Footprints from Formative Years:
I had been sexually abused as a child and came from a troubled household. I had to adjust to manage my life in spite of these obstacles.
Undoubtedly, the most significant event in my early, formative years was learning to live and deal in a dysfunctional home. Another important lesson involved interpreting actions and body language. Both consciously and unconsciously, I've applied everything I've learned to my strategies for surviving and making decisions. In addition to being fulfilling, the life I've created is also less unpleasant than my formative years.
Depending on my sensing, reading body language and bodily expressions, I am able to understand people and what they want to communicate. This ability is a borrowing from my early childhood and, of course, honed by my training.
Making the Warrior Spirit:
I did not allow dysfunctionality to influence my performance in other domains of my life. For e.g., I never failed a class and maintained fairly high academic standards. I was able to use my experience of learning to manage difficulty early on in life and did not succumb to addictions to distract me or numb the pain. I was determined to perform well in class, and later, as an employee, as well as in pursuing my other passions such as playing the piano. I was able to accomplish these activities because I was totally absorbed in giving my best in these areas regardless of the circumstances.
Looking back on my life as a mental health professional, I’d say the ability to survive and thrive is one of my greatest strengths.
As far as obstacles in my professional journey are concerned, I was a late starter. Since I married quite early and had young children, I could only obtain my professional qualifications quite late in life. I initially felt people took me lightly assuming what I was doing was a “hobby” rather than a professional career option. While mental health was meaningful to me, it was hardly considered a “worthy” or a lucrative career choice when I first started off three decades ago. But I had an intense passion for my profession and I chose to retain my focus despite the lack of social standing or financial rewards.
I stood my ground despite the odds. My path has been one of self-belief, trusting my decisions and my gut. I firmly believed that in my therapy practice, I was providing a non-judgemental space and encouraging people to talk about their pain or traumas even if these went against society’s norms.
Today, the importance of therapy is well-recognized. In my view, I’ve contributed to a movement where individuals are seeking professional help.
I also faced a backlash when I wrote in my book about the child sexual abuse I’d experienced. The perpetrator was a relative, and I’d been estranged from my extended family for years following my revelation. My openness in sharing this trauma could have been termed by society as washing ones dirty linen in public. However, I believe in authenticity and in exposing my vulnerability. The estrangement with my relatives has ended recently and I’ve been requested to re-join the family after years. This experience underlines the power of standing up for your beliefs.
Speaking of Mental Health:
I've seen the mental health conversation shift significantly over the past six-seven years. In the last two three years in particular, I see more men, and young individuals unabashedly speaking about their own mental health issues. I also see an upswing in interest in psychology with many wanting to enter the field.
In my approach as a counselor, I cognitively account for emerging patterns and heartfully sense the feelings of others. Simultaneously, I am guided by values of authenticity, vulnerability, and open communication. I believe in authentic sharing and openness. If I don't expose my vulnerabilities in my role as a leader, I certainly can’t expect others to be authentic.
I'm willing to take the risk of being rejected. For me, my work is not just a profession. I live my work. It's a way of life for me.
Changing lives with Anna Chandy and Associates:
Our progress has been steady, the therapy practice has grown organically and we’ve experienced growth across multiple dimensions.
When I started, I was a single individual running the practice. From a sole proprietorship, we are setting up an LLP. I’ve also grown from counselling individuals to helping societal systems and corporate organizations. We are also moving into public health involving the larger collective.
My team and I believe what we have built is a unique venture. Sharing the rewards of growth with my team members is critical. I’ve always sought to institutionalize ethics and professional standards in counselling.
“Battles in the Mind- Conquering and Winning over Emotional Pain”:
The main objective of my book was to provide hope for those who feel hopeless. I truly believe that if I could survive the trauma I’ve experienced, then anyone can.
It was also important for me to share my authentic experiences as a counselor and therapist. In my experience, people often think therapists have a perfect life and are trying to support those whose life is imperfect and difficult. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Carl Jung has talked about the “wounded healer,” and this concept is powerful; it’s because I’ve had an imperfect life that I can support others.
The wisdom from my Mentor:
I don’t have a specific mentor but I am drawn to individuals who enable me to challenge my own attitudes and beliefs and change my perspectives. In this category, I include my friends and colleagues Uttara and Rosemary. When I'm very confused or distressed, I speak with them because they are able to question my thinking and expand my frame of reference. I also admire entrepreneurs such as Falguni Nayyar. She is a person who has reinvented herself after spending years in a different career. I am drawn to such people.
The learnings I’d like to share with others would be to embrace your sunny side and our darker shadow side since no one can be happy all the time. Everyone needs to embrace their own truth. One needs to move forward all the time to avoid getting stuck and keep in mind that “life is dynamic”. It is important to be open to all experiences and learn from everyone – especially from youngsters. I learn a lot about myself from youngsters. In fact, over the last year, I’ve learned so much from observing my grandson, Rehaan. He has taught me unconditional love, acceptance, and about the flow of energy that isn’t governed by roles and responsibilities.
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