The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first. Jim Morrison
Sitting down to write this post, I have two songs playing in my mind: Rozalla’s Everybody’s Free and The Soup Dragons’ I’m Free. Of the two I’m more inclined towards the message in Rozalla’s song, as I believe that we are free to feel good; I’m not sure that being free to do whatever you want is either desirable or advisable.
Rozalla sings about inner liberation, which is what is referred to in the Jim Morrison quote above. This type of freedom is often missing because of conditioning; families, societies and cultures can create invisible barriers in some people that are as imprisoning as a maximum security jail.
Conditioning, along with the inability to cope with unpleasant life experiences, contributes to the formation of a wounded/fragile ego, which is itself extremely restricting. The unhealthy ego is so concerned with looking good and caring about what others think that it keeps us locked in fear.
Jean-Paul Sartre said that Freedom is what we do with what is done to us; if we’re ill-equipped to handle life’s trials and tribulations then we become knotted up by anxiety and bitterness.
When my son was at primary school, he had friends whose mums were so protective of their children (perhaps projecting their own frail-ego fears onto them?) that they interfered in the slightest disagreement between their children and their friends. This is not empowering for the child as it restricts his or her ability to deal with conflict.
Then there are the parents who impose their wishes and dreams onto their children; some through desire to secure their child’s future, and others to live vicariously through their offspring. My son played football from an early age and several fathers stood on the sidelines, pushing their sons to perform to their satisfaction. I know of one father who wasted his own opportunity to play professionally; it was as though he was trying to make up for it by putting pressure on his son to fulfil his dream.
It’s hardly surprising that people grow up confused, unsure of who they are and what they want from life.
Signs that you are a prisoner in your own life include:
- Intolerance: other people irritate you. Why are they so inefficient/slow/stupid etc?
- Exhaustion: everything is such an effort.
- Self-righteousness: I wouldn’t say/do that.
- Overwhelm: it’s all too much for me.
It is possible to liberate yourself from the man-made restraints that curl around your feet and ankles, tethering you to your post. It takes fearless, scrupulously honest self-examination to determine who you really are. Then you are in a position to identify what inspires you and are able embody Aristotle’s maxim that: He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.
Some questions for reflection:
- Are your thoughts and actions always your own? Or are they informed by opinions and beliefs that others imposed on you?
- What does freedom look, smell, sound, taste and feel like for you?
- How can you free yourself from the limits and restrictions that bind you?
You will know you are on the freedom footpath when you feel:
- Engaged: you’re interested in what you are doing, it excites you.
- Energised: you’re enlivened by whatever you are engaged in.
- Motivated: the engagement and energy you feel spurs you on.
- In the flow of life: things fall effortlessly into place.
Voltaire said that Man is free at the moment he wishes to be. What do you wish for yourself?