This month I am talking and writing about Freedom and all it’s different facets. July feels like the perfect month for this as both Canada Day and Independence Day occur during this month—both holidays celebrating aspects of freedom.
It’s probably not surprising to learn we have a need for freedom. Most people are aware of how important choice is, but is freedom only about choice? I don’t think so. I’ve known many of people who have had lots of choices, and didn’t feel free at all. On this note, I particularly like Virginia Satir’s perspective on choice—one option is no choice, two is a conflict; it’s only when we have three options that we start to feel we are really choosing.
I can really relate to being given two choices, and not feeling free at all. Clearly, freedom is not a simple matter so let’s talk about the facets of freedom, as I see it.
Physical freedom is pretty obvious. Everyone knows how restrictive it feels to be stuck in a car, bus, or airplane for long stretches of time. Another perspective might suggest that life itself IS movement—if you don’t move you’re dead! We need to move and stretch, and being restricted for more than a short period of time can cause significant discomfort. So one facet of freedom is physical…but that’s not all there is to it.
We also need emotional freedom—the right to feel our feelings, and express them. Human beings are designed to have the capacity for a full range of feelings, a bit like all the keys on a piano keyboard. If we’re not allowed to express the full range, and are limited to “only playing a few notes,” we will feel less alive and more restricted.
In many homes certain emotions are not allowed, it could be anger, sadness, or it could even be joy. There may also be a limit on intensity. When was the last time you shouted in a positive way, or squealed with laughter? Children who are not allowed to cry or shout or express joy and excitement will have difficulty being expressive and spontaneous adults. One of the best things about being in the stands, watching a sporting event, is the opportunity to cheer as loud as you want (and not look weird). It’s fascinating that even in these situations some people are not able to let go.
Intellectual/thinking freedom may seem less familiar to you, but if you think of it in terms of imagination, creativity, daydreaming, meditation or any other mental activity that allows the mind to be free, you can see that it’s really important. Consider for a moment Victor Frankl’s famous quote,
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”.
Lastly, there is physiological freedom. Many people are very aware of this freedom when it’s taken away. For example, when the weather turns cold and you need to wear socks and shoes. Wearing hats, or layers of clothing feels very restrictive for many people. Having the sun on your skin, the wind in your hair, being immersed in water all connect to physiological freedom.
So what do we do with this information?
Well, here is a little exercise I invite you to do.
Close your eyes and think of a time when you felt really free, however you define it. Dive right into the experience, regardless of how long ago it occurred, or where you were. Savour the feelings and notice your body responds. What words would describe how this experience felt? (Not a description of what you did, but rather how you felt in this experience).
Universally, people use words like relaxed, free, expansive, floating peaceful, or inspired to describe their experience.
So if this is what genuine freedom feels like for you, my question to you is, “How much freedom are you giving yourself every day?” Most people’s days are very full, but they are not necessarily attending to this need. Freedom is a genetic need, so it’s our job to meet this need effectively and regularly. If we don’t, we will opt for “fake freedoms” which, like fake food, doesn’t really nourish us.
So here’s your assignment, should you choose to accept it—think about freedom…every day. Notice how much freedom you’re getting, and whether or not it’s really meeting the need. You might also ask the people closest to you what they do to meet their freedom need, and are they experiencing enough. This could be a very interesting dinner table topic.
Next week… “Fake Freedom”
Here We Come!
I’d really love your feedback, insights, comments. Leave a comment below, and let’s keep the conversation going. Share this post widely using the social media buttons below… and see you next week!