Afraid of Freedom
“One morning, they gave us guinea pig as a gift. It came home in a cage. At noon, I opened the cage. I came home at night and found it just as I had left: inside the cage, clinged against the bars, shivering, afraid of freedom “
Eduardo Galeano, The book of Embraces
Being afraid of freedom is one of the things that keeps us from getting what we want. It’s sometimes funny we don’t even realize how comfortable we live in our golden cage. An article by Diego Lo Destro, a fellow life coach from America Coaching in Argentina, is to thank for getting me to think long and hard about where these bars are, sometimes invisible, stopping us from getting out there and conquering the world, and pursuing our dreams. To be afraid of being free is like being afraid of success. It’s something unconscious, and for this reason it’s so difficult to uncover.
Building our own cage
Without a doubt, living in our society implies being constrained by multiple social and mediatic pressures to follow certain lifestyles, possess certain number of things, and to behave in a certain way. The rebels, those who unconsciously want to escape this pressure cooker the world has become, have it very hard trying break from the system, and to live without restrictions of any kind. The bars in our cage were put there since our childhood, and then throughout our life, with more things increasingly attaching us to thousand fetters: work, social relationships, material possessions, consumerism. It’s practically impossible to break away these hundreds of invisible tiny shackles, which is why a lot of times, we carry, or refuse to carry, a burden that we can hardly bear, a burden which it is impossible to escape.
We fancy about living in another country, changing job, and doing things that make us feel more free; we dream about having lots of money, because that’s what seems to bring the freedom we wish. What we don’t realize is that moving to some other place only changes the foundry where our shackles are cast; changing jobs only changes the type of restraints keeping us; accumulating more money only bond us to the stress of losing it. But then, is it possible be free at all?
Freedom is choice
Personally, I’ve found it hard to understand that freedom is a choice. For someone whose highest value in life is to be free, who struggles to get rid of time tables, geographical limits, in order to do what they really want (the so called “no time, no place” philosophy) it’s hard demonstrate that freedom is a choice.
But in the end, that’s what freedom is about. To understand and to accept freedom we must understand and accept the opposite: dependence. To depend on others is what we do every day. We depend on someone bringing the food to the supermarket where we purchase it, we depend on someone paying our wage at the end of the month, we depend on someone doing this or that. Likewise, others depend on us and our actions.
Dependency is not bad by itself. But there are two kinds of dependency that define how we feel freedom.
Forced dependence and dependence by choice
When we are obligated to accept something that we don’t want and we have no choice but to obey, we’re talking about a forced dependence. There’s not much we can do here, we don’t have a choice when it comes to things we can’t do without. However, this is not the common case, although it doesn’t look that way. Indeed, most of us live in terms of an unaccepted dependence by choice, and hence with the appearance of forced dependence.
This is to say that we complain about events and situations that surround us, and we blame these for preventing us from doing this or that, when in fact they’re only bars in an open cage with a gate we don’t dare to cross, refusing to see the way out. Commitments we don’t want, relationships we don’t care for, situations we fail to avoid, everything is part of being afraid of freedom, because we’re scared of what will happen if we walk through the door?
The problem is that too many factors blind us, the fear of the unknown, the stress of being out of our comfort zone, the fright of facing ourselves and our fears, but above all, the scare of being free to do what we want and when we want it, free of a world full of rules enforcing absolutely everything there is be enforced. And the worst part of all is that we are not aware of this. We’ve got so much noise in our heads that we are like that guinea pig of the story, who knew the gate was open but prefered to hide in a corner with water and carrot, pretending this was all he ever really wanted in life.