Well. The referendum. I would really appreciate it if, while I am trying this hard to be less depressed, the world could keep up its end of the deal by being a bit less bloody depressing. I am frightened and I am angry, and I have no idea where we go from here, but I am also trying to understand why people made the choice they made. The therapy I am in, DBT, has a particular model of decision-making. It is a little patronising and jargony, but bear with me. DBT suggests we have 3 modes of decision making: emotion mind, at one end of the scale; rational mind, at the other end; and wise mind, somewhere in the middle. Emotion mind decisions are informed purely by emotions, and are more likely to be impulsive, without thought for the consequences. Rational mind decisions are based purely on facts. Wise mind decisions are made while taking account of both. In practice, every decision we make is actually somewhere on a scale between emotion and reason. But I feel like on Thursday, Britain very much made an emotion mind decision.
I think we have to try to find a way of validating the emotional reasons why people voted out, without condoning their worldview, or accepting that their interpretation of the situation actually correlates to the facts. It is hard to do this when I am so afraid, and so angry.
But here goes: demographically, Leave voters were more likely to be on low incomes, and to live in areas where there are not that many migrants. It is human to be afraid of the unknown. When you do not have much, it is human to be jealous of those you believe have what you are entitled to (NB key word here is ‘believe’ – not ‘know’). The only way I know to relate to this is through my experiences of mental health services and other support I have received. For instance, I had to fight for a long time to get a Freedom Pass, and so did not travel further than walking distance from my Mum’s house for a year and a half, because I was too scared I would have a panic attack and have to get off the bus/train/tube and every journey would end up costing three times as much as it should. My Mum, who is able to work full time and travels relatively easily, got one automatically because she is over 60. That felt unfair. I felt like older people were getting what I needed and it was being taken away from me because of them.
These are not thoughts I held on to. These are not the parts of myself I want to cultivate. These are thoughts I turned myself away from, by reminding myself that it was not the other people receiving support or resources who were taking these things from me. That fighting over the scraps from the Council’s table made their job of cutting, cutting, cutting, ten times easier. But I wonder, if I had been bombarded every day by newspaper headlines telling me that it was old people’s fault my services had no money, that I can’t get what I need because the old people have it, that there are just too many old people here, that we just can’t afford to support old people any more so really the best thing to do would be to let them die alone and unsupported – how much harder would I have had to work to challenge those thoughts? When you are surrounded by interpretations of a situation which encourage the basest, cruellest, most jealous parts of yourself, it is much harder to make a wise mind decision, and it is much harder to be kind.
This does not mean that we can’t hold people to account for their actions, or that we can’t hold Johnson, Farage, or any of the other Leave orchestrators to account for their dog-whistle racism. This does not mean that I think any of the following are acceptable, justified, or anything other than terrifying: a 57 % rise in reports of hate crime; my family’s house egged because they left their Remain posters up; fellow service users from EU countries who have lived in the UK for decades scared they are going to be deported to a country where they no longer have any kind of support network; the threat of another, crueller, wave of austerity looming; the lefties whose views I respect all at each others’ throats; the knowledge that every piece of campaigning I have ever done (such as it is, a drop in the ocean of other people’s effort), on human rights, on gender, on mental health, has been based on a legislative framework which is likely to be ripped out from underneath us.