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  • Gary Borland

#55 Choice and Freedom

There is no freedom without responsibility.

I would imagine that for many of us, the idea of being imprisoned is something we might associate with crime, justice or injustice, persecution, or some other interpretation we have. What could it mean for our lives if at some level we are all imprisoned but haven’t realised? Being imprisoned at any level leads to a restriction of freedoms. But if we don’t examine the context we live in and through, it’s unlikely that we’ll notice those restrictions of freedom. Until we start to enquire about our lives.

Some prisoners describe feeling fearful about being released, particularly after long periods where their freedoms have been restricted and where they have become institutionalised to some degree. The fears may relate to an ability to cope when they are released, or they may be about falling into old habits and patterns that might result in life being more difficult outside the prison than it is within. Whatever the reason, freedom can feel like both a threat and an opportunity. As is so often the case, context matters.

Being imprisoned physically is not entirely dissimilar to being imprisoned by our own self-imposed constraints. When our freedom to choose is absent or restricted, there will be constraints or obstacles in our path. Noticing those constraints is likely to be much less obvious than being under physical restrictions. That’s where being in an enquiry can be both enlightening and liberating. Ultimately, the foundation of our freedom is being able to choose.

There are seasons in our lives where we experience an overflow of joy, peace and fulfilment. In other seasons there is an overwhelm of hurt, loss, grief, pain and suffering. But more often, we experience something that’s mixed and more subtle. During these times, we may not actually notice what we’re experiencing. It could be said that unless we’re experiencing joy, peace and fulfilment, there is likely to be some level of suffering: dissatisfaction with something; challenging relationships; job security worries; financial concerns; health issues; family difficulties and so on. At the heart of it, is you - underlying beliefs and what you really think of yourself. Your interpretations of what others think of you. Underneath all of which you might find shame lurking in the background.

These are just examples of some of the many things we might experience, and within each of these are likely to be layers and a complex, interconnected web of thoughts, emotions and beliefs that lead us to conclusions. Many of those conclusions result in constraints, and often those constraints are self-imposed. It’s important to acknowledge that many people live under constraints over which they really do have little or no control. Some of those constraints are crushing and the impact on lives is real. None of what’s being discussed seeks to minimise or trivialise those painful and very difficult experiences and circumstances.

For many of us, the self-imposed constraints are addressable. But to address them, we need to notice them, and to notice them, we need to be in an enquiry. And to be in an enquiry requires us to be vulnerable, which takes courage. This link will take you to a Podcast interview with Dr Edith Eger who is discussing the power of choosing how we see ourselves and how we can resist the labels that people put on us (or we put on ourselves).


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