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The Existential Moment: On Transparency

We are presently awash in the life of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  Excerpts and reviews of Spare, his autobiography, fill the media, while countless high-profile interviews (e.g., Oprah, Netflix, etc.) fill the airwaves.

In his book, Harry regales us with numerous stories, many fit for high school gossip. For example, there is the time the 17-year-old prince lost his virginity in a field behind a pub to an older, horse-loving woman, who treated him “not unlike a young stallion.  Quick ride…” Or the one about his frostbitten penis.  Circumcised?  Yes. 

But tabloid trash weaves with the grave and melancholy. Prince Harry tells us of killing 25 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, feeling neither self-satisfied nor ashamed. He also discusses when his father, now King Charles, woke him at 12 years old to tell him of his mother’s death in a terrible car accident. “She didn’t make it.” Harry didn’t cry. His father didn’t hug him. Simply, “It’s going to be OK.”

Whether we hold the Prince Harry affair as self-involved or therapeutic self-disclosure, ax to grind or turnabout is fair play, one point seems clear: it’s an exercise in transparency, raising questions for contemplation.

Existential-Humanistic therapy is experiential and relational. Transparency stands as a central issue for both.

For the client, openness and honesty are the ground for healing and growth. Closedness and self-deception ensure the status quo. However, when basked in presence, transparency leads to revelation. The process of transparency is therefore worth reinforcing and encouraging with sensitivity. 

Self-disclosure for the therapist is more complicated but no less critical. First, Irv Yalom (2002) distinguishes between “here and now” disclosure and disclosure of our personal life. Use the former with discretion and the latter with caution, he argues. The guiding principle for each is service to the client.  Self-knowledge and personal integrity are critical to the decision and understanding the quality and nature of the relationship and processing impact matter. Nonetheless, therapist disclosure can be a powerful tool to strengthen the relationship, encourage collaboration, deepen presence to foster growth, model new behaviors, and so on.

Only Prince Harry knows if his transparency served him.  In therapy, however, openness and honesty are the bedrock of possibility.

Reference:

Yalom, I. D. (2002).  The gift of therapy: An open letter to a new generation of therapists and their patients.  New York:  HarperCollins.

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