Paddleboarding may be the perfect metaphor for Carla Dawes’ work. An emotional freedom and success coach, certified EFT (tapping) practitioner, and a
licensed desire map facilitator who has studied psychology and meditation, Carla guides women through their choppy waters by creating “a compass for the soul.” Through retreats, workshops, and coaching sessions, she reignites the curiosity and courage they need to find clarity, break free of limiting patterns, and strengthen their relationships. At her retreats, she may even get you up on a paddleboard (she is a certified instructor), where you discover the figurative and literal importance of personal power and balance.
Carla is also the founder of Rising into Resilience, a coaching and wellness resource for the spouses and caregivers of trauma survivors, through which she helps her clients navigate the challenges of dealing with loved ones whose PTSD has overtaken their own lives and those of their family members. Through this service, she helps families heal, rise, and move forward with clearer understanding, nervous system regulation, healthier boundaries, and loving acceptance.
Having first met Carla at a BWB event, I already knew there is something quickly steadying about her presence and her ability to see one’s inner strength and potential when they are feeling vulnerable or less-than. So I was thrilled to connect with her again and find out more about her life and her work.
What drew you to the field of psychology and the that work you do? Was it a lifelong fascination or certain events, or both?
I’d say a combination. I was always fascinated by psychology, but I discovered that work in the mental health field was not at all like they make it look on TV and in the movies!
My journey to this work is one of coming full circle. I studied psychology straight out of high school, starting university at seventeen years old. During that time, I did a lot of volunteering. For example, I ran something called “The Club” for the Canadian Mental Health Association, where we created sports and leisure activities for people who were struggling with mental health challenges, as a way to connect, move their bodies, and cope with their challenges. Through these volunteer experiences, I felt deeply that I didn’t yet have the life experience to hold space for people who were truly suffering, so I pivoted and moved through a few other careers and life experiences before circling back to working in mental health and wellness.
It takes a lot of empathy to work in this field, and empathy is certainly deepened if you actually have lived experience with what someone is struggling with. So, I went and gained a LOT of life experience, including living and working overseas in countries like Japan, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Cyprus, and traveling through more than sixty-five countries. These experiences enabled me to really experience the breadth of human experience, especially traveling in many developing countries, and to embrace humanity.
So, I’d say it was a lifelong fascination that was re-centred by my life experiences, including the experience of supporting a loved one through a post-traumatic stress diagnosis to a place of wellness and post-traumatic growth.
You deal with the self-denying belief your clients have that they are not worthy enough, that they have to please others first. In your experience, how pervasive is this problem? What are some of your first questions to women who come to you?
I think this might be humanity’s biggest struggle. Maybe not for everyone, but I would venture to say that there are very few of us that don’t have an inner critic, and so many of us have been socially, culturally, and systemically conditioned to feel ‘other,’ like we don’t belong, or like we need to work so, so hard to be something different than our true selves. It’s simply not true. These conditioned beliefs lead us to people pleasing, performing, and perfectionism — behaviours that are not healthy or fulfilling.
To really shift our lives, we need a change in belief and a change in behaviour, and EFT tapping is such a powerful tool to reprogram and build new neural pathways that enable us to put in place new beliefs and show up (behave) in our lives in new ways that feel good and fulfilling for us!
One of the first questions I like to ask people who are feeling stuck is this: “What did you love to do when you were a kid? And WHY did you love to do that — how did it make you feel?” This is a simple way to ascertain what might be missing in our lives. Starting to understand what’s holding us back from engaging in what lights us up is an important part of the work. Once we have this consciousness, we can start the shift.
You employ some powerful (and playful) language; terms like “conscious creator” and “desire map.” Flesh these out for us. How are they interrelated and motivating for your clients?
First, if you’re not in love with the life you’re living, you can do some work towards consciously creating something different. Becoming conscious is a process of understanding your current beliefs and behaviours that are preventing you from living a life that lights you up. Building consciousness is the first step — exploring who you are, what you love, what beliefs you hold, and the behaviours you’re engaging in that aren’t serving you. Only then can you start to create something different.
So, one of the first ways we can do that is by understanding our core desired feelings. This comes from the book The Desire Map, written by thought leader Danielle LaPorte. The basis of this is that in order to be fulfilled in this life, we need to connect with how we want to FEEL, and then choose what we want to be, do, or have based on those feelings.
Maybe you want a fast car. Why? How does it make you feel to be in a fast car? Do you feel free? Elated? Inspired?
Maybe you love being in nature? Why? How does it make you feel to be in nature? Grateful? Inspired? Peaceful? Serene? Awestruck?
These are the clues to what you need to bring more of into your life. And what else makes you feel that way? What practices, behaviours, experiences, or relationships can you bring into your life to feel more like that every day?
Once you understand yourself this way, you can start to consciously create a life that is meaningful and fulfilling to you — one that makes you feel good every day.
