Existential Psychology

Freedom And External Attempts To Control Behavior

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Most of us don’t appreciate attempts to control our thoughts, feelings, or behaviors but when we become aware of these attempts we respond in different ways based upon our own psychologies and environmental histories.

Painting with a very broad brush we could say that if we’ve been sufficiently beaten down psychologically, emotionally, or physically then we’re likely to capitulate to this external control even when we know it goes against our best interests. We might secretly simmer and stew, the internal resentment might build up to almost unbearable levels, but the concrete behavior aligns with what the controller in question wants. If we haven’t been sufficiently beaten down psychologically, emotionally, or physically then we’re likely to resist this external control even when we know it furthers our best interests. We make our concrete behavior the polar opposite of what the controller in question wants even though if that external control weren’t there and we’d thought of the idea ourselves we’d enact that behavior without any push back.

We can see then that whether we fall into the first or the second category if we’re truly interested in freedom in the existential sense of the word then we’re dropping the ball. In either case we’re allowing external demands to dictate our actions and override our own deep sense of what we know we need to do to grow and self-actualize. This is obvious in those instances where we capitulate to external control despite our desire to do something else but it’s just as true in those instances where we resist external control despite our desire to do exactly what it is the controller is demanding of us.

True freedom is accepting those external inputs for what they are and having the last say on the matter, deciding for ourselves to comply or not to comply with what’s being asked of us, not due to our psychological need to capitulate to control or to resist control but due to our deeper need to make our thoughts, feelings, and actions align with who and what we are as people, regardless of what those around us are trying to make us do.

Greetings I’m Michael, the owner of Evolution Counseling and the author of all the articles on this site. I got my master’s degree from Seattle University in community mental heath counseling and have committed myself to advancing my knowledge of psychology and my own theoretical system ever since. The content here represents my personal evolution of thought. I’ve also become a big fan of photography and I take all the pictures you’ll see at the top of articles. We don’t advertise to get traffic so this site’s increasing popularity is grassroots, it’s based on you and people like you deciding for yourselves that these articles are a good source for psychological insight and that they’re worth sharing with others.