Rashna Imhasly-Gandhy is a transpersonal psychologist who has been, over the years, helping people rediscover their strengths and face challenges. Her new book The Emerging Feminine: Discovering the Heroine Within (Yatra Books; Rs. 495) is a companion volume to her previous work, Psychology of Love: Wisdom of Indian Mythology . She analyses archetypes from Indian mythology and applies the learnings in a contemporary context.
“As a Jungian psychologist (a school of psychology that stemmed from Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung), I look at mythology to study behavioural patterns of cultures and identify strong archetypes, the journeys of heroes and heroines. Jung himself was influenced by Patanjali sutras and the balance between male and female,” says Rashna, who was in town to launch her book at Kalakriti art gallery.
In the 90s, when she had finished her first book, she recalls observing the rising popularity of Ramayana in what she calls the society’s ‘collective unconscious’, soon after the Ayodhya incident. “When you look at a myth in that context you begin to understand what a King and Queen signify in a culture,” she says.
Discussing the life of Sita, Rashna elaborates, “Look at how Sita disappears, making us wonder if there is no place for a woman. If the ‘feminine’ is suppressed in a woman, then how can it develop within a man? He has no role model. We need to understand the journeys of heroes and heroines to find the path to discover our inner selves. Hinduism has no definitive text and myths are open to interpretation, of which a few versions tend to dominate. Patriarchal and narrow thought forms have become dominant,” she observes.
Again, referring to Sita, she argues, “Ram brings her back from Lanka and even though she goes through the agnipariksha, she isn’t respected. For him, his position and praja are more important than his inner voice or the antaratma . So she goes away and brings up her children in an ashram, like many women in India do,” she says.
Among her clients, Rashna has come across women who’ve raised children single-handedly against all odds. “Sita doesn’t go back to the kingdom; she feels it’s better to return to her matrubhoomi . The time has come to emerge from mother earth to protect the feminine voice within ourselves,” she says, underlining the choice of her book’s title.
Mythology can be a minefield, lending itself to varied interpretations. How then does one work with principles derived from myths? “We need to work within ourselves and ask ‘who am I?’. Then we don’t need projections of who we are supposed to be. That realisation makes us stronger,” says Rashna.
As a psychologist, she says the toughest phase is making women overcome the stage of feeling victimised. “When you reach a stage of ‘Tatvam asi’ or ‘I am that’, you draw strength from within. Again, we look at myths to see the heroes and heroines who’ve achieved this stage,” says Rashna, who declares her admiration for Karna. “For me, Karna is a hero. When he finds the truth about his birth and realises he can become the king, he still doesn’t want to. He stands for what he feels is right. Instead of thinking you are a victim of destiny, you need to become the hero/heroine of your destiny,” she says.
The Emerging Feminine , she says, took 10 to 11 years to write. “It couldn’t have been a time-bound project. I’d call it a slow maturation,” says Rashna. The author shares her admiration for Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Palace of Illusions and Iravati Karve’s Yuganta , both which looked at women in Mahabharata. With these texts already popular in public domain, Rashna sought to bring in psychological perspectives. “I try to find out where in the character’s journey does he /she come to a point of individuation, where the consciousness and conscience merge.
This is the point for which I wait in my clients,” she says, citing an example of a young man who learnt about the existence of a step sister after his mother’s death, and chose to reach out to her after deliberation. When thrown in a situation, ask yourself if you are good to follow convention or listen to your inner voice, says Rashna.
Rashna cites Draupadi as the ultimate heroine, while trying to help her clients draw their inner strength.
Next, Rashna wants to write about Indian goddesses. “We have wonderful stories of Indian goddesses from whom we can derive energies. I feel this area needs to be tapped,” she signs off.