July 31, 2012

{Excerpt: The Diana Mythology} Part Two

[This is Part Two of "The Diana Mythology" section of my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride. Other parts of this chapter will follow. Simply scroll down or click on "The Diana Mythology" in the labels group below to read previous excerpts.]

Diana alluded to being able to make a contribution to women of all backgrounds when she went public during her troubled times in the 1990s. First with secret tapes she made that became the basis of “her own story” as told to Andrew Morton then again in a rather notorious and unattractive—but ultimately liberating—television interview with Martin Bashir in 1995. Many women identified with Diana’s story of unhappiness in marriage and suppressed self-expression, appreciating her down-to-earth, one-of-us nature. “Her personal journey reflected the role of women in modern society,” Morton shared in his revised biography. Diana’s story “highlights the treatment of women inside a patriarchal institution which itself derives authority from the teachings of the Church, the utterances of politicians, the morality of the aristocratic ruling class, and the collusion of the mass media. In short,” the author concluded, “her act of testimony was a challenge to the ancien régime of men.”

Panorama interview 1995
Diana, as a feminist of a different stripe but feminist none the less, did indeed hammer away at the stiff, old paternal system in place—inside and outside the palace. “She spoke out in order to save her sanity, to warn her enemies,” wrote journalist Beatrix Campbell, “and to share her troubles with millions of people who recognised them, because they too, endured them or knew someone who did.”  In these public “confessions” and collaborations with the press, Diana managed to finally free herself—and her husband—from the pretense of their marriage. It wasn’t pretty, but the people’s revolution to break from a repressive past had begun. Diana’s vulnerability played well with the soap opera loving masses, but airing her dirty laundry in public—an anathema to the royal family as well as her own aristocratic one—came with a great cost to personal and business relationships.

When I read the accounts of these exposés almost two decades later, I was struck by how Diana’s words were full of blame and judgment, with no conciliatory spirit, nor with little concern for the consequences. I understand that sometimes a “cry for help” takes a bellow from deep within; upset and desperate, you just react—and that in itself can be an act of courage. But it can also weaken your personal power and diminish the intended results—if peace and well-being is what you’re after. However, was Diana’s intention only to expose the unfairness and wrongs of her life inside the monarchy and her marriage, or was it to put herself in a glorified light, or was it to strike a damaging blow to those who hurt her? Some of her words and actions portrayed a woman at her worse: scheming and resentful. To the same extent that taking responsibility for what we say and do shows real power, a vindictive and revengeful woman becomes a caricature of the dark side of feminine nature.

I realize that Diana appeared not to have the maturity or core strength or training to speak out in a way that fully empowered her (or those on the other side of the problem.) Looking into our own lives when someone or some circumstances have conspired against us or things just didn’t fall in our favor and we’re stuck and distressed—would we be able to tell the truth without blame or criticism? And in fairness, perhaps it was more important for Diana to use the tools she had if, during these frustrating times, she felt her actual “survival depended on telling her story,” as Campbell added.  Nonetheless, disempowering words tend to trap us as they did the deeply wounded princess. Although she was breaking free from the binds of monarchic code and behavior, she became caught inside her self-constructed confines of deceit, forcing her to continue her clandestine ways.

I’ve been blessed with wise life coaches and teachers over the years who revealed what it takes to live life as an abundant possibility no matter the circumstances. They also taught that anything is possible in language; words have power. And depending on whether it’s our “small self” or “big Self” doing the speaking, words can tear down or build relationship. So if there is a life lesson in all this, this may be it: A woman doesn’t have to give away her power nor fault others to get the attention needed to free herself from such a suppressed box as Diana landed in. Allowing your emotions to have their way with you or allowing fear to dictate your actions is giving your power away.

Are women learning to use their intuitive intelligence to guide the power of their emotions? Are women finding the courage to use their innate nurturing qualities to guide their strength?

Nevertheless, I appreciate Diana’s tenacity. It takes a deep resolve to be, if not the first rebel at the gate, the one who—as a beautiful, sexual woman in a man’s world—risked it all while the cameras were rolling. So what was missing?  What was underneath her pain? Did being a woman cost her well-being, but did being beautiful—in a culture that puts so much importance on appearance—spare her from being completely dismissed? Then again, maybe this was all part of some divine plan where subconsciously Diana knew the humiliation she would have to go through and the level of sacrifice she would have to make in the name of all women. Diana indeed rallied women, exposed myths and declared, in her own way, “the emperor has no clothes.”

Toward the end of her life, Diana began studying various voices of consciousness. She was reading books by M. Scott Peck and Susie Orbach, poetry by Muhammad Iqbal and Kahlil Gibran—and for the spiritually aware and emotionally maturing princess, the messages went deep. And from reading Paul Burrell’s biography, Remembering Diana: The Way We Were, about Diana’s spiritual growth, I believe she would have agreed with me about her past harsh words and actions. “‘An unwillingness to forgive limits personal growth,’ she wrote down one day,” Burrell shared about Diana when she expressed her wishes of happiness for her former husband and Camilla Parker Bowles. “‘I have no hatred for him. Charles and I are friends and civil to one another,’ she said, after her ex-husband had popped in one afternoon for a surprise cup of tea.” Then Burrell, who was Diana’s devoted butler and friend for more than a decade, added another maxim that his boss copied from one of her many books she kept on her desk or at her bedside at Kensington Palace: “‘Blame is about giving away one’s power and responsibility.’”  I don’t know the source of Burrell’s quote cited by Diana, but if she had lived and been able to use this as a touchstone, then the truth of her life would have shifted immensely.

Perhaps the opportunity may not have been there for many women to succeed or fail, to keep our power and empower others if it wasn’t for trailblazers as unlikely as Princess Diana. Thanks to scores of other courageous, scrappy women who may not have done it “right” or been as graceful as they’d wanted, yet broke through barriers for the rest of us, now women have choices and more choices. And the more we learn to let go of blame and criticism and use the tools of forgiveness and love, the more we will all be set free! ~

[This is Part Two of "The Diana Mythology" section of my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride. Other parts of this chapter will follow. Simply scroll down or click on "The Diana Mythology" in the labels group below to read previous excerpts.]

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