Articles about Ole Vadum Dahl

Happiness is being something special for someone else

Published in the Danish Christian newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad on the 5the of January 2007.

You'll never get to read an article about me where I say: Hurrah, I'm blind! Of course, I'd like to regain my eyesight, but does my visual impairment prevent me from being happy? No, says Ole Vadum Dahl, who lost his eyesight as a consequence of illness, when he was 16 years old.
Photo: Peter Kristensen.

The art of living: Ole Vadum Dahl, the author of books on self-development and the leader of an educational center for coaching and psychotherapy, is being critical towards the trend of legalized narcissism of our time
By Dorte Remar

Recently, Ole Vadum Dahl took part in a one week retreat in the north of Jutland, Denmark. The retreat included daily meditations in a new spiritual setting.
- I enjoyed it very much. The most important thing about a retreat is to find peace and inner harmony. We spend a lot of energy fluttering around in the periphery of who we are. When we're stressing around, we deceive ourselves. When you meditate, you sense what it's like to be in a simple and satisfactory way. It's coming home to yourself, says Ole Vadum Dahl, and he adds: This may sound extremely navel-gazing. But if it works, you also get the surplus energy to be there for other people. Today, the trend is that we're very focused on me, me, me, and then me again. We lack care and respect for each other. And that's a brutalization.

This might not be what you expect from a man wh has been on a self-development journey himself from psychotherapy over Indian gurus to NLP. A man who writes books on self-help like the one that's just been published, Coaching and the Art of Living, and who's the leader of a center for training of therapists in accordance with a method he has invented himself. A man who's been able to celebrate 25 years in the therapy business, as he calls it, as a 50-year-old. But doesn't he himself contribute to a one-sided focus on personal well-being?

- This question has been weighing on me these last years, because it requires some ethical consideration. Can I equip people with the necessary professional and ethical skills? I think that what we do is great. But I've given a great deal of thought to how we find the balance between letting people develop themselves, sothat it doesn't end up in legalized narcissism, but rather in human care for other people. This may be difficult for those who've just learned to listen to their own needs. So, I reflect a great deal on that. It's a big responsibility to be the guide in the development of other people, says Ole Vadum Dahl.

The cars are parked close to each other in the parking lot and in the road outside Drueholm Training Centre, situated in the countryside between Ringsted and Koege, Denmark. Inside the former keeper's residence which has also served as a village school and family enterprise, people are talking vividly about behaviour and other psychological terms. The female sex is definitely best represented in the beautifully renovated rooms, where the students are doing group work in connection with the lessons of the day.
The place offers 2 kinds of training within the area of psychology: a 2-year Life Coach training, and a 4-year psychotherapist training Today, coming psychotherapists are being taught.

Ole Vadum Dahl took over Drueholm and furnished it as a training center 2½ years ago. Since then, 150 qualified psychotherapists and app. 35 Life coaches have been educated there. A total of 900 students are currently being trained at the center, where 10 permanent teachers and 4 employess are working. One of these employess ist Ole's twin sister Annette Philbert, who receives visitors and serves coffee in her brother's office in a small side building. Ole's private home is situated a little way off. Ole lives together with his girlfriend Terese Maria Bergqvist, who's a social educator. He's also got a 12-year-old daughter from an earlier relationship. It should be included in the presentation of Ole Vadum Dahl that he's blind. At the age of 16, he lost his eyesight as a consequence of the eye disease Retinitis Pigmentosa which is due to genetic disorder entailing pigmentation of the retina.
- You'll never get to read an article about me, where I say: hurrah, I'm blind! Of course, I'd like to regain my eyesight, but does my visual impairment prevent me from being happy? No, says Ole Vadum Dahl.

In his book, Coaching and the Art of living, he e.g. writes that professional success and personal happiness is about the are of living, and that this can be learned. But how does he define the are of living?

