A humor series on navigating this difficult time
I’m sharing another installment of a humor series from my friend Pam Goldman, centering on a woman named Ramona, who tries to help… in her own way. If you’re new to this series: Here’s the previous installment.
I was one of 17.1 million folks who considered Oprah’s interview with Meghan and Harry the very definition of must-see tv. (I postponed elective surgery to view it). In my opinion their revelations, trials and tribulations were riveting, credible and jaw-dropping. They obviously need help; their blood may be blue but they are human, after all.
Upon hearing their story did you, like me, thank your lucky stars you didn’t marry into the royal family? Whew! Dodged that bullet.
I’ve been a social work counselor in one of my other roles in life, initially providing therapy for women going through separation and divorce. Later in my career I focused on therapy for girls from low-income families, specifically middle and high school students who had individual sessions with me within their school settings.
You may be wondering how this relates to the nomadic Royal Couple (or even to you, dear Reader). Suffice it to say the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, now in exile and in extremis, are human beings, as complex and multi-faceted as anyone without a title or a security detail.
In the jargon of the trade, Oprah did the intake on their case i.e. elicited the facts and specifics concerning their stressors. As a former therapist I may be of some help so if you don’t mind, I’ll take it from here, Oprah.
One of the things we all have in common is that we carry in our heads a lot of unhelpful stuff that clutters our thinking and upends our emotional lives. This stuff comes from a variety of sources including but not limited to family, friends, colleagues, teachers, politicians, social media, broadcast and print media, Hollywood, and sometimes from our own distorted thinking.
What to do about this? I suggest creating in your imagination a symbolic black box in which to put your stuff. Creative being that I am, I call this the BLACK BOX THEORY. Hear, or rather read me out.
Think of all the negative stuff rumbling around in your head. It saps your focus, your energy, even your sleep. But to what end? You’ve created a conveyor belt of noise that spins round and round leading you nowhere fast. Don’t you have other places you’d rather go?
How to take control? Not easily! Please do a mental exercise with me. (Have I ever steered you wrong?) Think about putting all your own s…t in a black box. Though the box is not tangible, imagine it before your eyes, blocking your vision. Can you see anything beyond the box? No. Not even your own image in a mirror. Only the black box exists.
Now ask yourself who controls the placement of the black box and its contents? You. If you put it there, surely you can take it away. Find another place for it. This is not impossible but it takes incalculable effort. You can choose to be blinded by your black box or you can choose to move it because it has become an obstacle and/or an excuse.
Move it out of sight and out of mind. If you remove the black box from your sight you regain your vision. If you remove it from your mind you regain your sanity. Everything is before you.
Remember, everyone has a black box.
You cannot change what is in the black box, never. (no more than you can change history). What is in your black box is your history. Now ask yourself, “Does my black box define me? Am I the sum total of the contents in my black box?” Nothing more?
The contents will always be a part of your story but it does not have to be your entire story. If you cry when you think of its contents those tears are evidence of the deep impact your history has had. The contents may even play a large role in shaping who you choose to become.
The students I counseled grew up in the midst of profound dysfunction. No money. No heat. Single parent. No parents. Early childhood trauma. Physical and sexual abuse. Alcohol. Drugs. Not enough food. Not enough support. Not enough love.
Most of the girls did well using the Black Box Theory. It helped get them through. It helped them let go. It helped them re-set their vision. Emotionally scarred, they had every right to use their histories as barriers to success. But they didn’t. They flattened their black boxes, fought to control it and came to fully realize their own agency.
Are you still with me? Harry and Meghan, you following? Find your black box and fill it with The Firm, The Institution and all the petrified tenets of the Monarchy that drove you to flee it; find a place for all of it. Do the best you can to generate more truth and tolerance from your sad story. Carry the black box on your backs. Carry it out of sight always so it will never block your view on the journey forward.
As for the rest of us world-weary civilians…It may take years to find a black box big enough to contain this horrific year of challenge and loss.
Let’s hope we can share the burden, carrying the lessons learned always on our backs so we can move forward together with clarity toward a shared future.