weber: Very often with desire, when we're dancing around something and not admitting it, it comes at such a cost. It's so inefficient. The years that we can spend not allowing ourselves to flourish, because we don't want to show ego or have ego or admit that we really would like to have children or not have children or whatever it is, like, the fear we have of our own desires. When we actually go there, whether it's the desire to kill someone and obviously, please don't. But you can have that desire at a moment in time. You can deal with it and then have other, more loving feelings at a different moment for the same person. But when you can just accept it, then it doesn't have to actually be as big as we make it.
Melanie Avalon: To that point, I was fascinated you talked about with the sexual desires and like, the rape fantasy example, I found that really fascinating because I feel like that would be an example of something that people have rape fantasies or dreams involving that that would seem something very bad.
Charlotte Fox Weber: And yet so prevalent. I feel like the rape fantasy is so much more common than we admit.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, because you talked about-- I'm sure it could be different for different people, but a reason for it could be people, especially like women being told that we shouldn't want certain things sexually. So, the only way that they can fulfill that is if you put it in the context in your head of it being done to you rather than you wanting it.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Right. So, as wild as this sounds. Alice is one of the clients who had those sorts of fantasies. Sexual fantasies, they're uncensored if we really allow ourselves to go there. And also, it's okay to not go there when you don't feel like it, but it's also just not the same as it's truly happening. But Alice wanted bad things to be done to her in a way to get away from wanting to do bad things herself. I'm saying bad in her sense of it. I think in the chapter about understanding where there's a kind of egomaniacal boss, who's an architect, overly serving someone who's power hungry and bossy and domineering and terrible, it can be its own way of not admitting you have those wants. Also, I guess, what I'm saying is it's not the same as the rape fantasy, but the fantasy of someone else being the bad villain where it's being done to you. It can be our way of trying to deal with the dark part of ourselves, including like this friend is being really horrible to me. Maybe the friend is being really horrible to you, but there's also something that keeps you connected in having the friend be horrible to you.
Melanie Avalon: Not exactly the same thing, but-- Was it Astrid, the one that had the actual rape?
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yes, the woman in her 60s.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah.
Charlotte Fox Weber: That is a real story. I mean, a woman in her 60s who was raped and came to therapy.
Melanie Avalon: Did she really show you pictures of them walking in the woods and she was like bruised?
Charlotte Fox Weber: She showed me pictures. I've actually had three women in that age category who have revealed sexual violence and trauma without wanting it to be named, and tried to make it nice, and make it okay, and make it not be a thing, not have been a thing. It's something that I think is really underreported and has so many layers of shame, including the sense-- And this sounds really outrageous what I'm about to say, but including the sense that, if you're past a certain age, you're almost boasting if you are still sexualized by someone else. There's this added shame that you should almost be grateful, if you're getting sexual validation. I think that can be added misery. We have mixed feelings about these things. Maybe sometimes we want those things as well. By we, I mean, wanting to be objectified and then not wanting to be objectified. Like, we are contradictory because we've been given mixed messages.
Melanie Avalon: 100%. That really resonates with me. Interestingly, and I know you touched on it earlier about you said you had your own sexual trauma, and you said it just now and you said it in the book about how it's more common than I think most people realize. Interestingly, for me, I had sexual trauma in college, which I have not publicly talked about or anything. It took a long time for me to even talk about it in therapy. But then more recently-- I just find this really interesting. I had a sexual assault from a massage therapist. Well, I went to the police, I reported it, and I immediately talked about it on the podcast. I actually run PSAs on this show about it to raise awareness.
Charlotte Fox Weber: I'm going to listen immediately after this conversation. Good for you.
Melanie Avalon: Thank you. What was so interesting though about all of it-- So, the massage therapist situation, which was in the moment, very traumatic, but I felt-- I'm so glad I went to the police. I just encourage people. Because I think when things like this happen, it can feel with all the messaging of society-- [crosstalk]
Charlotte Fox Weber: You don't believe yourself in a way.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. So, in any case, I think it's really hard for people to definitely to report things, definitely to go to the police, and then also to share. But it was so encouraging, because I did share that story. Actually, so this happened on Valentine's Day. Not this past Valentine's Day, but the previous. I was like, "Did the case just drop?" Because I know it has to go to court. They actually called. So, it's been a while now. It's been like over a year. They just called recently and said it's still awaiting trial, and so I have to write an impact statement and all of that stuff.
Charlotte Fox Weber: It's still really, really difficult to deal with it.
Melanie Avalon: So, what's interesting though is, so when I started talking about it on the podcast, so many people DMed me, sent messages, A, just being supportive, which was amazing. But then B, so many women saying that something like that happened to them too, but they never told anybody. And then quite a few people saying that they never told anybody, and now they went back-- A few people said this. They said it happened like years ago, but I went and to see if that person was still there and reported them now. I was like, "That's amazing." I don't perceive having any lingering trauma from that actual incident. I think it's because I felt so supportive and supported compared to the college one, which I still don't really talk about has so much lingering trauma.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Right. The untold stories are the stories that haunt us. When we tell them, we can deal with them and actually be okay, however unokay and terrible. Unokay isn't a word, but there's such release and freedom, but it's also so hard to get to the point of telling that story. I really understand how-- Without knowing, I don't want to say I overly understand, but the sexual trauma from college, finding the words, even calling it a trauma, calling it abusive, like acknowledging what you've struggled with, and tried to make sense of, and not accept in certain ways, it's so consuming and difficult. That silence can take up so much space. I'm probably overly emphatic on this one, because the story that I just released, my own story, it took me 20 years to be able to do it.
