Post-Brexit Shame: What Therapy Clients are Feeling
It’s hard to write anything new about Brexit – what it symbolises, what it says about Britain (Great or otherwise) or how the kids will cope after the divorce. As a psychotherapist, rather than a politician or economist, what I’m seeing in my consulting room is purely the emotional fall-out from the referendum.
It has raised all sorts of anxieties with the three most dominant emotions being disenfranchisement, disappointment and anger. I should state as a disclaimer that I’m a West London-based psychotherapist so my clients are predominantly ‘Remainers’. They are mostly middle class, and range from stay-at-home mothers to bankers, with a significant number of young people.
Interestingly, although their politics and priorities may differ widely, what unites Remain and Leave supporters are those very emotions, albeit predominantly at different times – the former post-referendum, the latter prior to it. But in both cases I think it’s fair to say that both sides feel hard done by.
It’s human nature to project our own issues onto others – whether it’s our lover, our family, our politicians, Europe. Few of us pause to reflect how we all paid our part – no matter how we voted – to create the unstable situation we’ve now found ourselves in.
Among the clients I have seen this week what strikes me is a pervasive feeling of guilt or shame – why didn’t we do more, why didn’t we campaign, why didn’t we have open dialogues in our families/workplaces/schools? What we’re seeing in society at large though is a projection of collective shame, guilt and ultimately responsibility onto the ‘the elite’, the media, those in power.
If we stay in this place, we stay disempowered. But it doesn’t have to be like this.
I was inspired by one of my clients, who following the events of the past few days has joined a political party, something she never considered before. No matter what your political beliefs are, we can all learn from people like this who are becoming more proactive in shaping their own destiny. A great politician once said “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. In these uncertain times, this adage has never been truer.