Language giving voice to identity and expressing our soul


In this episode I am delighted to be exploring the place of the Irish language (indeed any indigenous language) as a field of healing. And no better a man to explore this than with Conor Ruadh, who along with many others is an activist in our reconnection with Irish language and culture.

Considering language as a field of healing may at first seem strange. Yet within the language of healing and recovery in mental health, we often consider connection, identity, meaning, belonging and sense making as part and parcel of a recovering journey. In this conversation those concepts are central to the relationship between the Irish language and ‘being’.

The limit of my language means the limit of my world  (Wittgenstein)

This is a sentiment reflected in the work of many philosophers and communication theorists. Language gives meaning to our known world, who we are, making sense of ‘us’ in relation to ‘other’ creating cultural identity that grounds us in connection and shared meaning making.

What if all of that is eroded, though colonial cleansing and post colonial shameful perpetuation of that cleansing by the new republic. And a new identity, new meaning making, cultural abys and a disconnect between environmental sense making and prescribed scripts of life replaced a transgenerational identity?

Simple things, some languages do not have a word for ‘I’ as they only understand and reflect being as a collective. In English you are something specific, e.g. Mad. In Irish something would be ‘upon’ you, tá brón orm [sorrow is upon me], a temporal condition, rather than a branded meaning.

If language shapes our world, then in Ireland our world is shaped by and through the lens of colonialism. And it is here we will first explore that impact and reality, before thankfully exploring where and how our own language can be a field of healing.

This episode is slightly longer than usual, though there are two obvious themes, with the first 28mins about colonisation of language and by association a people and the remainder specifically looking at Gaeilge/Irish language as a field of healing.

We could have conducted this episode through Irish, except the point of this exploration was not to push the Irish language itself, it was to realise the importance of its connection to healing and by its absence, some of the shared indigenous challenges in being human through the linguistic lens of ‘other’. 

Conor Ruadh (B.S.c Psychology), is a hypnotherapist, meditation teacher, currently undertaking an apprenticeship in shamanism and advocate of the Irish language. His work heavily emphasises the importance of inviting our native tongue into modern spirituality and our daily lives. He also believes that coming back to our native language and our traditions can be an act of decolonisation. Conor is a Gaeilgeoir raising his child through Irish.