Brexit: a psychodrama we should all learn from


When, a few months ago, Cameron managed to deal what was perceived even by Junker, the President of the European Commission, as a ‘fair’ settlement for Britain, most of us thought that was the end of the so-called Brexit ‘psychodrama’.

Only Farage somehow envisioned it was just the beginning of it, although for the wrong reasons, since his main concerns were, at least officially, about the actual contents of the settlement itself.

During the following months, both the Remain and Leave sides have discussed across an unbelievably wide spectrum of topics and perspectives: from economic convenience to national sovereignty, from the analysis of political fractures within the Tories to immigration, from the moral side of being part of a club pursuing peace and growth for his members up to how badly the EU might decide to penalise a member who just decides to leave the club.

Only a bunch of commentators in the last few weeks pointed out there was something deeper at stake and had rather plenty to do with a more obscure malaise, shown at psychological level for each of us.

This ‘something’ (a typical elephant in the room) became evident as the focus on the referendum on Brexit slowly switched from a rational analysis of costs and benefits into an emotional arena, where all stakeholders from both parties stopped arguing about ‘external’ problems (e.g. money, jobs, etc.) and started safeguarding their own identity as individuals and citizens.

In such a context, categories we all used to define our identity were somehow set by the public debate: if the theme was immigration, we identified ourselves on the grounding of our birth certificate; if the theme was of financial nature, our identification process was based on our PAYE forms. It is amazing to highlight to what degree of complexity the overall mosaic ended up with: Jeremy Corbyn and George Osborne, and possibly even 28% of UKIP voters, on one side; Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Gisela Stuart on the other, together with a huge portion of population from diverse political background.

Whenever a ‘crisis’ is in progress, we, as humans, find it just so more convenient to project these boundaries and deal with them externally, at a more neutral, rational dimension which is less harmful to cope with.

This process is usually safe to run: it has been naturally (and culturally) selected to ensure we don’t fall depressed or entrapped in our own self-critical assessment: and this process held until the tragic assassination of Jo Cox MP occurred, last Thursday, when one of the darkest sides of the less sophisticate Brexit supporters has been exposed and reviewed under a totally new light.

The rabid hatred shown by the murder, a 52-year-old man with an history of mental issues is exactly part of the pathological behaviour a psychodrama (i.e. a technique used by a number of psychotherapists) encourages patients to act out in order to let all parties become fully aware of it, analyse it and somehow defuse it.

Attacking an MP who always voiced her positive attitude towards immigration, integration and the EU meant for the assailant to hit not only physically a politician who was held responsible for what he perceived as betraying Britain, but also, symbolically, all the immigrants who somehow supposedly benefited from it.

As humans, we find almost impossible to learn from our own history: these cruel acts can be seen as the outrageous outcome of (the weakest of) us pushing outside themselves their quest for an identity, looking for external entities that would reconcile the conflict they (and each of us) are experiencing inside.

For this reason, a shared decision from all parties involved in the last campaigning days for and against Brexit not to use Mrs Cox’ vile killing for political reasons and to potentially criminalise one side of the referendum is paramount and to be fully praised: let us ensure, whatever the outcome, that this referendum becomes another lesson for all people in Europe and worldwide, and something Britain should be proud of.



1 Comment

  • Maria Puliatti says:

    I am an italian psychotherapist, I really enjoyed it as it was written this article. I found it interesting and precise psychological behavioral analysis made on the situation and the reference to the psychodrama and role playing. Very well

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