• Whichever way you voted, Brexit has created uncertainty and division that challenges everyone

  • 'Strexit', anxiety around the future, and feelings of rejection are common, says therapist Joshua Miles

  • If Brexit is challenging your mental health, find a therapist here 

The impact of Brexit on those living and working in the UK cannot be underestimated. Indeed, this tumultuous process has left an indelible mark upon the UK and its inhabitants. The political pendulum we have all been living with induces a high degree of stress, and the knock-on effects of an uncertain political and societal future can be difficult to manage.

The term 'Strexit', whilst slightly comedic, also has a real and difficult meaning, and has been slowly creeping into our wider consciousness over the past few months. The stress of not knowing where we are or where we might end up is understandably worrying, and the adoption of the term ‘Strexit’ encapsulates well the difficulties inherent in this political breakup, and what it might mean for us at a personal level.

A landscape of division

We live in an increasingly divided and polarised world where powerful ideas and feelings are present irrespective of your political standpoint. This political landscape is increasingly split, and somewhat binary, either left or right leaning. In many ways, this is representative of a current world view, where other countries are separated in a similar fashion.

Brexit has created a genuine and powerful time of uncertainty for many of us living in the UK and abroad. Fears about where, how or when our home might be changed, or whether we will still be welcome are difficult to understand and manage. The global political landscape is also shifting, as are the views and ideas about the future of our planet.

It can be difficult knowing where or how one can fit in this changing landscape, and often it can feel as though there is a need to choose a side in order to find a place to fit in and settle. Yet, surely we cannot think in such binary or concrete terms, surely grey areas exist and require some discussion and thought?

Deep uncertainty has given way to powerful climate of division, where people are unsure of their position and what the future may hold for them or those they love. It would seem that this division creates and sustains ideas around separation and loss, and perpetuates themes of abandonment and isolation. These ideas further propel a notion of division over unity, when what is required is the opposite.

This, I believe, is where psychotherapy offers a unique and meaningful way of understanding the divisions and splits brought about through Brexit, and how we can negotiate and consider them more carefully.

How psychotherapy can help navigate a split political landscape

Psychotherapy has an incredibly important role in these times of division, confusion, uncertainty and upset. This position is one of bringing together disparate, confused and divided thoughts and feelings, both at a personal and societal level, and providing an opportunity to explore them. Offering the individual the chance to consider not only their experiences, but the wider impact of the current climate. Psychotherapy offers the chance to hold in mind multiple positions or feelings, without the need to condemn or champion them. To inhabit the ambivalence of the world, to explore how differently we might feel from one day to the next, as we may feel differently about the ever changing political landscape.

These polarised times can leave us feeling split, unsure of positions we once thought were reliable or sustainable, and questioning aspects of our lives, work or relationships. When the outside world feels uncertain, so too can our internal world, and the impact of the political decisions certainly do not occur in a bubble, and we are not immune from policy makers or politicians in Westminster. Psychotherapy isn't just about understanding the individual's struggles and difficulties, but also about understanding those faced by us all on a social and global scale. 

Psychotherapy offers you a space to:

  • Investigate, consider and be curious about the world we live in
  • Think about the positions and roles we take up during times of uncertainty
  • Consider our ideas about Brexit, and how it makes us feel
  • Examine the changing relationships we have, and the impact Brexit has on them
  • Consider the unknown, and how uncertainty makes us feel
  • Reflect upon the concepts of home, security and fear at losing these

Division at an unconscious level

The unconscious impact Brexit has on us cannot be devalued. How can we, if living in a time of division, experience being settled at an internal level? The division of Brexit and our political climate has important connections with our internal world. The persecutory or dismissive political and societal voices that get communicated to us through the media find their way into our internal world. Notions of being pushed aside or not being good enough can pervade, leading to difficult and often painful realisations about ourselves or who we thought we were, and how we think of ourselves can change.

The impact of Brexit on relationships

What then can be thought of regarding the impact Brexit has on our relationships. Perhaps, differing political opinions or views create relational difficulties, or perhaps in the light of Brexit, you or your partner are now uncertain of their future in the UK. What impact might this have on a relationship, and how might it make you feel to consider having to move to a different country, to uproot a life built here? These are uncertain and challenging ideas, worthy of consideration.

Psychotherapy offers you a space to:

  • Reflect on uncertainty in your relationships brought about through our current political landscape
  • Consider how this uncertainty influences your relationships
  • Explore the personal impact the changing political landscape has had on you or your family 
  • Unpack how your relationships might have changed during this time
  • Think about the future of your relationships in the changing landscapes we live in

Psychotherapy as a force for social change

Bombarded on all sides by split ideas and political views, finding unity or togetherness can feel impossible. However, I believe, that through gaining an understanding of ourselves and the internal splits and polarised views we hold about ourselves, can provide an important opportunity to understand the world, and more importantly where we fit within it.

Psychotherapy is a force for social change, as well as a vessel for gaining deeper personal understanding of the self. When understood this way, I believe it takes up an important social position, enables difficult topics to be breached, painful experiences to be named, and for a greater sense of clarity to be gained for us all.

Further reading

Meet the therapist: Joshua Miles

Tribalism in politics and therapy

How we lose trust in politics and politicians

Envy and betrayal in post-Brexit politics

The psychology of uncertainty