People Have More Freedom Than They Believe

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Most people who feel trapped in their lives and relationships have a lot more freedom than they believe. The psychological problem is that in order to exercise that freedom they must first take responsibility for their situations.

While remaining dependent upon various sources of authority saps personal freedom it also reduces painful existential anxiety. When someone or something else is perceived as responsible for the state of affairs we’re unburdened of that pressure to decide how to think, feel, and act. And we have an easy target to act as scapegoat when various aspects of our lives come to feel unsatisfactory. It’s not our fault, it’s this or that entity keeping us down.

As Frankl pointed out, freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin. We are free only insofar as we’re willing to take on the burden of responsibility for how our lives are going to be structured, which means taking on the burden of existential anxiety.

There are of course systemic societal variables that actively or passively take away freedoms of thought, feeling, or action from all of us to one degree or another but those of us who accept the situation as such without attempting to take some of that freedom back do so because unconsciously it’s safer and easier to allow ourselves to be guided than it is to become our own guides.