THE BLOG

Power Snapping: The Psychology Of The Brexit Election

19/04/2017 12:06 BST | Updated 19/04/2017 12:07 BST

Theresa May has called a snap election, in seven weeks we and she will know what the future looks like in terms of who has the power and how that power is going to help us negotiate Brexit. Clearly the Prime Minister knows something of psychology for if she is going to go in and fight for the best deal she can get in Brexit, she knows she needs a bigger power base than she currently enjoys. Will she get it? Who knows, but the fact that she wants it and is prepared to go to the country to get it, means that she knows the risks ahead.

Theresa May is in the unenviable position of being lead negotiator/mediator in what is about the messiest, trickiest, potentially conflict ridden divorce this century. As in most divorces, once the decision is made to separate, the individuals concerned retreat to their tribe of origin to begin the psychological and emotional separation process. Retreating to her corner, Ms May finds herself surrounded not by wholehearted support but by a country in which almost half of its inhabitants voted against what she is about to embark upon. In the other corner is a band of leaders of countries who have (at the moment), full control over their membership of the EU and the support of each other. There is strength in numbers and Ms May must feel ever so lonely walking the line she has been forced to take by the voters in the UK, little wonder she wants to boost her power base so that she feels a little less vulnerable as she embarks upon this somewhat unknown journey.

The days, weeks and months leading up to a divorce are probably the nastiest days anyone could live through short of suffering bereavement. At least in bereavement however there is the remaining love between a couple, which, when the grieving is done, remains as a lasting legacy to carry the one left behind through the worst days. In divorce, all there is left is the bitter taste of failure and usually a large dose of rage and resentment on one side and guilt and shame on the other, depending on who instigated the split. For Theresa May, the guilt and shame is hers to carry as the other leaders look on disapprovingly as they, somewhat coldly, control the process which is about to unfold. She may not have made the decision to leave but she has taken on the responsibility of carrying this country through the separation and divorce process and it must feel somewhat galling at times to have to do that when the decision to leave is so resented by many here. What she is looking for is the power to carry the country through to the other side of this divorce, whether she will get it is questionable but her decision to seek that power is entirely understandable and actually, in psychological terms, good for her and good for the country. If one's chief negotiator/mediator is hamstrung by internal arguing and resentment, conflict and poor outcomes will be the result.

The psychological aspect of the snap election is all about individual power and Theresa May has made a decision which is likely to have long lasting ramifications both for her and for the UK. It is a savvy move though, which says 'I will do this, but not without the power I need to do it properly.' In that respect it speaks of someone who is willing to lead but not to sacrifice herself for the sake of leadership and someone who sees collective responsibility as being part of the leadership role. We cannot have it both ways, either we give her the power to do something that is a difficult, some might say almost impossible task, or someone else will have to do it for us.

And so now it is down to us. What do we want for the UK, how do we want to see that unfold. Do we want a divorce or do we want to find a way to resolve our differences and keep the union intact across Europe. Ms May as our mother figure has given us the power to decide, she has made it clear it is our responsibility not hers. On a psychological level it is a master stroke leaving us with the decisions to make not her. The ball is now in our court, what we do next will affect generations to come.

Karen Woodall writes more about the psychology of everyday living at www.karenwoodall.com