As the news came in of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II I was sat alone at home having just been told by my GP to start complete rest of my 2 weeks old sprained ankle. I was also awaiting a progress report of my mothers long awaited knee replacement operation. An enforced isolation period has given me time to reflect on how Psychologically we as a nation and as individuals now deal with such a ground-breaking change in the foundations of what makes our country.
There are the royal sceptics of course, but nobody can deny that the Queen as an individual represented all that they wished for from a mother and grandmother and it is still undoubtedly another seismic event in modern lives that we have to adjust to. Another event that generates personal feelings and thoughts of all kinds.
My therapy room has proven to me that these external events are starting to really seep into our psyches and mental wellbeing and sense of ‘out of control-ness’, leading to a national pandemic of anxiety in which the NHS struggle to tend to. Prior to the election of Donald Trump very little external news warranted any attention in my therapy room. Brexit occasionally got a mention but not in terms of having any direct psychological effect, just thoughts and opinions of a new significant change. Clients were more focused on their own internal battles and those within the immediate external worlds. I was struck by how many young people were affected by Trump gaining power over the US and a great sense of fear and apprehension resided throughout most clients. This was the first time I really felt the external world was affecting clients enough to need to bring it to therapy.
Since then it does not seem to have stopped as there is a growing awareness through social media of how distorted and malfunctioned society is becoming. Before Trump left office we saw the cinematic drama of COVID unfold across the world, adding to this sense that there are things bigger than us that control us.
We have seen increasing stress over climate change, where we are starting to experience directly the adverse effects of global warming with this summer’s heatwaves. We are confused and scared over the irrational behaviours of Putin and his attempt to have power and control over Ukraine. It feels like a whirlpool of never ending events that we have no control over.
We also lost the Queens beloved husband Prince Philip, hinting to us that the Queens reign may also be drawing to a close. Earlier in 2022, coming out of Covid lockdowns, we got the opportunity to regain that sense of joy and stability by celebrating the Queens Jubilee with her. But there were obvious and significant changes being made within the structure of the royal family, the Queen herself not attending a number of her own events, clearly presenting the future picture to us in preparation. Whilst this knowledge of a looming cloud was lurking in the distance we still had an opportunity to be joyous in something that still felt solid and familiar. As a nation we would celebrate something positive together with street parties across the country, a way only us brits know how best to do.
And now, the one thing we as a nation had to hold on too, has passed. Having still not recovered from all that preceded it, how do we make these adjustments, come to terms with and regain a sense of stability against one of the most significant changes we will all experience in our lifetimes.
Having been left to absorb and process all of this in isolation I have come to believe we should look the Queen herself and draw on her inspiration. For me, whilst she may be a role model of Great British Stoicism, where we have never seen a gushing of emotion from her, we have always quietly had a sense of who she is a person and how she subtly feels about things.
In order for her to present herself as unaffected, stable and resilient she must also not have shied away from her personal feelings in private and will have done much of her processing from within herself. For somebody to take on such responsibilities at a young age and never waiver until her dying day, she needed to also have strong sense of self and internal stability. Nobody can force or fake a role for a lifetime without this, which in turn is what subtly shines through.
It is this that I draw on as what I see to be the way through these destabilising times for the nation. That whatever is going on around us we have the capacity to find a sense of stability from within us. A sense of belief that throughout it all we will still be ok and get through this.
We have to just change the angle of the spotlight in which we focus. As with Buddhist tradition, we should acknowledge what is happening around us, notice how we feel and react to it and what we think about it. We are not ignoring it, just giving it some gentle attention.
But then we need to move the light back to our immediate environment and body. Whilst around us it feels there is a whirlwind of change, within us our body is still. We can sit upright to feel a sense of control and core stability, we can remember we are still breathing, we can look out to the trees and skies to remember that today they have not been affected by the news we hear, that they are all still standing strong. We can notice our routines of day-to-day life that has not changed. We still sleep and awaken, we still clean our teeth and shower, we still feed ourselves. As Maslow says, these are the fundamentals to building a greater sense of self. Regardless of what may happen tomorrow today we are sat in our living room with a roof over our head and food in our tummy. We focus our spotlight back to the core foundations and realise that these have not changed. From here we can then build a sense of internal stability that will enable us to process the changes around us, those changes that don’t directly impact our current physical being in this moment.
The Queen herself would have been immediately affected by news of various family and global wars and disasters in her lifetime. We know she was still a human that was not devoid of emotions. But we also watched her then draw back into her ‘self’ and her sense of identity as to where she needed to focus her spotlight, that of supporting her countries people and her family. She identified with this role as something stable and familiar that it would have become second nature. We all are able to do this for ourselves also. Look within yourself, find who you are, find where you feel a sense of peace and stability and then look out to the world from this place. Don’t take the external world as being who you are but merely a temporary response to an external event that will pass and only you will remain. You are own constant and rock.