Lockdown – Britain’s new Brexit

Our polarised feelings about Brexit, right or wrong, have moved seamlessly into lockdown, says Lulu Sinclair.

Our relationship with the EU ended not with a bang but a whimper. It seems we had all forgotten what anxiety it had been causing us this time last year before coronavirus claimed all our attention…

But nature abhors a vacuum so, I’d argue, our polarised feelings about Brexit, right or wrong, have moved seamlessly into lockdown, right or wrong.

I read that we’re in our third lockdown although, personally, I’m not convinced we ever came out of the first one. I remember there was in September-time a slight lessening of rules when six people were allowed into one home but that seemed to go by in a trace. Incidentally, is it rules or law? I’m still not entirely sure if I’m obeying guidance, actual law or if that same actual law/guidance has been amended while I was looking the other way and so I’m breaking whichever it is by mistake.

Most people were looking forward to the five-day Christmas gap when they could see family members in a restricted bubble and then even that plan was burst. No more social bubbles for us and the pressure grip of lockdown was tightened still further. 

Yet still the demands for stricter compliance continues. Professor Chris Whitty, looking more and more fearful, appears on TV ads to tell us to do what we’re told and, if we go out, stay close to home. Our PM, meanwhile, cycles a lot further from home than I would while out on his daily exercise. Fortunately, if he happens to see his aged father in passing, all should be well. Mr Johnson senior has fortunately had both his vaccinations so his chances of catching the virus should be lessened.

I don’t know about you but I’m trying to do my best and this terrorising by officialdom is not helping me. I feel as though I’ve told someone of a particular problem I might have and been told, say, to give up eating chocolate. I do but the problem remains. I return to my adviser who just shouts louder and louder that I have to give up chocolate. It’s beginning to have a bit of a Kafkaesque feel to it.

And this is where I find myself remembering discussions over Brexit. It seemed impossible for one side or the other to agree that someone might have a reasonable opinion, even if it was opposite to one someone else held. I’m sensing we’re reverting to type with lockdown.

I read social media and comments on newspaper pages – I’m reluctant to discuss this with friends in case they shout at me if they don’t agree – and see the virulent (pun intended) scorn poured on one side by the other in the argument. If anyone questions the evidence for the benefits of lockdown, they face being “cancelled” by around 79% of the population who fiercely agree with it and are prepared to forego their civil liberties if this will mean they avoid the dreaded and dreadful illness.

I get that point. Me too. I’m scared. I have neighbours who had the coronavirus and another who ended up in hospital for three days. I know it’s not simply a nasty dose of flu. I also know this time of year is very bad for hospital admittance, as the NHS informs us that it’s in danger of being overwhelmed. Now is not the time to be popping off to A&E.

However, taking all that into account, I would still like a little more reasoned discussion. We see the daily news bulletins about how many people have died having tested Covid-positive within the past 28 days. I’d like to know what the figures were for the same time last year so I can compare. I know I can look them up but it would be helpful if such information was supplied at the same time for ease of access at least. I also want to know if the age range has changed and the survival rates within the age ranges. I could go on but you know what I mean.

In my field of psychotherapy, it’s about feelings and helping people recognise what they’re experiencing and helping them to use those feelings to make changes and improvements in their own lives.

Those of us who like to think we’re reasonably in tune with our feelings may be ready to take them into account and then come up with a reasonable/rational decision on what to do next.

For most people, Brexit became all about feelings and we became so entrenched with our views that we couldn’t hear or listen to anyone else’s. If they disagreed, they were sad, bad or mad. Or just plain wrong.

I worry that we’re in danger of falling into the same trap with coronavirus and lockdown. Of course, I’m behaving emotionally; my primitive desire is to live and, like everyone else, I will do whatever I can to do so. That’s normal and instinctive. 

I’m not sure, however, that it’s up to those who lead me to tap into my most primitive fears. 

I think what I want from our leaders is a little more calm and a little more reassurance that it will all be all right in the end. Maybe I want a little more conversation and a little less action. 

In other words, I want them to convince me I need to be ruled less by my hyper-vigilant emotions and more by the rational and reasonable side of my brain, the side that analyses and considers and helps me make good choices for myself. We are told people learn by example. Perhaps those who lead us could try to remember that for the future.

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Lulu Sinclair

Lulu is an experienced journalist who has worked in print, TV, radio and digital media. She retrained as a psychotherapist and counsellor some years ago and now combines both her passions. She writes a regular blog on mental health topics for a Harley Street psychotherapy practice.

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