The pitfalls of freedom

When we feel controlled by others or our surrounding, all we long for is freedom. Freedom to do whatever we like. Freedom to lie around all day, freedom to travel the world, freedom to create art, and anything in between. But is there such thing as too much freedom?

Well, I have had the privilege and also challenge to really look into and experience what it means to be free to do whatever I want. I was never locked up or experienced real physical restrictions. But I have – as many of us do – a lot of experience with feeling restricted and jailed in a psychological and emotional sense. Being a good kid, following all the rules that were put on me. Until I had enough, and broke free. Small shackle by small shackle. It felt like a huge liberation every time. And when I was free of the limits of employed work, I fell into a hole. All of a sudden, nobody needed anything from me. First I enjoyed it, but soon it flipped and I didn’t have a reason to get out of bed.

Daily routines

I heard some people telling me, that I need to create some daily routine for myself. And they were all meaning well and theoretically right. It would have helped. But looking at it now, it was like telling a person who had a foot in a cast for months, to simply get up and walk. All the muscles to be able to do that have atrophied during that time. And even though we might have known how to do it in the past, we’re simply not able to.

That cast, even though it was restricting us, also provided stability, and we had adapted to living and maneuvering with it. But now that it’s gone, we need to learn to walk again; Build the muscles and the strength to provide our own structure. And if we are in an environment where we don’t have the need to get up, we will never build the muscles on our own.

Purpose

Finding the need to get up in the morning – both after having the cast removed and after having a vital organizational structure removed from our life – can be a challenge in the beginning, and adapting might be a slow and frustrating process. And while having an environment of complete freedom to take our time is definitely very healing for some aspects of our psyche, it isn’t helping us get up any faster. But if we have someone or something to take care of, something that needs our attention and help, we have more incentive to get up, so we train more, and build that structure faster and with less energy expended.

And as a bonus, we receive something even more special: If we choose an environment that is supportive, we gain a reason to get up in the morning, because we WANT to contribute. And when we contribute in a way that is aligned with our gifts and talents, creativity can emerge and flow. Just as the realization of life being finite and limited by death builds a structure and container that allows us to live a richer and fuller life, so does the right “limiting” environment (like living in a community or even with just one other person) provide the structure for us to see our purpose and experience how it feels to be needed as exactly the person that we are, and contribute in exactly that way.

Some might say, this is a untopian ideal and cannot be achieved, and they might be true. But I’d rather strive with every step I take to get closer to that ideal, than give up along the way and with that make sure that I’ll never achieve it.

During the first Covid-wave I was in a somewhat limiting environment. I needed to take care of others, put aside some of my own wants, but I gained so much more. I gained a reason to get up in the morning. A reason to better myself every day. And only after having a short “vacation” from that “limiting” environment, did I notice that even though I had – with huge amounts of effort – started to build a structure for myself over the years, it was just a fragile shell compared to the structure I have when other people and more responsibilities were involved. And after finding my place in that structure, I can relax into it, and build the space for my healing to happen and my creativity to flow.

To sum it up….

With complete freedom, there is also a lack of external structure. and with that lack of structure, nothing needs to be done, nobody needs anything from us and we are left to our own devices. If there is some freedom and space, our soul can heal and creativity can emerge, but if there is a complete lack of structure, no space can form, and we are simply struggling to stand up straight. Not all external structures are bad. They might be limiting us in the way that we can’t always do 100% what we want in any given moment, but in return, we get something so much more valueable: A reason to live and to serve. And this gives us the strength to get up in the morning.

The pitfalls of freedom
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