People can come to therapy ostensibly to get help with dealing with their grandchild's graduation, whatever it is, whatever the presenting problem is that brings someone to therapy. I think one of the opportunities in therapy is that you can find yourself suddenly realizing and working through a traumatic situation from a long time ago, and there's no expiration date for dealing with it.
Melanie Avalon: Likewise. Again, I obviously don't know what your experience was, but I feel the same in that I really, really empathize with it. It's so true, the silence, like, I didn't think it was bothering me, the college situation. I was like, "Oh, it's behind me. It's not really bothering me." But then when I actually started-- [crosstalk]
Charlotte Fox Weber: I'm over it.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, but when I started talking about it in therapy, I was just bawling. I was like, "Okay, I guess, this is [giggles] actually bothering me."
Charlotte Fox Weber: I'm glad that you allowed it to bother you.
Melanie Avalon: Yes. It was also tricky going back to that concept of how it can be so confusing. I feel like I saw this in the stories you shared, and I see this so often. At least with my college one, I felt like and I guess I probably still feel like I was responsible for it.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Very much relate to that. [laughs] Yeah.
Melanie Avalon: Because I'm like, "Oh." The way I saw it was-- I saw it like I could have left. It was something that happened repeatedly, but I was like 17 and the man was in his 40s. Even now still, it's hard for me to wrap my head around because I'm all about personal responsibility and agency. And so, I'm like, "I don't know, maybe that was my fault." Yeah, it's really complicated. I don't want to make this all about me. I just think it's a really common theme.
Charlotte Fox Weber: No, I am so glad that you're so courageous. I'm so appreciating your openness. Again, it only took me close to two decades to be able to talk about it and I finally can. Not only can I talk about what happened to me, I want to. Another desire that is frowned upon and shushed, because it's not ladylike to go on and on about it either. I'm finally at the point, but it was grueling for so many years without me even knowing it in some ways in my own awareness, like, trying to not have it be a thing and be over it. Anyway, I asked for it and wanted it. It was my fault. And then I did the gratitude thing. At times, I'm so grateful for it. I don't have any regrets about it.
I was trying to put this unspoken story into some box that could just be shoved away. It followed me wherever I went, whatever I was doing in these subtle but harmful ways. When you actually just tell the story, it no longer has to tell you and hover.
Melanie Avalon: That's a question I had just in general about why we feel the need to tell these stories and why telling them can be a game changer for how we feel about our experience of it. Is this what your next book is about?
Charlotte Fox Weber: It is. My next book is called Sacred Monsters. I talk about Sacred Monsters in the chapter about wanting what we shouldn't, because what I finally accept to myself-- I'm really comfortable with it. I had mixed feelings about the man who was abusive to me and sexually violent. A part of me still sometimes misses him. He wasn't all bad, and I wasn't all good, and I also was young and there was a power difference, and he should not have behaved the way he behaved. I don't blame myself, but that doesn't mean that I don't also feel okay with the responsibility part of it. In some ways, we're allowed to have mixed feelings and love people who are bad people and sometimes hate people who we're supposed to love.
I was on trial in my own mind for all those years. That was the kind of maze for me. But the motivation, which was harder to talk about even in this conversation, for why I became a therapist. A combination of my traumatic experience of therapy, which is just a smokescreen for other difficult experiences. But being wounded and not wanting to be wounded and not wanting to be victimy and wanting to be helpful and not needy, so in some ways becoming a therapist allowed me to put the material to use with other people, and give back and connect with people, and help them in ways that I hadn't been helped.
Melanie Avalon: One of my biggest fears or things I deal with and it feels very selfish to be upset or obsessed with this, but I am haunted by aging.
Charlotte Fox Weber: By what, by aging?
Melanie Avalon: By aging. Mm-hmm. Like, loss of youth and beauty and energy. I thought it was so fascinating that you said in the book, one of the allures of therapists is that they're more respected with age. It's like a profession that ages well.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Oh, well spotted. That is definitely another motivation for why I chose this profession because of my own terror of aging.
Melanie Avalon: I think it's a common theme for a lot of people.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yeah. And yet, we're not supposed to admit it fully. We're supposed to get lots of beauty products and deny getting older, but also not freak out too much in an open way. It can be a kind of heartbreak for someone to feel the loss of youth. It can feel devastating.
Melanie Avalon: I got to say, so reading your book, I think it was Chloe, the French girl, the one wanting attention.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yes.
