Who am I to talk about healing and justice? - Part 1
My first post talked about the what and why of The Healing Hype. In today’s post, I’ll be breaking down the question: Who am I to talk about healing and justice?
But before I get into it, I want to reiterate that I am always learning and unlearning. I know things, I don’t know things, and I don’t know if what I know is the only way to know it. Do you feel me? This newsletter is for those who want to learn, unlearn, and constantly question because there is never one “right” answer - decolonize amirite?
Who am I?
I’m Nisha (she/her), a cisgendered, heterosexual, divorced, South Asian American, woman. I am the daughter of Indian immigrants. I’m also a sister, a friend, and a lover. I don’t really identify by the religion I was raised, but it’s a part of me. I’m an upper caste Hindu, though, I didn’t realize this until I interviewed The Fat Sex Therapist on my podcast MigrAsians. For those of you that don’t know, the Hindu caste system divides people up into professional and social classes. Originally, it was divided by profession, and it was also a way to maintain a social hierarchy. Now it’s more of the latter, which has led to plenty of violence and disenfranchisement, especially against Dalit aka Untouchable women.
I was born and raised in the unceded land of the Kickapoo, Peoria, and Potawatomi, also known as the suburbs of Chicago, and I lived in Illinois until a few years ago when I moved to unceded Tongva land, also known as Los Angeles, for a job as a librarian. Yes, I work as a librarian and I fit the Venn Diagram of the librarian stereotype.
I value compassion, curiosity, storytelling, community, humility, and equity. I believe that the world isn’t ours to take - we are part of the Earth and the Earth is in us. I get frustrated on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis about how most of society treats the land as if it is theirs to exploit instead of just being with the land.
I am deeply curious about how we relate. How do we relate to the land? How do we relate to our ancestors? How do we relate to family? friends? ourselves? Lately, I have been diving into this more and more, and I’m delighted, confused, and frightened about what I discover. Of course, I can save this for another post :)
Who am I to talk?
Yes, I like to talk. And people seem to like the sound of my voice, so I guess that’s a good thing! I was on the speech team in high school, I love giving presentations and teaching, and I have a blast on my podcast MigrAsians. Even if I feel insecure before speaking in public, I somehow get a rush of adrenaline that lights me up while I’m doing it.
And it’s not just a one-way thing. I love to moderate and facilitate.
When I was a speech therapist, I started a stroke and brain injury support group, and even though I wasn’t paid for it, it was my FAVORITE thing to do! I loved observing how conversations flowed and watching new relationships bloom before my eyes. And most importantly, I cherished facilitating a venue that gave voice to people who were isolated and felt like nobody could relate to their struggles.
I have always been passionate about language. I majored in Communication Studies and Cognitive Science in undergrad, which integrated my interests between how people think and how they communicate. I got my Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology because I have always been fascinated about language and the brain. And then I got my Master’s in Library and Information Science because I love teaching people about information and how it’s not as neutral as we might think. Oh, and, as I mentioned, I’m a writer - I write memoir and essays. Here are a few of my favorite essays, so take a read and let me know what you think :)
Why I Brag About My Divorce - an essay about my divorce
The Currents Can Change - an essay about my dad’s death and the pandemic
Facts Alone Won’t Destroy Fake News - an essay about how facts aren’t always the solution
I love how a simple sentence can conjure up memories and how a phrase can make you feel a familiar feeling as if it were new.
As you can see, communicating, connecting, and creating is near and dear to my heart.
Who am I to talk about healing and justice?
This is what you came for right?
One reason that I want to talk about healing and justice is because it wasn’t important to me until after college. I never used to see myself as “political,” but I grew up always trying to understand why people did the things they did, and...well, I’m still figuring that out :)
My junior year of high school, I did a project about how we could all walk the path to happiness - I got called “the happy girl” because of it.
But was I happy when I was 17?
I had loving parents, a secure home, and I never worried about food on the table. But at the same time, my parents were immigrants from India who constantly lived with a scarcity mindset. Technically, we were secure, but they still wouldn’t take any risks that seemed to threaten that security. So while my parents, especially my mom, admired people who took great risks, and encouraged me to do the same, they also asked me to quit activities that I loved. It’s like they liked the idea of risk but were too fearful to experience the consequences because of the other struggles they had before I was born.
