Julia Samuel on Grief, Princess Diana and Kick Boxing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

The late Princess Diana helped “shift a dial” on making people more tolerant of human difficulties, according to the psychotherapist Julia Samuel.   “She wasn’t pretending she was this sorted, idealised princess on the top of a cake,” reflected Samuel at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, “but that she was a human being who had difficulties, and I think that gave us permission to have difficulties.

“Until someone’s open with their vulnerabilities and actually shows you and tells you that…then we’re all much more forgiving of everyone rather than this much more idealised perfectionism, and I think she helped shift a dial about that.”

Samuel was in discussion about her first book, Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death and Surviving, which was published earlier this year.  But asked about a recent documentary by Princes William and Harry on the 20th anniversary of their mother’s death, Samuel also spoke about her one-time close friend.  She said: “I think…the two princes talking very openly in the last few months about their grief for her [has] demonstrated more clearly than any of us can that the person lives on in you, and influences you, and shapes you twenty years after the person has died.

“She [Diana] is very much part of them and informs all their decision making, from who they married to what they choose to support in their charitable works, and what they want to do and how they want to be members of the Royal Family.

“And I think they influence a whole generation, a young generation, and I think she was the personification of congruence in a way of authenticity in that she showed her vulnerability, her imperfections.”

For 25 years Samuel, who is one of the seven godparents of Prince George of Cambridge, has worked as a psychotherapist specialising in grief and working at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, where she pioneered the role of maternity and paediatric psychotherapist.

Samuel also revealed that she goes kick boxing once a week, because it is “the opposite” of what she does professionally.  “The rest of my life I’m listening or teaching or trying to be compassionate or doing my best,” she said, “but I also feel furious and get pissed off, so punching and kicking is a rebalancing.  Grief is anger. A lot of people feel furious, so finding a way of expressing your anger physically, [instead of] by drinking or [taking] drugs, is much healthier.”

 DAVID TORRANCE

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