On March 4, one of the most unusual encounters in the history of the internet took place. Many people were surprised by the publisher’s announcement of In the shadow that Prince Henry of England would have a long conversation with Canadian doctor and writer Gabor Maté, the most famous trauma specialist in the world.
To gain access to the meeting, which took place at six in the afternoon (Spanish peninsular time), it was necessary to purchase the book of the Duke of Sussex, which could be completed with The Myth of Normal, the last essay by the Canadian doctor of Hungarian origin. I myself watched this dialogue with skepticism, which provoked a lot of criticism before it happened.
As soon as this intimate conversation began, in a small room in front of the fire, Enrique surprised with his humility when he openly explained the reason for publishing his biography and this dialogue: after two decades fighting for his mental health, he needed to share his story to empower others who want to be themselves, beyond the conventions and expectations of others.
In conversation with Dr. Maté, which lasted an hour and a half, we learned of the prince’s difficulty in finding a therapist who could help him break the bubble he had lived in since childhood. Only when he found her could he begin to free that boy who, at just 12 years old, had lost his mother. As a definition, points out Gabor Maté, trauma is an emotional wound that has not healed. And the first step out of trauma is to recognize it.
Enrique explains the moment when his father, King Carlos III, entered his room to announce his mother’s death, tapping him on the knee. Soon after, after a laconic “everything will be fine”, he left the room. the author of In the shadow explains in this regard that 99% of people go through some trauma, loss or pain without resolution. In his case, the father’s absence of hugs and caresses aggravated an already extremely painful situation for a child. Maté points out that the fact that his father treated him coldly does not mean that he did not love him. He just didn’t know how to express it due to his own upbringing.
Enrique agrees with the comment and adds that, as a father, he tries to caress and hug his two children every day. He recognizes that a turning point was the publication of the book, as it allowed him to go back to the point of trauma to understand it and not repeat the same mistakes with Archie and Lilibet. From that moment on, he says, he was able to complete his cure and begin to be himself.
At this point in the conversation, Gabor Maté recapitulates by stating that in every life there is a crossroads between two paths that can only be traveled with pain:
1. You can choose the pain of not being yourself, of not being authentic, of pleasing others.
2. You choose the pain of being yourself and losing the support of others (or part of them).
Every human being must choose between these two vital options. And of course only the second leads to personal fulfillment.
Along the way, one of the most touching moments in the conversation is when Prince Harry talks about his bouts of depression and anxiety. In formal acts he had to shake hands with a long line of personalities, and he often felt unpleasant heat in his body and sweat on his hands. When he detected sweat on the hands of someone he had to shake hands with, he stopped. He knew that this person was also experiencing an anxious moment and stopped to talk to him, although the chiefs of protocol urged him to continue. It made him feel better.
When asked about his tools for getting out of trauma and pain, he replies that one of them is allowing ourselves to suffer. He comments that during his stays in Africa he saw that the local population spent two or three days mourning a loss. It helped them to process.
The other tool is the conversation. Being able to talk to people who know how to listen with love is the key to healing. Even if you express it through writing. In this regard, Enrique de Inglaterra confesses that at first he was scared by the reactions that his biography could be generating in readers. To reassure him, his editor suggested he check out the Amazon reviews. As he did so, the Duke of Sussex was overwhelmed by thousands of words of gratitude. “Feeling that I am helping others to heal helps me to heal myself”, he confesses enthusiastically at the end of the conversation.
Gabor Maté adds that, in addition to having compassion and empathy for others, you have to have it for yourself. This is the first step to get out of the trauma and start living a free and authentic existence.
‘The myth of normal’
The last book by Dr. Gabor Maté is entitled The myth of normal. In it he explains that “trauma is not what happens to you externally, but what happens inside you”. To step out of the victim role and reconnect with life, these fundamental needs must be met:
— belonging. Relate well with others.
— Autonomy. Feeling that you are in control of your own life.
— Competence. Be able to deal with everyday challenges.
— Authentic self-esteem. It’s not dependent on what you get or validation from others.
— Trust. Knowing that you have the personal and social resources to sustain your life.
— Purpose and meaning. Go beyond yourself to find the meaning of your own existence.