The Emotional Impact of Hinduphobia
*Note: This is general advice from a Sanātanī Seeker Psychotherapist working at the intersection of East (specifically Indic — Patāñjali Yoga & Advāita Vedānta) and West (focus on depth analytical / Jungian psychology, ProcessWork, Somatic Experiencing, humanistic applied behavioural science). However, this is in no way a substitute for professional mental health care. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please consult a mental health professional.
Being at the receiving end of identity abuse is a traumatizing experience. A religious-spiritual belief system forms part of one’s core identity and any act of infringement on it takes a toll. While each one of us responds differently, it is important to take care of ourselves as we get exposed to abuse. Such attacks, whether personal or systemic, along with the erasure of pain, marginalization of the felt and lived experience, can lead to difficult experiences ranging from loss of self-confidence and self-esteem to loss of agency and post-traumatic stress.
Simple day-to-day experiences can be painful, or even ignored — for e.g., hiding your Hindu identity, being cagey about or downplaying your festivals in name of ’social justice’, refraining from wearing your sacred symbols for fear of censure etc. These daily experiences lead to loss of conviction and may damage self-identity.
Remember, Hinduphobia is not your fault or problem. You have a right to be in this world as a child of this Prakriti. It is both your responsibility and your right to honor your traditions, customs, culture, and identity.
These are some areas you can explore to support yourself and your loved ones. These are neither sequential nor mutually exclusive. Engage with them in whatever way makes sense for you.
Acknowledgment and Acceptance entail the basics of Self-Care. This is the first step towards protection and healing.
Acknowledgement of Inner Defense Mechanisms
Our socialization often prejudices against trusting our primary defense impulses — fight, flight, freeze. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel threatened and vulnerable, try to go with the impulse that presents itself to you first. Remember that they exist for an evolutionary purpose. Of course, they do need adaptation to our times, but honoring them is the starting point of respecting ourselves.
If you do act out of primary defense mechanisms, remember that they exist to help us survive. Listening to them and honoring them by appropriate action is respecting that deep part within us that keeps us alive. Shame and Guilt are often associated with our primary responses. Do take your time to work through these.
Acceptance of / Non-Denial of Emotions and Feelings
Some of us have a hard time accepting our emotions and feelings, more so because they are mushy, illogical and contradictory. Many of us grow up marginalizing these, more so in the linear, productivity-oriented societies and utilitarian education systems. Acceptance of our emotions and feelings is much needed for us to move forward.
Acceptance does not mean you are bound to act them out, but recognizing them is honoring the impact they have on our systems.
Remember that your feelings are legitimate, even if they are contradictory. You may experience the same person as otherwise kind and helpful, but be at the receiving end of abuse. Likewise, you may be grateful to the university and like your friends, but you may also feel hurt, angry and upset with the institutional mechanisms there. It is important for you to honor your feelings and the wholeness of your experience. Not doing so is a spiritual bypass.
Give yourself enough time for them to work through your emotions and feelings. If you feel you need help to identify your feeling(s) reach out to trusted friends, family, elders, or family Purohit or āchārya. If you feel trapped and overwhelmed, consider taking safe professional support from someone who might understand (or at least respect) your Hindu identity.
The power of the group lies in its ability to provide us with a sense of safety where we can relive and relieve ourselves of what bothers us.
Family, Friends, Elders
Engaging with trusted members of your family and friends is often a helpful process for many. Elders often have seen the world and its ways and consider reaching out to someone who you feel might be a good sounding board for you.
Peer/Community Support Group
Reach out to your local / online community support group for support. If you do not belong to one, do your research in finding ones you resonate with. Understanding Hinduphobia, Hindu Students Council, and Hindu on Campus are all safe spaces for you to share your experiences and find resources to support you.
Personal Work is indispensable for standing up for ourselves, our tradition and our Dharma.
Do take out time daily for your own Sādhanā, including practices of pranayama, dhyanam, and yoga asana. Read our texts to see how our tradition might deal with a situation you are experiencing. Speak with your family purohit or āchārya on what might support you through difficult times.
Maintaining a private journal is a helpful part of individual work. Noting down the events, thoughts, feelings, sensations, emotions, helps not only to untangle the web of connections, but also to process the residual impact of the event / situation / experience. The most potent antidote is knowledge — gained from tradition and your personal experience.
As part of your personal situation assessment, consider any boundaries that you may have to draw / redraw. Each one of us is unique and has an inner sense of our capacities for resilience. Not entering into similar situations, or venturing with your allies is taking care of your own personal boundaries. You have a right to psycho-somatic-emotional safety.
Should you find your situation bothering you more than you anticipated, or have unpleasant psycho-somatic experiences lasting longer than 48 hours, consider exploring personal therapy. Needless to say, physical symptoms require a trip to the doctor, but because the physical and psychological are often concurrent, psycho-therapy grounded in spiritual principles is an avenue you may wish to explore. Do take your time in checking out a therapist who is also respectful of your religious-spiritual being.
If your personal life history, or family/community history involves trauma and abuse, remember to take care of your personal well-being. Personal, Familial, Intergenerational trauma leaves scars that are debilitating, disempowering and self-alienating. At the same time, they also offer an opportunity for accessing deep inner strength and conviction. In addition to what supports you above, find time to engage with your own history, and work with therapists / support groups that work with these areas.
Resources on how to manage stress with practices of pranayama and dhyanam.
How Maharishi Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras can help us navigate the turmoil and tensions of Hinduphobia