Being Theresa May

How must it feel to be Theresa May right now? Our sense of self is influenced by many things; our past experiences, how others see us and how much we value our own opinion. To much of the public and the media, she has gone from “hero to zero” in the blink of an eye. The word “humiliation” is not putting it too strongly.

When we meet a challenge that is difficult we may become anxious and our “fight or flight” response kicks in, giving us energy and focus to overcome it. But when we feel humiliated, our energy is drained, a depressive state develops and our natural response is to withdraw, to get away from others, to “lick our wounds”. Unfortunately for her, she must stay in the arena, exposed to the ridicule of others. The public and the press-pack, sensing weakness and scenting blood, pick at her open wounds.

Of all the social media responses to the election result, the one that summed this change the best was of “The Wicked Witch of the East” from The Wizard of Oz. After having water poured over her, she screams, incredulously; “I’m melting, I’m melting!”. Leaving aside the political dimension and concentrating on the psychological one, this image seems fitting. Once all powerful (or “strong and stable”) she is now perceived as someone weak and ineffectual; a dramatic and traumatic transformation that Gordon Brown would relate to.

Will she stay psychologically intact? Much will depend on her “locus of evaluation”. A concept from Humanistic therapy. Imagine a line and at one end, the opinions of others totally define how you see yourself. At the other end, all that matters is how you see yourself and the opinions of others are irrelevant (Donald Trump?). A healthy person’s locus of evaluation is somewhere in the middle. Theresa May made great political play out of being someone very sure footed and not buffeted by events or other’s opinions but the evidence suggests that this was a projection rather than a genuine trait. The evidence appears to show someone who lacks confidence in her own judgement and whose conviction is built on the decisions of others. She appears bewildered as to whether to project a continued sense of authority or a more contrite, human image.

Strong inner forces grappling to define identity, old certainties blown away and confusion about her place in the World? She may well perfectly personify the current state of the Country she leads. I hope both she and the Country have a well-balanced locus of evaluation to see us through these difficult times.

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