Connect with us


    The importance of Personal Freedom – Freedom and Decisions



    Our freedom is a product of conditioning like our past behaviors, basic needs, personality and surroundings. But such freedom directs our lives.

    When we talk of freedom one may wonder as to how an individual can be freed from environmental forces like social ties, institutions. It refers to the inner quality that exists with us. This inner quality is in addition to outward choice. It is this subjective inner freedom that gives us the confidence that I can live my own life. According to Carl Rogers, it is the quality of courage which enables a person to step into the uncertainty of the unknown as he chooses himself. It is the discovery of meaning from within oneself, meaning which come from listening sensitively and openly to the complexities of what one is experiencing. It is the burden of being responsible for the self-one choses to be, it is the recognition of a person that he is an emerging process, not a static end product.

    Such an inner freedom can cause anxiety because it requires identifying possibilities with consequences. We cannot fully predict the possibilities and consequences. Hence what we choose may lead to success or failure, such an anxiety makes us believe that freedom is too much of a burden and many of us reject such a freedom. This enables one to blame somebody rather than accepting anxieties and responsibilities.

    However, if life is to be meaningful and purposeful we should have the inner freedom. Inner freedom refers to the freedom we perceive ourselves to possess in a given situation. This is also called a perceived freedom. You would have noticed that when you have decided to do something you enjoy it when people do something because it is expected of them, they feel less free. For instance, women feel less free when cooking because it is expected of them and not chosen by them. Men enjoy cooking because it is done voluntarily and is done once in a while. Changes is attitude also is easier when one feels free to do something because perceived freedom is a necessary condition for inner conflict. For instance, a man may believe that cooking is a woman’s job if he feels that he should share the wife’s burden at home. Than he starts feeling that there is no harm in doing it. If his wife forces him to share the responsibilities (external influence) attitude change may not occur.

    Though people hesitate to accept freedom, they are not prepared to give up their freedom too. They react negatively when threatened with the loss of freedom. In order to protect their freedom initially they assert but as the resistance weakness they feel helpless. For instance, when parents try to end a love affair the young ones evolved tend to become even more determined.

    If we have to make a decision independently, we require inner freedom. This is one reason people strive to avoid or escape from all external constraints on their freedom like oppressive governments, authoritarian bosses, or possessive mates or friends. 

    There are other factors that may enhance or diminish our freedom in decision-making. They are the alternative available to us, our willingness to assume responsibility for our decision, and the influence of others.  One of the important factors that help us in making better decision is the number of alternatives that are available to us. Availability of very few alternatives reduce our choices and we are force to choose one of them. Common sense may indicate that the more the number of alternatives at our disposal, the freer we feel to choose. But this is true only up to a level. Too many alternatives may make decision making difficult and costly. So choice becomes over choice and our freedom consequently is diminished.

    Another important factor that influences the felt freedom is one’s willingness to assume responsibilities for one’s decisions. A persons perceived and felt responsibilities for decisions are related. For instance, it is found that students who enrolled in college after some deliberation often feel more responsible for the performance than those who simply attend because it is expected of them.

    Though to a large extent, it can be stated that the greater a person’s feelings of freedom, the greater the accompanying responsibility in a given situation, it cannot be completely generalized. A lot depends on how freedom a person feels comfortable with. When people are forced with more responsibility and freedom than they handle, they may feel anxious and unfree and attempt to escape from a burden some responsibility. For instance, a wealthy executive ruined his career by forgiving a small cheque. During therapy, he revealed that he had felt inadequate for his job and had probably acted out of unconscious feelings of inferiority and guilt. Such a self-defeating behavior provides him an escape from a stressful situation.

    When we speak of people who are “free” we are referring to those who feel accountable for their behavior, who can do what they really want to do or refrain from doing what they do not want to do. Since freedom in his sense is a function of a well-integrated personality, anything that helps us to achieve psychological wholeness affords us greater freedom as well.

    An area that of interest to psychologists to group decision making. We spend much of our time exchanging opinions and feelings with others. As a result, most of our decisions are shared ones. This may be done informally in the case of few friends making it or members of family taking a decision etc. it can be informal too like the meeting of a jury. 

    A question that may arise now is, Are decisions made by a group superior to the ones made by individual? The answer is that it depends on the group.

    According to Freud, one of the main goals of therapy is helping the client to achieve inner freedom through self-awareness and psychic harmony. Other therapists like Rogers seem to believe that freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. 

    So inner freedom is an important factor for effective functioning and many responsible and healthy decisions.

    Hi, I’m Aarti, My Psychoanalytical approach towards my clients is to empower them to better their lives through improving their relationship with themselves. I believe shame and guilt is a common barrier to change. I aim to guide my clients through re authoring their narratives where shame, guilt, and other problems have less power and take up less space.

    Continue Reading