Clare Assante knows whereof she speaks. For years she struggled with anxiety, which also created a binge eating habit. And like so many of us, she tried All. The. Things. to try to manage, control, and eliminate those struggles. Thankfully, Clare discovery the 3 Principles, which not only helped her with the anxiety and binge eating, they softened the blow when she received a potentially devastating health diagnosis.
Clare Assante suffered with anxiety for 25 years; it made her world very small and she was doing less and less. She had tried many things but nothing helped long term until she came across an understanding of how the mind works that helped her to navigate life without getting caught up in all the drama.
Clare is now a certified Change Coach and works with those struggling with anxiety, depression, unwanted habits, health anxiety or anything that’s making life feel like hard work.
You can find Clare Assante at BlindsidedByThought.com.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes, links, resources and full transcript are below.
- On the difference between the other approaches Clare used to try to deal with anxiety vs. the 3 Principles
- Processing a devastating health diagnosis with a grounding in peace and well-being
- How our unwanted habits work to quiet our insecure minds
- How our thinking surprisingly isn’t personal
- On the value of living in the unknown
- On coaching teens about their innate resilience
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
Transcript of Interview with Clare Assante
Alexandra: Claire Asante, welcome to Unbroken.
Clare: Hi, Alexandra. Thank you for having me.
Alexandra: My pleasure.
Tell us about your background and how you got interested in the Three Principles.
Clare: I was a very worried child who spent my whole childhood just worrying about things and not really knowing that was what it was. And as I got a bit older, it took hold as anxiety, really. And then, I struggled with severe anxiety for about 25 years. And it just got worse and worse.
I literally tried every single possible thing that I could find and threw a lot of money at it. And, even these weird and wonderful things that you think, maybe this is the one. I did find a lot of them, a lot of the things, temporarily did the trick. I thought, “I found it found it last”, and then it was just, I think, where it just didn’t shift enough, nothing shifted enough.
So then I would end up back to square one again. And then eventually, I found the three principles, which were just something completely different.
Alexandra: Can you describe the difference between the two approaches that you saw?
Clare: I think the main thing that I would probably describe it as is the fact that with all the other things, you’re basically trying to fix the behavior. So it felt like white-knuckling, and you’re just not really getting anywhere with that.
Whereas with three principles, you are changing something so deep within you that once it’s changed, there’s no going back. I always say it’s like when someone shows you a magic trick, and you’re completely fooled by it, and then they show you how it’s done. And then you’re like, Well, I can’t even believe in that again.
And that’s what three principles gave me. It was like having an instruction manual, to my mind, my feelings, my emotion, everything where I couldn’t look at it at the same in the same way again, it just looked completely different. And I think that’s what like, almost like a soul shift is, isn’t it? Where it’s so deep you can’t ever go back again.
Alexandra: That’s such a great metaphor or analogy, that magic trick one. I love that. I haven’t heard that before. That’s awesome.
Your website is called Blindsided by Thought. Tell us why you came to choose that name.
Clare: So about six years ago, I was diagnosed with an eye disease. And it is something that takes hold of the cones inside of the back of the eye. I don’t know exactly how it works. But at some point, it will take my vision. Part of it, I’m not sure.
I went for just a routine eye test. They obviously saw something and sent me to the hospital. And the doctor didn’t even really tell me what it was. It’s like, oh, you’ve got this thing called retinitis pigmentosa. So that’s a bit of a mouthful and must Google that when I get home. I googled it.
And it had like blind, and I was like, that can’t be right. Surely they would have made a bit more of a facile or given me a leaflet or website to look at. But that’s what it was. So then I was thrown into this work world of the complete unknown where everything I looked at, there was no specific time scale.
Nobody could tell me when or how, or everybody that you looked at was completely different. So there was no nailing it down of, it’s almost like, in five years, you will go blind, you almost feel like you could maybe cope with that because you know what’s coming, but it’s that real. Who knows.
And luckily, I’d already come across the three principles. So much as I had that panic of, oh, goodness, it was a completely different experience to what I would have had before I came across the three principles. Because I know that if I hadn’t come across three principles, I would have basically started living like a blind person, living in that fear of all this is going to happen that forward-thinking of your mind or how am I going to cope.
But actually, I was able to ground myself back to Okay, well, what’s true now today I can see. And weirdly I’ve sought to start up my coaching business and what can I do for a name? What can I use and just typical was out for a walk one day I was like, oh! blindsided by thought. I was like, wow, that’s a good one.
