What is Freedom?

“Freedom is a human’s capacity to take a hand in their own development. It is our capacity to mold ourselves. Freedom is the other side of consciousness of self: if we were not able to be aware of ourselves, we would be pushed along by instinct or the automatic march of history, like bees or mastodons.”

-Rollo May.

Are human beings free? If, so, what does it mean to be free? Does freedom mean non-conformity? Or does it mean doing anything you want with no fear of consequences?

Most people confuse freedom with rebelliousness. If you choose to not conform to the standards set by your family, education, or any other institution, does it mean you are really free?

“The rebel forgets that rebellion always presupposes an outside structure – of rules, laws, expectations – against which one is rebelling; and one’s security, sense of freedom and strength are dependent actually on this external structure. They are “borrowed”, and can be taken away like a bank loan which can be called in at any moment. Psychologically many persons stop at this stage of rebellion.”

The rebellious person’s entire sense of self comes from the conventions that they rebel against. They think freedom is actively choosing the opposite of what is imposed on them. Do they have a choice on what they are rebelling against? It doesn’t appear so.

It is easy to rebel and have a false sense of freedom than to develop self awareness. Freedom is to be able to understand all the processes going on within us and around us, see how our actions affect others and how to actively take responsibility for ourselves. It is to make complete use of our consciousness in understanding our communally embedded lives.

Humans have a special predicament – we are conscious and we are also conscious of our consciousness. This is why freedom is possible for us instead of acting in response to immediate threats and stimulus. Even the most deterministic of conditions cannot take away our freedom because we have the capacity of self-awareness. If not at the level of action, we can control our response to situations at least at the levels of emotions and thoughts. This is why self-awareness is important. The more self-aware one is of their conditions, the freer they are and the more responsibility they can take towards their growth and cause. Intellectual thoughts inside our mind don’t need external stimulus. Freedom is not conditional. Awareness and Openness to empathetically engage with ourselves and our surrounding help us in making choices not out of rebelliousness but out of true freedom.

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