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‘Brexit is like being in a broken relationship’

25 January 2019


EU citizens outside the Houses of Parliament, in September 2017, after lobbying MPs to guarantee their rights post-Brexit

EU citizens outside the Houses of Parliament, in September 2017, after lobbying MPs to guarantee their rights post-Brexit

BREXIT is like being in a “broken home” and is a “traumatic event”, which is why it is so hard for all involved, the psychotherapist Dr Susie Orbach has said.

Speaking at an event, “The Psychological Impact of Brexit on Europeans living in the UK”, hosted by the Council of Lutheran Churches, on Thursday of last week, Dr Orbach said: “Like a broken relationship, we go over and over and over the outrage. This is a trauma response — when you are traumatised, you live in uncertainty, an unknown territory, and in our case unknown political and social territory, and that is very destabilising.”

Dr Orbach continued: “Brexit shows us that there has been a democratic deficit, our institutions aren’t working well; this is especially serious in the age of aggression, an aggression that is then amplified by bots on the internet. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t counteract this aggression with complex thought.

“Aggression is often a cover for fragility and insecurity. We need to recognise that fragility, find a way into it in ourselves, and in the other, so we don’t further inflame aggression. We need to communicate what we’ve understood with passion.”

Ms Orbach explained that one way to deal with the sense of trauma was to talk and listen to others. “The isolation you might be feeling might be lessened by talking with each other, by sharing your hurt, by reaching out to those who might even live among [you] or have differing views,” she said.

“Talk is not just a cure in the analysts’ consulting room, it’s the cure among people; so is listening, really trying to understand each other. I think churches have a very long legacy in trying to hear each other. We can’t do it alone, we can only do it by being together, talking, listening, metabolising the glow.”

She also argued: “We, those of us who can, need to bring even more pressure on the May Government to ensure that the precarious nature of the many people from mainland Europe who are now threatened is reversed.”

Also speaking at the event was the chair of the trustees of the Council of Lutheran Churches, and Rector and Senior Chaplain of the Norwegian Church in the UK, the Revd Torbjørn Holt.

He argued that the significant debate that forged Brexit was a clash between the “anywheres and somewheres” — people who felt rooted to a place, a country, versus those who were more cosmopolitan and international in their outlook.

“One of the things I found quite difficult in the aftermath of Brexit was that Theresa May actually decided to attack that head on, and say how bad it was to be an ‘anywhere’,” he said.

“These kind of statements are extremely unfortunate, especially when they come from key politicians, it is so utterly divisive. That is why it becomes clearer to me that the kind of nationalism we are facing here . . . this is very similar to Trump’s politics.”

Both Mr Holt and Dr Orbach said that the Church had not done enough before the EU referendum to press the case for staying in the EU, and warned against the “othering” of European citizens.

Mr Holt said: “I think the senior clergy in this country, those who have a voice in the Lords and in the media, should have spoken out. And nobody could have stopped them from doing so.”

Dr Orbach concluded by quoting Martin Luther: “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.”

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