Melanie Avalon: It was such an experience reading that chapter for me personally, because I do have these fears of losing my youth, and beauty, and the experience of the world right now. I've been having this since I was like 12, I thought I was aging. So, reading that chapter and hearing her lament the loss of it was hard for me, because I was like, "Oh, that's my worst fear," and there's somebody having it.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yeah. It wasn't totally pretty the way she was having it, because she was difficult and demanding and angry and pissed off. Even my editor said that was her favorite chapter and she said, "It was my favorite chapter. I was impressed that you were able to stick it out, because I found her so insufferable," which I thought was a harsh judgment, actually, because a part of Chloe was insufferable, but she was also lovable and understandable. It was a swirl of different sides of her. She wasn't all good or all bad, but she was kind of uneasy making for being relatable in ways that are unsightly.
Melanie Avalon: She was fascinating to read about. Like I said, it's easier in a way for me to accept things now that I might not "want to be experiencing or don't like." But seeing my fears of things that could happen and seeing them actually happen and seeing that as a possibility, so basically being older and really reminiscing and being so torn apart about no longer having that beauty and youth and seeing somebody experience that is really hard for me to read.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yeah. As though it's a kind of vision of your future, bitter you, and you're just going to be unbearably nostalgic and the best will behind you, and you'll be in such trouble. Chloe is a cautionary tale in a way, because we all have a side of us that is outraged and devastated by the loss of beauty and youth. We've been conditioned to think that those are the most important things in some ways, like, being beautiful and being young, that's high value. Even though when you are young and beautiful, you also have a lot of vulnerabilities that you're not aware of necessarily. But you're conditioned to think that those are the things that make you most appealing and lovable and then they go. You will get older. It's not just that it's possible, it's definitely going to happen.
So, I think the real trap is that some part of us fantasizes that we can get out of the whole thing and that we can save ourselves or be rescued and it'll all be just fine, when actually-- It's a good outcome, if you're a really old person and you're no longer young. I'm not going to say that old people aren't beautiful, because I think they are. But the shocker is often the realization that we fantasized that we can somehow escape that fate. So, Chloe thought being beautiful and intelligent that she would have this glorious life and it would all go her way. It didn't work out that way.
Melanie Avalon: Another really interesting moment I had in therapy with my current therapist. It was in the beginning of our relationship, because when I go to therapy, I don't have any makeup. I'm like my just normal self.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Oh, I'm so glad. I love that.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, yeah. I only put on makeup and stuff when I'm going out.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Also, great when you feel like wearing makeup.
Melanie Avalon: Yes. What's so interesting is she asked me-- When I first met her, I was showing her my Instagram and what I look like when I'm done up. Because one of the things I talked about throughout this episode is I'm-- Well, maybe I haven't talked about specifically, but I'm embarrassed about how I look. I don't want people to look at me. And then I'm struggling between, I need to be modest, but then I like how I feel when I get dressed up. It's just a lot of complicated emotions. But I remember she asked me, she said, "So, do you feel more like yourself right now, on the couch with no makeup, in this therapy session? Or, do you feel more like yourself in these pictures where you're all done up?" And I was like--
Honestly, [giggles] I said, "I feel more like myself in those pictures." I think she was expecting me not to say that, because I think she was like, "Are you sure?" And I was like, "No, really, I feel most like myself when I'm dressed up and feeling good about how I look," which is really a complicated perspective, but I've thought about it more and--
Charlotte Fox Weber: I love it. I love it.
Melanie Avalon: I think it's because when I am all dressed up like that, then I feel like I'm-- It goes back to not wanting what society tells you, what you should and shouldn't want. But I feel like I can have all this energy, and I can be this person, and I love all of that. But then I feel like I shouldn't love that, because you shouldn't want to.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Because it's not modest. Because it's hard to say out loud even now that you enjoy looking fabulous, and feeling great, and having an impact on people, and feeling sparkly and peppy and-- [crosstalk]
Melanie Avalon: Sparkly. Yes, that's one of my favorite words. [giggles] Yes. I love feeling sparkly. [laughs]
Charlotte Fox Weber: It's a great word. I think that that's a daring and radical response that you had to your therapist. I love that you said that you feel more like yourself in those pictures.
Melanie Avalon: Even right now, saying this out loud, I'm thinking like, "Oh, people are going to judge me for saying all of this."
Charlotte Fox Weber: No, I can tell, I felt this so much-- When people ask me why I wrote a book, because it's like the ego part, because it's attention seeking, but then being overly virtuous. Motivation is never entirely pure and nor should it have to be. It doesn't mean it's all bad either. But you're allowed to like your beautiful self and to notice that you're beautiful and to enjoy it. You don't have to think that it's more you when you're feeling desperation and you're wearing your pajamas, but nor do you have to be ashamed of that side and banish it to the basement. It's up to you for your preferences in a way for which parts of yourself you enjoy more than others, but you can be tolerant. I think that therapists also can sometimes love misery a little too much.
Melanie Avalon: In themselves or their clients?
