Influencer Carl Blijd
Interview June 2023
We started the interview with Carl Blijd and he showed us a beautiful PowerPoint with also beautiful pictures. It showed us, what kind of person he is: “a connector and bridge builder”. After that, we started with the interview.
Could you share with us some information about your family life?
I was born in Curaçao on the 3rd of September 1966 in SEHOS. My parents were born in Suriname. My father worked as a teacher, while my mother dedicated herself as a full-time mother. Over time, my father built a successful career and eventually became the director of the MTS and went on to study Law and became responsible for the so-called JURDOC (Legal documentation at the University of Curaçao), which gave him a second career. If my father was the head of my family, my mother should be considered the neck of the family. She was a very humble person who taught me the value of patience. Tragically, she passed away in January 2021. I am the third child among the four siblings in our family. I am happily married to Els and we have no children. Els is from Ghent (Belgium), a licensed clinical psychologist with a P.h.D. in autism, who was raised by her grandparents mostly according to the same style of education that I have gone through, where the family is very important.
How supportive were your parents in letting you become who you are right now?
They have been very important in letting me become who I am at this moment, because of what they taught us. We were raised based on the belief that: “Through hard work, we will progress”. This turned out to be true because – while both of my grandmothers were from very humble beginnings, they washed clothes, and sold cookies, to make ends meet way back in Surinam – all of us, also my siblings ended up having leadership positions. I grew up in Curaçao based on a clear education from parents with Surinam roots, which I will not forget as we attended club JPF and were taught to deal with responsibilities and learned that things don’t happen just like that, out of nothing, it requires attention. As a side note, on the day of my birth, the 3rd of September 1966, a coincidental twist of fate unfolded. It happened to be the birthday of the esteemed physician, the late Dr. Lubliek, who was responsible for bringing me into this world. Ever since my fifth birthday, a playful tradition emerged—a friendly competition to see who would be the first to extend birthday wishes to the other. This light-hearted ritual endured for over four decades, serving as a constant reminder of the profound impact Dr. Lubliek had on my life and inspiring my own journey toward becoming a physician.
Could you share something about your educational background and your experience?
I attended Coromoto College (primary school) and Maria Immaculata Lyceum (secondary school) in Curaçao, and went on to study Medicine at the University of Groningen when I was 17 years old. I was also involved in practicing martial arts and I was very fanatic in that. This meant that I took more time to go through my studies as I also worked in different jobs in the hospitality sector, at times as a volunteer. I have worked cleaning jobs in the kitchen, cooking chores like cutting onions in the kitchen, to becoming responsible for the ”ambiance” at events so that people can feel welcome as they arrive at the event. How did this happen? I was working in the kitchen and the manager approached me and asked me, to change my clothes and go and waiter the guests, but also help in the set-up of the event so that people can feel that they are welcome. So this manager noticed something in me and gave me an opportunity to develop these skills. These experiences also have formed me as a person.
How did you end up becoming a psychiatrist?
In my studies, I was very interested in the anatomy of the human bodies we had to cut for teaching purposes, and I dealt with these bodies in a very respectful way. I worked as an assistant for several years during dissection practices. Interesting but, I began to notice that whenever I had to choose from the options available to become a trainee during my study, I always tended to choose subject matters that were linked to psychiatry. This was also true in sports, as I was an avid martial arts practitioner and also taught martial arts lessons, I began mentoring youth that attended the martial arts sports school. So one day I decided to start as a trainee at the clinic dealing with adolescents in Groningen. I thought that I had to be there at 7.30 am and I came early at 7 am. The professor working at that clinic opened up and made it clear to me that I was due to start at 9 am. So he asked me to accompany him to his office, where we spoke for almost 2 hours. This conversation was so inspiring, that I became convinced that it was this that I wanted to specialize in. He saw me deal with an adolescent that walked away angrily from the basketball court and I approached this youth and calmed him. The professor asked me how did I manage to do this and I told him about my experiences at the martial arts school. This professor has become an advisor to me for years and I was at his farewell symposium as the only student that attended that activity. As I was doing research as a student at an organization, this became a plus on my resumé, because after one month they offered me a full-time job. It turned out that the executive secretary had recognized me as the only student at the farewell symposium. She then informed the management that they should hire me immediately because two years prior, I had already demonstrated my intrinsic motivation by attending the symposium. I always say: “Make the moment right, don’t look for the right moment”. The things I do are often done unconsciously. Leading to a lot of coincidences, that work out well for me.
