Will I Become an Outsider? Brexit Anxiety
My consulting room is in a small building in North West London shared with other professionals. We use two cards, one in and the other out, at the bottom of the stairs to indicate whether the front door needs to be locked when leaving at the end of the working day. The other day a client arrived, announcing ‘I changed the card from out to in’. It took me a moment to figure out that the client imagined the cards to be some sort of Brexit survey, and the session started with a good deal of laughter.
In therapy we see how external events can trigger deep-seated feelings of anxiety. We may have felt like an outsider in our own family, at different schools we attended, in our community, in the workplace or in the country/ies we lived in. Many have come to the UK, and in particular to London, from the European Union, with the intrinsic belief that they would be part of a large family of nations in which they would be accepted and valued for who they were. The Brexit debate has brought into sharp focus the reality that a significant part of the population does not share this vision, and does not want to be part of that ‘family’. Besides the more obvious feelings of disappointment and anger, feelings of earlier rejections and exclusion are triggered. I am an outsider again! I do not belong here, where should I go now?
Equally, there is anxiety among those in the native population who want to remain a member of the European Union. The younger and the middle-aged have grown up within the union, and they are questioning if their lives will be affected and what they could lose by leaving. Especially for the young, a vote to leave may threaten future prospects and can trigger feelings of being side-lined and excluded from a future they have taken for granted.
One client said to me ‘this decision affects me and my future, why can’t my family support me and vote to remain - their lives will not be affected in the same way’. Whilst I have never been asked outright by a client on which side I am, there have been many little comments and hints, such as labels on their clothing, expressing one stance or another. The underlying question is will you accept me for who I am or will I become the outsider here too?
Eva Kurz also features in this article in the FT