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Brexit diagnosed in 10 common cognitive disorders

Simon Rite
Simon Rite is a writer based in London for RT, in charge of several projects including the political satire group #ICYMI. Follow him on Twitter @SiWrites
Brexit diagnosed in 10 common cognitive disorders
I'm sure there are people and politicians within Britain who still believe the Brexit debate remains in some way rational. The rest of the world looks on bemused while muttering something about mental illness under its breath.

It was actually while listening to an audiobook called 'The Coddling of the American Mind' which lists 9 so-called Cognitive Distortions when it struck me that the UK is dealing with a psychological disorder, and no one has diagnosed it.

The book was actually talking about the situation in US colleges, but it's clear to me that Brexit is a textbook case.

Well I found a list of 10 cognitive disorders, and I've done my best to offer my diagnosis. Accepting it after all is the first step.

1. Mental filter

This is people's tendency to focus exclusively on the negative, or as they're also known Remainers and Brexiteers. The idea that Britain will crumble into the sea the minute it leaves the EU without a deal is strong among the Remainers. Fear of the French is strong with Brexiteers. The level-headed idea that things may take a bit of a dip before everyone carries on pretty much as before is conceptually quite hard for either to accept.  Ultimately, anyone who is comfortable now, will probably continue to be so and anyone whose life was bad before will continue to struggle. Surely there's some solace to be taken there.

2.  Disqualifying the positive

This is the rejection of any positive experience linked to an event. For example, ignoring the fact that leaving means no longer having to ask the Germans for permission to go to the toilet (not literally, although maybe), or that staying means Boris Johnson's chances of being Prime Minister fall to more or less zero. Imagine his little face. The lesson here: there's always something positive.

3.  All or nothing thinking

This is the affliction of seeing things purely in 'black or white' terms, which is quite literal for those Leave Voters who were voting for reasons of immigration.

4.  Overgeneralization

This is when people take one event as evidence that everything is bad or negative.  When it comes to Brexit, this is best observed in the classic example of British rage over the shape of bananas. If you're reading this outside of the UK, you may not believe that one of the main points of hate surrounding the EU is a persistent myth that Brussels was trying to dictate the shape of bananas. This is a favourite claim of Boris, and many people who are willing to go to the barricades to defend bendy bananas, who see it as key evidence of EU evil.  Oh yeah, and it's a myth.

5. Jumping to conclusions

This is when individuals make a negative prediction based on no evidence. Remainers for example conclude that it will be much harder to take middle class European mini-breaks in Dordogne or Tuscany just because Britain is pulling up the drawbridge.  There's no need to worry because smug tourists will always be in demand.

6.  Catastrophization

This is the habit of thinking every little thing is a catastrophe. In Brexit terms this is known as Project Fear and it inflicts all sides. You'll recognise the symptoms when people say stuff like if we don't leave the EU Britain will be overrun by Romanians taking our jobs, or, if we leave the EU, Romanians won't be allowed to build my house extension any more for a 30% cash-in-hand discount, no questions asked. This is the key Brexit cognitive disorder.

7. Personalization

This is where people take on the responsibility for disastrous events which they had nothing to do with. This is actually the one cognitive disorder rarely, if ever, seen in the Brexit debate.

8. Shoulds and oughts

This is the affliction of thinking in terms of 'shoulda, woulda, coulda.' For example, we 'should' have stopped David Cameron from starting all this Brexit stuff, and we 'ought' to call him extremely rude names, should he ever return from his permanent holiday.

9. Emotional reasoning

This is where people assume their feelings reflect fact, despite there being no evidence.  This is reflected in 100 per cent of people who describe themselves as Remainers. This is reflected in 100 per cent of people who describe themselves as Leavers.

10. Labelling

This is when individuals assign "a negative and highly emotive label to themselves or others that leaves no room for change." This is not so much a cognitive distortion so much as the main Brexit negotiating tactic for the British government and the EU.

Yep, so Britain is going to need a shrink. Anyone fancy the job?

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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