You are also an intercultural and top sports communication specialist? How did you get involved?
In sports, my older brother Earl was a very talented sportsman. He has been a world champion. I had my specialties in Martial Arts. I was a serving player on the team. But being with my brother in his team we travelled the whole world. On one occasion, we were privileged to perform at a prestigious event, where we were accommodated in the penthouse of a luxurious hotel in a foreign country and the other moment, we were back in Groningen on our bike, attending classes and studying. During a small, seemingly insignificant performance that we had in a small former church in Groningen, our dedication to excellence shone through. Little did we know that someone in the audience, who happened to work for CATHAY PACIFIC, the renowned airline, would extend an invitation for us to showcase our skills at the international airport in Zurich, Switzerland. It was a remarkable testament to the unexpected opportunities that can arise from seemingly modest beginnings. What a demonstration in a small church can lead to. We have been in dressing rooms with some top-of-line martial arts practitioners like Chuck Norris, Jean Claude van Damme, Steven Seagal and Chinese/Japanesse grandmasters, all this taught us how to deal with the pressures to perform. We have been to European championships and at times early on, I blocked as I was doing my routines, as I knew 25,000 people were attending this event and millions more were watching live TV. Through visualization techniques, I taught myself how to deal with stress.
But my passion for sports and my vocation, as I was in training to become a psychiatrist, mingled. For example one day at the university hospital in Groningen one female nurse came to me and asked me if I could teach them how to fight as one of here colleagues was beaten up by a patient. I told her that that would be an unwise strategy. The wise thing to do is, to learn how to de-escalate when someone is aggressive. So I developed an “Aggression Management” trainingsprogram which can be thought to healthcare workers, teachers or police officers. Eventually I was asked by the famous forensic clinic, van Mesdagkliniek, to implement my Aggression Management program throughout the whole clinic. So I ended up training everybody in the Mesdag clinic from the cleaning employees up to the director of the Clinic, on how to de–escalate. To discern how to act differently when you are dealing with a psychopath, a narcissistic, or a psychotic patient. If you look at a cat when it feels threatened, you see that it will make itself bigger, and if you try to pick him up he will attack you. If the same cat is focused on catching a mouse, you can pick it up without the risk of being attacked by him, because his focus is on catching that mouse. So different forms of aggression, different origins of aggression require different approaches and different types of de-escalation.
Another example is I was at a symposium once on emergency psychiatry and when filling in my feedback on the evaluation form, I stated that some of the information being shared was incorrect. They then invited me to write a chapter in a book they were going to publish, on how to deal with aggression and how to de-escalate. This was another example of how my life has evolved.
In any case, it is about connecting dots where what you learn in one area of your life, can be connected in another area within a totally different context.
As a psychiatrist working in Groningen during your career you have been involved in a lot of changes and challenges in the way Groningen has dealt with migrants from Surinam and the Dutch Caribbean I assume?