Charlotte Fox Weber: Both. They're more comfortable in the oceanic darkness. I'm slightly dissing my profession, which I love. I think that I've had to work hard to be okay with my own enthusiasm as a therapist. Like, you're allowed to be jaunty, and clients in therapy are allowed to be dazzling and charming. It doesn't have to all be bleak and dark. I love the darkness, but it can also be light. I think that we try to be strict about whether it should be this or that, like, all of it. You can have the Instagram and you can have the unmakeupped crying, desperate side.
Melanie Avalon: Ironically, to bring it all full circle, because I think at the very beginning, we were talking about calling different things, and then that makes it acceptable. Oh, it was with the empower versus the empowerment. It's like with my whole career now with biohacking, it's okay to call it pursuing longevity. So, it's okay, if you phrase it as like, "Oh, I want longevity. I want health span" compared to saying, "Oh, I just don't want to get old." [laughs] That can't be the drive.
Charlotte Fox Weber: But you have said that and that's what makes you so bold and riveting as well. You're very honest.
Melanie Avalon: As are you. [laughs]
Charlotte Fox Weber: I am very honest and I can also catch myself faking and pretending and not saying things. It's both and not either/or. But I've even hidden behind the whole authenticity thing and been like, I've bought into the whole myth of thinking that I'm entirely authentic, when even that is a farce, go back to a word you like.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, farce, sparkles. You're learning all my liminal space. You're learning all my favorite words.
Charlotte Fox Weber: But whatever it is that you want, it might be also to be a five-year-old again or get attention from someone who's dead. Sometimes, just actually going there, even if it isn't possible, it just spares you from having hope for something that isn't going to happen or can't happen.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. I will say, because I read a lot of books and interview a lot of people, it really is all amazing. People will ask me like, "Have you ever had an episode where you regretted doing the episode or you didn't like it?" And honestly, I can say that every episode I've had and guests, I've learned something. I really do mean that. Some of the guests in the books, I really take away something that stays with me ongoing and I really did. Reading your book took away just this new lens of the world where I am much more aware of my wants and desires, and not judging them, and understanding that we all have them. So, I really encourage listeners to get tell me what you want.
It's such a fascinating read, because most of the books I read-- most of the interviews I do are more self-help. They're not as story driven. So, I love that it's these different stories that are so engaging and so fascinating and you just want to know what's going to happen with these different clients, and then you see parts of what they're experiencing in yourself. I just really thank you for the work that you're doing with your clients and then that you are expanding that to the world by putting this all out there.
Charlotte Fox Weber: That is such a lovely and generous thing to say. I think that we need a framework for knowing that we have permission to pay attention to what we want, and seeing how others really feel and think, and peeking into the minds of other people can allow us to address things that we're afraid to really face and don't know how to face by ourselves.
Melanie Avalon: I definitely, definitely experienced that. Do you think everybody could benefit from having a therapist? I know that's a blanket statement, but--
Charlotte Fox Weber: I think that freedom is really important. Another word that is so difficult to define, because it can mean so many things and it's been so politicized. But autonomy and freedom to choose to go to therapy and to choose therapist is a big part of it. So, if someone is forced into therapy-- Obviously, my own story comes into that like being forced into therapy at the age of six. But I think that everyone can benefit from therapy when they want to, if they want to. But if you really, really don't want to be in therapy, then you also shouldn't feel that you have to be, because-- I think resistance is also something that gets stigmatized. You've talked about your resistance in an honest way.
Resistance also happens for so many reasons and is a protective measure sometimes. If you are afraid of therapy and tempted by it, or you've had a bad experience, I would say, everyone can benefit from freely trying and at least considering the possibility of having the experience. But that doesn't mean any therapy experience will be helpful. There's a lot of bad therapy out there, and I think we can give up too quickly on the whole thing because of one botched experience, and then write it off or make it something that we put off. I think that everyone can benefit from thinking about their inner worlds and having therapeutic conversations, but it doesn't all have to come from just one space. What do you think?
Melanie Avalon: I think everybody could benefit kind of touching on what you said, assuming they want to be there. And then I just think it's so important to have-- [crosstalk]
Charlotte Fox Weber: Or, at least choose to be there.
Melanie Avalon: Choosing. Yeah, choosing. Yeah, that's a good distinction.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Because you could go to therapy and say, "I really don't want to be here right now, even though I know we arranged the session and I am here."
Melanie Avalon: Like I was saying earlier, it's so hard to see yourself and understand and just having this mirror from somebody else. I know people change therapists and stuff, but it's nice to have a consistency of seeing the same person who gets to be a through line and see everything that's happening.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Absolutely. Have that continuity once you-- Yeah. And you like plans. So, having that space and knowing that you have the framework and that it's a regular, I'm assuming it's weekly. But knowing that it's there and that it will happen and you have that as anchoring space, it sounds great. It sounds really effective. I think, unfortunately, the therapy isn't always possible when it's unaffordable.
Melanie Avalon: Mm-hmm. That's true.
