Anna Chandy on her memoir: Battles in the Mind
The Bengaluru-based therapist speaks with us about mental health, overcoming the stigma and humanistic approach of helping people.
Bouncing back from the lowest point of life during her childhood, to a successful therapist now, Anna Chandy’s memoir Battles in the Mind is more than just a self help book – it is her own story offered as a case study. As the first supervising Transactional Analyst from India accredited to the International Transaction Analysis Association with a specialisation in counseling, Chandy is also a certified practitioner of neuro-linguistic programming, art therapy and heads the Live Love Laugh foundation of Deepika Padukone. The Bengaluru-based therapist speaks with us about mental health, overcoming the stigma and humanistic approach of helping people.
1. How much of a cathartic experience was it to write this book?
Being a practicing counsellor and having gone through several years of therapy I was able to share my story with objectivity even when I revisited painful experiences. Sharing my story was yet another step that I was taking ownership for, in my life and for the experiences, both positive and negative.
2. How do you see this being different from other available self-help books?
In my view this book is unique as I have used my own story as the case study to illustrate and explain the Transactional Analysis tools and concepts .Self disclosure among us professionals is not common and therefore this book validates that we mental health professionals also have narratives like others.
3. How much emphasis would you lay on the theoretical aspect of reading self-help books, as opposed to actual practical experience?
I think self-help books need to be used as a support and complementary tool along with professional support. Self-help books written by professionals using a specific framework are useful when used by individuals to understand themselves.
4. The matter of child abuse often remains closeted and suppressed. How do we confront such ghosts from the past?
Survivors of child sexual abuse require professional support and therapy as earlier traumatic events do interfere in the survivors’ adult life. For example, survivors do have issues of trust, conflicts in relationship, self-esteem, fears, sexuality and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
5. The social stigmas surrounding psychological disorders still remain very prevalent. What will it take to make a lasting change?
I think this has to be a collaborative effort between government, community, professionals and influencers to break stigma through awareness and sensitisation programs.
6. Counselling can be a very emotionally draining occupation.
All over the world practicing mental health professionals take supervision for their work and are in therapy themselves. Although this is not mandatory in India, my associates and I follow this principle. As the trainer and supervisor I emphasise the ethics of this practice. I believe my therapy and supervision has supported and empowered me to withstand many difficult times. For example, after the book was launched I receive hate mail from a few extended family members. I recognise that in a collective society this is bound to happen as the group is more important than the individual. This ability to not personalise hurtful remarks is an outcome of supervision and therapy.
7. An important question for us: Is it healthy to encourage comparisons in relationships? How does one contend with jealousy, and petty mindedness, in urban society?
Jealousy is not psychologically healthy yet is exists both in urban and rural communities. Feeling jealous is natural and what is important is to contain and manage behaviours that are triggered by jealousy.
8. In the new age, one's public social image, and perceptions to do with success and popularity, can leave lasting impressions on one's psyche. Is there an ideal way of dealing with such pressures?
I think this issue is far more complex to give simple straightforward tools to address this. In a collective society to be different from the group involves a lot of focus, faith and fortitude.
9. Is it natural for all of us, sometime in our lives, to have lived the roles of being a persecutor, rescuer and victim? How is the journey of self-exploration evolving over the generations, in your view?
All of us, at various points in our lives have played the role of psychological persecutors, rescuers and victims. This is done outside our awareness. If we continue to engage in these roles once we become aware, then I think we need to explore our reasons.I think more and more people are beginning the journey of self-exploration at a younger age than before. I have clients and young adults questioning themselves much more than before.I don't think it is Indians alone, I think this is an issue globally. More and more women are coming out into the open forums for some of their issues and therefore it is being termed as mid-life crises. I think this is more about women having a voice and challenging existing norms.
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