I came to study in Groningen when almost all colored people knew each other. In those days there was a lot of attention in the media for Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement, aimed to free Mandela. On February 11th 1990, the day Mandela was released from prison, my sister Minea and I attended the celebration event in Amsterdam. We were standing at Leidseplein when our eldest brother joined us there. So all three of us felt the urge to do something with that defining moment in history. And that culminated in that great moment where we could witness, together with thousands of other people, Mandela’s first speech as a free man. That’s a moment in history I will never forget. I have been involved in Think Tanks concerning multiculturalism and have met different Municipal Deputies on this topic over the years in Groningen. Recently some of my contacts and I requested to talk to a Municipal deputy, as they were planning to build a sculpture in remembrance of the role Groningen has played regarding the slave trade. Because of the value of such a sculpture for our future generations, as part of efforts to make the world a better and safer place, we noticed that the Municipal Deputy was unaware of the local networks in Groningen that were very capable to work on such an important project instead of looking for a project manager elsewhere, Rotterdam in this case. So yes, these days I am involved. Early on in Groningen, I focused on becoming the best possible psychiatrist and profiling myself as such. I also on purpose didn’t do my internship in SEHOS-Curaçao, because that wouldn’t be as challenging for me compared to other students that weren’t born in Curaçao. Later on in my career as an established psychiatrist, I gradually got involved in the discourse on integration and diversity. As a psychiatrist, I had to work in the surroundings of the province of Groningen. Especially in the North Eastern part of Groningen there used to be racist tendencies among some patients. I have also worked in Friesland where I once noticed that a patient had racist tendencies by the clothes and socks he was wearing (black shoes with white laces). During the session, I asked him how did it feel to be consulted by a “negro psychiatrist” (I normally never use that N-word), he explained to me that he wanted to free himself from the BS from his parents. So I got to know his motives better and at the end was able to help him to change his behavior. And he thanked me for that.
I try to set an example and to be productive in the Dutch society. That way I can help in a positive way with the destigmatization of people of colour in the Dutch society. Through the years I have evolved in a social way and gradually made some public appearances. For the last 8 years I have been a regular commentator on the local TV (RTV-Noord), providing insight and explanation on social and societal issues.
I have understood that you also supported FC Groningen players for that matter. How did you get involved?
Well, I am a Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatrist. You had to be an Adult psychiatrist first, too, later on, specializing in Child and Adolescent psychiatry. But I have also studied forensic psychiatry and have worked in prisons and organizations dealing with addiction problems. And it is all about making connections, always also with the clients. I was once called urgently by the director of such an organization to come quickly and write negative advice on a patient, of Turkish descent, that according to the director was very violent so that they could prevent accepting him as a patient in their clinic. I requested to talk to the patient without the security guards but with only a blanket which I could use, in case he would attack me. I gave him a hand and went to sit on the ground and connected with him and convinced him, with a lot of pain in my heart that he should not want to stay in this clinic as the employees were too prejudiced and hostile towards him. He agreed and we handled that issue well. Being involved in forensic work was a small step in getting involved with top sports. Forensic and top sporters are monomaniacs the difference in sports they use their skills in a good way. I am an experienced expert because I have practiced top sports too and I have learned to manage the pressures that come along with this. I have top athletes of all kinds of disciplines as my clients/patients (athletics, soccer, tennis, speedskating, basketball, judo, you name it). We had a sponsor deal with FC Groningen, where I as co-owner of a GGZ organization coached players and gradually I ended up coaching and mentoring the players in the first team of FC Groningen. I was even fortunate to be able to work with a world class player and true legend as Arjen Robben. I stopped btw by on the first of January 2023 as I started my sabbatical half year. In the last Soccer World Championship Tournament, I had 5 players that have played in FC Groningen that I had contact with via App. 2 from Japan, one from Australia, and one from Mexico. One of the most basic, but yet so essential things I teach them is that after Monday, there will always be a Tuesday. Things can go very badly, but one needs to let go and detach. One has to move on the next day. I teach them how to focus on their goals, how can you strengthen this and how can you change the social context, as there is a lot of money involved. I have also mentored rowers, a female hurdler and speedskaters preparing to peak at an Olympic Tournament, that only happens once in four years.
Every year I attend the leaders in Sports Summit in London, where usually I am the only psychiatrist present. A few years ago I did leave my business card with a physician of Qatar and he on his turn recommended me to a Norwegian athlete (she was a European champion) who has come and visited me personally in Groningen. So random meetings ending up in opportunities, that has been the course of my life.
What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be who you are right now? And why is it that you want to find ways and means to contribute?
