Anger Can Be Managed
Our Power to Choose our Response
Is freedom to act, speak, or think as we wish without restriction possible?
My favorite quote on the subject of freedom is, “Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” by Viktor E. Frankl.
I am fond of this quote because what first occurred to me when I thought of freedom was doing what I want when I want. But that’s the problem; acting without a sense of responsibility leads to chaos not to freedom. The consequences of careless, thoughtless freedom would lead us most of the time to facing more problems than we would wish. Lucky are those who can escape the consequences of their actions, if that is even possible. Most people believe that whatever we do will come back at us one way or another.
Freedom is as much internal as it is external. External freedom is found in the ability to think and act freely and not being imprisoned or enslaved. Internal freedom can be found in the choices we make in life, without being limited by dogma or a belief system, or by outside forces. Freedom is an awareness of our deep beliefs and the consequences of our actions on others and on our lives.
Total freedom does not really exist. As long as we live in this world, our behaviors and actions are limited by the right of others, by how much resources we have at our disposal, and the extent to which our environment allows us to be free and act freely.
I love the idea of “free will” but don’t really believe in it. We are bound by so many restrictions in real life, many of which we don’t even think about, that the idea of total freedom and free will is chimerical. We dream of total freedom, but it is impossible to live.
Is there a wiggle room for our desire to live life as we see fit when we constantly have to accommodate the rights of other people and the restrictions of reality?
What can we do? We could:
- Stop looking for the approval of other people on every little thing. Our life is not more worthwhile because other people think so. Getting external approval from others is not more important than our own inner respect and sanction.
- We don’t need to follow other people’s plan to achieve a particular goal in order to feel worthy. We are worthy and valued just by being ourselves.
- We don’t need more and more stuff – cars, shiny toys, exotic vacations etc. – to feel worthy. Many people have all these and keep seeking validation but still don’t feel good about themselves. Constantly seeking outside validation will lead to mental and emotional ill-ease and sometimes disease.
- We are whole and complete by our own right. We are enough. Ours is the final word of what our fulfilling life looks like.
- We could enjoy what we are and what we have because no one can go inside us and dictate what we should enjoy.
- The validation and admiration of others are short-lived and will never fulfill us. We could start by finding out what really fulfills us and makes us feel whole, then pursue it. This is the dream worth chasing.
- Freedom vs. alienation – Feeling alienated means "of or belonging to another place" like an alien. Alienation happens when people isolate themselves from their environment or from other people. They repeatedly reject society or loved ones. The danger of alienation lies not only in physical distance but in distancing themselves from their own emotions.
- Freedom is not a place. Many prisoners like Victor E. Frankl found freedom in spite of being physically confined and facing hardship. Freedom is not shedding responsibility or alienating ourselves from others. Freedom is inside us. It is freeing ourselves from a world that tells us we are not enough and must do more to show that we are more.
We can choose what a happy and fulfilling life looks like for us, and do our best to make it happen.
Search for Meaning
Viktor E Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning” is about his life in Nazi death camps and the lessons he picked up for spiritual survival. He believed that humans cannot avoid suffering but can choose (freedom) how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with a new purpose. He stated that our main drive in life is not to seek pleasure but to find and pursue what we individually believe is meaningful.
© 2020 Liliane Najm