Safe Haven in Ottawa, CA

By Vagdevi Meunier, Psy.D.

In the middle of May, I had an opportunity to travel to Ottawa, Canada with Chris Cambas of National Marriage Seminars to participate in a one of a kind experience.   We were there to nurture our bond with Dr. Sue Johnson but also to help her throw a Twitter Party.  

I have been to other parts of our northern neighbor, but never the capital.  It is a beautiful old city that reminds me of European kingdoms with its old buildings, the canal running through the center of the city, the lush gardens and scenery, and the rural countryside that stretches for miles around the city with small and large lakes and hills.  We were also fortunate to be there during the week of the world-renowned Tulip Festival, a flowery testament to a bond that has survived for 70 years across the oceans.  This bond was formed when the people of Ottawa gave refuge and sanctuary to members of the Royal Dutch family, Princess Juliana and her three daughters after the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands.  You can read the legacy story here.  

It is significant that the city of Ottawa was a warm safe haven for a royal family in exile that led to a lasting connection filled with grace and gratitude.  If you have ever seen thousands of tulips blooming together in the sun, you will understand the true meaning behind “Creating Connections”, which is what Dr. Sue Johnson’s research and writing is all about.  People who read the tulip legacy story and then read Dr. Johnson’s books on lasting bonds might wonder, as I did, whether her work was inspired by this fairy tale narrative of a princess who was hid in a castle by the gentle folk of Ottawa and helped to give birth to her third daughter in safety and love while a nasty war raged on at the borders of her country.

So I went to Ottawa to help with a Twitter party and came away understanding something deeper about safe havens and secure bonds. I thought I knew what a Twitter party was but my understanding of it was limited by my technological and pragmatic perspective.  Twitter encourages people to share their thoughts 140 characters at a time, so a Twitter party, in my limited opinion, was like a virtual cocktail party with lots of pithy chit chat.  

What I learned was that twitter could be used to help build a sense of community, to share knowledge and passion about healthy attachment, and reach a whole boatload of people in one hour.  In that hour, we had over 7 million impressions, had 600,000 people see about 12 messages flash across their screens, and engaged 150 people simultaneously in a chat.  The whole time that we were engaged in trying to direct the flow of virtual traffic on Twitter, we were also in conversation with Dr. Sue about why the message of healthy attachment is such an important topic of our time.

We interviewed Dr. Sue in her own “safe haven” the small garden in her backyard with a waterfall, plants, and birds while she sat on the rocks and talked about secure attachment.  She talked about helping couples find each other in the middle of distress and disconnection, she talked about attunement, and she talked about how partners can heal each other from trauma by being available when their traumatized partner turns towards them in the middle of the night when nightmares and flashbacks rise up in the dark.  

Safe haven may have special meaning for the people of Ottawa because of their tulip story as well as their contemporary world-renowned researcher, Dr. Sue Johnson.  But safe haven, secure attachment, and a scientific theory of adult love are critical concepts for this century.  In September 2016, Dr. Sue Johnson and many of her research and clinical colleagues will come together in another unique dialogue: The Creating Connections Conference which will be offered for the first time in North America.  If you care about relationships, love, and building deep meaningful connections in your life, this conference may be the quintessential educational program you need.  

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