It is to make a difference, to help people go through transitions. I am not alone in this world, I have talents and by using “wonder/genuine interest”, use my talents to leave behind a better world.
I am a curious person. When I am outside of Holland I explore to get to know people. My best friend in Spain is a physician whom we met randomly in a small village where we decided to stay over and saw a lot of people with plastered limbs. We passed by the GP’s office to say hello and to ask why there were so many people with plastered arms and the rest is history, they invited us to stay over for dinner and we even attended the wedding of his brother and have been friends since then for 25 years. I am always trying to understand how things work, the same is true when I am doing my forensic work. I explore common ground so that we can come up with something together. I don’t celebrate my birthday since when I was 20 years old. Instead of that, I spend my birthday abroad with complete strangers for me. I use my birthdays to live in wonder and connect with people. Like connecting with an American saxophonist in London, or a shepherd in Andalusia (Spain) and getting to know them better by spending some time with them.
What are your plans for the coming 5 years from now?
I started my sabbatical half year after 12 years as a CEO (or actually the CMO – chief medical officer) INTER-PSY, where we grew from 27 employees to 600 employees covering 2,5 to 3 million patients in North Holland. This was enough time to spend on that and I wanted to re-evaluate and dedicate my energies to new ventures and do things that give me energy. I am 56 years old and I want to help people, work on the enhancement of people’s knowledge and skills, do something on one of the islands in the Dutch Caribbean, help and coach executives, and help share my experience as a top sports coach and mentor.
I can recall going to Holland as a 17-year-old in 1984. I was staying in a hotel room with three other students when we arrived in Holland. We were paid a first installment of our tuition to be used for our first expenses in Holland. That evening, the rest of the guys wanted to go out and I declined. I preferred to write my parents a letter, That night they came back deep in the early hours of the morning and they have spent some of the money they got on having a good time, including buying drugs. That same night, I decided to always try to make good choices regarding my future and do not give in to peer pressure.
What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
I need to protect my focus so that I don’t have to say yes to everything that crosses my path. A lot of things are interrelated with each other, but I try to never move too far away from my core and do things that I am good at. I try to stay humble/modest along the way.
Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemmas show up? How does that work for you?
I analyze things, I suppress my impulsiveness. Like it felt good to start a good GGZ organization INTER-PSY and we create something beautiful and I was confident about my choices. Like every psychiatrist and clinical psychologist I have had ‘supervised therapy or therapist training on how to learn and as a psychiatrist, I have learned that I am my own thermometer. This thermometer helps me to feel when something is okay or not okay. Furthermore, I am aware of my blind spots, but I trust others that are more knowledgeable in those areas to collaborate and create synergy. Just like the saying: The blind lead the lame”, we help each other.
How are you trying also to keep up with your knowledge and skill levels?
I study, read a lot, I listen to podcasts and TED talks and I talk with a lot of people, also from outside of my normal mental health circles. Like with my younger brother Järl who is the leader of the Robotic Procedure Automation Program of Philips, or my sister Minea who is the HR manager at an international bank. Sometimes even with professionals who I hardly know. Just like the day (many years ago) I met and talked with Martin Sitalsing (Chef Commissioner of the Police Department in Holland) in the coffee break of a conference and he spontaneously offered me half of the time he was supposed to present at that same conference after the coffee break. So within 5 minutes I was able to put together a presentation which I presented after the coffee break. This is exactly the spirit I am an advocate of, we share and are happy when others also are successful.
What are your strengths?
Connecting and trying to empathize, seeing things from the other person’s perspective.
A tendency to “wonder” and my knowledge as I am always trying to understand how things work. What are the guiding, underlying principles? This results in a broad perspective that I look at things and that I work with.
Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
My work is my hobby. Find a job that you like and you never have to work a single day. Do what you love and love what you do.
