So often we see and hear what we’re looking for rather than what is real. In his much talked about interview, Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex, shows the profound impact that therapy can have on an individual who is ready to look back on their life and make choices about their future. As I reflect on this, I can see four areas that affect all of us, regardless of our background.
Who we are on the inside and how others perceive us is not the same thing. This might be true in the family, in the workplace and numerous other groupings. We already know this about celebrities and political leaders. This fine if you are marketing a particular persona for your brand image but it is quite a different and more painful thing if others are deliberately spreading inaccurate information about you. None of us would like that. Especially if it’s done on a global scale and they get paid to do it. Connecting to and appreciating our own story gives us a deepening sense of our own self, autonomy and resilience.
Therapy helps us to take an honest look at ourselves, who we have been and how we want to show up in the world. Many of us become more self-aware as we get older. This could lead to self-acceptance and a desire to continue growing and learning. For others it may be an excuse and explanation for all that happens to them, abdicating the potential for choice and growth.
The potential for transformation
This new self-awareness could lead to lasting transformation. We do not need to continue to be who we have been. We’re often drawn to stories of great transformation. I know that is particularly true in religious circles, when a former criminal finds faith and the put all their energy into helping others to turn away from crime. There could be the unhealthy person who then becomes an advocate for a healthy lifestyle. But transformation does not need to be so drastic to be worthwhile. We love those fully packaged make-over stories but forget that we can do this for ourselves, from the inside out.
Personality and birth order
Personality and birth order affects our experiences in our family of birth. We know this is true in our family but often forget this is true for other people too. The experiences of the eldest, the youngest, the middle and only children are all different. The state of the relationship when you are born may be different to what your siblings experienced. I know with my siblings, with differing age gaps, we have memories of our parents at different ages. For example, parents who are newly-weds are not the same parents when child number four comes along.
In Prince Harry’s case, and this is somewhat obvious but important, he is the only one of his father’s children not to be an heir. The Queen had 4 children so 3 of them shared that experience of not being the heir. The Cambridges have 3 children so 2 of them will be able to share that experience. But Prince Harry is one of two. Every day, every mealtime, every holiday, being reminded that you are not the chosen one and there is nothing you can do about it for the rest of your life.
Living our values
Becoming aware of our values can be very empowering. If we decide that truth is a value we hold dear then we will tell the truth regardless of how uncomfortable it makes us feel. There might be a lot to lose by telling the truth so it can take a lot of courage. Families sometimes encourage us to keep secrets to avoid shame and guilt. This is particularly true in families where there is abuse. Some families will believe the child and report the abuser. Other families will accuse the child of lying and leave them unprotected. In those spaces where people are believed and therapy is sought, healing and forgiveness can happen. For those who are trapped and not believed, the wound is deeper, and healing can take a lifetime.
We can all become more self-aware, begin to live to the values we hold and remember that other people may be going through a lot internally. Childhood, adolescence, adulthood and ageing are all difficult in different ways. We live forward and reflect after. We are all a work-in-progress, and we can’t tell anyone else how to live their one precious life.