Royal Suffering: Harry, Meghan, (Diana) and Trauma

In case you haven’t heard, the British monarchy has a new outpost in LA, and I think Trauma has a role in this relocation.

Let’s take a very brief look at Harry’s trauma, where it all originates from. As a child, Harry watched as his mother suffered under scrutiny from the tabloids and the royals, had her mental health needs ignored or even shamed, and ultimately died as she famously fled yet another paparazzi ambush. But that’s not how it all plays out for him and Meghan, and good for Harry for refusing to repeat the traumas of his youth.

Of course Harry doesn’t want to repeat those same horrific outcomes! He already had to live (and love) through them once. But what can Harry do to change the way these traumas function in his brain?

Trauma and the brain- Trauma feverishly forces our minds to scan for any and all threats that are similar to our original turmoil. If we suffered from it before, our trauma-brain is on the lookout for any copycats so as not to suffer from it again. But, simultaneously, we are also pulled toward those familiar trauma-like circumstances because part of us is trying to relive them but with a twist, a new happier ending than we had before. Adding insult to injury, all this pulling away from and towards our trauma-memories also make those emotional experiences very familiar to our brain. And unfortunately, familiar neural networks are easiest for our brain to access again. So access them it does, and we find ourselves turning a painful past into a painful present.

With trauma, we are pulled in opposing directions. Concurrently determined to avoid any situations that are similar to those that have hurt us before; and also pulled toward the awfulness, reenacting it so that we can have a better “do-over.”

Trauma-reenactment- Harry falls in sincere love with an amazing woman who is strong, smart, and gorgeous! Very different than the arranged and loveless marriage his mother suffered in. It looked like maybe he wasn’t going to repeat his familial traumas. But then Harry’s relationship with Meghan appears to head down a similar trajectory. They are rejected by the royal family, scrutinized by the media, and idolized by the public all at once. Sounds familiar? He sees the toll that isolation, tabloids, and royal expectations are having on his wife. Yup, just as he saw with his mother. The lasts straws: he witnesses Meghan’s mental health decline into suicidal thoughts, as did his mom’s, and sees his wife’s need for therapy ridiculed by the monarchy, just as Diana’s, was; and with Meghan, there are the terrible additions of racism and classism too.

Harry relives the experience of his reality being swept under the royal rug, as the woman he loves suffers in silence. But now he opts to change how the storyline goes from there.

Trauma do-over- Harry can stop the cycle of trauma in his family’s history by creating a new and better ending with Meghan. Harry was a heartbroken and abandoned boy whose mother suffered outrageous scrutiny and then died when he was only 12. Instead of reacting from the same trauma-brain of then, a child who could do nothing to protect his mother from all her pain, now he can protect the woman he loves. And Meghan does a bang-up job of protecting herself too. Now he and Meghan can protect themselves together! Something we never saw with Di and Charles.

Now he doesn’t have to stay put and do what he’s told, as any child of 12 has to in order to survive. Now he can walk away, hand-in-hand with Meghan, from the abusive neglect and criticism of the monarchy. Now he and his clear-headed partner can speak out and call them out. Now he can be part of a happily ever after. One in which he and his resilient bride change the ending completely.

But we are not at the happily ever after yet. The trauma brain requires more.

How to make the do-over the new do- The do-over only has a lasting effect on the trauma brain if you deeply take it in, which entails feeling the differences of this time around. By feeling the sensations of his new experiences, Harry can update those neural networks that were stacked up like dominos in all that unfolded with Diana. Take heed because until they are updated, those old stacked dominos are persistently waiting to be knocked down again and again in the pull to duplicate trauma.

Were we to make captions for those falling dominos of Harry’s trauma-brain from his youth, they might have read:

1. Most important woman in my life suffers under the weight of scrutiny, neglect of mental health, and shame.

2. Most important woman in my life is ostracized and left to sort her pain out on her own.

3. There is no power I possess to protect most important woman in my life from these terrible circumstances.

4. Most important woman in my life dies fleeing from the very demons that were at the root of her suffering to begin with.

But with Meghan, those dominos can fall differently. During which the neural networks can be re-routed to a new outcome and a new brain map drawn.

The new networks of dominos that are being re-modeled within his relationship with Meghan might now read:

1. Most important woman in my life suffers under the weight of scrutiny, neglect of mental health, and shame.

2. Most important woman in my life is ostracized and left to sort her pain out on her own.

3. There is no IS NOW power I possess to protect most important woman in my life from these terrible circumstances.

4. Most important woman in my life dies fleeing from the very demons that we at the root of her suffering to begin with LIVES, she lives, and we are okay, and we didn’t have the horrific end my first most important woman had.

The neural networks, or brain maps, of this new outcome are still in a very precarious state.

These fledgling connections have only been on the scene for maybe 2 of the prince’s 36 years. Whereas the first set of dominos that end in horrors have been lingering — and likely strengthening — in his mind for something like 20+. The math is on the side of the old brain map, the one that ends terribly and feels terrible. His trauma-brain will still pull him down the roads that believe horror is to be expected, and even normal, unless he updates those brain maps.

So with the odds stacked against us, what can we do to keep from falling back into those old unwanted habits? We can update those maps with conscious — embodied — effort.

With brain map updating, embodied awareness is the pivotal step. It changes the map from unfamiliar and largely unused by your brain, into familiar and your brain’s new go-to.

With embodied map updating, Harry can not only act differently but also feel differently.

In order to truly heal trauma, it’s not enough to just do “it” differently; we have to sense in our bodies that we have done “it” differently too. For example, if Harry takes time and attention to feel the sensations of: Here is my wife; she is safe and protected! Here is our beautiful son, with a girl on the way! Here we all are, having prioritized our mental health, values, and truths! It’s not like when I was a kid; it’s very very different this time! If he takes his time to know this in his bones, so to speak. As well as his muscles, heartbeats, and breaths. This is how new maps become familiar and normal to our brain.

With new brain maps, we not only behave differently after our do-overs, we feel different, think different, and essentially are different. Because the new maps have become our brain’s new normal.

Rebekkah LaDyne, MS, SEP, is a somatic therapist and researcher. Her book, The Mind-Body Stress Reset: Somatic Practices to Reduce Overwhelm and Increase Well-Being, is available now in print, the audiobook will be released in April.

Rebekkah LaDyne, MS, SEP, is a somatic therapist, researcher, and author. Her book, The Mind-Body Stress Reset, is available now.