"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 on the Mental Health Coalition's 1-2-1 series

By Dory Jackson
May 31, 2021 04:10 PM
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Oprah Winfrey is working to understand how her past traumas have impacted her overall mental wellness - and she encourages others to do the same.

Winfrey recently sat down with her co-author, Dr. Bruce Perry, for the Mental Health Coalition's 1-2-1 series. During their virtual discussion, exclusively debuted by PEOPLE, the two dig into their new book, What Happened to You?, and how Winfrey continues to work through her own struggles.

"I started thinking about what happened to me in my life to make me who I am," said Winfrey, 67. "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."

Understanding one's past is "essential" when it comes to understanding mental health, said Perry, 66. And Winfrey pointed out that the brains of individuals who were unable to have their "needs met at an early age" ultimately formed "differently" than those who did.

Oprah
Credit: The Mental Health Coalition

"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."

Winfrey said their book isn't about placing blame, but rather about helping readers gain "a better understanding" of their respective behaviors and use that knowledge to move forward.

"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?"

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Oprah
Credit: Apple TV+

Winfrey has been open about her own trauma over the years. In 1986, she came forward on her talk show about being abused as a child. At the time, Winfrey said she had been molested by her cousin, an uncle and a family friend as a young girl.

During an appearance on The Dr. Oz Show last month, she opened up about a previous domestic violence incident between her grandparents that resulted in her inability to feel safe while sleeping.

"After that, my grandmother put a chair underneath the doorknob and some tin cans around the chair," she recalled. "And that is how we slept every night. I'm sleeping, I always slept with, listening for the cans. Listening for what happens if that doorknob moves."

Winfrey and Perry's book is out now. Their conversation for the Mental Health Coalition's 1-2-1 series will be available on the organization's official Instagram page at 5 p.m. ET today.

If you or someone you know need mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.