By now, most of us have watched the Oprah with Meghan and Harry interview, and even if you haven’t, you’ve certainly heard about it. And while there were many shocking revelations, what stood out most to me was the intersectionality of mental health and race. Harry and Meghan, as an interracial royal couple, faced a unique set of circumstances that could be easily perceived as something far removed from the realities of most people. However, a universal experience worth exploring is that of setting boundaries with family members and then experiencing the negative consequences of those boundaries set. The experience of rejection and exclusion that often follows is a painful one—one best described as ostracism. To explore the psychological implications of being ostracized, we turn to Harry and Meghan, our forever Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
How They Met
Harry and Meghan first made each other’s acquaintance on a blind date in early July, 2016.
Things moved quickly from there. The couple went on a second date and Prince Harry then invited Meghan to accompany him on a trip to Africa just three or four weeks later.
Around November 2016, Harry introduced Meghan to his father, Prince Charles, and soon thereafter, Harry confirmed his relationship in a formal statement. A year later, on November 2017, the couple announced their engagement. On May 19, 2018, 29 million in US tuned to watch the couple wed. However, they were officially married three days prior in a private ceremony.
After a turbulent two years of royal life, March 31, 2020 marked Meghan and Prince Harry’s exit from the U.K, arguably the result of social pain — rejection and ostracism (lack of support and lack of understanding) — brought on by the institution that is the Britain royal family.
Lack of Family Support
Research shows that negative family relationships can cause stress, impact mental health and even cause physical pain. When family members share strong differences, such as differences in attitudes and belief systems, some members may experience ostracism and rejection. Ostracism is experienced in three stages:
- Immediate — Feeling the pain and hurt of the ostracism. In this stage, belonging, self-esteem, control, and meaningful recognition are under attack.
- Coping — Trying harder to be included. In this stage, those who are ostracized may be more likely to engage in behaviors that increase their future inclusion by mimicking, complying, obeying orders, cooperating or expressing attraction.
- Resignation — Enduring ostracism for too long and feeling depleted. In the final stage, the goal is to recover basic needs satisfaction.
Signs of Being an Outsider
- Ones’ family being different from the economic and cultural norms of the community in which the family lived.
- Family secrets that require family members, particularly the children, to be guarded against revealing the secret, resulting in being experienced by others as an outsider.
- Social Status.
- Racial Identity.
Life After Ostracism
“Being excluded or ostracized is an invisible form of bullying that doesn’t leave bruises, and therefore we often underestimate its impact,” said Kipling D. Williams
Seek a safe, supportive therapist, counselor or wise friend who can help you traverse the pain. Seek out healthy individuals who are accepting, healthy and supportive. We also need to be aware (and teach our kids) that ostracism hurts people as deeply, if not more so, than a physical wound.