We had the good fortune of connecting with Charlotte Irving and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Charlotte, as a parent, what have you done for you children that you feel has had the most significant impact?
This is an answer I want to continuously add to since I am a newer parent and I think it will be a long while before the most important thing comes into fruition. With that being said, I love the topic of pro-attachment parenting and prioritizing social and emotional wellness within children. One of the most important things I commit to is the practice of examining our shortcomings in relationships, particularly while we’re struggling or triggered. Which, is the epitome of parenthood at times. Our nervous systems have the ability to attune to one another like a tuning fork, perhaps more rapidly than we’d like them to. I learned from a wonderful child psychotherapist at Naropa that the most important thing you can do for your child or infant when they’re in distress is to just focus all your attention on staying calm in an effort to let them “borrow your regulated nervous system” in times of need. Even if they are flooded with emotions and you’re in a state of regulation while physically present with them, that’s entirely supportive. Now, does that always happen smoothly? Of course not, we’re sleep-deprived humans. But it’s a committed practice we revisit with every opportunity to do so.
In addition, we certainly learn quickly as kids what emotions are crowd pleasers; joy, happiness, etc. And we also learn in that same process that some feelings are “bad”- crying, reactivity, big emotions, etc. My hope as a parent would be to continually prevent those value-based stories and/or beliefs from arising in my children by offering them an environment where their voice is heard and honored, starting as early as infancy. Not only that, but honor their emotions and emotional needs as valid even if they’re directly related to boundaries we set as parents. For instance, let’s say my toddler wants to play with a sharp object and I say, “no you cannot play with this”, for obvious reasons, and I take whatever that object is away. A toddler might have a big reaction to that boundary because they don’t have the capacity to self-regulate their upset. It essentially just courses through them at full speed, which is fully appropriate and healthy from a developmental standpoint. With that in mind, it’s critical to acknowledge and validate their genuine experience of loss or feeling of defeat as totally real. And to do that, we practice staying in our own channel of regulation to be that “borrowed nervous system”,. And like I said before, it’s practice. We will of course fall short at times. But we continue to show up to that practice, and the more we do it the easier and more frequent it becomes. And, perhaps most importantly, admit when we’ve gotten it wrong as parents since I know my husband and I will at times.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I find that the word ‘career’ is difficult to conceptualize as it is inevitably attached to our self worth and quite literally to our survival as well. There can be a light to that, of course, but most certainly a shadow element too. We all have accomplishments and achievements which extend far beyond our means of making money. So many of us have a complex relationship with “career” and I have a deep passion for understanding that relationship, as it is never so black and white and there are so many impeding factors. For me, I feel fortunate enough that my work feels directly tied to my purpose here: understanding the messiness of being human and promoting meaningful connection, normalcy, and safety within that inconvenient truth. My hope is that this will have a positive ripple effect on the world and individuals will continue to pay it forward. As corny as it sounds, from the moment I began to really do my inner work in therapy, it became clear that I wanted to do that work with others. Once I was brave enough to acknowledge that I have some inner emotional dysfunction, it was like my whole world opened up. I felt a new sense of relief and security, and this abundant safety net within exploring my mental health more honestly. It didn’t take long for me to begin witnessing my inner headspace and emotional terrain transform. What came with that was a sense of authentic freedom and empowerment within myself and I noticed I was eager to sort of, share the gospel so to speak with those who were also seeking that same sense of freedom via internal reality checking. I started that whole process perhaps right after college. And it was so fruitful.
So there was that, and of course, life trial and error in regards to what to do for work, where to live, and feeling lost and owning that I’m lost despite my resistance to acknowledging that scary truth. And timing played a role for me. I got fired from a job in New York in 2016 that was a major blow to my ego, but ultimately required me to reevaluate my life and my role in it. From there I began forging a path towards what I was desiring most: working with people and supporting them in their own scary and vulnerable moments on their path. Trying to break out into the world can feel deeply intimidating.
The biggest lessons I’ve learned along the way is the continual practice of trust in the process, even when it feels deeply counterintuitive. Uncertainty is terrifying, but can be a fertile space if we let it be. All that being said, getting to where I am now was certainly not easy, and I’m still figuring out what’s ahead. I am passionate about my work and that has been a large motivator. We’re always evolving, always confronted with some new challenges, whether that be circumstantial, interpersonal, or within ourselves. I’m lucky that my biggest joy is navigating that terrain, and hanging out in the darkness, so to speak. I love to understand what personal evolution means and requires.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I always prioritize being outside, whether that’s on a trail in the valley or up the mountains, and depending on the season, I try to swim in the creek up the Boulder Canyon as much as possible. If you know me well, you know that I have a somewhat secret swim spot there that I visit often. Nature provides me such peace and a sense of freedom and I am very fortunate to have such easy access to it. In town, I am all about low key, intimate ambiances and prioritizing slowing down in the company of others. Lucky’s Diner in Boulder is one of my favorite spots around here to sip coffee, indulge in simple food and just be.There are so many great spots in town to dine at with friends, but regardless of the place I love nothing more than being able to slow down and connect with others through meaningful conversation and vulnerability, whether that’s out in about at a restaurant, in nature or someone’s home.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
This is a great question with a myriad of acknowledgments that come to mind though I will do my best to answer succinctly. The first person I want to dedicate my shoutout to is my long-time coach/ therapist/ astrologist/mentor, Aleka Thorvalson. Aleka is based in Charleston, South Carolina and she entered my life in 2012, which, frankly, forever changed the course of it. I won’t go into details because that would take pages of writing, but I will say that I would never have landed where I am now, personally and professionally, without her as a guide and mentor along my path. Additionally, the unwavering support from family, particularly my parents who have always supported my endeavors, as well as my husband Mark, who has been one of my greatest teachers in this life and continues to be. Lastly, the community I’ve been introduced to through Naropa University, including specific professors and colleagues who I deeply respect and admire.
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