This fear was deeply embedded into my being, resulting in overwhelming perfectionism, shame, and people pleasing. So happiness was helping others, a role that I fell into, but not by choice. At the age of 11 or 12, my mom would dump her issues with her family and my dad on me. I became parentified before I even got my period.
The term “parentification” was first utilized in depth by Boszormenyi-Nagy and Spark (1973) to describe a common component of relationships whereby parental characteristics are projected onto an individual. Within the parent-child relationship, this process is often seen when the child performs chores or occasionally offers emotional support for a parent, and is believed to be healthy for the child as he or she begins to see the potential for him or herself in an adult role (Boszormenyi-Nagy & Spark, 1973). However, when the responsibilities become too burdensome, or when the child feels obligated to take on the adult position in order to maintain a balance in the family system, parentification can become pathological (Hooper, 2007a, 2007b). This dysfunctional aspect of parentification is most commonly addressed in the literature, and is described as:
a disturbance in the generational boundaries, such that evidence indicates a functional and/or emotional role reversal in which the child sacrifices his or her own needs for attention, comfort, and guidance in order to accommodate and care for the logistical and emotional needs of a parent and/or sibling. (Hooper, 2007b, p. 323)
Whew, can you relate?
It has taken me time to reconcile this. I’ve often wondered what my mom was thinking when she sought this support. Was she consciously seeking this from me? Did she think so highly of me that she thought I could handle it?
The fact is that seeking out mental health support in the South Asian community is very stigmatized. I’ve had to grapple with how my mom felt she had nobody else with whom she could divulge these issues, while also having compassion for myself.
By the time I was in high school, not realizing how I was molded into this role of an advice giver, I found myself extremely interested in philosophy and I dove into the Hindu scriptures. I never cared for the rituals my Hindu parents did for daily prayer or religious events, but I loved interpreting and discussing scriptures like the Mahabharata and The Bhagavad Gita. It offered me a connection to my culture and an avenue to find the “right” path in life. And while I don’t really look to these scriptures anymore, there’s one that specifically sticks out and has always followed me.
From The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 47:
You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.
When I first learned this verse, I hated it! If I’m not the cause of the results of my activities, who is? How dare you take away my agency?!?!? But after what I’ve learned on my own healing journey and about systemic injustice, I have some huge takeaways from this verse.
Trust the process. All I can do is my “duty” - for me, it is my duty and responsibility to align with my truest self. This verse is also in the context of Hindu caste (i.e., you are obligated to your duty in X role defined by your caste, in this case, it was being part of the warrior caste). I don’t believe in caste, but I have reclaimed “duty” to mean connecting with my intuition and nature instead of external validation. I have to fall in love with the process because the outcome is not in my hands. Not being “entitled” to the outcome is different than enjoying or not enjoying the outcome. Essentially, you did what you can, and you can’t change things because...
You do not cause results. Let me give you an example. I just started The Healing Hype, and I really want it to flourish. But all I can do is write, research, and provide the best quality possible - what happens as a result is not always going to be up to me. Someone may not be able to pay for it, they might get support from somewhere else, it might not align with their values. This is out of my control. I don’t mean this in a way where you cannot work toward a goal and achieve it. Sure you can! But I mean this in a way that considers systemic and other external factors, ones which are out of our control. This is the same reason that a rich White man is privileged with more human rights than a poor Black queer woman. Neither of them did anything more or less to deserve these rights - systemic racism and capitalism creates obstacles or a lack thereof.
I bring this up because staying in the present, being mindful, and acknowledging our intersections of oppression and political histories are crucial to how we navigate our lives.
But for a long time, I used to only think about myself as an individual and not the world around me. But things started to change…
I started to make connections between parentification, seeking out toxic relationships, and linking this to patriarchy and colonization. I’ll get into detail about what I discovered in Part 2, which is for those who have invested in The Healing Hype - so subscribe below if you haven’t!
Did you always make the connection between healing and justice? Reply and let me know!