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Posts Tagged ‘Kate Middleton’

I wrote a column a few weeks back on Prince William and Kate Middleton.

I possess no expertise in the British royal family.  I merely stumbled upon an article in a gossip mag comparing the Prince’s girlfriend to his mother, and it provided an excuse to discuss why you might choose a spouse who resembles your parent.

The column became a best-seller.  I still get hundreds of hits each week from a stream of readers fascinated with the British royal family.  I’ve been posted on royal chat sites, Prince William discussion forums, Kate Middleton fan blogs – the works.

It was so popular that now I’m writing another column on the British royal family (or, as I’ve come to know them, Elizabeth, Philip and the kids) to explain why the first one did so well.

You – or a great many of you – are fascinated by these people.  It doesn’t take a genius to see why:  you want to be them.

Everyone does.

That’s because the British royal family are treated like children.  And you want to be treated like a child, too.

How are Elizabeth, Philip, Charles, Andrew, Edward and the others infantilized by their role as royals?

They live the life of a pampered young child.

They do not work – and they do not have to work.

They have everything they could ever want, let alone need, provided for them.

And most importantly:  they have your attention focused on them like a laser beam.

Someone’s eyes are on a small child perpetually – or they should be – making sure he doesn’t get into trouble, and celebrating his every achievement.  A child’s first pair of shoes are bronzed, and his first lock of hair preserved.  His first steps are photographed and met with applause.  Like Louis XIV at Versailles, even his bowel movements are cause for furious activity.  And a young child never has to apologize for demanding so much attention – it is simply taken for granted that it is his due.

William and Kate exist in a similar world.  They can’t go swimming without a paparazzo recording each stroke through a telephoto lens.

That must be just awful (you say to yourself, tut-tutting sympathetically.)  They can’t get a moment’s peace.

And they rebel sometimes, too, don’t they?  Spitting fury when an annoying scandal breaks, an embarrassing revelation about a legitimately personal aspect of their lives which none of us has the least right to know anything about.

At this point they become like teenagers, rebelling against adoring parents – insisting that when they lock their bedroom door they bloody well want mum and dad to stay out and leave them alone.

Poor things.

And yet…you never had that problem…because…it’s a good problem to have, isn’t it?

You never basked in one ten-thousandth the attention – or the adoration – to which William and Kate are subjected on a daily basis.

It must feel like heroin, directly into a vein.  A major rush.  All that attention – directly on YOU.  And you don’t even have to ask for it – let alone apologize for taking up everyone else’s time.

So you fixate on them.  And identify with them.  And dream about winning the lottery of life and actually BEING them.

It would be heavenly, wouldn’t it?

Let’s not kid ourselves, either.  You cannot love people intensely without also being angry at them.  It’s Newton’s Third Law of Motion translated to emotions:  for each and every emotion there is an equal and opposite emotion.

You adore William and Kate.  And you are angry at them, too – because they are receiving what you never received.

You deserve that attention, too.  You always have.  You are just as good as William or Kate, and you know it.

Your anger is expressed as an aggressive sense of entitlement.  You are entitled to photos of them swimming.  You are entitled to juicy bits of gossip about their personal lives.  Fair’s fair – isn’t it?

It all works out in the end.

The royals seem to be doing just fine – and your celebration of them is a way of celebrating yourself.  Lavishing attention on William and Kate (and dreaming of being them) amounts to lavishing attention on yourself because you are dreaming of being them all the while.

That’s why it feels so good.  It’s nothing more than play.

It’s perfectly natural for adults to unwind and relax through healthy regression – playing at being children – just as children prepare for the challenges of life in the opposite way, by playing at being adults.

No harm in fantasizing about being the royals – the most pampered children of all – so long as it doesn’t become an obsession that occupies your every waking moment.  (For most of us that isn’t an issue – it’s just a hobby.)

So go ahead and have your fun.

Imagine what it feels like to step out of that Rolls Royce and into the bursting flash bulbs.

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The People’s Therapist was working out at the gym on the elliptical trainer the other day when he realized he’d come to the end of an issue of The New York Review of Books – his customary cardiovascular/literary fare.  In desperation, I reached for whatever other reading material happened to be lying around, and discovered a deliciously tacky gossip mag.

Flipping open at random, I found myself confronted with a headline about Prince William, the future king of England.  Apparently, he’s got a new girlfriend – Kate Middleton – and the rumors are that she’s “just like his mother, Princess Diana.”

What caught my psychotherapeutically-inclined interest was how commonly this trope – marrying someone like your parent – emerges in popular culture.  It’s so unremarkable that we take it for granted.

But it raises an interesting question:  Why does it seem like people really do choose partners who are just like their parents?

The answer relates to how you adapt, as a child, to your early environment.

One of the patients I saw this week, for example, grew up with a father who was extremely narcissistic.

When I use this term, I don’t mean it in the sense of merely being egotistical, but in the Freudian sense of being unable – like Narcissus in the Greek myth – to see past his own reflection and realize that others have separate needs and concerns.

The whole world, for this woman’s father, was about him.  He sucked up all the attention and ignored everyone else’s needs.  His wife – my patient’s mother – fell into a caretaker role, appeasing and placating him.  When dad had one of his rages, mother and daughter ran around doing whatever it took to calm him down.  Their own needs were ignored.

My patient evolved behaviors to handle living in an environment with a narcissist – mostly running around doing everything for him and always letting him have his way.  When she grew up into an adult, she went out into the world expecting to find another narcissist for a partner.  That would feel familiar, and almost comfortable, since it was what she was used to – it matched the skills she’d adapted as a child.  She knew everything there was to know about handling a narcissist – dating anyone else would bring fresh challenges she wasn’t sure she could handle.

Sure enough, later in life, my patient found herself dating guys just like her dad – high-maintenance guys who demanded all her attention but never seemed to notice her needs.

It’s as though my client – and perhaps Prince William and everyone else – adapted to an environment the way an animal evolves.  If you live in a pond, you evolve web feet.  Once you have web feet, you expect to live in water, because you aren’t much good anywhere else.

But humans aren’t ducks, and the strategies you adopt to survive in your childhood environment don’t have to become permanent physical characteristics.

Children have little choice but to adapt to their environment.  They don’t control much of anything – they need to adapt to survive.

But adults can choose the environment in which they wish to live, and they can shed an old adaptation if it becomes self-sabotaging.

My client didn’t have web feet, and she didn’t have to live in a pond.  She could change, and choose a new environment that better suited her adult needs.

That meant she could stop dating men like her father, and ask herself who she really wanted in her life.  It also meant she could learn new adaptations to address this new sort of person.

For someone used to placating and pleasing a narcissistic tyrant, it was an adjustment to meet someone calm and relaxed and caring – someone who expected a balanced give and take in a relationship.  My patient had to remember not to do everything for her new boyfriend, and to enforce her own boundaries as well as respecting his.

It was all rather new, and a bit scary – like a duck acquiring new feet and learning to live on land.  But she caught on fast.

Prince William, for his part, might choose to marry someone like Princess Diana, or he might not.  His mother may well have been a lovely, giving person and the perfect model for a mate.

The key is that the prince be aware of his unconscious adaptations and ask himself what he, as an adult, truly desires in a partner. He’ll never find what he needs marching blindly into an old pattern simply because it feels familiar.

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