Healer of body and mind

Surgeon and psychotherapist Brendan Harding: “I’ve been in great pain and I know people will get dependent on you for a while,” he says. “It may be because they couldn’t depend on their parent as a child.” Photos: Hany Marzouk.
Surgeon and psychotherapist Brendan Harding: “I’ve been in great pain and I know people will get dependent on you for a while,” he says. “It may be because they couldn’t depend on their parent as a child.” Photos: Hany Marzouk.Surgeon and psychotherapist Brendan Harding: “I’ve been in great pain and I know people will get dependent on you for a while,” he says. “It may be because they couldn’t depend on their parent as a child.” Photos: Hany Marzouk.

Lifestyle – Doctor and psychotherapist Brendan Harding to share stories of pain and suffering at Clifden Arts Festival. But mostly it’s about connecting with our deeper selves, he tells Judy Murphy

Compassion and consciousness are two words that Brendan Harding uses in conversation more frequently than most people do. Doctor and psychotherapist Brendan will be taking part in this year’s Clifden Arts Festival on Sunday, giving presentation entitled Jung, Symbols and Songs of the Soul.

Brendan who will be accompanied by singer Eleanor Shanley and classical guitarist John Feeley for the presentation, feels that humanity could do with more of those attributes right now.

For years, Cavan-born Brendan, who lives in Ballinasloe, was a surgeon dedicated to saving people’s lives.

Along the way, he began another journey that would lead him towards healing people’s minds and spirits as well as their bodies.

His interest in psychotherapy began to develop in the 1980s when he sought to address his own deep emotional pain. And it has continued through the decades as he practised as a surgeon, first in Ireland, then in Saudi Arabia and in Canada before returning to Ireland, where he most recently worked in Portiuncula Hospital until his retirement last year.

While working in Newfoundland in Canada, Brendan travelled to Rhode Island in the US in his free time, training as a Jungian psychotherapist.

His work is based on the teachings of Swiss-born Carl Jung, a (1875-1961), a pioneer of modern psychology, whose teachings are hugely influential today.

It’s something that has complemented his medical training – Brendan points out that Jung was “into the idea of body and mind being one” long before this became widely accepted.

Now retired as a surgeon, Brendan is keen to share the benefits of Jungian psychotherapy and the knowledge he has gained from years studying the human psyche.

For Brendan, “depression is a time of suffering, not necessarily an illness and if it’s handled properly, it can be a time of growth”.

Handling it properly requires a person to get in touch with their deeper self.

One of Carl Jung’s central messages was that someone’s conscious mind, or ego, was only a tiny part of that person.

In order to have truly fulfilled lives, we need to connect with the unconscious part of ourselves, accessing repressed memories and forgotten information.

Doing that, according to Jung, lets us address underlying pain and trauma to become the most complete person we can be.

‘Talking therapy’ is a recognised way of helping people access the unconscious, but it’s not the only one.

Creative therapy is hugely beneficial, according to Brendan, especially for people who may have suffered extreme trauma and find it difficult to express themselves verbally.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.