For me, my core desired feelings are of being connected, inspired, powerful, free, and real. Every day I filter my choices through these words. If a choice will help me feel three or more of these, it’s a “Hell, yes!” If not, I reconsider it and see what other options might be available to me.
And, when you’re NOT feeling the way you want to feel, well, there’s EFT tapping for that!
What are some particular challenges you’ve seen over the past year, and what advice do you have for people to help them on a daily basis?
Well, as we come upon the one-year anniversary of the global pandemic, many people are experiencing increased overwhelm, uncertainty, disconnection, fear, anxiety, and worry — which affect all aspects of our lives, particularly our relationships. Regulating our nervous systems is the key to coping with this.
Our nervous system has something called a “Window of Tolerance” (WOT), as coined by Dan Siegel. This is our zone of emotional arousal within which we function optimally — if we’re outside our WOT, we’re experiencing nervous system hyperarousal (fight-or-flight) or hypoarousal (freeze). Prolonged exposure to stress (a global pandemic, for example) causes our WOT to shrink, which means that we’re more easily activated into fight, flight, or freeze. The simplest way to describe this is that people’s fuses are shorter — we are experiencing heightened emotion more quickly and more intensely.
EFT tapping is an AMAZING self-help tool to enable us to re-regulate ourselves, and to expand our window of tolerance! There are other things too, like movement, grounding, and breathwork, but tapping is very, very simple and accessible — anyone can do it on themselves at any time. I truly believe that tapping is the easiest and best tool for stress management for people experiencing this ‘pandemic burnout.’
Can the grounding and centring effects of tapping be incorporated into other physical or exercise regimens?
Yes, certainly! I’ve personally experienced ‘tapping yoga,’ and there are a lot of energy psychology and movement practices that can be done in conjunction with tapping. Tapping meditation is also an incredible tool that I personally use — sometimes on my paddleboard. Nothing more grounding and centring than being on the water; add some breathing and some tapping and you are totally zen!
You’re currently doing graduate work in EFT. What new insights or skills will this will bring to you?
Yes! I’m doing my Advanced Practitioner Training through the National Emotional Freedom Technique Training Institute (NeftTI), and it has been such a powerful learning experience for me.
Of course, there are layers of learning around new trauma theories and practices, and more advanced EFT intervention skills, but the biggest learning has been from the variety of clients I’m required to work with to attain this level of certification. And I have amazing mentors with so much wisdom and experience to share.
Every nervous system is unique, so diversifying my clientele enables me to gain experience that makes me a very well-rounded practitioner able to work with nervous systems that have had all sorts of life experiences.
There are nine other amazing practitioners in the program with me, including therapists, social workers, and other coaches, so I also get the benefit of learning from their client case studies and the nervous systems that they are working with. It’s a beautiful, expansive experience and I’m so grateful for it.
Let’s return to paddleboarding. I did it once and it was hard! When you do manage to stay up, the feeling is elating. How do you incorporate it into your retreats (when we can gather again), and what do clients learn from it?
I love this question! People are SO terrified to fall into the water when they’re paddleboarding! So, I start with dry-land training, where I balance a paddleboard on two BOSU balls, demonstrate and teach all the required skills and safety, and participants get to try it out. This is SO confidence building.
The perception is that this is easier than being on the water (the water is a psychological/emotional barrier), but actually, balancing a paddleboard on BOSU balls is much harder than on water because on water the entire surface area of the board is supported; however, on the BOSU, only two small circles support the board!
Using this approach, we can chip away at the fear with the dry-land training. Once retreat participants get out on the water, they are courageous and confident and LOVE that feeling of elation you describe!
One of my favourite retreat memories is of a moment when I was standing on the beach, watching a participant paddle back, when she cried out, “I’m DOING it! I’m SO proud of myself!” THAT is the feeling I want them to have — that felt sense of pride that they can do hard things and the reinforcement of their belief in themselves. Like anything, it just takes a little courage, a little practice, and voila! You get to experience that feeling of elation and pride that everyone deserves to have. Also, if you do fall in, that’s a learning experience too — and learning to get back up and try again is so much of what life is about, isn’t it?
Share something about yourself most wouldn’t know — a fun fact, an interesting perspective, or an engaging story.
Years ago when I was living and working in Afghanistan, I traveled to Egypt on my own (always interesting to be in the Middle East as a solo female traveller), and I have two fun experiences to share:
- I completed my Advanced Open Water Diver certificate in the Red Sea. As I descended into the famous Blue Hole dive, I steadied myself with my hand on a rock ledge, when my German diving buddy tapped me on the shoulder and pointed out a lionfish (which is deadly) just an inch from my hand! My eyes were the size of saucers behind my diving goggles as I gently removed my hand from that ledge!
- I also camped a few nights in an area of the Sahara called the Western Desert of Egypt. It was completely desolate, and also the most silent, most peaceful, most serene experience I’ve ever had.
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