“The magic is within you. The magic has always been within you. One of my favorite movies growing up was The Wizard of Oz and sometimes all we have to do is realize all we have to do is click our heels and we can go home. And home is whatever we want it to be. And if we know ourselves from the skin in, then the magic too is within us.”
In 2010 Vivian McKinnon moved from Scotland to Northern Ireland where she still lives on the beautiful County Down coast.
With a personal background of lived experience in trauma recovery, that started in childhood, she now uses her experiences to inspire healing and growth in others and was named in the 2020 UK top 100 female entrepreneurs and NI Business Woman Of The Year in the UK women’s business awards.
Ladies and gentlemen, this was one of the most powerful conversations we have had in more than 100 on The Coffee at Eleven Show, so I invite you to stick on the kettle, grab a coffee and think along with this unique Celtic soul, Vivian McKinnon, for a short while in your preferred way
- Watch the full episode on YouTube
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- Or read the highlights transcript or watch the highlights video below…
Yours Truly: Ladies and gentlemen, you are more than welcome to this, another episode of the Coffee at Eleven Show, brought to you by Wigwam and this time supported by the Limerick Post, keeping Limerick posted, #limerickandproud. Delighted that you’ve chosen to join us. And in particular, I’d like to welcome Vivian McKinnon who’s joined us all the way from Belfast, and she’s here to have a chat with us. Vivian just cheers us, say hello with your coffee mug.
Vivian McKinnon: Good morning, everybody. Delighted to be here. Thank you for having me.
Yours Truly: That’s wonderful. I love the V on the mug. There you go.
Vivian McKinnon: Yes. Ta-da.
But I remember being at school and I had a friend and her dad was a doctor and her mum was a teacher, and every day she would get a Mars bar. Mars bars years ago were this size. It might’ve been my hands were smaller, but I definitely think Mars bars were this size when I was a kid. And sometimes I would get an apple. Sometimes I wouldn’t get anything. And I remember the very first time I lied and stole and cheated was when I thought my friend had her Mars bar, and I was like, “I’m going to steal that Mars bar.” And I remember this is really strategic thinking for a six or seven year old. “I’m going to steal that Mars bar. And I’m going to wait, and I’m going to be the last person in the queue.” Because we’d queue up to go into the school. And as you went into the school, you walked through a corridor, the toilets were on your left, you walked into the classroom, there was a cloakroom, and then you went into where the chairs and tables were.
And I remember thinking, “I’ll be the last in.” So I made sure I was the last in the queue. I’ve got in. Everybody put their jacket off. I took my jacket off, and I waited until it was nobody watching and I stole a Mars bar. And I say to the teacher, “I’m just going up to the toilet.” And I remember going into the toilet and having that rush like, “Oh, I’ve done something so bad. This is…” But it felt like home because it was a secret. And so I went into the bathroom. I ate the whole Mars bar, practically inhaled it, then got the wrapper and hid the wrapper in the cistern. Now, the cistern was up high. So I had to stand on the toilet. Again, really strategic thinking for a six, seven year old.
And then went back in the class and went, “Oh my God, what have I just done?” And I could feel my heart beating and I could feel my stomach going. But I think that thrill, that “I’ve done something wrong. Nobody knows about it,” was what, I suppose, continued a lot throughout my life was having that rush, that impulsive behavior that resulted in, “I know something you don’t know” kind of thing. But I remember my friend coming out of break time going, “Someone stole my Mars bar,” and I was going, “Wasn’t me. Wasn’t me. Wasn’t me,” And couldn’t look at her for days and days and days.
So I remember leaving the hospital and saying, “That’s it I’m going to change.” Now, anybody who’s tried to change from any kind of behavior, even if it’s just stopping eating buns or if it’s stopping smoking. It’s not as simple as going, “I’m going to change.” And then you skip off into the sunset and it’s all roses and daffodils and glitter from the sky. It would be great if it was, but it’s not. So that was in 1999. In 2001, I signed up to do a sponsored walk along the Great Wall of China. Now, I lived with panic disorder at this time. And I was to raise £2,500. And I remember sitting in a bar with an old boyfriend, and this old boyfriend had slept with my best friend, he had stolen money off me, had broken into my house. But he was still a good friend of mine because he didn’t reject me. I finished with him. The whole thing was just don’t reject me.
So I remember sitting chatting to him and he said, “You’ll never do that. You will never be able to raise £2,500 pounds.” And I remember looking on the back of his head as he was standing at the bar and thinking, “I’m going to make you eat your words. I am going to do this. And I’m going to challenge…” A lot of my life, what I believed was what I’d been taught to believe by the caregivers around me, based on their limited capacity to deal with the things that happened to them. What I believed that they showed me, created my beliefs. And I started looking at their two words and I was going, “Do you know what? The letters L-I-E are in the middle of both of these words.”
What if everything I believe is a lie? What if all the beliefs I have about myself are a lie? So,”Up yours. I’m going to go.” So I have, I feel like, that attitude to every experience I’ve had in life. Again, I wouldn’t be who I am if I didn’t do that. Everybody’s here to teach us a lesson. Sometimes we get so caught up on the emotion that we run with the emotion, and we take it as ours. And throughout your life, people will give you gifts. People will give you gifts of connection, of being, of love, of joy, of togethers. They’ll give you all that stuff and they’ll wrap it and silk, and they’ll put beautiful bows on it. It’s not until you accept it as yours and take it inside that you realize they’re sharing their pain, their fear, their guilt, their hurt. By then it’s your shame. By then you’re going, “Oh, what do I do with this stuff?”
