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Prince Harry and the way out of chaos

Posted by Simon Parke, 18 April 2017, 4.04pm

You wait centuries for the royals to address mental health.

Then two arrive at the subject on consecutive days.

Prince Harry and Prince William are hardly the first to speak of the value of talking about our problems.

It’s been raised so often as an issue it’s almost bored of itself.

But what is celebrated by all in the health professions is the ‘global reach’ of these two voices.

These young men make it headlines in a way the rest of us can only dream of.

Perhaps one practical result, after the headlines have withered on the vine, might be more funding for the NHS in the area of talk therapy.

But what the princes say is true, regardless.

The temptation is to bottle things up, dismiss things as unimportant or distract ourselves from recurring feelings.

This was Harry’s story for twenty years until the inner chaos became too much.

Twenty years is a long time.

But as he said, why would he want to think about sad things or listen to difficult feelings?

Better just to repress or ignore, surely?

Sadly, he speaks for us all.

But when we’re ready, and we do have to be ready - when the destruction is just too much - speaking our experiences helps.

‘An experience only makes its appearance when it is said,’ suggests Hannah Arendt. ‘And unless it is said it is, so to speak, non-existent.’

When we speak something that has been inside us, we bring it outside of us where we can see it better.

It exists in a new and more helpful way.

While we keep it inside, its contours are liable to be blurred and not seen clearly, like a shadowy monster beneath the surface…when, in truth, there’s nothing to fear.

We will need to find a good listener, one able to focus on us; and one free from their own anxieties.

This means, unless we’re very young, families are not the best place to start when looking for a listener.

There are just too many agendas in the room.

It isn’t safe for us.

And a poor listener can damage us in their listening and their responses.

But this short piece isn’t about poor listening.

It’s about me appreciating the importance of speaking my experiences, whether they occurred yesterday, twenty years ago…or longer.

By speaking them, we bring them out of ourselves and into the light.

They finally ‘make their appearance’ and often, something unclear becomes clear; something turbulent becomes understood.

So I applaud the princes for their honest and open words.

Will they help?

They’ll help some, certainly…they will make talking more possible… for now.

They might also prod governments to pay more than glossy lip service to the idea of support.

But in the end, this process isn’t about the ‘global reach’ of the celebrity voice.

It’s about the inside reach… this reaching inside myself to face difficult things, to visit difficult places, even to say goodbye to my self as presently perceived, if that’s what it takes to be free.

And that requires more than a headline-grabbing royal endorsement…it requires support and it requires courage…

...courage Harry showed.

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