Alexandra: Exactly. Well, it has so many meanings, doesn’t it? So, you’ve embedded the word blind in there because of your situation. And then it points to the way that thought just can hijack us when we don’t understand it completely.
Clare: I mean; it takes the wind out of you. Sometimes you’re thinking, doesn’t it?
Alexandra: I love hearing that you say that you had already found the principles, because I imagine with the experience you had with anxiety in the past, and then if you layered something like that, your eyes situation onto it.
I can’t even imagine how much suffering that would cause without this understanding.
Clare: And I find, if I ever coach people around health anxiety, that’s exactly what it is. Whether the fear of what’s going to happen takes over. And even with a diagnosis, and, not taking anything away from the fact that people do have some horrible diagnosis.
It’s a different feeling when you can deal with it one moment at a time, to cloud yourself with that fear of what’s going to happen. I live in the country. So not being able to drive for me is quite a big deal. So much as obviously, I have given it thought, because that’s what humans do.
But, it would mean moving and, changing everything really, and, being in a town, which I’m not used to and, all those things, but again, that that didn’t take hold, it was just, again, kept saying what’s true. Now today.
Alexandra: Right, and I just find it so fascinating that we so innocently, can take that thinking, that anxious, nervous thinking, and view it as information, rather than just the fact that it’s pointing to our state of mind at the moment.
Seeing that differentiation has been so big for me.
Clare: That hanging on to, you do go down that road of like a line of thinking, don’t you? And sometimes you don’t know how you’ve been dragged so deeply into it. How did that happen?
Yes, conversations that you plan to have with someone, like if you think oh, I’m going to see that teacher in a minute. I’m going to go and talk to them about my child, and you play it out in your head as though that’s helpful. And we don’t know what’s going to be said to
Alexandra: Exactly, I do that on this podcast, sometimes.
Clare: She’ll say that, and then I’ll say that, I’ll say this.
You went through training with Dr. Amy Johnson. And she does focus on anxiety but also on food-related issues.
Did you see any shift in your own eating habits when you were going through that training? Or when you were learning about the principles?
Clare: I did. And that’s how I found Amy because although I originally found the principles through Nicola Bird, I was struggling with an eating disorder as well. So I was basically binging to comfort, my anxiety, really, and obviously, now I can see it for what it is, but at the time, when you’re in it, it’s really scary and horrible.
I can even pinpoint where I picked up my habitual thinking. I used to be a synchronized swimmer. And I did that for like, years and years. I qualified for the Olympics, so it was quite a big part of my life. And I started that when I was eight years old.
When we got into that more serious training, we would train for sometimes three, four, or five hours at a time. So we were in the pool training, and part of our routine was that said, at certain times, we would get out of the swimming pool, and we would all eat a bar of chocolate.
So it was ingrained in my mind that chocolate equals energy and rest. It was giving me that positive thinking. So I did that for years. I was swimming till I was in my 20s. So that was in my mind of something that would help if I was feeling a bit tired or, low or whatever.
And then, obviously, because our minds are just machines, my mind just picked up something that would help me. So every time from there and then on and that carried on, when I gave up swimming, even if I was just having a low day, it would give me that information: go and get a bunch of food and just eat it.
And then that took on a life of its own, basically. And then I felt like I was really in trouble, and then that feeling of food just not being a pleasure anymore. It was horrible. I hated it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I felt like I had no control; it felt like there was something wrong with me.
And then I came across the principles and then found Amy, and as you said, she very much focuses on the habitual ways that our mind works. And I don’t binge now because I can see. And, it still gives me that information.
Sometimes, if I’m having a bad day, it will say, well go buy a massive bar of chocolate and just stuff that in and that will make you feel better. But I’m on to you. I don’t fall for that one anymore. That’s very different. I enjoy food now. I’m not scared of it anymore.
Alexandra: I think it’s so interesting that these two things existed together, the anxiety and the binge eating, because what I noticed very often is that our eating habits can quiet down our thinking a little bit. So, I always used to think of it as soothing myself or comforting myself.
And that was true. But what I see now, too, is that, it just got my mind to quiet down a little bit. And that was one reason for reaching for it.
If you were experiencing anxiety, I can imagine that would compound that.
Clare: My mind was also giving me the story that when I was hungry, I felt more anxious. But again, it was just a story around it. But you’re right. When I was eating the food, I would feel peaceful. But not for the whole time.
Obviously, the peace left after a while once it became a bit of a problem. And then it just felt horrible. But originally, definitely. And then, of course, you’re chasing that feeling again, aren’t you?
