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DAN KOE

ALEX MATHERS

TAYLIN SIMMONDS

Founder, KorteX
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medium.com top writer
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"If you want practical strategies to maximize your own well-being, then create a profitable internet business around your passions, interests and curiosities – Goldfield is your guy."

DAN KOE

i grew up terrified of sex.

but millennial british culture told me i had to get as much of it as i could (and more).

the peer pressure was suffocating.

if i was successful with girls i was accepted by my tribe. if not, i was rejected.

so for 15 years i tried everything to get laid—for all the wrong reasons.

first i tried guesswork.

then i tried whatever the older guys recommended.

then i tried whatever the internet recommended.

it rarely worked. and when it did, it didn’t lead to good experiences.

i didn’t know it at the time, but to have fulfilling intimate experiences i’d need to release some DEEP emotional baggage.

my journey with intimacy led me through jealousy, embarrassment, shame and guilt… yet somehow i ended up marrying the woman of my dreams (twice!)

this journey starts in the middle with a surprise encounter in deep meditation…

the root of my trauma

i was 33 when i met 5-year-old dan.

he was standing on the edge of the school playground watching the other kids play and feeling deeply confused.

they were playing a UK playground game called “kiss-chase” (essentially tag, but with lips).

odd, but pretty harmless. (the kisses were what you’d give a bunny rabbit, not what you’d give a tinder date.)

still, little dan didn’t get it. i’d figure out why later, but my first concern was for him.

i took his little hand and led him to a square of tiny benches with flowerpots at the corners.

our conversation didn’t play out like a real one.

since little dan was, obviously, me, it was much more like a vague merging of minds than a detailed dialogue.

i already knew what he was going to say. i just hadn’t acknowledged it till now because i’d suppressed this part of myself.

i rediscovered that little dan felt like an outsider as he watched the other kids playing their odd little game.

and in that moment i realized something that would make sense of my entire lifetime of struggles with intimacy…

little dan never saw his parents be affectionate to one another. nor his grandparents. nor anyone else who might’ve modelled affection for him.

big dan figured there was only one reason 5-year-olds would be playing that game of kiss-chase: they were imitating behaviour they’d seen elsewhere. but when it came to kissing, little dan had no-one to imitate.

so little dan’s first encounter with intimacy wasn’t in a safe context, but there on the school playground where kids point and laugh at each other. and he was often on the receiving end of that behaviour.

sitting on those playground benches my romantic life flashed before my eyes.

🔹 every time i’d been rejected
🔹 every awkward first kiss
🔹 every embarrassing attempt to navigate female anatomy

suddenly i had a “why” for all the difficulties i’d faced.

no-one ever even attempted to guide me through that stuff.

so i’d stacked those awkward experiences without a clue how they might’ve been different.

but worse, i’d stacked mental interpretations of what those experiences meant:

🔹 “i’m unattractive”
🔹 “girls don’t like me”
🔹 “sex is terrifying”

this became a self-fulfilling prophecy. one i was completely unaware of.

i’d figure out later that if i went into a date feeling unattractive then i would, naturally, be unattractive.

but through my late teens and early twenties—where it mattered most—i thought it was all about there being something wrong with me.

but here in this meditation, sat with little dan, i was able to shine the purifying light of new wisdom on all that old darkness.

because i’d been studying wisdom obsessively:

🔹 reading ancient texts
🔹 speaking with lineaged teachers
🔹 practising mindfulness every waking moment

in fact i’d been so immersed in wisdom teachings, personal development and psychology that once i accessed that old, hidden corner of my psyche it looked absurd...

🔹 of course it wasn’t little dan’s fault he felt like an outsider standing on the edge of that playground
🔹 of course it wasn’t teenage dan’s fault he’d been rejected
🔹 of course it wasn’t grownup dan’s fault he’d been dragging all this emotional baggage around with him

thanks to my mindfulness practice i was able to see this entire story—and all the pain that came with it—as the result of *causes and conditions:

  1. no-one ever demonstrated romantic affection for me at home
  2. this caused me to be confused when other kids started kissing each other
  3. this conditioned me to feel like an outsider
  4. this caused me to feel i wasn’t attractive
  5. this conditioned me to expect rejection
  6. this caused me to fear romantic interactions
  7. this conditioned me to fumble even when i had an opportunity
  8. this caused me to feel the sting of peer pressure even more deeply
  9. this conditioned me to want sex for the wrong reasons
  10. this caused the whole pattern to spiral into a feedback loop of anxiety

back on the playground i sat little dan on my lap and gave him a long, tight hug. the kind of hug you can only receive as a kid—when you can be fully enveloped by an adult and they make you feel completely safe.

but this hug was even better, because it expressed the care one can only give to oneself.

the adults who raised me, like everyone else, had their blind spots. one of these was the importance of guiding a kid through early experiences with intimacy.

so i went on a long, difficult solo journey. and the culmination of that journey was this moment, hugging my inner child, giving him the gift of peace.

natural therapy

my experience with little dan was profoundly healing.

curious about it, i investigated similar experiences reported by other practitioners.

first of all i found that many buddhist traditions call this kind of experience “purification”.

it’s common that practitioners, upon getting quiet in meditation, will come face-to-face with old unresolved issues. then, if they’re able, they’ll apply newly realized wisdom to that old issue and let it go.

i also discovered a modern parallel to my experience called “internal family systems therapy”. in this process a therapist guides a patient to encounter repressed “parts” of themselves, then understand and integrate them to let go of trauma.

here’s a simplified illustration of what happened to me (and others who’ve gone through this process):

i was born on the left as pure awareness (like everyone else).

then the grownups started imposing their rules and telling me things really mattered. this is what “reification” means: making things real, neglecting that how we experience things is due to interpretation. dissatisfaction went up. (disclaimer: i’m not saying we shouldn’t teach kids how to cross the road. different thing.)

i formed an identity around the things that seemed to matter most (e.g. “i should try to be cool. but wait, it doesn’t matter how hard i try, girls don’t like me.”)

this identity led to trauma as i experienced emotional turbulence around it.

finally i repressed that trauma so that i could do things like get work, earn money, and get laid at least a few times despite my insecurity.

when this all became too much, i took up mindfulness and dissolved those layers until i saw that my true identity was awareness the whole time.

so i’d stumbled upon an experience unanimously valued for its healing power, but what did this mean for me?

letting go: the way to get what you really want

"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be." - Lao Tzu (author of "Tao Te Ching")

following my encounter with little dan my whole relationship with intimacy underwent a rapid and profound overhaul.

first and foremost, the need for validation i’d been wearing like a poorly-fitting coat evaporated. i’d given little dan all the validation he needed, and this was like striking at the root of the whole issue. no longer did i seek the approval of women i met, nor my peers. i was finally self-validated.

second, i realized a couple of things:

a) i’d never wanted to be a “stud”—i’d never actually wanted one-night stands.

it became obvious to me that in my relationships to everything else in life i valued depth.

i didn’t enjoy artistic collaborations without first getting to know my collaborators. i didn’t enjoy surface-level, “small talk” interactions with friends and acquaintances.

yet, succumbing to peer pressure, i’d been trying to convince myself that i wanted to jump straight into physical intimacy with women i’d just met.

b) there was actually some solid reasoning behind my fear of sex.

still, to this day, the idea of getting a stranger pregnant is my worst nightmare. hell, i don’t want to have a kid with my wife!

i’d seen unwanted pregnancies happen to friends and they were not pretty. even those who planned for children reported that they couldn’t have known how much parenthood would change their lives.

now, for some, the risks involved with one-night stands might be worth it. but me, i always had other passions. first music, now mindfulness. and the disruption an unwanted pregnancy would cause to these pursuits never seemed worth betting on for the cheap reward of an orgasm. and this is to say nothing of the risk of std’s, nor the emotional turmoil that almost always follows any attempt at a “no strings” encounter.

of course, previously there’d been something else on the table for me: approval; validation. but now this was out of the picture i was able to see things as they really were.

all this made it easy to see that what i really wanted was a life-partner. someone with whom i was deeply compatible and with whom a baby wouldn’t be a total fucking disaster if it showed up by surprise.

so i deleted tinder and focused instead on a dating app called “OkCupid”.

i put my focus on OkCupid because, unlike the superficial “swiper” apps, it encouraged users to write something about themselves.

i had an old profile active there. but when i read it over it was clear to me that i’d been censoring myself when i wrote it.

mindfulness is cool now, but it wasn’t always

when i mentioned mindfulness to people in 2019 i typically received funny looks and/or awkward questions.

“what, you’re into that hippie bollocks?”

“oh so you just want to bliss out and forget your responsibilities?”

“meditation? what, are you religious now?”

when i wanted approval, these kinds of responses were difficult for me.

but when i let go they no longer mattered.

when i wanted to land as many dates as possible, i’d hesitated to write about mindfulness on my OkCupid profile.

but when i let go, i wrote about mindfulness because mindfulness was what i was interested in.

free of the desire for any specific outcome, i started reaching out to 40-60 potential dates every day.

where previously i’d cared deeply whether i got a response or not, feeling that a lack of response meant something about me and confirmed that i was unattractive…

now i was just gleefully casting my net without a care about what it brought in.

obviously, this meant i could cast a wider net.

it finally happened

one sunday morning i received a reply from a woman named Debbie.

i’d complimented a pencil drawing of a wine glass she’d uploaded, and she remarked that i was the only guy who commented on something she’d done rather than how she’d won the genetic lottery.

we texted a while, but i told her i’d have to cut our conversation short because i was attending a mindfulness meeting.