Charlotte Fox Weber: So, I guess, I'm also not wanting to suggest that therapy is the only solution for emotional problems, because there's support that's possible even when therapy isn't, but it can be difficult to find the right therapist and to afford therapy and find the time. It's completely beneficial when it works, but it doesn't mean that you have to give up on investigating yourself even if you're not in therapy.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, 100%. Maybe most people know this, but I feel like some people probably don't realize that their insurance might cover mental and behavioral health services. So, definitely look at your insurance plan and see if it does.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Definitely. That's where a little bit of admin and effort with what you've been dealing with-- Was it a massage therapist?
Melanie Avalon: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Charlotte Fox Weber: It is a hassle to have to advocate for ourselves, but it is worthwhile. Sometimes, putting in the planning and understanding what is available and looking at options, I think that can be the barrier that we can deprive ourselves because of a hurdle that actually we can deal with and get through.
Melanie Avalon: It can be really exhausting finding that therapist. I'm just so grateful I didn't with some of my bad first-- When I was still interviewing therapists, I'm glad I kept looking. So, I really encourage people.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yeah, you persevered. You didn't give up on the whole thing, even when you gave up on individual therapists.
Melanie Avalon: I'll just share it really quickly. I don't know why this has stuck with me so much, but when I was interviewing different therapists, one of therapists I went to for the session, it's when I was really struggling with these-- This is TMI, but oh, well, I've said a lot on this episode. [laughs] I get a lot of fears surrounding my digestion and fears of being, like, feeling toxic from, if I have constipation. It's a whole thing for me. Ever since I went through a period of time where I was severely hypothyroid, I got really constipated for weeks.
Charlotte Fox Weber: I love Scat Chat is where this is going. It's Scat Chat like scatological discussions talking about number twos.
Melanie Avalon: Okay. Oh, yes. Okay, perfect. So, I got this whole complex, because I felt like I was just eating so much and nothing was coming out, so I started feeling really toxic in my body. And so, it became this whole complex. I remember I was trying to interview therapists, and I went to one, and I expressed all this, which is hard to talk about because it's embarrassing. I remember she looked at me, and I guess, this could have been said in a way that would have been helpful and supportive, but it was said in a very judgmental tone and like she was looking down at me, and she basically-- I apologize for the profanity, but she's like, "Well, Melanie, maybe people are just full of shit." It was kind of funny. It is a clever pun, [laughs] but scarred me so bad. I was like, "Oh." I was so embarrassed because it's an embarrassing thing to talk about and then to be just shut down and basically be told, you need to get over it [giggles] in that very--
Charlotte Fox Weber: She didn't ease into it or follow-- Wow.
Melanie Avalon: Props to her for the pun. But I remember walking away and being like, "Nope, I just shared that to say that it can take a while sometimes to find the person that you really connect with."
Charlotte Fox Weber: So interesting. Had you sworn up until that point, because when it comes to even using a word like shit-- I think it's really important for a therapist to meet you where you are. So, if I'm working with someone who doesn't swear, then I'm not going to just sit there swearing.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, yeah. No, I don't really ever barely swear.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Alice, for example, asked permission if she was allowed to swear. And I said, "Yes, of course, feel free. That's fine." But being attuned is important. For a therapist to have said that to you when you were talking about it in a very different way, it's kind of provocative. Not in a good way. It's almost aggressive sounding.
Melanie Avalon: I've gone through the gamut with weird for-- One therapist, especially with the same issue, she was like, "Maybe you just need to drink water." And I was like, "Okay, this is not the right fit either." [laughs]
Charlotte Fox Weber: Right. Just not that helpful at all.
Melanie Avalon: I love the profession. I'm just trying to encourage listeners to.
Charlotte Fox Weber: No, we're not dissing therapy. But the point is, like any relationship, there are lots of terrible examples. That doesn't mean that you have to give up on all of it, because it's just about understanding what will help and what isn't helping and having your own authority on what helps as well. I think authority is really connected to all of the issues we've been discussing.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, I think so. Yes.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Kind of validating your own authority on what works for you. I have so many examples of my own terrible experiences of therapy and I've often blamed myself and thought that I'm a really difficult client or that I'm impossible to help. But then really no, actually. It doesn't mean I have to be totally delightful and charming at every moment either. But I have sought on some level one weird or disappointing or disastrous therapist after another. I worked with a therapist who actually sat on the toilet while doing therapy with me.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, like you were-- Whoa.
Charlotte Fox Weber: It was an online session.
Melanie Avalon: Did they acknowledge?
Charlotte Fox Weber: I had to acknowledge, which was part of what is really not okay. The whole thing is not okay. But it was also the fact that she wasn't acknowledging it, and was sitting on the toilet, and I could see the toilet paper behind her. I didn't say anything for the first few minutes, and then finally did. She said, "Yes, I am," and then continued the session. It wasn't okay at all. So, actually, advocating for ourselves and saying what doesn't really feel okay, like not waiting-- The therapist should have the authority to also acknowledge mistakes, but if the therapist doesn't, then that is a red flag, another reason to take your own authority seriously.
Melanie Avalon: Even agency within the space, the room we were meeting in for a while had really poor air circulation, and my allergies would always get--
Charlotte Fox Weber: That's problematic.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. So, what I ended up doing was, for Christmas, I think I got a really nice air purifier for the room for her. That was like a game changer.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Wow. And did she acknowledge?
