This Is What We’re Missing In Our Response To The Brexit Outcome

Iain Farrell
Iain Farrell

So, it happened.

And whatever your emotions about the outcome of Thursday’s vote, from the perspective of asserting boundaries, it is difficult not to see it as strangely progressive.

The heart of Brexit:

  • We (UK) do not trust you (EU) with immigration control.
  • You offended our personal boundaries.

We know that there is nothing inherently wrong with creating dividing lines; they are absolutely essential. As without the riverbed, there is no method for the water to get to the sea, without effective boundaries, systems disintegrate into chaos. We lose all sense of self and become subsumed by a more dominant one. Being boundary-less doesn’t work.

But there is something missing from the picture; something absent from our response to the very real questions to be had regarding the sustainability of the current policy on immigration.

And it is exactly that missing ingredient that we want to let the event of the UK’s exit from the EU presence us to.

Because it is how we showed up with the immigration challenges — and how we show up with the sizable next wave — that determines what will happen next.

Our response until now has been characterized by defiance. We were deeply aware of our sense of boundaries being offended, but we were not able to mobilize that anger to the components of truly effective leadership: discrimination, challenge, setting limits and ruthless truth-telling.

What is the enabler of that kind of efficacy?

Actually, it is compassion. Compassion, which at its essence is presence, is our ability to truly be with something. An unraveling; individual and collective grief; pain, suffering and ugliness. Absent compassion, our attempts to set boundaries are skewed. We fail to draw the line responsibly.

So how can we be present to the reality of Britain’s decision to leave the EU, and create new possibilities for our engagement as individuals and as leaders? What is a genuinely useful response to the outcome of this vote?

We can be with our anger, disgust, shame, fear and anxiety, without acting of them. We can stay with our anger for long enough so that it is transmuted into clarity, integrity, and penetrating intelligence. We can allow our fear to become embodied awareness. We can liberate the energy of our rage. We can surrender into our anxiety.

We can cultivate compassion.

Then we can ask ourselves how our engagement (or non-engagement) with our politicians reflects that capacity for compassion and boundary-setting. We can ask ourselves if there is anything we need to do differently.

If we can use this time of turbulence to integrate greater compassion into our awareness, then we can breathe more health into the discussions concerning what’s next. TC mark

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