Alexandra: Exactly. I mean, that’s the crazy-making thing about it, isn’t it? It does quiet your mind down initially. And then, your mind revs up again because now we’re beating ourselves up about having done the thing that we said we wouldn’t do again or whatever. Don’t want to be doing.
Clare: When you look at, when I coach anybody, everybody has some coping mechanism, and they’re all different, but they give them the exact same result, don’t they? Where, even if it’s something like self-harming, for that set a split second, they feel peace, and that’s what they’re looking for. And then, obviously, it becomes a problem because it’s not a healthy thing to do. Right.
Alexandra: Yes, exactly. So true. And so leading on from that, I mean, we’ve touched on this already, but one of the questions I had shared with you that I thought I could ask was what is it about thought, that keeps us trapped in these behaviors that, that we unwanted habits.
I think we’ve touched a little bit on that it, they quiet our minds down temporarily at least.
Do you see anything else around that around this? The service that they’re providing?
Clare: I think I’ve really seen a lot around the machine part of it like it’s just like our computer. So that takes the power out of it where it’s like an algorithm where it’s just giving you the same information because you’ve thought it several times before. It becomes quite interesting, then done.
It’s like, Oh, I thought that one yesterday. Isn’t that interesting that that’s programmed into my mind? And again, we don’t have any control over what we soak up It’s programmed in, and then it goes on repeat. I think that’s probably been the biggest part for me where it is made it not about me; it’s just made it so that my mind machine gives me the same information.
And it is just mind noise. It’s not personal. It’s nothing to do with me feels personal. Because obviously, it’s from my experiences that I’ve picked it up. But it’s not doing it on purpose. It’s not doing it to be mean.
In fact, it’s doing it because it, loves us and wants to give us a wallet, what we think, what it thinks that we need. And that’s why we get dragged around by our hair because it feels like it’s about us, and it feels like it’s important.
Alexandra: Responding to those whims of the chatter that’s going on inside.
You have a post on your website about living in the unknown and you touched on this a little bit when you talked about your diagnosis.
Could you share a little bit more about that? And the value of living happily in the unknown?
Clare: I think, as you said, my diagnosis has definitely kicked me into that living in the unknown. And has probably made me much more comfortable with it. Even things like even you and I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next five minutes.
Someone might knock on the door, or, but that’s the way we live. But we don’t know that we live like that. COVID was a perfect example, wasn’t it? And every second of every day, none of us know, but we think we do.
I love the fact that our mind wants to nail everything down. It wants to tell you how this is going to go and how that’s going to go. And it’s 3d special effects, all singing, all dancing. So it’s very, very, very convincing.
And I think, before, this, obviously, you think you’ve got a bit of control over it, I think I mean, I thought that I was paving my way to be, you have it in your head that you’re going to do something and I felt like I was the one doing it. But again, it’s allowing yourself to live in the unknown.
I do find when I think about my eyes situation if I’m having a low day where I’m maybe not feeling quite so clear, I do tend to want to know what’s going to happen. And that might be when I’m googling stuff and trying to research and find out, or how’s this going to go?
Whereas when my mind is a lot clearer, I’m completely happy to be in the unknown and go with the flow and see, see what turns up.
Alexandra: When you find you’re a little more caught up about your diagnosis if you’re Googling, is there anything that you do to stop yourself from doing that? Or do you just let it happen? What happens then?
Clare: I suppose with being in this understanding for quite a long time now, I’m on to what’s going on, I suppose. And that’s probably got easier over time. I do just allow myself to get caught up. Sometimes it’s quite fun to be in a bad mood, isn’t it, and be like, if I’m in it, I’m going to be in it.
But, I think it’s a bit like quicksand, isn’t it? If you are trying to get out of a bad mood or a low state of mind or wherever you just sink deeper if you try and get out of it. I’m not saying I’m always that gracious with it. But I try not to fight my way out, because I know it will only make it worse. And eventually, it does pass doesn’t it? We come in and out.
Alexandra: It always shifts. So we can count on that. For sure.
Is there was anything else about your work or about what you’ve seen around this understanding that you’d like to share that we haven’t touched on?
Clare: I’ve been doing a lot of work with teenagers. I’m not sure I’ve had a chance to put much about that on my website, but I’m going into a school and coaching some people there, and I’ve been doing a lot more with teenagers because I think I feel like they are a good group to teach this to because they’re not quite as conditioned.
They’re a lot closer to their source than adults are because adults seem to have layers and layers to peel back. But, teenagers don’t. They haven’t been on this earth working quite as long.
