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Mentoring Article Series #8

“Freedom”

This is the eighth of a series of articles on different factors that may potentially cause long term pain in a person’s life. This is a factor that is rarely appreciated by people, until they losses it, or overcome by the lack of it. It is a critical factor that ensures a person’s happiness.

“What does it mean by Freedom?”
On this particular factor, the meaning is quite obvious and simple, the freedom of us in doing the things we want. It has strong connection with the word Liberty. Freedom involves mainly the free will of an individual in thinking or doing what he or she wishes. In philosophical terms, Liberty involves other aspects that may restrict the person’s actions, such as social-cultural norms, laws, government’s policies, family house rules, institutional regulations such as a corporation or school, etc.

Nobody in this world likes to be controlled, thus without freedom to do the things they hope to do. For example, a prisoner is generally not happy, because although it’s not impossible, it’s is very unlikely for a person to find joy and happiness being locked up in a filthy small room with restrictions on movement and being constantly closely monitored. Even if the person enjoys good meals or other benefits, the lack of freedom may slowly cripple the person’s mental state and drive them into a helpless condition.

“How many types of Freedom?”
There are many articles talking about freedom which classify them accordingly and you can check out these websites for better understanding: http://warriorsway.com/three-types-of-freedom/ or http://www.williamgairdner.com/…/4/six-kinds-of-freedom.html or

In my own classification, there are generally four types of Freedom, some of the names or definitions are referred to the above links or authors:

1. Internal Freedom — these are related to the ability to freely choose among the different options that are available, whether it is an action, feelings or thoughts. For example, you can choose to feel good or feel bad about an incident, such as a person made a mistake when he decided to get married with a women when he realized it turn out to be a wrong decision as his new wife has a complete different view about this world. The person may chose to feel guilty about it and keep blaming himself or choose to look at the positive side by working harder to be with his wife and find some common grounds to work on, and accept that even if the relationship may end up in divorce, he will be open minded to accept it and move on in life. Another example, a women who was kidnapped, tortured and being locked in an underground room lost the freedom to do anything she wants and lost the freedom to feel whenever she was beaten up (when she cries out of feeling sadness or anger). Also, a person who is mentally ill may not be able to enjoy the free will on what he or she wants to do or think.

2. External Freedom — also what some may call “Freedom from…”. This is the kind of freedom which is strongly being influenced by external factors such as the government’s policies, laws, social norms or expectations, various institutional regulations (such as schools, religious bodies, etc). These external factors are mostly unavoidable unless we choose not to live in a society. For example, a young boy’s parents expect him to greet any people who are elderly as a form of respect, which is a cultural tradition and therefore, the boy has less freedom in free will (though the forced behavior is deemed as a good character training whereby it is being viewed positively and practiced in different regions/societies) because he knows he will be scolded (as punishment) if he refuses to do so. Another example, law in a country such as North Korea forbids its citizen from accessing to information or news from the outside world, while in contrast, a citizen in America is restricted only to highly classified information on government related or private agencies. The second example showed that different people enjoy different level of freedom and they view it differently. The people in North Korea may still feel happy (though very unlikely) while some people in America may still feel unhappy despite of what they already enjoyed.

3. Unbounded Freedom — also what some may call “Freedom to….”. This is the kind of freedom when a person has finally understood about themselves, about the environment they live in, about the people around them, and decided not to be bounded by it. Many leaders (no matter whether they are political or religious leaders) have accomplished this level of freedom whereby they create new laws, new regulations, new boundaries, new methods and new way of doing things, or new ideas, new definitions or new way of living. Leaders such as this usually display personality traits such as innovative, courageous, confident, creative, strong determination, perseverance, resourceful, etc.

4. High Level Freedom — also what some may call “Freedom to be…”. This freedom is achieved when an individual has fully understood how the world works, and more or less, understood about himself/herself to the deepest level through attaining high level of consciousness. By reaching this level of freedom, the person is unbounded by mundane things such as rituals, expectation from self or from others according to the societal norms, material gains, status or reputation, etc. The person may live a life that’s far greater in meanings and deeper in purpose than ordinary people, and thus, achieve happiness in their own sense of fulfillment. Some good examples are monks, and saint-like individuals such as Mother Teresa.

There are also some other interesting facts about freedom which is to be shared here:
1. Freedom is lost if rules/laws are violated — all of us live in a world full of regulations and laws that tells us what can be and can’t be said or done. Any actions violating them may cause a person to potentially lose his or her freedom. Therefore, understanding what violates the rules and what’s not is crucial in our life. For example, a person who sells drugs and being caught will end up in a prison for a long time. In some countries, drug trafficking in a big quantity may bring about death penalty when caught, hence losing the freedom to even live! Even though a person that lives in a civilization that has minimum law enforcement, the public or society as a whole may punish the person who violate the rules or norm of what everyone is practicing and believe in.

2. Freedom is in our mind — we should be careful that it’s precisely our mind and our interpretation on every situation that free us, or bound us. Again, as mentioned earlier, a person who lives in North Korea may be happy with the freedom they get before they compare to what other societies are enjoying in other countries. Ordinary people living back in the 15th centuries or earlier may be happy with a selection choice of three different pair of shoes to choose from. But for people in today’s era, they may not be happy even with a broad range of choices available in a shoe retail outlet. Also, a person who is locked down by self guilt from his past wrong doings may live his entire life bounded by the guilt feeling and forever trapped, forever feeling remorseful and forever unhappy.

