The Painful Nature of Uncertainty in the Era of Brexit and Trump

Private Psychiatry is pleased to feature an article by psychotherapist, Alex Monk. Alex practises in London and specialises in combining talking therapies with expressive arts such as drawing, painting, movement and music.

In the current socio-political climate it feels easier than ever to have our opinions validated by others. We can have our earliest narcissistic needs met as we increasingly operate in social media bubbles with those who share similar opinions to ourselves along with articles from the same newspapers we like to read. Yet although social media gives us a much greater means to express ourselves, we are equally more than ever at odds with those we don’t agree with.

Recent events such as Brexit and the US election have polarised us from one another more than ever, between the ‘good’ (us) and the ‘bad’ (them). Journalists sometimes foster this split with seductive headlines, which magnetically appeal to the very earliest parts of ourselves; those parts which crave certainty, and like to be told what the answer is.

The problem is that between these opposites a void can appear which we may experience as emptiness, or an inner conflict as we try to wrestle with and then attach ourselves to the rigidity of ‘truth.’  And as soon as others challenge our ‘truths’, it can cause us great pain as we are reminded of how uncertain our world is and how vulnerable we are behind our rigid perspectives.

Perhaps then it can be helpful to experiment with allowing some curiosity to replace certainty and introduce some flexibility to our rigidity. Also by practising loving kindness and exercising compassion for ourselves, we can become more accepting of the opposites within us. We can all be ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ’stupid’ or ‘clever’. So perhaps there is a need to soften our perspective when we encounter opinions that are different from our own.

By practising activities that enable us to reflect and be in the flow of the moment, we can then gently get to know what that void feels like and perhaps grow less afraid of it. This might mean cooking a nourishing meal, spending time with good friends, going for a run, or meditating. And once we have been kinder to ourselves and allowed some space to breathe, we might find not only less anxiety and conflict inside ourselves and with others, but discover a greater sense of wellbeing in a world where uncertainty isn’t so bad after all.

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