So, they’re really fun to work with. And unfortunately, they’re struggling a bit. So that’s what I’ve really, really enjoyed that.
Alexandra: Oh, that’s amazing. And I think it’s such a good point, too, about teenagers. Compared to adults, when we’re adults, I just get a greater sense of we feel like, well, I know what’s happening. I’m going to defend my position, and this is how it is.
Is there a little bit less of that, I’m guessing, with teenagers?
Clare: They seem to be a lot more open to things because you almost think that they’re not going to be. But no, they really are. I think if you can teach a teenager about the role of thought, you’re onto something big.
When I look back, I think if I knew this when I was a teenager, what a difference. I like to think that if we work with enough children and teenagers, we won’t have to ever coach adults again.
Alexandra: So true.
Just before we started recording, you mentioned you have children. Do you bring this to them as well?
Clare: I really do. I suppose because I live this way, it’s unavoidable. Because they see it, they hear it. Even things like if I’m really caught up in my thinking, I can tell them it’s not you, then you haven’t done anything wrong.
I’m just in a really low mood, and I’m seeing the world through a filter of distortion. Might not put it like that. So they might not understand. But what I mean is it’s where they know that their moods are not necessarily to be taken too seriously. And also pointing out things like we all always have, like a place that we go, when we’re in a low mood like mine is quite often, I might look around the house, and I see them all on screens or something and then freak out because I’m like, well, you’re always on screens, which they’re not.
But, when I’m in a low mood, it looks like they are or, and they all have their own individual places that they go. So I try and talk about that a bit. And help them to just notice it. Really, I think it’s all about noticing, isn’t it?
Alexandra: Yes, exactly. And I imagine that when we’re kids, I mean, I guess I should speak for myself, but I responded less well when people told me what to do or how things were, but when an adult was open and vulnerable about what they were going through that really affected me.
So I imagined by sharing with your kids, I’m in a low mood. This is just what’s going on with me right now that that would have such an impact on them.
You’re not pointing to them and saying do it differently. You’re just sharing what’s going on with you.
Clare: That’s it. And sometimes they will even say to me, you’re just in a low mood. It’s not me. And I’m like, well, it feels like it’s you.
Alexandra: Turning the tables. That’s great. I love hearing that.
How did your work in the schools come about? I’m just curious about the teenagers.
Clare: So it’s a school that my children have gone to. I’ve got two teenagers and one younger one as well. So I just emailed them. And it’s voluntary. I just said, if you want someone to go in and coach one day a week, or more, then I’m available.
I’m so amazed by them that they’re open to this because a lot of schools have to jump through so many hoops. And they’re a bit like, oh, no, we’ll stick to the very normal way we do it. I think they’ve just really impressed me.
So I emailed them and then sent them some testimonials. And some of the students that I’ve already helped from the same school, emailed them as well and just said, it’s really, really helpful. And it’s something a bit different. So, good for them.
Alexandra: I’m encouraged too that the teenagers will step forward and say I’d like to talk to you or I’d like some help with whatever it is. That’s really great.
Clare: Because I think the route through the doctors and things like that, I think they’re on like an 18-month waiting list. People can’t wait that long. Some people can’t wait that long. Some people can’t afford private coaching.
So at least if it’s available, and maybe we’ll do like six-week slots for them. So they know that every week they turn up and they have a session. Hopefully, I can do something there.
Alexandra: Oh, that’s lovely. That makes my heart so happy. That’s really nice. Well, this has been amazing, Clare. Thank you so much for talking to me.
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
Clare: I’ve got a website, which is BlindsidedByThought.com. I have a YouTube channel, which is, I think, under blindsided by thought as well. I also have a Facebook group called parenting teens more gracefully, which I’ve really enjoyed doing. I interview someone once a month, and some come from this understanding.
I try and choose a topic that maybe a teenager would struggle with, that somebody’s come through, that they’ve come through the other side, thanks to this understanding. So that’s really fun, and lots of resources on there. And I do mainly one-to-one coaching. But obviously, struggling with my own anxiety and eating disorders there are lots of topics there that we can cover.
Alexandra: Great. I will put links to all of that in the show notes. And if I put a link to the Facebook group, will that like, it’s not a private group, I guess, is what I’m asking if I put a link in and go there.
Clare: Yes, I think so. I think to join; they have to just answer a couple of questions. It is on there as one of the lists of parenting groups.
Alexandra: Okay. Thank you so much for talking to me, Clare. I appreciate it.
Clare: Thank you very much. Bye.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai