Reflective Practice, Spirituality, The Inner World, The unconscious, Ways of Being

The Referendum

EU-referendum-ballot-paper-i am well aware of the multitude of words already written about the Referendum and its result. I am not going to attempt another political analysis. But since it has come into my counselling room this week, I thought I’d try and offer some thoughts about the psychological impact the result is having. Albeit on only a small and unrepresentative sample i.e.  those people who are currently in therapy with me. One of my patients reported a dream on the Saturday night following the Referendum. He dreamt he was in the middle of a nuclear bomb exploding and he frantically tried to protect his family. It didn’t seem to need too much analysis to link this dream to his response to the Referendum. Suddenly the world had become a less safe place.

Other patients have reported how unsafe and insecure they now feel in a world where their future feels more than usually uncertain. There have been tears and anger. In several cases these feelings  have resurrected earlier feelings of loss and abandonment. The psychiatrist R.D. Laing tells the story of a mother who held her young child by his ankles from a balcony several hundred feet from the ground. “See how much I love you, ” she comments, “I don’t let you go.” I’m not sure how the child received the message but one can’t imagine it was an enjoyable experience. Somebody observed that it sounded as though the mother was reassuring herself of her love for her child. And for the child parts of herself with whom she may have had an uneasy relationship.

For  many the success of the Brexit campaign feels rather like this mother. It’s an odd and dangerous way to express their love. But their love for whom? I heard the report of a former soldier in floods of tears at the result. “At last, I’ve got my country back.” I was left wondering about his view of his country. He seemed to be describing a different world to the one I inhabit.

The psychoanalyst Melanie Klein, following Freud, came up with the idea of the Paranoid-Schizoid position in which the young baby has to create two mummies. The Good mummy who attends to his every need at all times. And the bad mummy who fails him. This mummy keeps him waiting for a feed or a nappy change or attention. As he grows older the child has to reconcile the two mummies. The good mother is also the bad one, and vice versa. I find myself wondering if something similar is happening with the Brexit victory. That there is a wish to banish the nasty mummy who allows outsiders to take our jobs, steal our homes, fill up our G.P.’s surgeries and so on. And by extension to banish the vulnerable and needy parts of  ourselves.

My final quote is from Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming’. It needs no commentary.

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer:

Things fall apart: the centre cannot hold:

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.”


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