From the Sex Industry to Self-Love and Learning: We Are Not Defined by Our Past.
Interview with Caroline Hoek
Caroline Hoek is a transpersonal psychotherapist, coach and trainer. While living in the Netherlands, she considers herself a global citizen and works with clients all over the world.
Caroline is the Founder of Good Life Guidance. It is her deepest wish to accompany her clients on the path of personal and/or professional development. Rather than rigid protocols or models, it’s her intuition and her 30+ years of experience that are her greatest strengths.
In my new book, Life After Trauma, Caroline shares the story of how her difficult upbringing led her to working in a brothel. From narrowly escaping a sexual assault to finally hitting her emotional rock bottom, she tried to take her own life. Saved at the last minute, Caroline found her catalyst for change in the psychiatric hospital where she recovered. These experiences are what inform her work today, and makes her a relatable therapist who truly understands where her clients are coming from in their darkest moments.
Dr. Andrea – I think it’s really important to start by saying that we should not be defined by our past. Even when we’ve given up on life and on ourselves at some point, we can move on and grow from the experience. And when I first met you, I would never have guessed what you had been through. On meeting you, all I could see what this radiant, shining, openness. So when I first read your story that you shared in Life After Trauma I was so surprised!
Caroline – Yes! I get that reaction often. You know, it’s not a day to day typical occurrence to meet somebody who had once been a prostitute.
Dr. Andrea – Exactly. And it’s even less likely that you will meet somebody who is willing to share about themselves.
So after some experiences in childhood where men were just taking from you, the move to prostitution was a conscious decision where you said, “Okay, now I’m calling the shots.”
Caroline – Well, the sexual abuse started when I was 10. I came form a troubled background all together, so the abuse was only a small part of it. My biological father turned out not to be the man my mother was married to. So there was a lot going on with men being dishonest, using me, and overall I really felt that I wasn’t welcome anywhere on earth.
Then when I was 23, I dropped out of school. It was very hard for me to relate to friends around me, and I always felt that people were playing with me. So I wanted to turn it around. So all those guys who thought they could just have their way with me – they would have to pay for it. That’s what I felt I should do to regain my power. I really was convinced this would give me back my power and a sense of freedom.
I wanted to call the shots. I wanted money to do nice things, like buy myself a piano, which I actually did!
Dr. Andrea – The way that you told the story was really beautiful, but also disturbing as you described the way you went to the brothel to the first time.
And as you left one of your first shifts at the brothel and were returning home, on your way somebody stopped you in the park.
Caroline – Yes, I had been working late that time, which I didn’t often do. I preferred the day shifts. So as I was walking home in the dark, I hesitated before entering the park and wondered if I should go that way. But then I thought, “Oh come on Caroline, you can do this and you don’t have to be afraid.”
So I entered the park, and then from my left side I saw somebody moving towards me. It was a man, and he told me that we were going to have sex. I was thinking, “Oh my goodness, was he a client? Did I know him?”
I tried to talk my way out of it, I even told him I worked in the brothel and he could see me there.
But he was angry and he just wanted to feel powerful. So the more I tried to talk to him, the angrier he became. Then it turned into an ugly fight.
Dr. Andrea – But you made it out of the park, and a kind woman let you use her phone. And this experience was really a turning point for you. Yet you decided to go back to the brothel. So what was happening for you then?
Caroline – I did go back. There was this voice in me that was so strong, telling me to do this. I even did it in tears. My boyfriend even told me that I didn’t have to do it, offing me a way out. But I just felt that I had to. It was an urge that I should and I must. So with my fresh bruises from the fight in the park, I went back and carried on.
Obviously, there wasn’t much self-worth inside of me at that point. I thought there was no other life for me out there. I was convinced of that.
Dr. Andrea – So not only had you survived the sexual trauma from childhood, and then the park, but there is more. You also are a survivor of attempted suicide. At some point on your journey, you started to feel that you really weren’t the one calling the shots. That sense of helplessness took on a whole new meaning for you.
Caroline – Absolutely. I woke up one day, and I asked myself, “What were you thinking, Caroline, that you were calling the shots?”
I realized that these guys all came and went without giving me a second thought. When I first started at the brothel, I was the new face, and the new body really. So all the men picked me, and I didn’t have to use any tricks or try my best to get customers. But then there would be another newcomer, and another, and I felt again that I wasn’t worthy.
Then I thought that guy in the park, who thought he could just have his way with me. And I thought about how my parents didn’t really want me. So then I eventually thought, why not just leave this earth.
At first I was put into a psychiatric ward, as I only had the thoughts about suicide. Having told my boyfriend (now husband) he encouraged me to get help. So I was institutionalized at first – but I knew I didn’t truly belong there. I also knew that as soon as I could leave the hospital, I would do the thing I had been thinking of doing.
When I left the hospital, Hans picked me up and took me back to his home. I stayed the night, and in the morning I told him I needed to go and get some groceries.
I left his place but didn’t go shopping. I went straight home to get on with the deed. I thought I wanted to do it with gas, as I thought it would be humane and kinder for the people who had to find my body. There would be no blood, for example.
