Psychology of Brexit: Simplicity
PUBLISHED: 16:56 21 June 2017
For what do people want more than anything else? It’s not the policies or the ideology, the big political personalities or the budget details, but more than anything they want the roulette wheel to stop turning.
The days are ticking by since we cast our votes and watched the results on television, but still, for many of us, we don’t really know what it has brought us. All weekend long I met people who had voted for almost every different option (ok, not UKIP) but I did not meet anyone who was out-and-out celebrating where we had landed. Of course the Labour gains were a huge boost for the Corbynistas, and those who came later to Labour’s new look party, but as one Facebook wag put it “Theresa May had won, but lost; Jeremy Corbyn had lost but won” and almost all the smaller parties were rewarded with fewer seats than they’d had in the beginning. It just seemed a mess.
It wasn’t until Monday, at a lunch for potential supporters for an educational and policy studies organisation which is thinking of starting up a branch in the UK – and what better time, frankly? – did I meet someone who thought the pasting taken by Theresa May most definitely meant that a Hard Brexit was toast. Ivo Gabara is a fundraiser and supporter of Gina Miller’s campaign to reverse the Brexit decision, so some cynics will say, well he would say that wouldn’t he.
But the rest of us —- those who voted and waited to see what would happen? We barely even know what has happened, nor do we have much experience in to coping with the uncertainty of what might happen next.
For what do people want more than anything else? It’s not the policies or the ideology, the big political personalities or the budget details, but more than anything they want the roulette wheel to stop turning. They can learn to deal with any result; it’s the not knowing that is going to undo the public psyche. If Theresa May really is a “dead woman walking” then when will the axe fall? Who can follow her? What will it mean for any number of things – from Brexit to university fees to social care budgets? Waiting around, not knowing for sure if the waves of change are still crashing around us: that’s what is so difficult to tolerate.
It’s probably not enough to make a robust sort of person particularly worried, though they’ll be following their news feeds more avidly, as deals and switches will be so much more day-to-day. But if you are one of the already anxious – particularly the under-25s who may have only voted once or twice – this wobbliness, where newspaper headlines and political posts shriek of heads rolling and secret leadership campaigns are seriously discombobulating.
Even before this election, the Prince’s Trust Macquarie Youth Index survey showed that young people’s confidence and happiness are at their lowest levels since the index started in 2009 (with young Londoners the most pessimistic of any region). More than a quarter of young people aged 16-25 said they don’t feel in control of their lives and 16% thought their life would amount to nothing no matter how hard they try.
It all seems so complex, which is exactly why simplicity seems so, well, preferable. But simplicity is also the opposite to progress. Things are simple when we know exactly how they work, because we’ve done them dozens of times before. As innovation expert and author Jeff DeGraff wrote in Psychology Today: “Innovation requires us to wander in complexity and be lost in its sinuous twists and stopped by its unexpected dead ends before we may find our way through the whole morass to the simplicity on the other side. Inventors, entrepreneurs and artists know that innovation is a messy ordeal. A wide array of experiments, prototypes and other forms of proof of concept are needed to find that simple but elegant solution.”
He’s got a point. We don’t fall readily into perfect forms; time and tussling has to get us there.
Louise Chunn is the founder of find a therapist platform welldoing.org, and former editor of Psychologies