Melanie Avalon: Oh, no, she loved it.
Charlotte Fox Weber: But did she acknowledge that it was also unfortunate that the air quality had not been great?
Melanie Avalon: Yes. But even now, in retrospect, I'm like, "You know what? That's probably--" Because I waited a long time before taking that action. I probably should have addressed it way earlier on.
Charlotte Fox Weber: But therapist is also the grown up and the dynamic, whatever age you are. When you have your own authority, the therapist should still protect the space and acknowledge and facilitate and can make it possible to address difficult things rather than leaving it up to you to fix it or parent. It's almost like you had to take charge of the space and make it okay.
Melanie Avalon: It wasn't overwhelmingly terrible, but it would get to me. We would casually joke about it, how it was not the best circulation in the room.
Charlotte Fox Weber: You have very, very shocking and unfortunately, totally understandable stories about therapists disappointing you. And also, the way you try to make it okay and maybe it isn't a problem. The air circulation wasn't that bad. It doesn't have to be that bad for it to still be a problem. Making light jokes about the air quality, I'm annoyed with her.
Melanie Avalon: So many things.
Charlotte Fox Weber: So many things. I guess, the desire for me is just calling it out. It doesn't have to be terribly unpleasant and destructive, but just saying what you see.
Melanie Avalon: Well, that's definitely something I struggle with and that I do work on is speaking up for myself for things.
Charlotte Fox Weber: I really struggle too, and I'm much more comfortable doing it for others.
Melanie Avalon: I just don't want to cause problems. I don't think I'm as much of a people pleaser as I used to be, but it's definitely speaking up is something I really need to work on or I continue to work on.
Charlotte Fox Weber: We should be compassionate to ourselves about how hard it is to speak up, the ways we've been conditioned to not make a scene and not be seen in a certain way. It's understandable that it's hard.
Melanie Avalon: Every situation that comes up as a chance to work on it, I try to take it. I see when I don't take it and I'm like, "Oh, that was a chance I could have spoken up."
Charlotte Fox Weber: Isn't it so fascinating that it still happens? Whatever age you are, whatever stage you are, we can still revert to those childlike parts of ourselves where it's really difficult and we're insecure and lost for words. Those moments are really important to be kind about, I think.
Melanie Avalon: Yes. No, I love that. It still happens so much. It's always really little silly things where I'm too scared to speak up. It's something so small where I'm completely in the "right to speak up" if I were to and I just won't. I'm like, "Why?"
Charlotte Fox Weber: Why didn't I say something? I know. I was at a conference with this woman who was an expert on consent and she was so strong and so feisty and actually quite intimidating to most people. Somehow, she got pulled onto the stage and forced to dance with someone who was incredibly annoying. She told me that she found this person incredibly annoying. She didn't want to dance. She feels awkward and self-conscious dancing, and it wasn't what she was there to do. But on this stage in front of thousands of people and recorded, she found herself in a consent situation where she didn't speak up and say, "I don't want to do this."
Melanie Avalon: She was there to talk about consent?
Charlotte Fox Weber: She was there to talk about consent. It wasn't some mad experiment to see how you can mess with the consent person. Maybe I felt that way though. It was wildly ironic that that's what happened. But also, she learned something huge from it. She's someone I am fond of still and she talks about it, like, how it can sneak up on you and you can have these fragile parts of yourself even when you think that you're evolved and developed.
Melanie Avalon: It's so true. At least every time it does happen, going back to just being kind to yourself, I guess, the best approach is to be kind to yourself. I realize for the next time when it happens, it makes me even more aware of when I have that urge to say or do something and I don't. So, it makes it easier to recognize in the future.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yeah. Bit by bit, we learn and can expand certainly, and be prepared.
Melanie Avalon: Planning. [giggles]
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yeah. You want to grow old. When I say you want, like, if you want to live a long life, then part of my book is about also accepting that things won't totally go your way, but you will figure something out and you'll have other surprises.
Melanie Avalon: It is nice when your worst fears actually happen to you and then you get through it, and then you're like, "Okay."
Charlotte Fox Weber: I can't believe I just said out loud to you want to grow old, but I didn't mean you want to age badly. But if you want to live for a long time, then growing old is part of that, but you're also already-- Your work is so interesting given that that's your core struggle and makes sense.
Melanie Avalon: It does. Yeah. [giggles] Yeah, most people probably don't realize that there's this whole thing behind it. Probably took me a while to realize too that that connection was there.
Charlotte Fox Weber: That actually it's about not wanting to age?
Melanie Avalon: Mm-hmm.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Isn't it interesting that we make it really complicated and enigmatic in a way, when it's more straightforward, but it just feels unspeakable.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, it's really fascinating. Well, this has been amazing. So, are you writing your book right now?
Charlotte Fox Weber: I am. It was so, so difficult and consuming to publish this story in Time Magazine that it's definitely preoccupied me. I'm also really glad for all of it.
Melanie Avalon: I got to read it. When did that publish?