- To me, it's being able to create what's generally life-affirming in our own lives.And in this case, I always return to the experience of love, being together with other people and experiencing freedom, meaning and joy in your life. I don't have a recipe, because that which creates circumstances is individual. Some people are happy as singles, some are happy in relationships. To be there for someone else and live a meaningful life where I'm able to be myself is the art of living to me. - The more positive self-control you gain, and the more you're present in life, the more access you gain to love, joy and meaning. This is not meant in a philosophical sense, but it's based on experience. In view of my own life, I can see that the more I'mpresent and open towards other people, the more joy and happiness I experience. The art of living is also to be the leader of your own life, which naturally entails that we obtain surplus energy to be there for other people. Being there for other people isn't trendy right now, but I hope that it will be soon. Because, then, many people will discover that it provides life quality. So, being a life artist is being creative about your life for it to provide joy, freedom and meaning, - no matter whether you're working as a checkout assistant, a waste disposal worker or a therapist, says Ole Vadum Dahl.

He was born in Kolding, denmark, and he grew up there as well. His parents got divorced, and at the age of 14, he and his sister moved to Holstebro with their mother. Ole Vadum Dahl had a talent for drawing, and he believed that he was going to become a graphics designer, but his eye disease put a stop to that. Instead, he went for a career as a musician, and for a few years, he studied at the musical science institute at the university of Aarhus.
- But I had to recognize that I probably had a long way to go to develop the object of my ambitions. This threw me into a crisis, where I was completely confused and bewildered. Only then, the loss of my identity as a sighted person hit me. I became madly scared, - of sleeping, of the house falling down around me, and of other people. At the age of 20, this made me consult my doctor, and lucily, she was a modern doctor, who said: you need psychotherapy. This marked the beginning, says Ole Vadum Dahl.
After investigating several different types of therapy, meditation techniques and personal development systems, he commenced training as a psychotherapist in 1980. Concurrently, he's been teaching in Denmark and abroad, worked in a 24-hour care center for young abusers, and he's written 5 books. He's also worked as a consultant, coach and teacher for businesses and organizations. He's had many private clients through the years, but he no longer has the time for consultancy work and private therapy.

Ole Vadum Dahl's own experiences have convinced him that if you've got a dream about something, it's important to know what your motivation is.
- If the only thing that'll ever make me happy is that I become a pop star, then everything depends on that, obviously. Maybe, it's really aboutthat I need to know that I'm OK and that I'm important to somebody. The need really is to be OK, then you can have plan a, b, c or d for being happy. The art of living is that the fox earth has several exits.

- The art of living is also to find out that you can actually realize some dreams. The reason why we're sitting here at Drueholm is that I had a dream about getting a place like this, and I've got an inherent unrealistic shortcoming. Like the bumblebee, I don't always know that I can't fly. I also encounter obstacles and barriers. Formally, I belong to a weak group because of my visual impairment, but if I act myself, I'm able to realize dreams. If I did an intelligence test, I don't think that I'd prove to be a genius, but I'm pretty gifted. But I don't think that's crucial to realize dreams, it's crucial to dare dream big dreams and follow them.

Ole Vadum Dahl operates with 3 psychological concepts in the coaching and self-development method he has designed: the reactive self, the creative self and the essential self.
- The reactive self is when we get stuck in roles and self-images and blame other people for the fact that we're not happy. Many of the arguments which may be part of a love relationship are about defending our self-image. The reactive self is our automatic reaction which is again connected to emotions such as regret, anger and annoyance. Growing up and the creation of our ego have formed the reactive self and it's based both on the protection of our ego and on the norms and requirements of our parents.
- The creative self is our free will and the place inside ourselves where we rise above emotions and reactions. We can count to 10, before we explode. Or tell ourselves, that now, we're gonna do something. The creative self's able to navigate in its own life without being subject to the role of a victim, martyr, etc. Instead, you dare be honest and rise to the occasion as the person, you are. When you meet people who're being authentic, you can feel that they're without pretence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to look closely at yourself, but this requires a surplus of energy. I believe that we're all born with a core and the ability to unfold ourselves as loving human beings. And that everybody's able to find the way to the authentic place inside themselves. However, some people are so hurt that they find it difficult to be confident in being there.

