What's Love Got To Do With It? The Fallout - and Falling Out - of Brexit.
As an EQ specialist I am going to approach my post-Brexit fourpenneth from a position of affectation (that's an 'in the field' way of saying that I am going to discuss the subject on an emotional level).
Let's start with where we're at. The present. Here is my microcosm of the fallout of Brexit...
My mother and I aren't talking (and those who know us intimately might say this is no bad thing!); my best friend isn't talking to her husband; I can't watch the news without wanting to throw something at the TV; my fellow European mums at the gates of our local school where 25 languages are spoken look like rabbits caught in headlights; my Italian client doesn't know if her shiny new pan-European job is a safe bet; my French client needs his business contract to be signed so that, as an employer, he can carry on contributing to the UK economy; and the waitress serving me today has, with a heavy heart, decided to go back to Spain even though she knows the job opportunities here are better.
My children, both aged under five, are thankfully none the wiser that, as a result of Brexit, their future prospects and perspective may have changed. So much uncertainty. For individuals, families and businesses. Meanwhile, it feels eerily quiet out there on the city streets. The calm before the storm? The uncomfortable numbing? The paralysis? Or a collective moment of national reflection?
Dave and Boris: what have you done? You have made everyone feel scared and angry. Is this what you wanted?
What has Brexit done to our collective mindset? Up and down the country cortisol levels are through the roof. People are in fight, flight or freeze mode now. Meanwhile, serotonin and endorphin levels have temporarily left these calm shores. We have a neurochemical imbalance. Brexit is messing with our psyche and hampering our ability to perform. We are waiting for - hoping for - clarity to emerge from the chaos.
Where has the love gone? And what has love got to do with it anyway? Very little, certainly, if you gauge the current mood of the nation. Never in my lifetime have I sensed, heard or read about so much anger and disgust towards the establishment and towards each other.
But empathy. Empathy is a different matter. Empathy has everything to do with Brexit. Bear with me and I'll explain...
Empathy is the ability to understand and relate to each other. It's the practical skill of being able to put yourself in another's shoes. To truly understand where they are coming from - and why. And to do this without judgement. It is a skill that can be developed and countless professional coaches will both practise the skill and help clients embed it into their everyday relationships - inside work and out.
In the book "Born To Love. Why empathy is essential and endangered" award-winning science journalist Maia Szalavitz and renowned child-psychiatrist Bruce D. Perry explain how empathy develops, why it is essential both to human happiness and for a functional society, and how it is threatened in the modern world. They explain that, from birth, when babies' fingers instinctively cling to those of adults, their bodies and brains seek an intimate connection—a bond made possible by empathy, the remarkable ability to love and to share the feelings of others.
Up until last week, I had concluded that the biggest threat to our empathy levels was technology. Screen usage. It draws us away from those fleeting but all-important human interactions and moments of connection. It's what leads my four-year old son to demand "Mummy, look at me" when I reach for my phone. But now, post-Brexit, I am less sure that technology is the enemy of empathy within our society.
And I am starting to wonder whether we ever really understood each other? The point of the Referendum, and indeed of any general election, is that it is a mechanic for government to hear the voice of the people. We have been heard. And government must now act. And now I wonder if we should have listened sooner? Sought to understand the frustrations of the majority of voters. Almost half of us feel like we haven't been listened to this time around. And, as a result of the Remain camp's outpouring of grief and anger, I can only imagine that the other 52% of us don't feel that they can relate to the other side's feelings either. How can we be so misunderstood? How can we stand so divided, on such a grand scale, on such a tiny island?
It is painfully clear that, on the subject of EU inclusion we'll never be in agreement. Certainly not in my lifetime. And yet we have to get along together, we have to commune, we have to function as a nation. The alternative is unfathomable. So we must find ways to empathise with each other, to put ourselves in one another's shoes, to relate, to see the debate from another person's perspective. Empathy is the capacity that can reunite us. We don't have to love each other; we don't even have to like one another. But we have to be able to empathise.