Twenty years have now passed since the untimely death of Princess Diana. She married Prince Charles young and had two princes, but struggled in the royal family due to loneliness and the breakdown of her marriage, which ended in 1996.
After her divorce, she dedicated much of her time to charity work but it was her love life that was thrown under the spotlight. The paparazzi went after her in search of romance-related scoops, and then tragedy struck in August 1997 when the car she was in crashed in a tunnel in Paris, causing her to die at the young age of 36.
Around the time of the crash, I seem to remember one of the overseas news wires releasing an article along the lines of, "Diana had affluence, fame and beauty. The only thing she didn't have in the end was happiness." The sentiment of the article left a huge impression on me.
Although I never have people on the scale of Princess Diana come to my consultation room, I do sometimes treat the rich and famous. There are also people with children and spouses, who can afford to travel overseas several times a year. At first glance, these people seem happy, but some of these people don't feel that way.
For example, one of my patients recently said to me tearfully, "I've risen to the position of manager, but I'm not sure if this is the job I really want to do." Another wealthy patient told me that, "There's no emotional connection between me and my husband."
On the other hand, there are also some patients who are poor or on the receiving end of abuse. There are others who can't find a job, or have no family or friends. From the point of view of these people, it's nothing but privilege when people say, "I've got everything but I'm not happy." I can understand that.
However, the people who tell me things like, "I'm affluent but I'm miserable" are being serious. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for me to tell them that they're being too greedy. Instead, I think that's a reflection of the way people end up in the modern world.
Some people are under the impression that if you get something you want, or manage to rise to a higher position, then you will be happy. When they work hard for these goals and make them come true, however, they don't feel happiness and instead end up feeling disappointed. They then set up a new goal, but they end up going through the same cycle of dissatisfaction once again.
How does one comfort people who seem to be trapped in this kind of situation? It is not so easy. Sometimes, I say to them that "real happiness is in front of you," and talk about stories such as the early 20th century play "Blue Bird," but they don't tend to agree with me straight away.
Nevertheless, it is irresponsible to tell people to "hang in there, and keep trying until you find your real self." First of all, I encourage people to appreciate the small things in their everyday life, and to live graciously. Sometimes, instead of splashing out tens of thousands of yen on a lavish dinner, it tastes better when you cook the rice yourself, and roll out the rice balls on your own even if they don't look too fancy.
If Princess Diana were still alive today, I wonder if she would have found true happiness. Would she have returned to a much simpler lifestyle? Twenty years after her death, it still makes me think. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)