Today the EU referendum results came in, and it was announced that the majority rules for Britain to exit the EU. My family, my friends, and pretty much everyone I know living in London, is absolutely besides themselves. It has been shocking, scary and unsettling to say the least, and I personally do not know a single person who is celebrating the decision.
There are so many reasons as to why I have been passionate about staying in the EU, and why I am absolutely gutted that we are not going to be a part of it for much longer. I am not planning on writing these reasons here because this blog is not one to be contaminated with politics – that is not its point. However, I am using this opportunity (if one can call it that!) to practice the only thing that can be practiced in situations such as these: Radical Acceptance.
Radical Acceptance is the process of accepting a reality that is different from the one you want to be true – in mind, body and spirit – as fully as is possible.
What needs to be accepted, according to the DBT handbook, is that:
- Reality is as it is: The verdict has been made: the U.K. are leaving the EU.
- There are limitations on the future for everyone: There is absolutely nothing I (nor anyone else) can do at this point to change this fact.
- Everything has a cause: A referendum took place and the majority voted in favour of leaving.
- Life can be worth living even with painful events in it.
Radically Acceptance is not the same as liking something. That point is important to remember.
I keep having thoughts along the lines of “what the actual fuck?”, “this is unbelievable”, “am I dreaming?” and a lot of judgments about the country and the people who voted to leave. This is not particularly accepting, I know, but I am still in shock about the whole palaver and it seems to be a very default (and somewhat contagious) reaction amongst the people I associate myself with (and much of London, it seems).
The only thing I can do is recognise when my thoughts take me off into all these judgments and worries, blaming and shaming and criticising those I disagree with, and try and pull myself back to what I am really experiencing. Because the fact is that these thoughts are not getting me anywhere besides feelings embarrassed and bitter towards my country – and that isn’t really an attitude I would like to have, when it comes down to it.
Yes I am sad about Brexit. I am sad and scared (heck, terrified!) and angry for a number of reasons – some personal, some less so; some warranted, some less so. The feelings are there, and they are there for a reason; this is a significant event. But the judgmental thoughts – the lack of acceptance – they just take me away from the raw feelings, and end me up spiralling into a rut of contaminated and messy bitterness I do not like seeing myself in.
The fact is, whether I (or anyone else) likes it or not, the decision has been made and is going to go ahead. No amount of questioning, analysing, berating or venting will change the reality of the situation. No amount of racking my brains nor scrolling through social media posts nor asking the same questions to those around me over and over will provide the answers nor solutions I (or we) are after.
What can be done besides dealing with the consequences of such a situation in a way that is mature, measured and least likely to influence things getting even worse – perhaps even leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy of disaster? Will the Facebook hate or the social media updates really help or hinder us further if they only focus on what has gone wrong, as opposed to what we can do now to make the most of an admittedly horrendous situation?
It is important to note what has gone wrong, so that it can inform future decisions and pathways. But, there comes a point when doing so will no longer be effective; when doing so only leads to more and more bitterness – for all parties involved.
I do not want to be bitter. I will be sad and I will be scared and I will be angry if that is what I need to be, if that is what I am feeling. But I am going to try and stop judging and mocking those who voted to leave, and stop perpetuating the already vast divide. I will not be hateful. There is enough of that in this whole hoo-hah already.
Update: This speech by David Cameron (https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/eu-referendum-outcome-pm-statement-24-june-2016) is a great example of Radical Acceptance in action, and is helping me practice it myself. I think his attitude in this is one to admire, all things considered.