What exactly is freedom? Is it the ability to express yourself? Is freedom infinite choice and possibility? How do you distill freedom into an actionable, proactive approach to anxiety, depression and other mental conditions?
During counseling, my Seattle patients and I often discuss questions like this and how they relate to freedom and free will. The conflict we face is deciding how much control we have over ourselves and our lives. Let’s explore some of the thoughts that run alongside or oppose themselves to freedom.
Are We Ever Truly Free?
Are we in control of our destinies? Do we have true freedom to change our lives? Can you believe you are free, with choice of will, and still believe in fate?
Of course, restrictions can be placed on human freedom - but, these are extreme cases, like being in prison or being a child in your parents care. In truth, freedom is an inalienable state of existence. It is strengthened and/or diminished by the way it is perceived.
In Freedom and Will, Rollo May defines freedom as “how you confront your limits, how you engage your destiny in day-to-day living.” I think this speaks exactly to the personal power of freedom that most people posses.
The series of choices you make every day is your personal freedom - to act or to wait. How you solve problems, where you put up a fight VS where you conceive, and how you handle the bumps in the road - these are all reflections of your free will.
Start by looking at the world in front of you. Freedom exists in each action you take, even the most mundane choices.
How Do You Achieve Freedom?
Achieving freedom is a key goal in psychotherapy. Even more so within an existential counseling / psychotherapy lens. It’s not enough for a counselor to just tell us what’s wrong. It’s not as if they are a teacher handing down an exact answer to a definitive problem. The “answer” for personal freedom is fluid and unique to the question seeker.
Freedom, the space you develop for yourself, and the willpower that emerges, must be owned and achieved through your actions. Freedom is autonomy. While your therapist will guide you, and offer strategies for coping, they cannot give you your freedom.
You can only achieve freedom through personal understanding of self. Your power of choice - like, whether or not you address your mental state - is freedom. It is your choice to pursue this path - with the help of psychotherapy, mindfulness and counseling.