10 things we learned from Prince Harry’s live interview with trauma expert
As part of the continued promotion for his memoir, Spare, Prince Harry, 38, joined Hungarian-Canadian trauma expert and author Dr. Gabor Maté , 79, for what was billed as an intimate online conversation on ‘living with loss and the importance of personal healing’. The 90-minute chat was hosted in part by Penguin Random House, who published Spare and was broadcast live online to a select audience who had paid £20 per ticket.
Settled into vast armchairs in front of a roaring fire, the pair covered Harry’s childhood, his role as a soldier deployed to Afghanistan, psychedelic drugs and the feeling of living in a bubble in 90 minutes. Here are ten top take aways from the talk.
1. Dr Maté is not deferential to the Prince
Throughout their conversation, Dr Maté repeatedly demonstrated that he was not in awe of the prince and not there to mollycoddle him.
He challenged his opinions frequently and would openly disagree with him - including a moment where Harry claimed he had enjoyed happy childhood.
This ties into Dr Maté’s obvious self-confidence: he once told an interviewer “I am arrogant. I like attention.”
2. Condemnation compels Harry to reveal more
While Harry pointed out how much positive feedback Spare had received, citing ‘essays’ of praise it has received, he acknowledged that it - and he - has plenty of detractors. However, he admits he is galvanised by negative opinions, telling Dr Maté “The more [my enemies] criticise me, the more I need to share.”
3. Harry believes some of his experiences with drugs “helped”
During their chat, Harry admitted to taking a range of recreational drugs, including cocaine and marijuana.
The former, he said, “did nothing” for him aside from giving him a temporary “sense of belonging” while the latter “actually really did help me”.
But it was his appreciation for psychedelics - including drink ayahuasca which is brewed from two plants native to South America - which was perhaps the most revealing.
“It was the cleaning of the windscreen, cleaning of the windshield, the removal of life’s filters just as much as on Instagram, these layers of filters,” he said of his experiences of psychadelics which can cause hallucinations.
“It removed it all for me and brought me a sense of relaxation, release, comfort, a lightness that I managed to hold on to for a period of time. I started doing it recreationally and then started to realise how good it was for me, I would say it is one of the fundamental parts of my life that changed me and helped me deal with the traumas and pains of the past.”
4. Dr Maté diagnosed harry with ADD
In the midst of their discussions, Dr Maté, who spent decades as a medical doctor before retiring, diagnosed Harry with Attention Deficit Disorder (also known as ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
ADD is, according to Additude magazine - a publication dedicated to educating people about ADHD - “a neurological condition with symptoms of inattention, distractibility, and poor working memory”.
Although this was only their second meeting, Dr Maté was confident Harry presented as someone with ADD.
“Whether you like it or not, I have diagnosed you with ADD. You can agree or disagree,” he said.
Prince Harry answered, “OK – should I accept that or should I look into it?”
Maté replied, “You can do what you want with it.”
5. Harry denied being a victim or seeking sympathy
Presumably aware that some critics and commentators see him and his wife as playing the victim - the most recent example being an episode of South Park which sees a prince and princess in exile demanding privacy and attention at the same time - Harry twice denied seeing himself as a victim.
He also said “and I have never looked for sympathy in this, for me.”
Instead he claimed his efforts were acts of service.
6. Harry said British soldiers did not ‘necessarily agree’ with war in Afghanistan
Dr Maté told Harry he did not endorse the war in Afghanistan - where Harry was deployed as an officer.
“One of the reasons why so many people in the United Kingdom were not supportive of our troops was because they assumed that everybody that was serving was for the war,” he responded.
“But no, once you sign up, you do what you’re told to do. So there was a lot of us that didn’t necessarily agree or disagree, but you were doing what you were trained to do, you were doing what you were sent to do.”
7. The Duke loves hugging his children
Harry and Dr Maté discuss how displays of emotion, hugging and physical touch were not the norm in the royal family growing up. Harry agreed that he lacked being held as a child and admitted that is has made him commit to hugging his own children, Archie and Lilibet, as much as possible.
“[My childhood] leaves me in position now, as a father to two kids of my own, making sure that I smother them with love and affection... feel a huge responsibility to ensure that I don’t pass on any traumas...or any negative experiences that I had as a kid or as a man growing up.”
8. Harry compared himself to The Boy in the Bubble
In the early 1980s, a documentary exploring the life of a little boy called David Vetter, from Texas, USA shocked the world. Vetter had spent his entire life sealed inside a plastic bubble with no human contact whatsoever until his death, aged 12, in 1984.
Harry referenced it - suggesting his childhood as a royal was similar to Vetter’s.
‘It’s interesting, the film The Boy in the Bubble, it kind of felt like that to some extent.’
9. There was no mention of William
The absence of Harry’s brother, the Prince of Wales, in any of the discourse is telling. Maybe it’s because Harry is trying not to bring William any unwanted or negative attention after the volley of incendiary bombshells in Spare - or perhaps it’s because he is sticking to the adage ‘if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all’. Whatever the reason, the omission of William speaks volumes.
10. Harry believes Meghan saved him
Harry has always been vocal when it comes to praising his wife, so it was no surprise to hear him describe her as an “incredible human being” to Dr Maté.
“My wife saved me. I was stuck in this world, and she was from a different world and helped draw me out of that,” he said. “But none of the elements of my life now would have been possible without me seeing it for myself.”
He also shared that his relationship with Meghan has educated him on the blight of racism.
“I think what people perhaps don’t understand is the pain that it causes to an individual is huge, but then the pain that it causes to society is immense,” he said.