Charlotte Fox Weber: That came out on June 23rd.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, wow. Just recently.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Oh. It was the day of my 40th birthday party with 70 people at my house. The timing also did not go according to my schedule. There were so many different people involved in legalities. It's been so complicated in so many ways. But then it got released an hour before my party began, which was very strange, but actually amazing. I was okay with it. It's the first time in my life I've ever felt proud of something I've done.
Melanie Avalon: Wow. Really?
Charlotte Fox Weber: Really and truly. That's not to say that I don't like my book and want people to buy my book and read my book because I do. But this story, it was the hardest thing I've ever done, even though it might not-- There's another side of me that thinks, "Am I being dramatic? Am I making it too much of a thing to say it that way?" I can allow myself to feel that.
Melanie Avalon: I applaud you. Is it available to read online?
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yeah, it is. I'm being so cocky to even be talking about it this way to basically admit that it's a piece of work that I am really pleased with.
Melanie Avalon: Okay. So, even that's interesting to bring everything full circle, because it's like we were talking about how to love, and the ego, and be proud of yourself, and that that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's like we have to qualify it as-- I mean, I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I feel like you feel like by saying that it's cocky-- We should put disclaimers.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Thank you for calling me on that, because you are totally right. I have to diss myself because I've just bigged myself up. What is that about? Why can't I just be fully delighted with this piece of work I finally released?
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, which I can't wait to read it. No, I think it's a perfect example of speaking to the truth of how we all experience our feelings, our wants, our desires, our egos, and then our conflicts with what society thinks, what we think is right, what's wrong is just ever present for a lot of people.
Charlotte Fox Weber: It is. It's also this secret motivation for a lot. This trauma really is why I wrote this book, not the book that I'm writing next, but tell me what you want. Because I couldn't say what I wanted and didn't want. That irony was like this secret. I wrote it down, actually, at the time because I wanted to document it for myself like, "Wow, I am a hypocrite in some ways that I'm talking about what people want, but I also have struggled so much with this very issue." But now I get it, including all of the contradictions that are part of it and the nuances, because I wanted all sorts of things and didn't want all sorts of things. I wish that I had been encouraged to just explore that rather than shut it down as something not to talk about or something to think of only in a certain way. For me, therapists even discussing this trauma.
One therapist said, you should regret what happened. She wanted me to regret it. I didn't regret it. I regret other things, but I still don't regret it. It didn't match the truth. And then other therapists would try to tell me what it was or what it wasn't. And then I wanted to write about it, and couldn't find the words, and would struggle even to be-- I'd get nonverbal just trying to discuss it. I'd lose any sense of confidence. It was really exhilarating to discover that actually other people are really conflicted about desire. I could ask them the questions I hadn't been asked, and it was consoling for them and for me.
Melanie Avalon: That totally makes sense. Like I said, I feel like with reading the book helps you feel okay about your own wants and desires, and then moving forward to talking about them. I applaud you. I can't wait. Well, I know it's probably a dark subject, but I'm very much looking forward to reading it. What's the title of the piece?
Charlotte Fox Weber: I'll send it to you because I wanted the title to be Bitten and that was considered, I mean, trigger warning, that it does have darkness. But looking at my past, I think is the title, but it's not the title that I think of it as. I think of it as Sacred Monster. My Sacred Monster.
Melanie Avalon: Well, I will put a link to it in the show notes. If you're open to it, I'd love to have you back on for the next book when it comes out.
Charlotte Fox Weber: You're so kind. You have been so incredible to talk to that this is like the date that goes where I don't want the night to end.
Melanie Avalon: Same. I feel the same way.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Sorry, I've gone on and on. You're so interesting, and lovely, and open, and you're accepting.
Melanie Avalon: No, likewise.
Charlotte Fox Weber: But also, it is easier. I feel like I want you to just be able to say that you're beautiful and you love feeling beautiful, but then it's so hard to say about ourselves.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. Even now, even hearing you say that now, I'm like, [giggles] "I can't do that."
Charlotte Fox Weber: I dare you.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, man, I got to learn from my sister. She's the opposite of me and she's like--
Charlotte Fox Weber: Well, maybe that's part of it.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. She's like, "If you know you're fabulous, just be fabulous and embrace it." That's the way she feels about herself. It's very inspiring.
Charlotte Fox Weber: But doesn't feel okay?
Melanie Avalon: No. It feels more okay than it did in the past, but it's really slow working towards it.
Charlotte Fox Weber: And that is okay too. You don't need to rush yourself either, because in telling my story, I over surveyed for, like, should I? shouldn't I? Is it okay to talk about it? And then I would get different guidance. Sometimes, I think there can be too much pressure to be confident, and own your story, and big yourself up, and enjoy your fabulousness when actually-- That's nerve wracking too and sometimes just far away from where you are. So, I think just embrace it all. But secretly, quietly, maybe you could experiment with admitting to yourself that you feel beautiful at a certain moment.
Melanie Avalon: I'm just getting hit with all the stuff that I think has gone into leading to where I am now with it.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Yeah.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, and happy late birthday, by the way.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Thank you. It was horrendous turning 40. I assume you're significantly younger.
