Healing the Healers


We are having one of those “typical” Ireland days of rain and wind, so stuck inside, I thought I’d look up some ideas I had written down in my journal.  Before I found what I was looking for I ran across some “ritual writing” prompts that I had jotted down from Chani Nicholas’ blog http://ChaniNicholas.com.

The first question that caught my eye was: What family issue am I working on?


Okay back up.  Let’s assume there is one.  Let’s not dismiss out of hand or deny. Let’s take on all newcomers despite the fact that I have probably dredged that well to death. Couldn’t avoid the thought that immediately came to mind–not being heard.  As fifth of twelve children my voice was lost in the crowd.  And the issue of voice as in finding your voice has been an abiding theme in my life.

Next question: What have I learned about myself through that?  Again, I “knew” immediately.  I have two ways of responding when I do not feel heard.  My knee jerk reaction is to speak in somewhat hysterical tones (can you sound both hysterical and cavalier at the same time?).  I sound like I don’t care yet somehow the pitch rises with every sentence.  I’m sure friends and family can describe it better as they have to listen.  I’ve heard other members of my family sound similarly as if we are protected from hurt or vulnerability if we sound tough, but our tone belies our words.  Hard to describe.

What I do know is it is not a good reflection of me or the fact that I actually do care very much.  I care about my family, I care about my work, I care about my art, I care about people.  You would not know that sometimes when you are talking to me, particularly if I am stressed.  Therapists, as a rule, perhaps with the exception of the profession as depicted on television, labor in secret until there is a crisis.

Because there is still a certain amount of stigma about needing therapy, most people do not tell everyone how good their therapist is.  In addition, we can only speak about our profession in generalities due to confidentiality, but we deal with some very traumatic issues.

Most of the time, few people have an appreciation for what we do until there is a crisis situation then we become very important.  We, like other helping professionals, are the first ones to respond.  When the crisis is over we slip back into the background.  Over the past ten years I was involved in many such situations.  I could hear how I spoke about them with equal parts hysteria and distance.IMG_1405

My loving sister, Elise, said to me in a conversation recently, “The Universe has been waiting to give you this gift (of Ireland and Ballymaloe) for a long time.”  Such a nice thing to say and of course experience.

Taking this time has allowed me more time to hear how I come across to other people, how my voice gets tense, the pitch goes up, and I know I’m not getting across what I mean to say. I’m learning to find my voice.  It is not incumbent on someone else to hear me.

My other way of responding when I don’t feel heard is to withdraw.  I will do my hysterical whatever it is for a time, but then I will withdraw.  Most of my withdrawal mechanisms are healthy.  I walk, I swim, I write, I read.  Solitude rejuvenates my spirit.  However, I also can be the first to escape through a night of mindless television.

After a long day of doing therapy, which regardless of how active my listening was, is a sitting job, I would go home, make dinner then starting with the local news do more sitting in front of the TV.

Before I knew it I’d been there for hours–none of it memorable.  As we now know, sitting for hours each day is very bad for us.  The more tired and stressed the more likely I’d skip the gym and go straight home.

When I was aware and present, I’d drive past the house saying “do not pass go do not collect $200”–Monopoly) and at least get to the gym and work out before I went home.  I understand that there are worse addictions, but one consequence of whatever addiction one has, is that we are not present–to ourselves or others.

I have so appreciated the break from television while at Ballymaloe.  Stepping away from my routine has allowed me to appreciate the processes I had in place like the walking, swimming etc. mentioned above.  Processes toward healing take time, but they add up and do reward with increased awareness. Without my years of daily practice, I may never have made a change because I would not have been aware that I needed one.  One’s destinations may not emerge without a devotion to process.

Throughout my process I have learned that I can find better ways of communicating that authentically reflect who I am.  And my authentic self is a healer, a teacher, an artist.  I’m speaking career here because MOTHER trumps all as my poor husband knows all too well.  My process has taught me that I need to honor what uplifts me as much as those I serve.  I am not alone. Most people in the helping/healing professions set aside their own needs in service to others. I have ideas percolating here at Ballymaloe that I hope to bring to the healers and helpers of the world.

I have also learned that I do not need to withdraw to go off and lick my wounds, so to speak.  I just need to be myself. My natural inclination is to be helpful, to nourish, to be present, to get along, and to listen.  These, too, come from growing up in a large family.  When I am myself others gravitate to me.  When I am not, well, let’s hope there is a pool nearby!

Saturday baking.

Saturday baking.

Get ready all you healers (and any others).  When I get home we are going to cook up some fun! I have found bread-making to be the most fun and therapeutic of all.  Saturdays we get to spend our time in the kitchen baking all things bread with Tim Allen.  He’s knowledgeable, generous, patient, and kind.  There are many ways to help others.  Here’s his Focaccia recipe.

Ballymaloe Cookery School Focaccia

700 g (1 & 1/2 lbs or 6 cups) strong white flour (bread flour)

20 g (3/4 oz) fresh yeast or half the quantity dry yeast

2 level teaspoons salt

15 g (1/2 oz) sugar

2-4 T (Irish T are larger so 2-4 American T + 2-4t) olive oil

500-600 ml (600g or 18 oz or 1 pint/ 2-2 &1/2 cups) lukewarm water –divided (the dough will be soft)

Set aside more olive oil, rosemary and sea salt to top

1 large swiss roll tin

Mix the sugar and yeast 150 ml of the lukewarm water stir and leave for a few minutes to dissolve.  Add the olive oil and the remainder of the water. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl (standing mixer), make a well in the center and pour in most of the lukewarm water (hold a bit back depending on how wet the dough).  Mix to a loose dough adding the remainder of the liquid or more flour as necessary.  Cover and leave to relax for five minutes.  Then knead in the mixer with the dough hook attachment, beginning slowly and gradually turning up the speed. 5 minutes is usually long enough. Put the dough to rise in a pottery bowl and cover tightly with cling film. Yeast dough rises best in a warm environment. Rising time depends on temperature.  In an average kitchen it will take 2-3 hours (watch it during the summer may take less time).

Preheat oven to 230 degrees (450 US, Gas Mark 8).

When the dough has risen turn out into the tin lined with parchment paper. Dimple the dough with you finger and add your topping and drizzle with olive oil.  Allow to rise again until doubled in size.  Sprinkle with sea salt and cook in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes then turn down to 200/400/Gas mark 6 and bake for 10-15 minutes more.  Remove from the paper and let bake 5 more minutes.  This allows the bottom of the bread to brown. It should sound hollow when tapped.  Remove from oven place on a tray over the jelly roll pan and drizzle with more oil. Yum!



4 thoughts on “Healing the Healers

  1. “We are not present to ourselves or others”, wow! I found that when making my amends a common theme was not being present, for years. I am so enjoying your blog Mick, thank you for sharing this awesome life experience.


  2. That loaf of bread looks delicious !! I can only imagine the fragrance as it was baking !! Enjoying your posts and it sounds like you are having a wonderful experience in all domains. I am enjoying my “summer off” – first time since I was 15 ! Had some Zen moments this morning taking time to water the grass and flowers in my back yard. Enjoy and savor every moment Michelle – what a brave and perfect choice !


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