“oh you’re into mindfulness?!” she said, “i’m here in the UK to study psychology!”

and the rest is history: i married Debbie once here in the UK during lockdown, then again 3 years later in her hometown of Calcutta so we could do a real wedding, Indian style.

if i’d continued to repress my old trauma; to need validation; to fear intimacy; to censor myself, i never would’ve met my wife. much less would i have been attractive to her (most women detect neediness in a man the second he enters the room. but a psychologist is rocking spidey-sense level shit on this front.)

i got what i’d truly wanted all those years not by trying for it, but by letting it go.

i’m going to explain to you exactly how this works. but first i’m going to tell you why the typical way of trying to get things you want doesn’t work…

why is neediness such a turn-off?

a date really isn’t that different to a business transaction.

two people show up with at least a vague idea of what they want and what they’re willing to exchange for it.

of course, what they communicate openly about this and what’s instead only sub-communicated tend to be quite different. this is why so many people report not knowing why a date didn’t work out. things might’ve looked great on the surface... but the surface is utterly unimportant compared to what’s going on at the felt level.

but imagine a date in which everything was communicated openly.

you spot your date entering the fancy cocktail bar and you shout “i’m SO glad you actually showed up! wow, i really thought i’d been ghosted when i saw you were a minute late! hey, do you like my new shirt?”

you get settled and then the real fun begins.

“so listen, i really need someone who’s not going to comment on the size of my nose. i feel super insecure when someone i’m with looks at another man, so could you promise to never, never, never do that? i’m sensitive about my weight but i can’t stop eating Walker’s Max Cheese & Jalapeno crisps so i’ll need you to somehow encourage me to quit those… or just be okay with me being a little overweight.”

“oh, what’s that? what do you get in return? oh, i’ll like… pay half the bills?”

not a strong proposition, right? but here’s the thing: until you’re genuinely free of these kinds of needs you are subcommunicating them (through body-language, facial expression and tone of voice). that’s what i was doing before my encounter with little dan, and why a date can seem like it’s going well when it’s actually doomed.

no-one ever tells anyone straight that they’re unattractive.

this is why ghosting is so common. people would rather say nothing than say “i just sensed somehow that you eat too many Walker’s Max Cheese & Jalapeno crisps. this isn’t gonna work.”

the more you need from someone, the worse the proposition is for them. and this extends beyond dating into all your relationships.

“Dependency breeds resentment, not love.” - Jordan B. Peterson

now, wouldn’t it be great if you could make a proposition like this instead:

“listen, i’ve ditched my emotional baggage and i’m ready for a relationship that’s truly win/win. i’m okay on my own—i could live the rest of my life on my own—but a strong partnership could make us both better than we could ever be apart. i want to collaborate with you. i want to lift you up. i want you to lift me up. i want us to create a life of meaning and purpose and pleasure together.”

better pitch, right?

of course, to say all that would be to come on too strong. but my wife and i actually spoke about Stephen Covey’s paradigm of the interdependent relationship on our very first date. and we went on to make it happen.

so the big question is how do you do this?

how do you dissolve that emotional baggage?

how do you come to a place where you can truly make this attractive offer to someone?

i’ve got your back.

how to release trauma in meditation

my meeting with little dan came completely by accident. i wasn’t aiming to have that experience. it occurred because i’d created certain conditions:

  1. quiet
  2. calm
  3. readiness

these are easiest to achieve in that order.

1. quiet

to create quiet, it’s vital that you have easy access to a distraction-free environment. this is easier for some than others (if you’re a parent you’ll know exactly what i mean). but everyone has to shower or bathe, and so everyone has at least some distraction-free time every day. you can absolutely use this to meditate.

2. calm

here’s how to create calm:

  1. accept things as they are
  2. stop wishing things were different
  3. stop interpreting, judging, labeling, describing things
  4. when you notice tension or distraction, acknowledge this as successful practice
  5. repeat steps 1-4

if your nervous system is super active you can also use deep breathing to calm it down.

note: you do not need your mind to be silent to get benefit from meditation.

3. readiness

this is the part that will likely take longest. however, nothing in spiritual practice can be said to be truly bound by time.

some practitioners have experienced trauma release very soon after taking up a meditation practice.

others have waited years.

for me it was years. this is the more common arrangement.

along with your practice you’ll want to:

a) speak with a teacher
b) watch videos of wisdom teachers like Alan Watts, Ram Dass, Adyashanti, Mooji, Thich Nhat Hanh and Rupert Spira (find whichever one you resonate with most and go deep with them)
c) listen to audios from those teachers
d) read books from those teachers

this list is in order of preference. you want to have the most direct interaction you can with someone who’s figured this stuff out. naturally, a conversation is best while text is worst (but still beneficial).

remember how little dan needed wholesome behaviour modelled for him? this is what a teacher can do for you. (click here if you need guidance.)

if you’re not ready to encounter your trauma then you'll never be able to release it.

that said, please don’t rush this. that will only delay things.

i know your wish to be free of trauma may feel urgent. but relaxation is the key that unlocks everything here. this can be difficult to navigate, so your perspective on all this is vital. (you might find my ​overarching philosophy of awakening​ useful here.)

with love from my sofa,
dg 💙

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How to Maintain Healthy Social Boundaries

(The Power of Saying No)

The main reason you struggle to say "no" is fear of what will happen if you do. But have you ever seen things going badly for someone who has their boundaries dialled in? Me neither. Here's how to value your time properly and take it back (before you run out of it altogether)...

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