Oprah’s (Nearly) Impeccable Interview With Harry and Megan
Did anyone notice the way Meghan blinked furiously after Oprah brought up specific details pertaining to slanderous British media? Or the way Meghan cradled her pregnant belly protectively as if she was in a situation that was threatening? Well, I did, and I wonder if Meghan was asked by Oprah if she felt okay in her body or if it was possible for her to continue. Times have changed since Oprah’s show in the aughts. Interviewers have a responsibility to be cognizant of the whole picture of a person’s life experience and reactions that certain statements may elicit. Oprah would repeat a statement over and over again to reinstate the shock value. How is this any different than a magazine or publication smearing these statements all over their content? Oprah, as much as she is a compassionate individual is still trained to get those quotable moments for promotional disbursement.
Even though Harry and Meghan consented to the interview, with no bars held, it is still important to continually ask for consent throughout the process. The thing about interviewing is that consent is not a priority. Instead of connection, extraction is the main goal.
Public perception of trauma has changed in the past few years. It is no longer solely understood, as a term, to be confined to the classic PTSD situations or BIG T trauma. Trauma means that the body experienced “too much too soon”, so that the conscious mind could not react and the body took over to engage in protective mechanisms.
If we are to reflect on Meghan’s entrance into a world, with relatively little guidance on how to handle media and expectations, then this would qualify as events “that caused overwhelming amounts of stress that exceed the person’s ability to cope or integrate the emotions involved.” After enduring an environment that constantly traumatized her, this naturally led “to serious, long term negative consequences.”
My question during the course of the interview was: did Oprah consider the trauma Meghan underwent and could have been reliving throughout the interview? Did Oprah provide an example of how we should engage with individuals in our lives who choose to share their traumas?
Below I have included four tips to create a safe space for those you are close with to process their traumas and things to notice along the way.
1. Do not repeat a sentence that could trigger the person to relive their trauma.
I understand that Oprah’s job is to get to the bottom of the situation and leave nothing up to interpretation. I can imagine it was triggering for Meghan to be reminded of the times she was suicidal and to also be asked to confirm this fact multiple times. It most likely brought her back to the times she went to the palace staff and was not believed and instead questioned. The reinstatement of a loaded phrase can bring that person back, in their body even though they look engaged or are speaking.
2. Do not list harmful, damaging incidents in full detail that may trigger
When Oprah began to, in detail, to list off the comparative articles between Kate and Meghan, she blinked rapidly. She shifted in her seat, and let Oprah know that she tried to not expose herself to the media’s onslaught of articles. Was this an attempt to stop Oprah from exposing her to additional stress and mental harm? Oprah could have vaguely introduced the subject and then later superimposed the articles, with a voiceover, to relay the information to the viewer.
3. Do not push for extra information.
Unlike Oprah, you don’t have the pressure on your shoulders to extract information for millions of people. Oprah is no-nonsense and I appreciate the way she cuts through the bullshit. You don’t need to cut through your loved one’s defenses. Stay soft, stay open and let them know that you are fully present. There may be pieces of the puzzle they never reveal because speaking them out loud may seem like the scariest act.
4. Pick up on body language and ask how the person feels in their body.
It is important to check in with the person before asking questions because dissociation is usually a result of speaking about trauma. The person feels as if they are back in that situation. It can be distressing to reconcile the conscious perception of a safe environment and the threatening environment that the body’s memory has stored. Usually, a person will withdraw or show signs of nervousness if they are being triggered. It’s as simple as asking, “are you okay with this?” or “do you want to continue?”
What Harry and Meghan underwent, over these last few years, is not fodder for media snippets or soundbites. Oprah, while a master at her craft, could have taken a more trauma-informed approach to their situation. There are many lessons for all of us to learn when a family member or coworker trusts us with a highly charged traumatic lived experience. Let them be in the driver’s seat. Give them control over their story that they were deprived of in previous experiences.