We might think of freedom as some kind of right that someone else has to give us. That could be true at the political and sociological levels. But psychological freedom emanates from within. The kind of freedom that helps us navigate the labyrinth of emotions and projections, and anchors us in the moment. Such freedom doesn’t necessarily mean eternal happiness. Although, it could mean that too. Neither does it mean punishing self-reliance. It also doesn’t mean one is free of responsibilities. It simply is the belief that whatever the situation, we will be taken care of.
Often we feel attaining financial freedom would pave the way for ultimate freedom. Partly, it is true. Financial independence does give us a great deal of autonomy over our lives but it also takes away control over our time. It is not the harbinger of ultimate freedom. We are constantly rallying for more freedom — political, sociological, religious, and cultural. We want to be free in terms of what we wear, what we eat, who we marry, whether we marry or not, and so forth.
Even as we are moving towards a world of more and more individual freedoms, we are nowhere close to feeling any degree of liberation. Because at the psychological level we have created another prison. Even if legally, socially, and politically we are rendered free, psychologically we are finding it difficult to deal with our new-found freedoms.
We have become efficient in demanding freedom when the source is external. Yet, internally, we like to imprison ourselves in delusion, desires, and many other forms of externally-planted imagery of what a perfect life should look like. We deny many freedoms to ourselves and it’s time we realised the freedoms that we can give ourselves. Our limited experience creates many traps for ourselves. The freedoms that we should be demanding from ourselves are:
Freedom from self-sabotage
The only thing that’s standing between us and freedom is our own psychological trappings. We tend to over-learn the lesson from experiences — bad and good. Our destructive streak often meddles with our well-being. When we do not see new experiences in our lives as isolated events and try to apply a formula, we tend to self-sabotage. Our inner demons need to be tackled before we can demand freedom.
Absolute freedom is scary for those who haven’t dealt with their worst impulses. It may lead to the worst kind of self-destructive behaviour. Drug abuse or a propensity to fall for toxic people — all are part of self-sabotage. We need to be mindful of circumstances we tend to self-sabotage. Can boredom and security trigger self-sabotage? When chaos is our way of life, security, stability, familiarity can feel disturbing. Every time you make an impulsive decision, ask yourself if that is what you truly want. What is the primary motivation behind the impulse? Pondering over the motivation and intent of your action consciously, and meditating over it for long periods protects us from self-sabotage.
Freedom from ‘what others think’
The moment you stop taking things personally, you will immediately attain freedom. However, it is harder said than done. Often people’s behaviour is a reflection of their limited experiences and not a statement on you as a person. Only when people directly reach out to you on how you are affected, do you ought to take it as feedback. Rest is merely a story played in the other person’s head.
Freedom from perfection
Perfection is a dream killer. Once, we are okay to be judged harshly, commented upon, and scrutinised without taking things personally, we will be freed of the burden of trying to be perfect all the time.
Freedom has to be anchored in self-knowledge or else it can be destructive. Without self-knowledge, we are prone to take away our own freedom. Without self-knowledge, we are just trapped in a series of projections and reactions as our lens is always coloured by our traumas and successes.
In the book Win your inner battles — Defeat The Enemy Within and Live with Purpose, author Darius Foroux gives the following questions as a route to understanding oneself:
What am I good at?
What am I so-so at?
What am I bad at?
What makes me tired?
What is the most important thing in my life?
Who are the most important people in my life?
How much sleep do I need?
What stresses me out?
What relaxes me?
What’s my definition of success?
What type of worker am I?
How do I want others to see me?
What makes me sad?
What makes me happy?
What makes me angry?
What type of person do I want to be?
What type of friend do I want to be?
What do I think about myself?
What things do I value in life?
What makes me afraid?
Try answering these as quickly as you can and write them down. Go over it again and again. The causes of what is stopping you from granting yourselves the freedoms that we spoke about earlier are hidden in the answers.
(The writer is a mental health and behavioural sciences columnist, conducts art therapy workshops and provides personality development sessions for young adults. She can be found @the_millennial_pilgrim on Instagram and Twitter)