Despite the subject, my intention is to blog in a way that is politically neutral; it is not my job or right to comment one way or another on any world leader, so the content is offered in the spirit of observation.
I don’t need to mention that it’s been a really tough couple of years for everyone. Fear and division seem to have been global, with COVID, Brexit and the political goings on in the US, just for starters. It’s hard to feel safe and grounded when the world seems to be in turmoil, and this is where we rely on those in leadership to steer a steady course through these choppy unchartered waters.
As a therapist, I can’t help but watch the last 2 years through professional eyes. From the Women’s marches in 2017 and the Leave vote in 2016, the air of unrest was visible before global pandemic stepped in and mixed things up. I noticed this not only in the wider sense through news and TV, but in clients and in myself. Despite the infighting both old (racism, sexism, homophobia for instance) and new - (Leave/Don’t leave, pro and anti Trump, for instance) – we could still live in a world where we were free to go out, meet friends and find likeminded allies and ways to just forget it all. This all changed with COVID. The world wasn’t safe anymore, it was unpredictable, and no one really knew what was going on. New divisions appeared – COVID is/isn’t a hoax was one of the first. Then came lockdown, vaccines, compulsory mask wearing, all of which brought more polarised opinions. Throughout the pandemic, the death toll rose at an alrming rate, hosptials were under huge pressure, families grieved as loved ones died alone. People were furloughed, locked in, children were out of school for months. There was a resulting increase in domestic and other abuse and a decline in mental health. We struggled globally, nationally and personally, as our world became smaller, and the threat became bigger. Life as we had known it changed, and the impact will be felt for generations.
It is in times of turmoil like this that we look to our leaders, those in authority to make the right decisions and retain some semblance of “normality” as we all try to comprehend the next wave of information. In the UK we rely on our leaders in government to lead the way – the “Big People” in TA terms, “Parents” in a Systemic model. We all have a blueprint from childhood and other historical and personal experience, which informs our view of the world, and helps us operate in it. As children, we rely on the adults and authority that surround us (parents, carers, teachers, society, culture, the law etc), to keep us safe, and we follow their example. And this is what we did when we went into lockdown. People made sacrifices to follow the rules that were made to keep us all safe. Rules made by “the Parents”, with the PM as the metaphorical “Dad” and MPs as the other adults.
For me, this explains the outrage felt by many and seen in the reaction to both the alleged and proven parties held by No 10 during lockdown. In effect, Dad says “don’t smoke” as he lights up a cigarette. Then glosses over it. When a family feels let down, they react, and boy, is the UK reacting. We saw a Tory MP cross over (literally) to Labour amongst calls for the MP to resign. Rightly or wrongly, all the pent up frustration and fear from the last couple of years - reflected back to us through our lenses of historical experience- are being dumped at the door of No 10. Dad let us down. All the grown ups who broke the rules let us down. This undermines trust, just as it seemed we were beginning work out how to live with his new disease, just as things began to feel a little easier. It is little wonder that the precarious feeling of safety has been undermined. Who do we trust in this dysfunctional family? And what is being prodded back to life from our individual pasts by these events? The divisive feelings of inequality seem only to have been fed by what some see as a clear demonstration of “Us and Them”. We already knew that mental health has been severely impacted already, for both adults and children, the Party accusations and scandal will not help.
I have no idea what the solution to all this is, but I know that we can find ways individually to help us through, to recognise what is our own individual response, and what is absorbed by the bigger, more public response. This will, one day, be a page in history, but for those of us living it now, it seems more important than ever to be mindful of how we take care of ourselves and our loved ones whilst the Parents sort themselves out.
We need to find ways to recognise and honour our own emotional needs, and to be able to respond to those close to us. In families where there is turmoil and dysfunction, the children often look after each other, finding ways to get what they need from people other than their carers. In a systemic framework, this is what we are doing. It seems to me that this may be the ideal time to reflect on how we can keep ourselves safe without getting tripped up by our past or caught up in other people’s anger – ours is always enough, we don’t need more!
So, in conclusion, here are my thoughts about how to survive this “Fuss and Bozza”
Talk it through – with friends, partners or a professional
Mindfulness or similar guided relaxation (CALM is an excellent app)
Trust yourself to be able to make the right decisions
Respect that other people may see things differently, but that doesn’t make anyone right or wrong. There is no “correct” way to feel.
Distract yourself – personally, I am a Netflix fan 😊
Remember, “This too will pass” – we’ve just got to hang on tight until it all slows down
Be grateful that you’re not in charge!