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What has control got to do with leaving the EU?

The pros and cons of staying or leaving the EU are being hotly debated at the moment and some of you may be aware that one of the major themes of the Brexit campaign is that leaving the EU will give us back control. This suggestion of increased control appears to be resonating with large swathes of people to the point where other issues, like the threat of higher prices and lower incomes if we were to leave, seem not to be creating anything like the concern one would expect. So what is it about being in control that engages us in an emotionally important way, which being potentially poorer does not.

To answer this question I think we need to understand that we humans experience control not only as an actual state of being but also as critical to our psychological well-being. It is a primary prehistoric conceptual state that is associated with survival and therefore predates economic survival. Military training, for example, focuses upon building up self control in the face of emotions that would make untrained soldiers flee the battlefield.

Prehistoric man had equally to deal with, if not comprehend, this concept when faced with either killing or being killed by the wild animals they hunted to eat. Although many of us do not have to face such life or death situations the basic hard wiring for control still exists and is something that plays a part in all our lives regardless of how little risks we think we run on a day to day basis.

There are many ways that we as individuals exert our need for control. Some people are very conscious of how it affects them others less so. The problem is that control can seem very nebulous and most people are not usually conscious of its existence, just the disconcerting emotional state that occurs when it appears low or absent. At such times we can be prone to perceive something as a threat, which is not threat simply because we feel a need to take action. 

Therefore as a result in our daily lives we are constantly initiating actions that appear to increase our sense of control for example by installing the latest alarm system in our house, deciding which side of the pavement looks safest to walk along, which foods are likely to make us more fit and healthy, or even getting up at the crack of dawn on holiday to put towels on the prime sunbeds.

So I hope what I have said may help some of you understand better the emotions that are stirred up in you the next time you hear a politician speak and hopefully consider what this says about you, rather than which way you might vote.

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Written by David Chandler CPsychol, MBACP (Snr Acc) - Lifecipher Counselling

David Chandler is a counselling psychologist. He has a private practice in Buckingham, UK from where he provides therapy to clients and supervision to other therapists. In recent years he has become an advocate of the benefits of online therapy especially for those people who might find traditional therapy difficult to access and afford.… Read more

Written by David Chandler CPsychol, MBACP (Snr Acc) - Lifecipher Counselling

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