I have had the pleasure of knowing Theo Selles for a number of years, and have always found him to be funny, interesting and knowledgeable. With several books under his belt, Theo is still the same person he was when I met him. His family therapy business does well, and he has branched out to assist corporations who have personnel issues.
I remember a conversation I had with him after his first book came out and I asked him how it felt, becoming an overnight success? He smiled and said he had no idea. “I slept through it.”
The youngest of five children, Theo was born in Burlington. He worked for his father’s garden service, as far back as he can remember. It was after school, weekends, summer vacation and so on. His dad had a major impact on Theo’s life and taught him all about integrity. “My dad would make deals with customers, based on a handshake, and would never go back on his word,” Theo explained. It was something that would stay with him for the rest of his life.
Theo was repeatedly told, by most academics he met, that he was more suited working with his hands, rather than his brain. His grades were not good enough to go to university, so, after high school, he continued to work in his father’s landscape business.
It was time to take stock and focus on his future. Theo enrolled at the University of Guelph as a mature student, majoring in psychology, specializing in children and family practice. He graduated, but was still not sure of what path to take.
In 1990, Theo decided he wanted more from life and was determined to see sights, other than Burlington and Waterdown. He embarked on a journey around North America, with only one rule: he could not use public transportation, which meant hitchhiking, all the way. It was an interesting self imposition, but during his youth, Theo had always been told the world was full of abusive, terrible people. To overcome his paranoia, he decided to thumb his way around the continent, forcing him to meet and make contact with strangers.
He travelled over 32,000 km for almost a year, and discovered most people are the same as you and I, just trying to get through life the best they can. Most were willing to help. “It reinforced my belief in humankind,” Theo added. The adventure gave Theo new insights into humanity, and he decided to make a career out of helping people.
After his quest, Theo wanted to set up shop in a smaller locale. One with a picturesque town, not too crowded and it had to have a lake and a hospital. “I looked at a map and Port Perry popped out at me. Not too far from Toronto, yet quaint enough to establish a peaceful existence of helping people. It was not long after, that Theo Selles set up his private practice, counselling individuals, families and couples. “Simply put,” he explained. “I help people to be happy.
His first book, published in 2010, is titled, ‘Selfishness Matters’. It is guaranteed to offend everyone; however, its humour and satire have a deep-rooted meaning. “I am so tired of the emphasis on self-help. It’s time we stopped thinking about helping and loving ourselves and think more about finding ways to help and love others.” Theo explained.
His face turned sober as he spoke. His cynical tone was replaced with sincerity. “I am so sick of people coming to see me and telling me they ‘don’t know how to communicate’. Then they proceed to eloquently tell me all the things that are wrong with their partner. They communicate dissatisfaction, disinterest, disdain, disrespect, very, very well. The issue is that they don’t communicate love.”
Theo’s business grew, and he branched into management consulting and trauma debriefing. Now he is an accomplished motivational speaker. His company, Integrity Works, instills organizational values through team building.
Theo Selles does not consider himself immune from the seduction of self-absorption. He has certainly made many mistakes and has hurt people he loved en route as he muddles his way through life. In his experience, people who emphasize the importance of being accepted for who they are in relationships tend to be too lazy and self-absorbed to attempt to change and grow.
His second book, ‘The Heart of the Pearl’ was published a few years ago and deals with helping abused individuals, work through the process of healing, with fantastic results. Theo stresses that ‘sexual’ abuse is a term misused with dire consequences. “Quite often, when someone has been violated, they are labelled as having been ‘sexually abused’. This is not necessarily the case as the book explains” Theo stresses.
For the past few years, Theo, as if he is not busy enough, teaches at Guelph-Humber University. The courses he covers are Crisis Management, Counselling and various psychology subjects.
His latest book, just out, is called, ‘Mr. Prissy Boots’. The genre is a comedy. I have just finished reading it and it is quite funny. The premise is about a woman who inherits a cat. The kicker is, there are some really strange terms associated with the inheritance, not to mention the cat is very, very overweight and it hoots. Theo wanted to write a book with a happy ending. Did he accomplish that? Pick up a copy at your local bookstore, or visit theoselles.ca/about-the-book-1.html to get a copy (the proceeds of which are donated to charity).
Jonathan van Bilsen is an award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures at photosNtravel.com
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Jonathan van Bilsen
Join Jonathan van Bilsen in the Standard as he begins a series of feature articles on prominent residents of North Durham in his new column, The Story Behind The Person.