Melanie Avalon: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Charlotte Fox Weber: How old are you?
Melanie Avalon: Okay. So, this is funny. [giggles] So, I talked about my fears of aging and everything, and so I didn't share my age successfully anywhere. Not online. I used to do acting more where it's not always helpful for your age to be known. So, I made this huge effort to not share my age anywhere publicly. I was pretty sure it wasn't on the internet. My publicist, it was this year, got me a story in CNBC. The reporter, she was amazing. It was a whole profile piece about my shows, my podcasts, and how I started a podcast for longevity. And so, she wrote the piece, and then before publishing it, she sent me an email, and she said she had some follow-up questions, and she wanted to know if it was okay if she shared my age, because she said that the audience really resonates with knowing the age of the person, because it's like a younger audience.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Right. Is that even legal?
Melanie Avalon: Well, I guess so. I'm 32. So, I told her I was 32, but I said I didn't like sharing my age publicly. I was trying to keep it on the down low. But if she thought it would help the story, I understood if she wanted to include it. So, I was hoping she would either not include it or put it very subtly somewhere in the story.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Was it like the headline? [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: It's the title. So, the first word of the title is 32. [laughs] It's like, 32-year-old actress started a podcast for longevity.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Oh, my goodness.
Melanie Avalon: Literally made it the title.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Oh, my goodness.
Melanie Avalon: I know. But it ties into things we're talking about earlier. I had this whole story surrounding my age, and not having my age out there, and what does that mean, and it's got to be a secret. Then that happened. I was like--
Charlotte Fox Weber: She outed you. She fully outed you.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. Well, it was actually so freeing. I was like, "Okay, moving on." [laughs] Now it's out there.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Wow, I love that story. Yeah, in a way it relieved you because you no longer had to agonize and anticipate and worry about it happening.
Melanie Avalon: It really did. This is me judging again. I'm like, "Oh, I wish I reached come there on my own." But it did take an external third-party event to make me face it and it was fine. Now it's fine.
Charlotte Fox Weber: You can't plan everything and nor should you have to. So, maybe you also allowed it to play out in ways that were out of control, but you could deal with it. I love that. And also, what an envious attack on her part to do that to you.
Melanie Avalon: It also goes back to we were talking about clarity of kindness. I was trying to make hints about how I would prefer if it wasn't there. A, I'm happy that she published it that way because it's very freeing and so, I wouldn't have it any other way now. But if I really wanted it a certain way, I could have just said, "I don't feel comfortable." I could have done that.
Charlotte Fox Weber: But it's so hard to say that.
Melanie Avalon: Especially, when they're writing a whole profile piece on you in a major news outlet, [giggles] you want to be accommodating. Well, this has been absolutely amazing. I would love to have you back on the show for the next book, if you're open to it. Do you know when that will be coming out?
Charlotte Fox Weber: In 2024.
Melanie Avalon: Perfect. We should go ahead and get you, no pun intended, on the books for it because the interviews I'm booking right now actually air in 2024.
Charlotte Fox Weber: I love making plans too. [laughs] So, I'm delighted to do that.
Melanie Avalon: It can be flexible though. We can adjust it later.
Charlotte Fox Weber: I would love that.
Melanie Avalon: Perfect. So, for listeners, definitely get a copy of Tell Me What You Want. Well, any version of it, but I really did love listening to Charlotte narrate it. So, check that out. There will be a full transcript and links to everything that we talked about in the show notes. We'll put a link to that Times article. And how can people best follow your work?
Charlotte Fox Weber: On Instagram, @charlottefoxweberpsychotherapy.
Melanie Avalon: Perfect. So, the last question that I ask every single guest on this show, and it's just because I realize more and more each day how important mindset is. So, what is something that you're grateful for?
Charlotte Fox Weber: Something I'm grateful for is, my beginner's feelings in certain ways. When I have the beginner's mindset, and am able to play and explore and do something without skill, without knowledge necessarily or knowing exactly what I'm doing and can discover something new. I'm grateful for being able to enjoy really small, ordinary things like doodling and going for a walk, snuggling my children.
Melanie Avalon: That's such a unique answer. It's all unique, but the part about new things, I love that. I love that so much. Well, thank you so much for this conversation. I have enjoyed it so, so much and now it's so late there in the UK.
Charlotte Fox Weber: It's so late, but totally worth it. Thank you.
Melanie Avalon: Thank you for spending this time and all that you're doing. You're helping so many people, touching so many people more than you'll ever realize, so--
Charlotte Fox Weber: You are--
Melanie Avalon: I cannot thank you enough for that and I can't wait to talk to you again in the future.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Same. Come to London sometime, and we'll go for drinks.
Melanie Avalon: Let me know if you're ever in the US, in Atlanta.
Charlotte Fox Weber: I will.
Melanie Avalon: Perfect.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Thank you.
Melanie Avalon: Thanks, Charlotte. Have a good night.
Charlotte Fox Weber: You too.
Melanie Avalon: Bye.
Charlotte Fox Weber: Bye.
[Transcript provided by SpeechDocs Podcast Transcription]