But what is the essential self, then?
- I'm a Jutlander, but that sounds like something divine, and we could say that it is. Basically, it's our unspoiled core. There are no self-images, no thoughts, you just are. We all experience this in glimpses, when something great's happening around us.
A beautiful sunset, the birth of a child or deep, erotic love. It's the ability to really be present in life while it's going on. it's not a pink new age state, hallelujah, but a certain kind of open presence.
- This is the small bee in my bonnet: being present is where we gain contact with ourselves, ethics, meaning and humanity. This is where the art of living comes from. And it's also where our sense of religion and spirituality in life comes from, says Ole Vadum Dahl.

Review of Coaching

By Signe Ryge Petersen
Master's degree in Danish, working at TV 2 oest, a major Danish national TV station, where she has produced 12 talkshows on self-development with Ole Vadum Dahl.

If you wish to guard your pompousness, your prejudices and your daily weltschmerz, then please don't read anything by Ole Vadum Dahl. You risk losing many years' hard work and a thoroughly developed self-understanding. And there you are. completely empty and wide open. Such a thorough waterproof self-understanding takes up quite some space, you know. And when within the scope of a few hours, it collapses as you turn the pages of Coaching and the Art of Living, Then, you honestly need a friendly, helping hand. And luckily, it reaches out from every single page of the book.

Ole Vadum Dahl is what might have been called "a decent person" in a well-renovated Danish novel. His most predominant goal is to help us become responsible people - that's how I perceive him, anyway. To live honestly, truthfully and reflectingly
with ourselves and the people surrounding us.

And this is precisely what makes this book so sympathetic. It's not about becoming a solitary potential rocket with the purpose of raising out into the world to conquer full throttle. It claims that you can only flourish by living in responsible and truthful relations with yourself and other people.
A mental curly tail. That's something I like! Because how much fun is it really to be completely developed, if you end up being developed all by yourself?

Ole Vadum Dahl is liberating company. He has dumped pompousness and replaced it with humour. He knows very well that he's in no way perfect. That even half a life of self-development work has not turned him into Gandhi. But he acknowledges this! And through this, he himself becomes a strong image of the teachings which he hands out so generously: that we're OK, even if we've got childish automatic reactions, unwavering prejudices and touchy nerves. What makes the difference is whether we dare acknowledge it. If we dare look honestly at ourselves. And then undertake the task.
Reading the book was not just a pleasure during the first hour in which self-knowledge came fluttering along in unexpected rushes just like the pigeons in the City Hall Square in Copenhagen. Several times,my stomach leaps and I wonder how he's able to describe my weakest sides so precisely. And a moment later, I'm relieved. Because Ole does it himself. Generously, in a mercilessly honest way, he dishes out both unflattering and tough experiences from his own life. They've pushed him further on in life. Even though he could've gotten stuck in them. But Ole is a curious man, and I wonder if this curiosity hasn't made him brave in order for him to face the fights necessary to get close to what sounds simple but is damn difficult: To acknowledge who you are.

However, it becomes a bit easier in Ole's company. The book is full of simple and concrete exercises which help us to look behind our immediate emotions, thoughts and actions. It's a simple analysis job. And you can't avoid getting a bonus! Not one exercise is focusing on our insufficiency which may perhaps make us powerless and thus even more stuck. A great warmth evaporates from the sentences of the book, and this ensures that it doesn't hurt when we encounter yet another sore point, it rather motivates you.

Ole can't do magic. He doesn't even pretend that he can. He's a professional craftsman with in-built spirit level, hammer and chisel. It may be necessary to hack off bits of the emotional cicatricial tissue before you reach the point where it's comfortable to be. But the down-to-earth tangibility of the book ensures that the trip isn't scary at all. However, Ole doesn't offer any guarantees. But I do. I guarantee that you're gonna be moved, not in a sentimental way but in a completely concrete way by reading this book.


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