But through the work that I do and through the experiences I’ve had and through the insights I’ve had, I’ve been able to almost unwrap their gifts, look at them and be like, “Actually, I don’t want this anymore.” How many times have you been given a gift at Christmas that you’ve re-gifted or you’ve given to the charity shop, or you went back and swapped? And that’s what I’ve managed to do is just take these gifts out, look at them, to wrap them back up in a beautiful silk wrap and put their lovely bows back on them and just send them back to the people who gave me them. They gave it me with the best intention, but I have no use for them anymore.
Yours Truly: But we can’t go there without you telling us about when Vivian met Gabor.
Vivian McKinnon: Love Gabor Maté. Absolutely love Gabor Maté. So I use all the skills and the tools that I have to help people to use the life they have to create the life desire. And I do it in unison with flotation therapy and that’s the RAFT program, so it’s Reconnection And Flotation Therapy. Through that, I have quite a lot of links in the trauma recovery world. And I was part of a thing called Emerging Proud and it’s changing the paradigm of mental health. It’s looking at, we don’t have break downs, we have breakthroughs. When people’s mental health starts to deteriorate, why don’t we rally around them? Why don’t we tell them how amazing and wonderful we are? Why don’t we cook them lovely meals? Why don’t we go and visit them and take their children to the park for them? No, we don’t. We kind of go, “Oh, well, I don’t know what to say. So I’ll just leave you in the mire.”
So part of that, there was a movie, a documentary, that was made called Crazywise. And it was looking at how early childhood, adverse childhood, experiences can really contain who you believe you are as a person and who you believe you are as an adult. And the director for that was as a guy called Phil Borges, and the narrator, and the physician that was giving feedback on that was Dr. Gabor Maté. And I was like, “Wow.” Because I loved his work. So it was included on email and his email was on it. And I thought… I really wanted to email and say, “I’m your biggest fan,” but I thought, nah, it’s a bit creepy.
So I thought, “Right, universe, I have this email address, give me a reason to use this email address.” So again, I visualized that something would happen and he would give me… I put it out there. Within about six months, it was announced that the trauma conference was being started in Northern Ireland in 2018. And it was a friend of mine, Clive Corry, who wasn’t a friend at the time, he now, and he was bringing together all of these amazing speakers from all over the world in the world of trauma recovery, in the world of looking at the parasympathetic nervous system, looking at all these different things and Gabor was coming. And I was like, “Bingo.” So I sent an email saying, I hope you don’t mind. I’d got your email from Emerging Proud, and I just thought I would love to invite you to Hydro-Ease and host you here, and to have a float.
Now, Gabor’s from British Columbia. It was one of the most float-rich cities in the world. And he’s been offered free memberships, and free floats, in every float center and has never gone to them. And so I emailed him, and within seconds emailed back saying, “Dearest Vivian, I would love to attend your float center. I would love to come for a float. Please get in touch with my PA.” So I got in touch with Stephanie and Stephanie said, “He’s really busy. His itinerary is fully booked.” And the day before the float conference started, I was walking through Castle Court in Belfast. It was a lovely summer’s day. And I heard my phone ringing. So I pulled my phone out, and I had this number and underneath it it had British Columbia, Canada. And I thought there’s only one person this can be.
So I answered the phone, like, “Hello?” Like this. And he says, “Hi, Vivian, it’s Gabor. Gabor Maté.” Like I never knew. And I said, “Oh Gabor, great to hear from you. How was your flight? And how are you settling in?” And he said, “I just wondered if the offer of the float was still open.” I said, “Absolutely.” He said, “I don’t know of any transport or anything.” I went, “Don’t you worry about it. I’ll come and pick you up.” So I picked him up from the Hilton Hotel in Belfast and brought him in to Hydro-Ease and he spent four hours with me out here. And throughout that whole time we… I thought, “You know what? I’m not going to talk to him about trauma and addiction. I’m going to talk to him about, “How was your flight? How’s the family? What kind of food do you like to have? Is there anything… What do you watch on Netflix?”
So we got chatting about Wild, Wild Country, because that’s what he was watching at that moment in time. And I just treated them like a normal person. And we had a gentleman here at the time, who I’d been doing some work with, who was live in has addiction and was, not struggling, but he’d had a couple of “oops” that I call them. And then he came out of the post-float room as Gabor came out of the float rooms. And he said, “Vivian.” And I said, “Phil, this is Gabor, Gabor Maté.” And he turned around and shook his hand and went, “All right, mate. Vivian, I was just wondering, can we get any…” He had no clue who he was.
And I just loved it because Gabor stood there like… And then stood back a bit and you could tell he was totally like, “This is great.” So he came through, he sat in receptions. Sunshine was coming in the window. When I drove him back to Belfast, we drove up over the Craigantlet Hills, and it just shows a beautiful view over Belfast. And I just started turning around to look to him and I said, “I actually can’t believe I’m standing here enjoying this view with you. I think I may be a bit star struck.” And he just looked at me and as cool as you like went, “You’ll get over that,” and looked back at the view. And I was just like, “Oh, this is just so beautiful.” So I kept in touch. Just every six months, I would say, “How’s things? Here’s a wee bit of what I’ve done. This is where we’re at with RAFT. This is blah, blah, blah.”
And then I got in touch with him earlier this year, and I just said, “You know, I’d love to host a webinar with you. There’s something that’s up close and personal. And I’d like people to come on who are active in live in their addictions, or family members who are really struggling to understand their loved one’s behavior, and give them direct access to you, so as that they can ask you questions, so as that the can just be amongst you. You’re not this… this big character who’s on stages and is untouchable. I want you to bring you within touching distance.” And he said, “I’d love to, yeah.” So And again, it was an oh shit moment. I have to do this now. So on the 27th of May, I’m doing a webinar with Gabor Maté called when Vivian met Gabor In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.
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