Well, that’s a dumb question.  Most of us think we know the answer without even thinking.  Freedom means not being restrained physically and able to make decisions for ourselves without coercion. As long as we are not incarcerated or overtly coerced, we probably think we’re free.  img_1355

 

But the definition of freedom in modern life is much more complicated.  Most of us are not as free as we think. Today true freedom is defined not so much by lack of overt physical restraint and coercion as it is by an awareness of all the covert mental, emotional and energetic manipulation bombarding us every day.

 

When I was in high school not long after the McCarthy era, the good legislators of my state decided every high school student should be subjected to a semester-long course entitled “Communism vs Democracy”.  Can you imagine the dismay of the poor teachers who were tapped to teach this course on barely a moment’s notice with no background or time to come up with a meaningful curriculum?

 

I lucked out, however.  My teacher was a veritable genius.  She decided to use this course to teach us about the real meaning of freedom.  Since one of the most pejorative things about Communism at the time was its propaganda, my teacher took the opportunity to teach us about all the ways propaganda is used, not just in the Soviet Union, but also right here on our doorstep.  She taught us about advertising and the subtle way it manipulates our thinking and gets us to do its bidding even when we think we are making our own decisions. She taught us about public relations, public speaking and speech writing, and how the right words can sway people emotionally without resorting to any logic or facts.

 

She taught us how our ego’s desire for fame and fortune make celebrities far more influential than they aught to be.  Subconsciously we think that by paying attention to them, we can somehow draw their energy and success to us and make it our own.  We unconcsiously assume that doing what they recommend or buying what they tell us to buy will make that connection stronger and more likely to bring results.  That’s why we are drawn to celebrities.  That’s why celebrity endorsements are big money makers for companies.  Celebrities are the ultimate manipulators, but we eat it up anyway without realizing our egos are betraying us.

 

When we buy things, it is important to ask ourselves why we are buying this and not that, or why we are buying in the first place.  Has an ad tugged us emotionally so we somehow feel more validated, successful, superior or healthy because we own or use this product?  How do we know that the product even works?  What about its environmental impact? Think of all the money we women spend on beauty products! Think of all the claims made about nutritional supplements. Think about all the times we buy something because others in our social circle have also bought it.

 

My teacher also taught us how easy it is to confuse correlation with causation, and how people try to use this confusion to color our thinking.  Correlation is a statistical name for association.  In experimentation, if two elements are correlated it means they appear together.  But even though that may suggest that one causes the other, this may not be the case at all, and further experimentation needs to be done to find out.  Nonetheless, association has a very strong psychological influence on our thinking and emotions.  Symbols and metaphors are all about association. They are effective because they work deep in our sub-conscious. This is why art, poetry and dreams are full of associative language and images.  This is why commercials and political ads are full of subtle and not so subtle associations. My teacher taught us how certain words and images used together can grab the ego and the emotions to ensure a particular response.

 

When the FBI director announced that Hillary Clinton had emails on Anthony Wiener’s computer, just the association of Hillary with a known pedophile was catastrophic.  More emails would have been bad enough, but emails on Wiener’s computer were deadly, subtly implying that Hillary must be a pedophile too! Politicians, advertisers and even charities use association with things we like and things we don’t to influence our behavior even though there may be no factual relationship between the two things associated.

 

And finally, my teacher taught us about fear, and how those in power, and/or those who want power, use fear to manipulate and dominate.  She taught us to understand how vulnerable we are when we are afraid.  Fear takes us back to our childhood, when most of us were protected by our parents.  So even as adults, fear makes us look to authority for protection.  Demagogues, dictators, politicians and bullies of all kind know this instinctively.  Instead of inspiring people to come together and help themselves, those who want to control find scapegoats and villains so that even more fear can be generated. When people are fearful, anyone who says they will protect us and seek revenge is hailed as a savior. The more fearful people are, the more power the “protector” is given.  The more power he is given, the more control he has. The more control he has, the more dangerous he is.

 

Whenever we make a decision based on fear, we are voluntarily giving up our freedom.  When we are afraid, we give away our energy to anyone we think might help.  Then we become even more vulnerable and powerless.

 

The next time you find yourself fearful, remember to take some deep breaths and pull your own energy back to you.  I’m always surprised at how much better I feel after doing this.  When I consciously reclaim my own energy, things are no longer hopeless and I find strength and optimism that definitely wasn’t there before. Things that were murky become clear.  Once again, I feel confident making my own decisions and having my own opinions even if they are different from others around me.  Solutions may also pop into my head seemingly out of the blue.

 

The election just past has generated much fear.  Both parties are, and will continue to be, guilty of using fear to try to make us do and/or believe things we might not do and/or believe otherwise.

 

Let’s not go there.

 

Energy is power.  When we feel fearful and powerless it is usually because we have consciously or unconsciously given away our energy.  The ultimate freedom is knowing how to retain or reclaim our energy so that we are not susceptible to covert manipulation and can think clearly about how to proceed. Remember that chaos is the result of energy being released as old structures fall apart.  This newly released energy can then be used for creation.  The more chaos, the more opportunity to build new things. When we reclaim our energy we can turn fear into excitement for future possibilities.

 

True freedom is dependent on our ability to consciously reflect on what is being said and done, and notice how we respond to it.  All of us are susceptible to the influence of mass consciousness. All of us are susceptible to covert manipulation if we do not consciously check ourselves and our responses routinely.   If we always seek to know whether our response is dependent on an emotional tug, we can detect whether there is subtle pressure being applied, (or whether we may be susceptible to it at a later date).

 

True freedom exists only when the the mind is free.  Though the body may be in chains, consciousness is constrained only when we allow it.

 

 

 

 

8 Responses to What Does It Mean to Be Free?

  1. Marisha Platner says:

    Thank you!

  2. Juli Ames-Curtis says:

    Oh my you had an amazing teacher who helped set your foundation for life! How lucky you are and how lucky we are that you share your wisdom with us. I love to read your posts and they always inspire me to be a better person.

  3. Linda Rice says:

    Thank you for the reminder.
    I, too, had an inspiring teacher in High School that challenged traditional thinking.
    She encouraged me to continue to leave “boxed” thinking to those who feared freedom.

  4. Jane Marx says:

    Thanks for these words of wisdom. And not a minute too soon. I know I need to hear this over and over to remind myself to own my power and energy.

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