Happy Independence Day

by - Sunday, August 15, 2021 ( Views)

One of the central conflicts of a man's life is between his need for freedom and his desire for safety.

As a child's self/ego starts forming, its innate curiosity draws it towards the wonders of reality®.

Whether it is the gentle warmth of a sunrise, or the brilliant hues of a sunset; soothing melodies of a birdsong, or the seductive allure of rolling hills; refreshing touch of cold breeze caressing the skin, or the crushing force of water tramping through the rocks; reality presents a never-ending source of awe and wonder that entices the ego to expand and be one with it.

(Source: Getty Images)

At this stage of development, it desires all the freedom it can have for this boundless expansion.

Unfortunately for the ego, reality is not made up of just light, song & dance, and pleasure but also includes darkness, thunderstorms, and yes, pain.

For reasons that no one understands yet, this new sensation is judged as unwanted. Suddenly, the reality is not a friend but a foe that must be met with defenses instead of curiosity. And as it often happens, reality breaks down those defenses, wounding the ego.

For a traumatized ego, freedom is no longer a vehicle for awe and wonder but an abyss towards isolation, terror, and eventually, the loss of itself.

Erich Fromm was a German social psychologist who spent years investigating humans’ relationship with freedom by interpreting stories from Judaism.

In his seminal work Escape from Freedom, he writes...

The frightened individual seeks for somebody or something to tie his self to; he cannot bear to be his own individual self any longer, and he tries frantically to get rid of it and to feel security again by the elimination of this burden: the self.

But the ego can not eliminate its self, nor can it survive living in isolation and disconnected from reality.

And as a result, it adapts through desperate attempts to recreate the symbiosis of infancy when others were "responsible" to meet its needs and sooth its pain. Only this time, it is determined to be in absolute control of the relationship, denying freedom to anyone.

To make the matter worse, it rationalizes its motivations, giving them better sounding names like, "progress", "purity", and the most ironical one in this case, "love".

Whether it was the British Empire that sucked the soul of other nations to feed its grandiose ambitions, or the Nazi Germany that incinerated millions to keep itself "pure", or the codependent relationships that forces the individuals to surrender their autonomy for the illusion of safety, the underlying drive of the ego remains the same.

Political sages of all ages and places, like Gandhi, Dr. King, Mandela, etc. understood this, and saw the repressed pain in their tormentors’ collective psyche and sought to understand them instead of fighting back with violence even while being subjected to it themselves.

It's only in the acceptance of pain and understanding of its source that we find true freedom. In escaping pain, we create prisons, for ourselves and for others.

May all Being be free!

Cover Image: Shutterstock

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