Freedom. Autonomy. Agency. Whichever term you use, the ability to choose for ourselves, after life itself, is the greatest blessing given by God to man. Recorded history is replete with accounts of those who take away the freedom of others. But how often do we deny ourselves the opportunity to make a choice?
Man will always choose what serves him. Even self-destructive behaviors bring short-term pleasure or alleviation of pain. Those who serve others may also indirectly be serving themselves, whether through the positive feelings this service generates, the satisfaction of fulfilling a duty to their fellow humans, or the promise of rewards in subsequent lives.
When there are choices before you, but you are not aware of them, you feel trapped. Imagine that you’ve been locked in a room. You call for help, push against the walls and door, but to no avail. Feeling trapped, it seems as though your choices have been taken away from you. But say, for example, there’s been a key in your pocket the whole time that can unlock the door. If you remain unaware of that key, you remain trapped. It is the awareness of the key that suddenly provides you with a choice: whether to stay in the room or walk through the door. To take it further, say you were also unaware of the brick on the floor you could use to break the window and escape. Not only that, but maybe you just didn’t notice the bust of Abraham Lincoln in the center of the room that, when pushed, opens up a secret passageway through the fireplace. It is possible to be surrounded by choices and options, but be blind to them. It is in this way that awareness actually creates our choices.
Our society conditions us to believe that our emotions happen TO us, and that we have no choice but to live with them, or at least manage them. (I am aware that certain mental health conditions exist for some that make immensely difficult for them to make a different choice. While I feel compassion for these individuals, my remarks here are directed towards those unaffected by such diagnoses.)
I used to be a victim of the idea that my emotional state was largely out of my control. When I was sad, I felt consigned to it, and that the only choice I had was whether to be sad alone or try to get comfort from the influence of others. In fact, I was so used to being trapped by this belief that when my dad tried to get me to see that I could choose my emotions, I reacted in anger and frustration. People don’t accept change very easily, and I wasn’t at a place in my life where I was quick to embrace change. I had gotten used to feeling like a victim, and although it’s not fun to feel that way, I had gotten comfortable with it. I had even incorporated it into my perception of my own identity.
I feel liberated as I’ve become increasingly aware of the limitless choices I have when it comes to my own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. I have learned and put into practice tools that help me to make a better choice. Before I knew about these tools, I felt helpless, hopeless, drowning in negative emotions, yearning for positive thoughts and feelings but not knowing how to get them. If you currently feel this way, please know that there is hope. The answers are inside you.
Follow this blog and I will share with you some of the skills and strategies that have been illuminating and empowering for me. When applied with intention, I believe they can improve your life as well. Break free!