Oprah Winfrey has been revisiting past trauma in an effort to improve her mental wellbeing.
The media mogul has been open about being abused as a child and said during an appearance on Mental Health Coalition’s 1-2-1 series, which was debuted by People, that she now sees how it has shaped her as an adult.
“I started thinking about what happened to me in my life to make me who I am,” Winfrey told Dr. Bruce Perry, who co-wrote “What Happened to You?” with her, during a virtual chat. “Why do I have the fears [and] the apprehensions that I carried for a long time? That question is invaluable for anybody who is interested in self-evolvement [and] self-awareness.”
Winfrey noted that the brains of individuals who don’t have their “needs met at an early age” were formed “differently” from those who did.
“What I had learned is if you didn’t get what you need at that age, you spend your life searching for that thing based upon what happened [to you],” she said. “Or, as Bruce says in our book, What Happened to You?, it’s what happened to you and [it’s] equally as important as what didn’t happen to you.”
Their book, she added, is about helping readers gain a “better understanding” of their behaviors, and not about placing blame.
“In my case, why [do] you have this disease to please?” she said. “Why [do[ you have a problem in confrontation? Or why [are you] so confrontational?”
For years Winfrey kept silent about being molested as a child. She only came forward in 1986 and spoke openly on her show about what she endured. Speaking with People in 2018 about finally speaking out, Winfrey admitted she did not have the “courage” to say anything.
“The moment I first confessed on ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ to being molested, I confessed because there had been a time years before when a girl on the ‘People Are Talking’ show I did in Baltimore had told the story of being molested, and I did not have the courage at that time to say out loud, ‘Me too,'” she said
Winfrey revealed that she had been molested by her cousin, an uncle, and a family friend at a young age and explained why people who have endured similar experiences are sometimes reluctant to speak about it.
“It happened to me at 9, and then 10, and then 11, and then 12, 13, 14,” she told People. “You don’t have the language to begin to explain what’s happening to you,” she says. “That’s why you feel you’re not going to be believed. And if the abuser, the molester, is any good, they will make you feel that you are complicit, that you were part of it. That’s what keeps you from telling.”