One reason that the Duke of Sussex has spilled some of the royal family’s deepest secrets in his memoir, Spare, is that he is “hurting”, says a leading trauma recovery expert.
“There is this sense that he really does want to let his family know he’s hurting,” says Dr Lisa Turner, trauma recovery expert and founder of CETfreedom (cetfreedom.com). “Hurt people, hurt others. They do it completley unintentionally, because their hurt is so present, they can’t perceive anyone else’s hurt.”
From the Prince of Wales allegedly physically assaulting his younger brother, to describing the Queen Consort, Camilla, as “dangerous” and criticising her attempts to improve her image at all costs, the book contains some huge revelations.
But Turner says there isn’t necessarily malice behind Harry, 38, dishing dirt on his family.
“All behaviour has a positive intention – he’s trying to get something, whether it’s catharsis, whether it’s a reaction or response,” she says. “It’s not an immediately obvious behaviour pattern, but when people attack, criticise or accuse another of doing something, it’s actually a sign of love. They want acknowledgement, recognition – they’re all forms of love.”
But is the timing significant?
“From various perspectives, you could say it’s not the ideal time – his father’s just about to have his coronation, that’s going to be a huge thing for King Charles. His grandmother’s just died, so there’s grief in the family, and he’s choosing this moment to bring attention to himself – at a time when a more empathetic, sympathetic and sensitive person might say, ‘OK, I have all this stuff, I’m going to hang onto this until we’re through this’.
Turner hasn’t met Harry, and says her comments are “entirely speculative, based on two decades of working with people who’ve had various sorts of trauma”.
She says Harry’s timing – and his actions – may be the result of past trauma.
“A definition of trauma is when we have an event, or a series of events in the past, which have caused our neurology to change in a way that is maladaptive.” [This means] it no longers enables the individual to easily get the results they want”, Turner says. “We all have fundamental needs that ideally we get met in ways that are healthy (ways that don’t harm yourself or others).”
But people with trauma often have extreme coping mechanisms and use other ways to get those needs met.
“Harry’s behaviour is an attempt to get some kind of need met. I don’t know that [writing the book] is actually meeting that need,” Turner says.
“It is possible with Harry’s situation that he is so hurt, so angry, so resentful… That he wants to do this, and he doesn’t even notice that the rest of his family might be having a whole bunch of other stuff going on for them that’s nothing to do with him.
“[Hurt people] may lash out at others intentionally, and do this because they want to cause harm, and to hurt others in the mistaken belief that it will make them feel better. It sometimes does – that kind of revenge, retribution, lashing out in a very short period of time can give a bit of – look, I showed them.
“But unless a person heals within themselves, it’s never enough. And that’s indicative of Harry’s behaviour – because if you look at it, he’s done the Oprah interview – got him a result that wasn’t enough, did the Netflix series – got him a result that wasn’t enough, wrote the book – it’s getting him some kind of result, is it going to be enough?”
She continues: “From a therapeutic perspective, hurt people, hurt people.
“Happy people either intentionally want to make others happy, or they just do because they radiate [it] and they’re focused on looking after others. They’ve got good boundaries so they don’t sacrifice themselves, and they radiate joy. They wouldn’t need to say and do the kinds of things Harry’s doing.”
Ultimately, Turner warns against entering into a polarising discussion of right and wrong in a situation like this.
“Everybody’s norms for what’s right and wrong are different,” she says. “I think it’s really dangerous to come at this from, ‘Harry’s doing a wrong thing [or] the right thing’, ‘The royal family are doing wrong things [or] right things’. That doesn’t serve anyone. What’s far better is to approach this from a place of total compassion.”