by Veronica Vaiti, LCSW-R
Even though we live in a “free” country I question how truly free many of us experience ourselves to be. Being a therapist, I spend many hours of my days sitting and listening to different people who don’t exactly feel so free in life.
I hear people express how they feel trapped by debt, financial worries, social pressure and social stigma. They feel hindered by anxiety, fear, anger and depression, and imprisoned in dysfunctional or abusive relationships or personal disillusionment. Everyone it seems is dealing with something in one way or another and are doing the best they can to get by with whatever resources, inner and outer, they have available to them, yet it just doesn’t seem like quite enough sometimes.
Although the people I am honored to meet with and work with represent a small cross-section of our society, I am apt to believe that this lack of freedom is a growing epidemic that plagues many. And to be clear, the type of freedom I’m speaking of here is an internal state, a sense of psychological and emotional freedom.
I think of psychological and emotional freedom as one’s ability to choose how they wish meet an adversity. By adversity I am referring to anything that challenges us such as dealing with stress at work, struggles in our intimate relationship, feeling depressed or discovering your car was hit and dented while parked.
Now we all have our basic inner nature that steer us and over time we have developed our different habits and patterns of reactivity to different types of adversity we encounter in life. While some habits may be helpful and beneficial such as taking a deep breath and speaking clearly, slowly and respectfully to someone during a conflict, some habits are not so. For instance, screaming and yelling when someone cuts you off while driving on the highway is more potentially harmful to you than helpful, although the screaming and yelling may feel like a good release in the moment.
The truth is many of us are not entirely free from our reactive styles and unhealthy coping habits which are comprised of mainly core beliefs about ourselves and the world and particular thinking styles that result in a certain behavior pattern. In order to make lasting changes to these types of habitual reactive styles of coping or as we say in the field, changing “maladaptive coping behavior”, requires intention, understanding, patience and practice in large doses.
It’s crucial to take time to sit and meet ourselves and begin to explore and understand why we think and behave the way we do so that we may grow, change, shift and evolve not just as individuals but as a collective society. When I hear someone say, “well, this is just the way I am”, I wonder if it is a matter of fear they feel to meet themselves or doubt they can make a change in their lives or whether they ever knew anyone who truly showed interest in seeing who they really are?
I can’t help to question the true value of the freedoms of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness we have available to us that so many have given their lives and blood for if we aren’t yet free from the shackles of psychological pain and inner conflict, relational conflict, unresolved historical trauma or attachments to a false self (all topics for future blogs)?
From my perspective, the success of the former hinges on reconciling the latter – until a person is able to meet themselves straight-on, honestly, humbly, compassionately with intention to try to do the work in order to live free and clear, only then can true freedom have a chance to ring out loud and gloriously.