The last few days, anyone I spoke to (friend or client) would have something to say about the Queen’s passing. “So much change, a new Prime Minister and a new King” one client said immediately after saying hello during our session. Different emotions have been evoked and many of us have been triggered in various ways.
So, why are so many people willing to queue up for hours to see the Queen’s coffin? Is it just to pay their respects? Many articles in the media have attempted to explain the phenomenon by looking at just one reason. However, we know from psychology that human behaviour can rarely be reduced to a single motive and it’s more often than not, a much more complex answer.
Freud believed that becoming a member of a crowd unlocks the unconscious mind. We know from other crowd and group dynamics experts that when people get together the sum is greater than the individual parts.
We are meaning-making creatures, so our brain craves to make sense of things. So, queueing to see the Queen is much more complex than paying our respects. As we are facing yet another chaos, losing the Queen is like losing someone who has been there no matter what. It signifies loss of stability for many. Being in a queue offers some comfort to some because a hierarchy, following rules, gives a sense of something that is familiar and it gives sense to the situation that may not be explained otherwise.
Also, for many of us, her death has triggered grief from the loss of our loved ones. And because this is a public figure, we are allowed to grieve publicly right now; it’s almost like a permission to let grief out.
Another idea that comes to mind is the work of Will Schutz (American Psychologist – The Human Element) and our (very basic) human need to belong. So, being part of the queue, we are part of history, we are becoming immortal and we have a story to tell our grandchildren.
I wasn’t the exception by the way. When her death was announced I cried… I cried and I thought that she will be reunited with her husband and was thinking of whether I will be reunited with Geoff…. I also thought about my father who is 89 and was wishing that he has a peaceful death like she did when the time comes. I also cried, because to me the Queen represented my dream of becoming a British Citizen and how I still remember me posing at the Madame Tussaud’s Museum back in the 1970s in front of her statue. We were visiting London on our way to Athens from a year in Lagos. It’s since then that I had an affinity to the UK and anything British. I remember how cold it was and how my parents also bought me a doll of the Queen that I still have today.
So, tonight at 8.00 o’clock when the whole nation will be observing a one-minute silence, I will be grieving for the Queen but also for what her loss represents to me.