Two cactuses

Another story by Katharina Lamprecht

“This is awful!”, one cactus complained, “My thorns are so long that no animal dares to come near me. No lizard, no bird not even the tiniest termite! I feel so lonely”.

“Why are you complaining?” the other cactus answered, “Mine are so weak and thin and soft that I cannot defend myself at all. No animal shows me any respect. The lizards climb all over me and tickle me with their little feet and the birds dig their claws so deep into my flesh that it hurts. I hate it”.

“You are a lucky one”, the first cactus replied, “I would give my roots for an experience like that. Imagine, feeling all that life on oneself”.They went on complaining and lamenting in this way to each other for a while. But suddenly they had a wonderful idea: they would swap their thorns so that each other could get the feeling they wanted. And for a short time, both were happy. One, to feel the birds and lizards and the other to enjoy peace and quiet. But that didn´t hold on for long and soon each began to complain again. They felt their new lives to be exhausting or boring and they longed for their old lives. So they swapped their thorns back. But again, after a short period of contentment they began whining again as before.

Then one day the wise old snake came along and rested for a moment in the shade, the two cactus casted. She listened to the two of them, complaining away, and suddenly she whispered “instead of wailing to one another you better learn from one another”. And with these words said, she slithered on.

The cactus thought about these words for three days and three nights. Then they began to try and find out, how they each managed to let their individual thorns grow. When they knew how to do that, each started to explain and teach the other how to do it. After some practice they knew precisely how to grow strong and how to grow weak thorns. And the more they experimented the better they became and the more colorful and different their thorns got.

Now they were able to keep a perfect balance between peace and quiet and lively action. And for the wise little snake they created a thornless and shady space right between them.

Des pieds engourdis

Un jour d’hiver alors que tu as fait une longue randonnée, il peut arriver que tu ne sentes plus tes pieds. Et au début quand tu arrives au chaud tes pieds sont encore engourdis. Peut-être les poses-tu sur un radiateur – ce qui est bizarre c’est qu’ils commencent juste à faire mal une fois que le froid est passé et non avant dans la glace et la neige. Un fou pourrait dire : je ne décongèle pas mes pieds alors ils ne font pas mal. Pourtant celui qui a de l’expérience sait : La chaleur endolorit les pieds froids seulement un moment. Il faut dépasser cette phase. Une fois la douleur surmontée on passe à un moment de chaleur agréable.

After the storm

I’m using this story with stroke patients, with those who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis and with traumatised persons, including certain situations of separation and berievement. Most of all, it can be useful to support persons who want to recover their memory and access to their abilities.

The storm has done its work. The trees lay criss-cross in the forest. Their trunks block paths and streets. No traveller can make progress here. But when the storm is over, then comes the time of the lumberjacks. With their saws they cut free the paths, lift away the barriers and clear all the streets, starting with the outermost edge of the forest all the way to its innermost core.

Picture book for war traumatised children by Susanne Stein

There’s a picture book for refugee children who suffered war trauma, written by my colleague Susanne Stein. It is available in German, English, Farsi (below right) and Arabic (above right). Next to a story which parents can read to their children in order to explain the experience and effects of trauma in a childlike way the book contains many helpful little tools how parents and helpers who are not themselves theapists can help the children who have witnessed and suffered violence. I find this book very, very useful, Therefore, I would like to share it with you. You will find the downloads below. Please don’t miss to visit the Website of Susanne Stein!

The Victory

The goal of each life is – in some sense – death. When one among us reaches this point, the others often say he has lost his life. When a person died among the first Christians, they used to say: He has won his life! He has succeeded! And they wove this man a victory wreath so as to celebrate with him! A victory wreath, just as the ones the victors from tournaments had received in those days! The custom of sending a man to his grave with a wreath has remained. The message of this wreath is forgotten. It goes thus: You are a winner!

Everything Else

In a land in our time there lived a man, who read a book and found lots of wonderful stories therein. There were true and invented stories, experienced and pensive, enjoyable and painful stories. There were stories which contained stories, and such which were actually not stories. For every story he read, there occurred to him nearly five which he had either experienced or thought up himself. So the thought came to him, that a lot in the world was a story which could be healing for himself and others; he only needed to absorb the healing stories well and to forget the terrible ones immediately. Then he would learn which story he had used when and for what. So he organised his own stories which he knew, and which had become a help to himself and others, or could become so. Sometimes he noted it down when a new story came to his ears and sometimes when a helpful story occurred to him, he memorised it.