I always strive to stand above the subject matter that I am dealing with. As a frequent speaker at conferences, I hold myself to a golden rule: for every minute I present, I dedicate three hours to preparation. This approach ensures that I can aim to deliver presentations of the highest quality. I diligently delve into the latest literature and research, carefully create captivating visuals, and employ powerful metaphors to deliver impactful class presentations. This dedication to preparation reflects the influence of my upbringing as the son of a teacher, which continues to shape my approach to this day.
To maintain a healthy balance in life, I find solace in practicing various sports, including martial arts, spinning (stationary cycling), and body pump (weight training). These physical activities not only contribute to my overall well-being but also provide a refreshing break from work. Additionally, I derive great pleasure from immersing myself in (jazz)music and witnessing awe-inspiring performances by talented artists (any art-form). I firmly believe that art serves as a means of transcending life’s limitations and tapping into its sublime essence. Consequently, I find immense fulfillment in my work as I collaborate with and coach performing artists.
If you Carl would meet a stranger on the bus (let’s say in New York or Medellin Colombia) and they would ask you to introduce yourself, what would you answer?
Hi, I am Carl Blijd and I am a fellow human being interested in what makes people thick. By coincidence, I am also a psychiatrist. Do you mind if we could talk about life?
How would you describe Carl in one word or one sentence?
I am very goal-oriented, and humble/modest, and have a strong tendency to help and connect with other people.
My humbleness is shown by observing a lot and asking thought-provoking questions so that people can self-discover, a Socratic style of questioning.
I strive to minimize telling people what they should do. Instead, I offer suggestions and provide input in a manner that empowers them to develop their own solutions. Intrinsic motivation leads to more sustainable outcomes. Naturally, as a medical director/CEO, it is my responsibility to provide guidance and make decisions. However, even in this role, I lead by example and adapt my approach to collaborate with others, aiming to overcome resistance. Rarely do I resort to wielding power. It’s about building relationships and connections. One can prioritize either the outcome or the relationship. Ideally, one chooses a balanced approach. This can be visualized on a graph. The Y-axis represents the outcome, while the X-axis represents the relationship. The optimal trajectory is the 45-degree diagonal between both axes. Depending on the urgency of the situation, one may sometimes prioritize the Y-axis, the outcome. Nevertheless, the most sustainable approach lies along the diagonal, balancing both axes.”
Who are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
First and foremost, undoubtedly my parents. Additionally, I must mention my first family physician, Dr. Lubliek, who coincidentally shares the same birthdate of September 3rd. He was a physician who possessed excellent communication skills and dedicated ample time to inquire and explain matters thoroughly. Regrettably, such comprehensive patient care is a rarity in today’s world. Equally influential was professor Molle Eijer, who sparked my passion for child and adolescent psychiatry. Moreover, chance/random encounters with both professionals and patients have also left an indelible impact.
On a personal level, one individual who undoubtedly left an immense impression on me was Barack Obama. I had been following him since he became a senator for the state of Illinois. It was in 2007, during my attendance at a conference in Boston, that I met him at a rally and engaged in a conversation with him. The impact he had on me was profound. Without delay, I swiftly emailed my friends, exclaiming that I had encountered the future President of the United States. Lo and behold, merely a year later, he triumphantly emerged as the elected president.
What is a trait that is still a work in progress?
Actually, two qualities. The marketing/branding of myself. And the tendency to want to help everyone.
What was a defining moment in your life?
Not one specific one, but different defining moments, all moments of transitions. Like migrating to Holland at age 17. The accident my elder brother Earl had, that was life-threatening and taught me how impermanent fame and life can be. During my final internal medicine exam as a medical intern, the examiner entrusted me with a significant mission.
He imparted these words: “Having come this far as a medical intern, becoming a physician is within your grasp. However, the true challenge lies in becoming an exceptional physician. Strive to be extraordinary in your medical practice.” Those were defining moments.
What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends, and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
Paying attention to human beings and trying to help them, but not imposing things on people.
What makes you stay optimistic about the future?
