The Psychological Impact Of The Brexit Vote

phillipjIn the UK and throughout Europe, the impact of the Brexit vote will have visible and measurable changes on the economic and political fronts. However, there will also be a more subtle and often difficult to assess psychological impact of the Brexit that is going to affect more than just the UK.

The Root of Nationalism

The change in the structure of the European Union is, in itself, a change in the way all Europeans see themselves in relation both their own country as well as the EU as a whole. In the development of the EU, it is very possible that moves were made too quickly and there was little consideration for how individual national differences would be impacted by the change.

Rapid changes and decisions made by the European parliaments without an understanding of the anxiety, anger and frustration of the citizens of various countries within the EU triggered nationalism within countries. In some ways, this could be equated to tribalism with increasing emphasis not on strengthening the EU, but rather in setting a country apart as “my nation, my people, my country and my identity”.

The Unemployment Factor

In the last decade of a global recession, employment throughout the EU has become challenging. Many professionals lost their jobs and are still searching for work. This loss of identity of self through a career adds to those feelings of loss of national identity. It is also further expanded by the loss of the ability to self-govern based on the needs of the country rather than of the wider group of nations that form the EU.

The Visible Reaction

As the levels of anxiety and stress over the issues mentioned above grow collectively within a nation, the risk of violence, aggression and reactionary behaviour escalates. As things become more tense and polarised, people are more likely to see themselves threatened at the core of their identity.

Similar to the Hero Archetype in Jungian psychology, people strive to find ways to set themselves apart and to master the situation, being strong and taking the battle to the enemy. This allows people to fight for what they perceive to be a common good, even if it may mean entering into a situation that is, as of yet, completely unchartered territory for the very identity they are trying to protect.

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