Ian Russell

Founder of The Braveheart Institute

Ian Profile Circle

My Story - The Long Version

Prefer to read the cliff notes? Click here.

I was born into a very toxic environment. A very unhappy marriage, with my mum and dad separating shortly after the arrival of my younger brother. My father never wanted us, and I was five years old when they separated. I have had no contact with my father since.


We moved from Northern England to Scotland to be closer to my Grandparents. We lived in a council flat in a very rough housing estate in a town called Bellshill. We lived in poverty; my mother was a single mother bringing up two young kids. It was a very difficult time. My younger brother, Alexander, had severe behavioural issues. My mum started training to become a physics teacher. Unsurprisingly, my mum was very unhappy and most nights I would hear her cry herself to sleep. 

I was a very sensitive boy. I have always been very intuitive, and due to this I was severely bullied at primary school. I was the opposite to my brother who was always fighting and getting into trouble. It was during all of this I remember making the conscious choice of emotionally shutting down. This world was not a safe. I remember thinking I would be like a Japanese samurai and shut off my emotions completely.

The bulling continued until I was thirteen and 'went crazy' when a boy attacked me. I stopped before I really hurt him but I was left alone after that. It was at this tender age that I realised for the first time that I was not afraid of being hurt, but rather what I was capable of. I was terrified that I was like my brother, and we fought like 'cats and dogs'. I was never comfortable with my own aggressive tendencies! What I felt was so extreme, all I wanted to do was kill in these states and this has always terrified me.

We moved to the West Coast of Scotland and my mum remarried when I was thirteen. This improved my personal circumstances greatly, but my family situation continued to deteriorate. My brother did not bond with our new stepfather, who was quite an unpleasant man.

My brother became more and more difficult to control. At thirteen he was 6ft 2ins tall and 25 stone! He was a member of the local gang and loved to fight. The police were constantly at our front door, and he started using soft drugs and alcohol. My brother then developed a severe heroin addiction which literally destroyed what was left of our family. 

Life was not flowing particularly well for me either at this point. I had dropped out of university after two years of a chemical engineering course and had been in and out of employment for a couple of years. I worked at the local shipyard and in the building industry. Unemployment was rife in Scotland at the time. Luckily for me, my mum found a newspaper article advertising paid training in London to become a psychiatric nurse. It really appealed to me as I thought learning psychiatry would help me understand why everyone was crazy around me.

I moved to London to start training and to escape the situation at home. I loved London and had a fantastic time training with an amazing group of friends. I specialised in Forensic Psychiatry and ran teams of six staff on very specialised units for violent offenders. My environment growing up conditioned me to thrive in this area. On the wards, I honed my intuition, and I loved the thrill and challenge of dealing with very volatile people. Most of the time, my wits were enough, but I enjoyed the very physical aspects of the job just as much! Relying on my intuitive skills was essential and allowed me to read the ward and patients easily.

It was during my career on the locked wards that the realisation I had at thirteen, deepened. There were two very distinct sides to me. Until now I had always considered myself to be a coward because I was not like the other boys and did not want to fight. I have always had an incredible softness and gentleness that I had to keep hidden. I discovered that I had been wrong the whole time, I was not afraid of fighting and getting hurt. I was actually afraid of hurting someone else. I was scared that once I started, I would not stop until they were dead! I began to realise that I was more like my brother than I liked to admit, and I was suppressing this incredibly violent side of me. It is hilarious that I specialised in working with extremely violent offenders and part of my job was to physically restrain them when necessary, and it often was. I have been terrified of this part of me my whole life and have kept it under lock and key. At the same time, I am extremely 'alpha' and trying to dominate with fear is all I ever experienced growing up. When I am triggered, my instinct is to destroy (and I mean literally) any perceived or actual threat. I shut down completely and feel very separate and alone. This is the complete opposite of how I feel in my heart and I have struggled greatly being both. All during my childhood I saw the damage that this type of energy did to people around me.

During my time in London, I became aware of the need to travel and was particularly drawn to Australia. I always follow my intuition without question and very quickly arranged to visit on a working visa. I had many adventures travelling and working around Australia, eventually arriving in Carnarvon, north of Perth, Western Australia. I worked as a remote psychiatric nurse, covering 135,000 km2. It was certainly an eyeopener! It was while working remotely I suddenly received the intuition to train in acupuncture. I have always loved studying martial arts, especially Kung Fu.

I moved to Perth and looked for a course. At this point I was very disillusioned by psychiatry in Australia. I also became sick with chronic fatigue. I had spent so long suppressing my aggressive nature that I actually manifested a condition of exhaustion. I spent the next three years retaining in Traditional Chinese Medicine. I met my wonderful wife prior to this, and we completed the training together. Michelle (my wife) and I built the our clinic from scratch. We jumped in headfirst with a mortgage and a 1 year old and no income! I have worked as a Chinese Herbalist and acupuncturist for twenty years.

During my career, I spent years trying to 'fix myself' with personal development courses and healing retreats. They were all amazing experiences, but nothing ever stuck. No matter how amazing the shift in awareness, I never seemed to be 'complete' or 'fixed'. I have two very distinct sides to me. I am incredibly self-aware and have an incredible capacity for love. On the other hand I can be extremely cold and shut down. My victim states are truly impressive to behold, I can victim with the best of them.


Alternatively, and something that has literally saved me, are my wisdom states. They are also something quite amazing to behold. I am naturally triggered into these states by the presence of other people. My ability to read people caused me a lot of problems until I moved into working in healing modalities. I began to have a structure and focus for these abilities that helped me own and understand them more. I have spent an incredible amount of time studying a lot of ancient and modern literature on consciousness and physiology. I have always been a 'seeker' and, like most people, I was always looking for the next thing to evolve my consciousness and repair the damage done to me. I was always trying to improve myself. I was always trying to rid myself of my survival coping mechanisms, they are great for basic survival but dreadful for living/thriving. These programmed behaviours do not help me bond with my fellow humans, particularly my wife and children. I always felt like I was missing something, just one or two pieces of the puzzle of being human.

In 2019 I completed two leadership courses with the Rights of Passage Institute. It was an incredible “aha” moment when I realised how incredibly smart the indigenous cultures were in programming their neurology.

The second and last piece of the puzzle for me was another “aha” moment while on a course with William Whitecloud. It was his description of the 'ego'. He describes the ego as an orientation system. That was it for me, everything clicked into place and everything I had studied and experienced made complete sense.


Suddenly I realised that I am a complete system, it is an incredible system if we are taught how to work with it properly. Unfortunately, we have no modern structures or systems in place that are capable of doing so. I realised that I am completely functional and completely dysfunctional at the same time. One part of us is designed for survival and the other for living and thriving. They are meant to work together not against each other. It just depends on which part of me I am focused on at a particular time. Both parts are essential if we know how to work with them. I choose to own everything in my system now and it allows me to live in the most skilful way possible.

I will never stop learning to integrate all my parts together and now I don’t want to. All ours answers lie within our own individual systems. In all systems, people with more experience in a particular area guide and support the people around them. This is no different. The skill is to learn which system you are using and shift into the one that benefits you. 

It is now time for me to put all my knowledge together into a structure that allows you to learn how your system works and how you can become the best version of yourself.