As human beings, our innate drive for growth and progress compels us to continuously evolve and improve. Even in the face of the most challenging circumstances, we witness the unwavering resilience of individuals who rise up and undertake remarkable endeavors. In nature, we encounter both delicate orchids and sturdy daisies, each playing a vital role.
Orchids require nurturing and attentive care, and in return, they grace us with exquisite flowers. On the other hand, daisies possess a remarkable ability to thrive and flourish in any environment they are placed. This remarkable diversity, combined with the indomitable spirit of the human species, instills in me an unwavering sense of optimism for the future. Btw: orchids were the favorite flowers of my beloved late mother. She was an expert in taking care of orchids, using her patience for the benefit of the orchids…
More interviews and articles
RTV Noord: Dutch interview (2020) https://www.rtvnoord.nl/nieuws/752059/psychiater-over-de-gedeeltelijke-lockdown-we-varen-in-een-soort-mist
One of the 250 Influencers
Carl Blijd is a humble, curious, driven, goal-oriented, connector, bridge builder, mentor, coach, and psychiatrist, that always is looking for common ground. His tendency to observe and ask thought-provoking questions and his firm belief that extremes are less able to solve real-life issues has made him become an effective CEO at a GGZ organization that grew in 12 years from 27 employees to 600 employees. As a former top martial arts athlete himself, he gained experience with how to deal with high-pressure stressful situations. As a former martial arts trainer, he has learned how to deal with troubled youth and learned how to de-escalate tensions. This helped him not only at his work as a psychiatrist and CEO but also to become a successful Top sports coach and mentor, teaching sportsmen to handle performance stress. Of late Carl has also participated more actively in the public discourse on integration and diversity in Holland. At the end of 2022, Carl stopped as CEO and is now in his sabbatical year exploring new ventures that will give him new energy, but still focused on helping people in whatever way his vast talents and experiences can be best used in the Dutch Caribbean and Holland. For all these reasons and his drive to make a difference in the Dutch Caribbean, Holland, and the world, we consider Carl one of the 250 Influencers of the Dutch Caribbean & Holland, representing the Health Sector. Look at the list of the Influencers we have interviewed or reported on, up to now.
The goal of the core group of Share2Uplift for 2023
The goal of the Share2Uplift movement is to: “Identify 250 leaders from all walks of life to connect, align and create impactful changes in all walks of life, which includes intergenerational collaboration by the end of 2023.” We will use interviewing Influencers, meet-and-greet events, “train-the-trainers”-programs on “Emotional Mastery” and “Intentionality “as national intervention strategies, to reach this goal on top of our goal to scale up the possibilities to connect, align and create impact via a virtual platform. We believe that by collaborating with Miguel Goede on the virtual Vision 2030 platform, we will accelerate the possibilities to connect the diaspora and others elsewhere in the world and on the island willing to constructively create impactful changes in Curaçao, to join.
As Share2Uplift, we are fully trying to align with this thinking of Center for Curriculum Redesign to promote this agenda in our educational systems and workplace. So, in that sense, we fully support any initiative to make our educational system 21st-century proof.
Share2Uplift aligners are those that:
– Create an inspiring vision of the future;
– Motivate and inspire people to engage with that vision;
– Manage the delivery of the vision;
– Coach and build a team, so that it is more effective at achieving the vision. These criteria are now being polished.
We also consider these 5 values the most important ones for Share2Uplift aligners. They are:
• Peace from within;
As we will progress towards this goal, we will update you on the progress.
Personal Coaching Tip
This week we will share some short videos on ‘Nelson Mandela, De-escalating techniques, Sports Psychiatry’. We will upload one of these videos every day on our facebook.com/share2uplift page.
How Nelson Mandela Fought for Equality and Freedom – YouTube
Carl Blijd Sieuw Hung Kuen – YouTube
What is a Sports Psychiatrist? – YouTube
Calming & De-escalation Strategies – YouTube
Nine De-escalation Skills – YouTube
🧠 Sportpsychiatrie bij FC Groningen – ‘Er is nog een wereld te winnen’ – YouTube