Being free is one of our greatest aspirations. It is also one of our main frustrations. It is difficult to resist the impact when we hit the wall of a society that pushes towards normalization and standardization. Then we live the contradiction of the individual who seeks his freedom and the society that is in charge of delimiting the borders of that freedom. Can we escape this paradox?
According to Flávio Gikovate, a Brazilian psychologist who devoted himself to analyzing the problems we face in our social life, we would be focusing badly the issue because “More than external factors, are internal conflicts that prevent us from being free”. The secret, therefore, would be inside us. But to discover it we need to radically change our perspective and way of thinking.
The projection of our internal conflicts
“There is an old tendency to try to attribute to external factors the impossibility of reaching our greatest desires. It has always been easier and more attractive to think in this way than seriously assuming the existence of internal obstacles.
“It is much easier to maintain this attitude and project on others (people or institutions) that attitude opposing to us, instead of assuming the fact that both belong to us. In this way an internal contradiction is transformed into an external conflict through the projection on another person of one of the components of the dilemma”.
Gikovate points out that one of the first obstacles we must overcome to be free is to stop projecting our insecurities on the external world. Most people show a tendency to flee from their intimacy, they are afraid to be alone with themselves.
The fear of being alone with ourselves
“Man, by not coexisting with his own condition – which also includes his contradictions – tries to deal as much as possible with external things. This is an effective way to forget himself.
“It is always difficult to cope with doubts, dilemmas and contradictions, and this leads to hasty conclusions, often coward, which are usually attributed to the pressures exerted by the external environment. Those pressures, obviously, exist. […] What needs to be discussed is whether its decisive weight is as great as we intend to attribute”.
The society tries to impose its norms and rules, people around us press us and obstacles continually appear on our path. We all agree that. However, are these obstacles really the main cause of the limitation of our freedom or are they an excuse for not daring to go further? The fact that the road is more difficult does not mean that it can not be traveled.
Self-knowledge as a way to achieve freedom
Gikovate affirms that “Doubts and contradictions are impeding an effective attitude toward the path of freedom, which amounts to a lack of conviction in one’s concepts. That conviction can only exist in those who completely assume their contradictions, without resorting to the easy expedient of projecting one of its components”.
Therefore, freedom, which for Gikovate “It means essentially coherence between ideas, concepts and objective behavior”, should be sought through a deep introspection exercise. Only if we know each other and what we want, we will have enough strength to choose freedom.
“All people need to know to what extent they are fascinated by the material things that our society offers for consumption and what price they are willing to pay to access them. Denying the fascination that they exert can lead to incredible misunderstandings and cause great frustrations […] Be willing to pay any price for them can lead to an even more serious misunderstanding: a person could realize that he is dying of boredom despite being surrounded by everything he wishes”.
“Our reflections oscillate between hedonism and asceticism, and it will be necessary to arrive firmly at a conviction before we can think of a free and consistent action. Only then can we strengthen ourselves intimately to resist the pressures of the environment and open our way. If we are not capable of this, it will be useless to accuse the social structure of enslaving and oppressing us. We will only be justifying ourselves for not assuming our own incompetence”.
Therefore, the main enemy of our freedom is ourselves. And we can only overcome this “obstacle” by making peace with our “ego”, making conscious decisions that allow us to pursue our dreams, regardless of the obstacles that appear on our path, which will be many.
When we perform this self-knowledge exercise, when we really connect with our needs, it happens the miracle because, suddenly, social pressures lose much of their weight. After all, the society binds us only to the extent that we allow it to bind us.
Gikovate closes his reflections with an optimistic message: “If people who live coherently and consistently were happier and felt realized, this could have unsuspected social consequences”.
Gikovate, F. (1986) Hacerse libres. Pardes Ediciones: Argentina.