One of the interesting parts of Prince Harry’s Spare was his ability to describe with such clarity his own anxiety, trauma, neglect and magical thinking without actually using the language of psychology. I mean, in the first fifty pages of the book, with his descriptions of the days following his mother’s death, that is one of the clearest and most effective descriptions of childhood trauma and parental neglect I’ve ever read in my life. Well, Dr. Gabor Maté thought so as well. In their televised conversation to promote Spare, Dr. Maté spot-diagnosed Harry with ADD, PTSD, anxiety and depression just from reading Spare, and most of those diagnoses are based on the trauma of his mother’s death. Harry also acknowledged that his therapist had diagnosed him with PTSD as well. Harry and Dr. Maté also spoke about how Harry always felt different than the rest of his family, probably because he was and is so much like Diana.
The Duke of Sussex, 38, participated in a virtual book event on Saturday with Dr. Gabor Maté, an expert specializing in trauma, addiction, stress and childhood development, to discuss his groundbreaking memoir. Seated across from each other before a crackling fireplace, the Duke of Sussex and Maté, author of The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture, discussed living with loss and the importance of personal healing. Harry brought up how he related to his mother Princess Diana over feelings of not fitting in with the rest of the royal family.
“Certainly throughout my life, throughout my younger years, I always felt slightly different to the rest of my family,” he said. “I felt strange being in this container, and I know that my mum felt the same. It makes sense to me — it didn’t make sense at the time — I felt as though my body was in there, but my head was out, but sometimes it was vice-versa. The times that I ventured towards being myself, being my authentic true self, whether it was through media or family or whatever it was, it was almost like, ‘Don’t be yourself, come back to what you’re expected to be,’ if that makes sense.”
Prince Harry also said that writing Spare was a release, and stressed why it was important for him to be honest about his life story.
“I really hope, and I hoped right from the beginning, when I turned around to the people that were helping me write this book, I said, ‘I want this to be an act of service, it needs to be, because I know important it is, because you’re almost giving permission for people to talk about their own stuff, and be their own selves, and society doesn’t really help us,” he told Maté. “And I would say even more so within my family, because of the expectations and because of how you’re cast as individuals.”
Speaking of his time in therapy, Harry said, “A lot of families are complicated, a lot of families are dysfunctional, but for me when I was doing therapy regularly… I felt that I learned a new language.”
Sharing that other members of his family “didn’t speak that language,” he added, “This is working for me and I’m starting to go back to the point of trauma and unpack everything so I can be truly happy… but at the same time I’m feeling more and more distant from my loved ones and my family.”
Part of his feeling that he was different from the rest of his family was because… he was treated like an afterthought at all times, chronically neglected and willfully misunderstood. Instead of taking one look at this broken boy and traumatized young man, the family turned a blind eye and told him to keep calm and carry on. He does have his mother’s temperament, and yet… I honestly feel like he’s less temperamental than Diana, you know? She was often short-sighted in her plans and executions, whereas Harry’s blind spot is that he gives his family the benefit of the doubt when it’s been clear this whole time that they’re completely f–king awful.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.
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