Who doesn’t want to feel free? After all, freedom sounds and feels wonderful. I think there is a lot of confusion about freedom, hoever, so I thought it was worth some discussion.
What Is Freedom?
Merriam Webster has a fairly complete answer to what freedom is:
1 : the quality or state of being free: as
- a : the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action
- b : liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another : independence
- c : the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous <freedom from care>
- d : ease, facility <spoke the language with freedom>
- e : the quality of being frank, open, or outspoken <answered with freedom>
- f : improper familiarity
- g : boldness of conception or execution
- h : unrestricted use <gave him the freedom of their home>
Freedom, then, can be categorized as a function of agency, status, and also being open to new ideas.
What Gets In The Way Of Freedom?
Why is feeling free so elusive?
Even in the “free world” many people do not feel free. There can be many reasons for this although we are all somewhat different from each other and have different experiences and perceptions. Whether you are highly sensitive or not, you may have experienced feeling free or felt constricted and unfree.
As the definition shows, freedom is both an external state and an internal one as well. We have all heard of people who have external freedom who are unhappy and lack an inner feeling of being free. And the opposite as well, individuals without the status of freedom who find inner sources of freedom.
But this is not a lecture about spirituality and letting go and all of that.
Freedom And Struggle
Freedom is something people have long struggled for. Revolutionary wars – big and small – have been fought for freedom as something we obtain against someone taking it away from us. Yes, tyranny exists, but fighting a war against tyranny does not necessarily makes us fully free. It just frees us from one particular tyrant.
Often in the absence of an inner self-directing force, we find a new tyrant to replace the old one.
Freedom And Competence
I believe there is a direct relationship between our perception that we are able to navigate the world successfully and take care of ourselves and our ability to feel free so we can take on appropriate risks. The more we invest in developing self-reliance skills, the easier it is to feel safe because our own abilities support us so we do not have to rely on the rest of the world to make us feel safe.
Freedom And Rewards
Sometimes we may find it difficult to develop the inner resources that will let us feel free. One of the reasons for this is that we are culturally conditioned to seek rewards as a measure of our value. This system has us seeking approval at a minimum and validation and self-value outside of ourselves.
Even if we do not buy into it, we are nonetheless working and living with people who do. Not buying into cultural reward systems can reinforce the perception we have as outsiders – to others and ourselves. Naturally, that is an uncomfortable position to be in.
Rewards are insidious and most insidious in a system without safety nets. We may need to submit to the reward system to earn the money to survive which connects rewards with our survival needs so that we can come to see rewards as necessary to pay our bills. When that happens, we can unwittingly lose control over our lives.
Freedom Is Its Own Reward
Once we go inside for our rewards when we connect them to values other than external rewards we can let external rewards drop away and then we begin to gain control over our lives. Naturally we need to create solutions for our survival needs. The more we work to get our needs under our control, the freer we can become.
It takes a while but it is worth the effort.