Dr. Andrea – So you turned on the gas in your kitchen?
Caroline – Yes, but first I sealed my windows with sticky tape. Then I turned everything on, and sat on the floor and waited.
Dr. Andrea – Did you leave a note or tell anyone?
Caroline – No, nothing.
Dr. Andrea – And then the doorbell rang?
Caroline – Yes, I thank God for that now.
Dr. Andrea – They were shouting, “Open the door?”
But how did they know to come?
Caroline – My boyfriend had sensed that something was wrong. Since he comes from a troubled background too, he just knew. He called the police and sent them to me.
So I opened the door to two police men. But I was already in a state of leaving, so disconnected and numb. I didn’t start talking until I was on a closed ward of the hospital. They put me there to protect me from myself.
Dr. Andrea – and in this new psychiatric hospital, they put you in a little room by yourself?
Caroline – Yes I was alone there. I’m talking a bout a psychiatric ward 30 years ago. At the time it was very sterile, with straps on the bed in the middle of the room. Apart from that, there was a chair, and a small cabinet for clothes. That was is.
The lady who showed be around was very kind, and this kindness really melted me. She helped me to open up a little. Looking back now I feel so much gratitude for her.
So there I was. When the evening came I went to sleep. Then the very next morning; it was incredible. I woke up and sat up. This voice came to me and said, “Caroline, since you are here, why not make the best of it.”
I thought, “YES, okay!”
The shift in my mind was beyond words. Now I know that everything comes from the mind, but I didn’t get it back then. Now I know that we can choose. I really feel this was the voice of the holy spirit, letting me know that I could choose.
This really calmed me down so much. It wasn’t really a feeling of happiness, but more a calmness, and a knowing that I could choose life over death.
Dr. Andrea – I’m taken by the dramatic change that woman’s small act of kindness, that she was able to start you opening up.
So there’s a point in your chapter of the book where you tell us about the hospital asking you to sign a written contract, agreeing that you would not try to take your life while in their facility. But you had already decided to choose life!
So now in your work as a transpersonal psychotherapist, you are really helping people to have non-judgemental conversations about everything that goes on in our minds when we are giving up on ourselves and on life. So tell us a bit about your work today with Good Life Guidance.
Caroline – Well, first of all I really want to emphasise this point:
Everything is a lesson; even the abuse we may suffer. Everything that happened to me, I really feel grateful for.
Dr. Andrea – That is such a huge sign of spiritual maturity. So what do you think the lessons were?
Caroline – Forgiveness. As simple as that. That can I can either stay in my victimhood, or choose not too. Now I know that I was working against me, by staying in that grudge. When the nurse showed me loving kindness, I understood this is what it’s all about. Learning to open up. We can choose to be kindness. Now I see that everybody in my life all had a role to play, and they all played perfectly.
Of course I don’t stay in this mindset all the time. But when I catch myself judging or being in a negative mindset, I can now get myself back to this place very quickly. I remember that everything is a projection. So what those people were telling me also was that I wasn’t really kind to me. When I start to be kind to me, others start to open up and be kind to me too. And since I’m here, better enjoy life and make where I am a loving place. So that’s my message; about kindness, and about being awake to the harsh voices inside of ourselves. We don’t have to just listen to it, we can choose love instead.
So with Good Life Guidance, what I did first was to start working with traumatized clients who came from abusive backgrounds; both men and women. I thought I could be good at this because of my experience. I would tell my clients a little bit of my background to put them at ease, and to be an example that whatever we have encountered, we can choose to have love and stillness inside.
There was this beautiful word I learned from reading about Saint Francis of Assisi; equanimity. I love that word. So when I read books about him, tears always comes to my eyes as I feel this energy. But I could talk all day about this!
Dr. Andrea – So today you’re still working with people one-on-one, but you also run group workshops too, and you teach a monthly Course In Miracles class. Are they in Dutch or in English?
Caroline – Yes I’m doing these group classes every month now, as I’m so passionate about getting the message out there. When I’m teaching face-to-face groups here in The Netherlands then I’m teaching in Dutch, but when I’m working on Zoom I am also very happy to work in English.
Dr. Andrea – Well it’s such a gift that you are sharing your work, and now your story, around the world and taking things to the next level, in English too so that more of us can take advantage of it. You are the living proof that we can have a happy, thriving life after trauma. So I thank you once again from the bottom of my heart.
To learn more about Caroline and her work, visit www.goodlifeguidance.com.
If you are struggling with suicidal feelings then please reach out and talk to somebody.
In the US: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK
In the UK: The Samaritans 116 123
In the rest of the world, simply search online for suicide prevention to find a local number and have a safe, non-judgmental conversation.
If you found this interview helpful, then please share it with someone else who needs to know that there is hope and happiness to be found after trauma. It is a matter of choice.
To get your copy of Life After Trauma: Head here for the US Amazon store, or head to myliferewritten.com for more info.
— — — — — — — –
If you’d like help writing, publishing, or promoting your book, or if you’d like to co-author a collaborative book, visit us online or call for a free consultation. Call +1 (707) 776–6310