Counselling Blog

Achill Crisis

Photo by Sean Calvey

Generational Healing on a Global Scale. Are we repeating the patterns of dis-ease over and over again? What is happening within the global brain?

In 1894 32 Achill people lost their lives when their boat capsized in Clew Bay. They were on their way to Scotland to work as Potato Pickers. Life in Scotland for the Achill worker was very dismal. They worked hard all day, slept in cow barns at night and were looked into their barns from the outside. In 1937 another harrowing event happened when 10 young Achill people as young as 11 were burned inside a barn. They had been unable to get out when the fire started as they were locked in from the outside. There is a tiny plaque up in Kirkintullagh today on a derrilick building. I was told when I went to visit Kirkintullagh last year that it had to be moved up higher on the wall because it kept being vandalised. My heart was saddened by the little recognition that was shown for the huge tragic impact the deaths of these young people must have had on their families.

Alarms went off for me in my brain when I listened to the harrowing stories of the Syrians trying to cross the oceans to find safety. Mothers, Fathers, Children, brothers, sisters….humans. I was reminded of our Clew Bay tragedy and the uncanny similarity to it. It stuck with me, that it was a repeat of an event, all be it in another part of the world.

In our world today we are hearing much more often about auto immune disease. This is the body attacking itself. When I see what is happening in Achill this last week, I see that Achill is running a high risk of Auto immune and this is happening. What is happening could have the potential to cause damage within families that could seep down the generations.

I can only write from how I see things, my perception. I see that the government has made a grave error here in not communicating clearly what they had planned. The reaction from the people, because of this, in my opinion is normal. When we, as human beings are unsure and feel we are not being told the truth, we tend to verge towards a negative conclusion. This is our nature. Our ‘Fight, Fright, Freeze gets activated, which is our amygdala, this is part of our limbic system.

Another way of looking at the amygdala is to see it as a fire alarm within the system. When a fire alarm goes off, it sends a message of panic and fear. When we live in fear we tend to be more reactive than responsive and this can lead to lots of confusion. This can cause us not to think clearly, hear clearly or see clearly. My feeling is, as an Achill person, knowing the deep blood of the Achill people is that we come from a place of great passion, depth, rawness and beauty. This is what makes Achill so special. We are also human and this crisis in Achill really is NOT, in my opinion, about the Direct Provision, but about the miscommunication and the feeling that someone would take advantage of the Achill Community and this roots deep and became very triggered this last week.

My feeling the government is scapegoating the spotlight away from themselves and shining it on very vulnerable communities and it’s a boundary issue, again in my opinion and is not ok.

Achill people want to welcome people into our community. This is second nature to us. We have had in the past families resettled from Dublin in the late 90’s and I remember fondly the great fun our children had with them. One memory was my sons friend licking the spoon of the Christmas cake bake that I was was making. A welcoming committee should have been set up 6 months ago in preparation for people coming. These people are traumatised and will be in need of tender care, not aggression and fear.

When we are reacting out of fear nothing makes real sense, so we need to engage our senses. What is it we are hearing and really listen to what is being asked. What are we seeing and is that how I see it or is it how it really is. When we begin to engage our senses we are able to see the wood from the trees so to speak and our fear abates. That cliché of Knowledge is power is true. When we know clearly we have more confidence in real knowing of what is ok and what is not ok.

I work in the field of mental health, with a Masters in Mindfulness and this has really informed my way of thinking and helped me see things from a wider focus rather than from a narrow view point. I see every day in my work the impact of emigration. In 2011 I set up an online business with Donijka Monk, helping people who could not access face to face therapy. This too was met with fear and a lot of people thinking that it could never work, it was not the way therapy ‘should’ be done. But we only began the business because it was meeting a real need that was not being met. Today it is very acceptable. Sometimes we have to push outside of our comfort zone and trust the bigger picture.

I have a knowing in my own body the impact of generational legacy, the good, the bad and the ugly and know that I cannot change the thinking of anybody. The only person I can change is me. Be the change. We all have the power within us, as humans to do great good or great evil. There is lasting consequences generationally to both.

Achill is steeped in history and this is shown clearly in its spectacular landscape. Its rugged, bleak, wildness emitting beauty and deep sadness in its essence. Out of this will come great good. Where this is a lot of crap, you often find the greatest, sweetest growth of grass!

Mary McHugh MSc

Contact Irish Online Counselling & Psychotherapy Service (IOCPS)