3. Freedom comes in different scale or degree — people who live in USA is said to be enjoying the greatest degree of freedom, in terms of freedom of speech, freedom of choices, freedom of movement, etc, whereas people in countries going through difficulties such as Syria has very low degree of freedom due to the dire conditions. This degree of freedom may change, and it’s further subjected to every individual’s view and interpretation on whether the degree of freedom is fair or sufficient during that particular period of time and conditions. For example, someone living in Syria is happy to have a piece of bread as lunch, doesn’t matter if its the biggest one or the tastiest one. On the contrary, someone living in a city may feel unhappy when the bakery shop he or she visits offering only three types of bread.

4. People created the concept of Freedom — many concepts of freedom were created or instilled into our mind by other people (though it’s true that freedom is indeed one of human’s basic need). The idea of freedom can be easily influenced, changed, or manipulated by people. It is also some other people, who tells us how much freedom is sufficient, what kind of freedom is acceptable, how freedom should be defined, etc. For example, the message from an advertisement such as this: “a beautiful look after going through a plastic surgery (especially on cosmetic surgery that makes a person looks better) frees you to fulfill your greatest potential, you regain confidence and allows you to enjoy a happy life feeling good”. A person who is living in a cage for the rest of life and who has never seen anyone outside the cage doesn’t know the meaning of freedom. To them, their world is inside the cage.

“Why Understanding Freedom is Important?”
Freedom is a very crucial factor that affect everyone’s life and yet, very often than not, never appreciated. Without freedom, we are living an unsecured life, potentially being controlled (and trapped) by other factors such as society’s norm and culture, laws, etc. The most crippling part of losing freedom is the development of hopelessness in our life. Without freedom, a person is almost similar to losing his or her soul and living with pain in silence. That’s because one can’t become the person he or she aspires to be, and people like this would have to either live a life wearing a mask, or bury their own will and live a puppet’s life.

Simply by recognizing and understanding the concept of freedom frees us from all the boundaries that constraint our thoughts and actions. But how? From our conscious knowing on how the factors tie us down, we can discover ways to unbound them, that’s the control we will get when we are aware of it, and that’s in a way, the path to freedom.

For example, all of us are in some degree, bounded by our living environment or the people surrounded us. Therefore a girl living in a rural small village far away from cities may follow the practice of: “all housework and cooking must be done by a women”. By understanding this cultural-related belief itself, frees the person’s thought to freely consider about other possibilities. Another example, back in few hundred years ago under the ages of Apartheid, the idea of a black man enrolling into a university with a white man is deemed utterly unacceptable and “wrong”. But it takes a very different kind of individual during that time to voice out against the rules and fight for the rights of the black people, it is indeed a form of expression that’s similar to Unbounded Freedom in which it released people from the entrapment which was unethical.

The potential long term lost of freedom which some of us subject ourselves to may cause us to develop deep level of unhappiness and negative emotions such as anger, disappointment, helplessness, despair, depression and many other disturbing mental illnesses.

“What Can You Do In Facing Problems Related To Freedom?”
The main strategy to overcome this is to achieve high level of consciousness through the various methods mention below:

1) Learn and improve our knowledge — keep learning and improving on our understanding on ourselves, our world, about life, etc. The broad view and deep understanding about life really changes a person’s view and wisdom, and thus, how we perceive freedom, and how to unbound ourselves from them.

Self Learning — read books, research from various internet sources and study historical information on living beings and its history, science and space, nature, psychology, biology, religion, philosophy, etc.

Learn from other experienced people — learn from teachers or mentors, elders from the family or friends, experts or professionals from a specific field.

Learn through hands-on experience — learning by doing it personally. It is one of the most practical and exciting form of learning.

2) Reflection — one important aspect of human’s learning is deeply connected to reflection, or simply put, consistent effort in contemplation and observation on specific area of interest or subject. This effort may yield remarkable outcome which is beyond what we would have expected.

3) Meditation — many professional within the medical and health care industry has indicated meditation helps to promote a stable, calm and fresh mind. It may potentially helps us to achieve High Level of Freedom as mentioned above.

The final point is, it is important to be conscious and aware of what we think and do. Freedom makes us happy, and it may also deliver painful experience to us. Most of the things in this world, when it reaches to the axis of extreme (which is also a subjective matter because it depends on every individual‘s view on what is extreme), it has potential to cause troubles to us. Troubles means worries, pain, emotional distress and unhappiness. Therefore, it would be a good idea to remember the concept of moderation in whatever we do or hope for.

Understanding ourselves, achieving a balanced and peaceful state within our body and mind will eventually make us happy and live meaningfully. To reach that level, consciousness and wisdom are required to see the whole picture and learning how to fully utilize our limited resources with our imperfect living conditions is crucial to our happiness.

[Photo’s Title: “Freedom“] Flying in the open sky is one of the most amazing feeling of freedom, usually birds get to enjoy it. You can be a “bird” if that’s what you want. (Can you spot them?)

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