Princess Diana, paparazzi fears are a real trauma
It sits in the back of Prince Harry’s mind.
lurks. Languish. Lying asleep. How couldn’t it?
He will always live in fear that the same fate will befall him and his wife, Duchess Meghan, as his mother, Princess Diana, died in a car accident in 1997 after paparazzi chased their limousine.
When Harry and Meghan said they too were recently involved in a chase in New York, everyone stopped and wondered. Was this the moment? “History repeats itself,” as Harry feared in an interview with Oprah Winfrey a few years ago?
We don’t know many details surrounding Tuesday night’s incident, nor what impact it will have on Harry and Meghan going forward.
“Experiencing trauma is one thing; experiencing the worst fear is a completely different one,” says Miranda Nadeau, a licensed psychologist. “When you believe your worst fear is coming true, the distress and overwhelm can reach another, more intense level, even compared to trauma. Seeing our worst fear materialize can destroy our sense of security and stability.”
Mental health professionals say that just the thought of the worst fear coming true is traumatic, and therapy and mindfulness can help manage such situations.
Prince Harry, Meghan, cars and paparazzi fears
Harry has been very open about his mental health and the trauma he suffered following the death of his mother. He has also actively sued tabloids for attacking him and Meghan in the press. But dealing with what can feel like a threat to one’s safety is a whole different endeavor.
“When confronted with a perceived threat, as in the case of Harry and Meghan, our brain activates the amygdala, which plays an important role in processing fear and triggering the body’s stress response,” says Nadeau. “Research on the psychological consequences of traumatic events suggests that rating an event as a person’s ‘worst fear’ leads to even higher levels of stress and more severe anxiety and depression than trauma that was not a person’s worst fear. “
Such trauma can lead to intense worry in everyday life.
“When a person has experienced a traumatic event firsthand or vicariously, they may struggle again with anxiety, stress, and intrusive thoughts about it,” says Chase Cassine, a licensed clinical social worker. “Because the trauma they witnessed or experienced serves as living proof that the worst-case scenario can happen and could potentially be a sign that the traumatic event could happen again.”
“A Sense of Impending Doom”
Staring purposefully at your worst fear can send chills down your spine. “It can lead to a deep sense of helplessness, despair, and loss of control,” says Nadeau. “One may also experience a sense of impending doom, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, and even physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweating, or tremors. These responses are part of the body’s natural fight-or-flight response to perceived danger.”
No two people will respond to trauma in the same way. “Some people may avoid the anxiety that may leave them indoors, away from cars or heavy traffic, and away from the public,” says Shavonne Moore-Lobban, a licensed psychologist. Others may confront fear to gain control.
“Sometimes some people find the necessary focus and strength to act accordingly and successfully master a precarious situation. Think of a time when you navigated a crisis with calm, courage, and precision,” says Cecille Ahrens, a licensed clinical social worker. “It’s a complex chemical process, but since it’s our nature to ‘survive’ in a dangerous environment, we will do what we think is necessary to protect ourselves.”
Trauma and the role that therapy can play in healing
For some people trying to process their trauma, therapy may be the right answer. While we cannot know what will happen in the future, we can prepare our minds and bodies to process whatever comes our way.
“The goal is to help the person unpack emotionally and psychologically, to feel the emotions in a manageable way, and to put the event in a perspective that is personally meaningful to the person and supports their healing and recovery.” says Ahrens adds.
Nadeau points out that there is no one-size-fits-all approach and that self-care is also a viable option, “like mindfulness meditation and restorative yoga, or engaging and enabling practices like physical exercise and hobbies that bring you joy.”
Harry himself has previously spoken about using EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) to help cope on the flight to London, a popular tool therapists use to help patients cope with trauma.
Talking about feelings is an important first step; Trauma will not heal overnight.
“It takes time and patience to heal and move on after the worst fear is identified,” says Nadeau. “It’s important to have compassion for yourself throughout the process and to allow yourself to grieve, heal and rebuild at your own pace.”
More about Prince Harry, Duchess Meghan
The backstoryPrince Harry and Duchess Meghan said they experienced a “near-disastrous” paparazzi chase
What you should know:What Happened During Prince Harry and Meghan’s Chase?
Interesting:Security experts deny details of Harry and Meghan’s ‘chaotic’ paparazzi chase
If interested:Prince Harry said he was triggered on his flight to London and is using EMDR to cope. What is it?