Navigating the uncertainty of historical events like Brexit
6th April 2019
Brexit: How anxious is Britain?
Long ago, Greek philosopher Heraclitus once mused “change is the only constant in life.” When we take a step back and look at Brexit in the context of thousands of years of history, it doesn’t seem like too big a deal. However, when you live in its day-to-day wake, you’ll be hard-pressed not to feel the stress and uncertainty this change is generating. Whether you’re a decision maker having to put a multi-million pound project on hold for a year, or you’re trying to move house so your children can switch to a better school, it’s quite amazing how an event like this can bring about a palpable level of anxiety within what Carl Jung calls the collective unconscious.
In this article, we’re going to explore the psychology of change and uncertainty to help you stay on top of the currents of time – wherever they may take you.
How are Britons being affected?
In a recent survey, it turns out that 70% of people said Brexit is currently making them feel more stressed, and interestingly, it’s being felt strongest by Gen Z’s and Millenials.
Which makes one wonder – is tension around the issue of Brexit caused only by stress, or are there other factors creeping in to our psyches to make us feel uncomfortable? By exploring how we feel about uncertainty and group consciousness factors, we may be able to find some more clues as to where the stress is coming from.
The psychology of uncertainty
For most people, not knowing what’s going to happen next is sometimes more painful than actual painful outcomes. This is a psychological phenomenon known as ‘cognitive dread’. For example, people would rather experience an electric shock right now, than contemplate a visit to the dentist. Another example can be found in people who suffer from long-standing pain – they report that the dread of worsening future pain can be more disabling than the pain itself.
Then there’s the uncertainty generated by risk. This particular uncertainty is known all too well by entrepreneurs – in some ways, Brexit could be seen as an entrepreneurial move, to go it alone outside the safety of a larger structure. As Ronald J Baker states in his book Pricing on Purpose, “The history of business is the history of dreamers, and entrepreneurs, those rare individuals who cast aside the security of a paycheck, mortgage everything they have and chase a dream that ends up creating our futures.” Any entrepreneurial move, made by either an individual or a country, has inherent risk – and will require hard work and calm leadership in order to see the rewards that potentially lie on the other side.
Understanding the psychological phenomenon of ‘Groupthink’
Groupthink is an interesting social psychology concept, coined by Irving Janis, a research psychologist from Yale University. This is a term you’ll see in many articles about Brexit, and it’s worth examining in more depth. As defined by Wikipedia, groupthink occurs within a group of people, “in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.” Groupthink can ultimately foster ‘us versus them’ style attitudes and encourages people to align themselves to group agendas, even when those concepts don’t align with their own personal beliefs.
Ultimately, it’s important to regularly and mindfully check-in with yourself. Check-in with what you believe, what you stand for and stay aligned with what’s important to you – regardless of what groups, or societal factions may espouse.
How mindfulness techniques can help you navigate change
Present moment awareness is key to navigating change. Where you’re in the present moment, in the now, you are not in ‘worry thoughts’ about the future – and you’re not sad or regretful about the past. You’re ultimately in a state of neutral and when your energy is not being consumed by worry thoughts or regretful thoughts, it’s free to be used constructively to create the reality you would like to manifest.
So whether you’re worried about Brexit, or some other upcoming future event, how to handle it is exactly the same. Below, we’ve put together some simple mindfulness exercises that you can try, to bring yourself into the present moment and ultimately keep you on top of any changes to come.
- Accept that change is inevitable
Change is a natural part of life. We’re born, we live a life, and eventually, we will all leave this earth. Look back at times where you’ve successfully navigated change in the past – know that you’ve done it before, and have confidence that you’ll do it again.
2. Notice your feelings towards change
All feelings are natural, and no feelings are ever ‘wrong’. Allow yourself to feel any emotions you have connected with change and accept that they are there. When you do this, they will pass. At this point, if you notice strong, persistent emotions that simply don’t pass, it might be advisable to work with a professional – remember, you’re always welcome to contact a member of our team.
3. Practice regular meditation
Even just 10 minutes of meditation everyday is known to do wonders for a person’s mind. The key part isn’t the 10 minutes, it’s the everyday part that is essential. The calming effects of pure stillness accumulate over time, and after just one month of meditation, people are better able to spot changes in their mood and bring themselves to a happier, calmer state of mind on command.
We’ve helped countless people overcome anxiety and uncertainty, to live healthy and empowered lives. If you would like to discuss how we can help, then please do contact us for a confidential chat.