Then he saw before him in a picture the storystories of this life arranged in long shelves, as in a large pharmacy. And behind the counter there sat a man who had learnt to listen to himself and others. He was a master of his subjectspecialty. His talent was that he understood how to tell the right thing at the right time to himself and to those who visited him.


„Witch’s shot“, that’s what they call a lumbago in my country. And indeed, it is like a curse! This pain whenever I move! “It would be best not to move at all any more”, I thought. “If I just keep my arm in front of the body, pull my right shoulder up, let the left shoulder drop down, and bend a little bit forward, I can stand it.” If I were to move very cautiously, I could even go to the door. But how should I press down the handle without changing my posture? Any wrongfalse movement was causing terrible pain.

On the other hand: What was a “wrongfalse movement” in this situation? The longer I stayed in my unnatural position, trying to protect myself from the pain, the more my muscles tensed, and the worse they would ache afterwards. If my means of escape were actually my trap – what could I do?

I decided to do an experiment. Instead of trying to find a comfortable position for my body, I went into the most painful position I could stand for a prolonged time and I stayed like this. Surprisingly, my pain became less after a few minutes, and my ability to move increased. Once more I leaned back into the pain – the worst I could bear. And again the pain decreased after a while and I could move more freely. I repeated this procedure another six or eight times. The curse lost its power and turned into bliss.

The Island Flower

On a small island in the middle of the wide ocean grew a wonderful golden yellow flower. No- one knew how it got there, because there were no other flowers of this kind on the island. The seagulls came flying in to look in wonder at this miracle. “It is as beautiful as the sun”, they said. The fish came swimming in. They looked out of the water in order to admire it. “It is as beautiful as a piece of coral”, they said. A crab came onto the land in order to observe it. “She is as beautiful as a pearl on the sea bed”, he said. And they came almost every day to admire this flower.

One day, when they came again to look at the flower, they found the golden petals brown and dried-out. “Oh dear”, said the doves, the fish and the crabs. “The sun has destroyed our flower. How can we refresh our hearts now?” And they were all sad. Yet a few days later, in place of the flower, stood a wonderful, delicate white ball. “What is that?”, asked the animals. “It is as soft as a cloud”, said the doves. “It is as light as sea spray”, said the fish. “It is as fine as the shimmer of the sun in the sand”, said the crab. And all the animals rejoiced. A puff of wind blew over the island and carried this white wonder away across the island in thousands of tiny flakes. “Oh dear”, sighed the doves, the fish and the crabs. “The wind has blown our ball away. What can cheer our souls now?” And they were all sad. One morning, as the sun rose above the sea, hundreds and even more hundreds of wonderful golden yellow flowers shone in the golden morning light. The doves danced in the sky and the fish in the water, and the crabs danced a jig with their friends, and everyone was happy.


Herr Gundolf said: “Yesterday when I thought of the death of my mother thirty-three years ago, I had to weep.” I asked him: “Does that make you wonder?” He shook his head: “It doesn’t make me wonder. It just surprises me.”

Clearing Out the Cupboard

I have a large sitting room cupboard. When I moved into my apartment I had carefully cleared it out. Everything had its place. But over the years many things which didn’t belong there – or at least not any more – had found their way to the compartments, shelves and drawers. My life had changed and other things had become important.

Now I cleared out my cupboard. First I took everything out and scattered it on the floor, resulting in a wild chaos – but a chaos that made some kind of sense. All the same, I need time to organise. Some things bring back memories. I have to look at them once again. Others demand a decision. There are things which will be thrown away. There are others which will be kept, not in the cupboard, but somewhere else, for example in the attic. Again others come back into the cupboard, but in another place.

The whole cupboard should be newly organised. But first I will wipe out the cupboard, remove the dust and perhaps also polish it.

My daughter was just here. She looked at the huge chaos and said to me: “I thought you wanted to tidy up?”