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I have been pondering the word “freedom” , and the wide range of images it conjures. Most of us at least believe that we would like to be free. However, the existential philosopher Jean Paul Sartre claimed we are all terrified of our freedom, for if we recognize our freedom we must then recognize the responsibility we garner for our lives. I was born and raised in a country that nearly deifies freedom, at least in thought, yet, was built on the backs of slaves. This country also  rounded up the indigenous peoples that occupied the land and forced them into small patches of land called reservations; that is, the few that were left alive. Does freedom mean to be able to do whatever we want? Without some limits on freedom we end up with the tyranny of the mob.

This is the Miriam Webster dictionary definition of freedom:

1:  the quality or state of being free: as

a :  the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action

b :  liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another :  independence

c :  the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous <freedom from care>

d :  ease, facility <spoke the language with freedom>

e :  the quality of being frank, open, or outspoken <answered with freedom>

f :  improper familiarity

g :  boldness of conception or execution

h :  unrestricted use <gave him the freedom of their home>

The first part of this definition,1a, points to an interesting aspect and perhaps, a source of much of the confusion around the word freedom. Freedom exists only in context, and within that context, we are totally free. As Camus suggests in “The Myth Of Sisyphus”, we are all faced with Hamlet’s dilemma, Once we realize this. we are choosing to be in the situation we are in. For example, I may want to be totally free and fly like a bird, and I am faced with the facticity of a body existing in gravity. I can claim that I am being “oppressed” by gravity and prevented from the freedom to soar through the air. This would be a false claim. I can jump off a high cliff and soar through the air for the time it takes me to reach the ground. Then I am faced with the combined phenomena of physics and biology.

This may seem like a ridiculous example, but it makes an important point; that we are always totally free and always totally responsible. Every choice I make, I make freely. however, every free choice is made within the context I find myself at any given moment. I am choosing to not fly because of the consequences of flying. I can live with that choice.

This suggest that if one does not feel free it is because we are choosing to not be free in order to avoid the responsibility of our choices. Of course, this is a fools game because we are always choosing.

One can surmise from the above definition of freedom how one’s relationship to, or understanding of freedom influences psychological well being. Thus the statement in Sartre’s play  “No Exit, “Hell is other people.” In the presence of the other we feel their objectification of us. We then attempt to manipulate that objectification by giving up the freedom of self in order to become what we believe is a more favorable object in the eyes of the other. This is what the founder of Gestalt Therapy, Fritz Pearls, calls “Giving our eyes away.” We, in essence, become our own disciple Peter , and deny ourselves before the world at the moment of truth, which is, each moment our consciousness faces the other. We are always free to choose. We can give up ourself to the eyes of the other, or not. If we give up ourselves in order to manipulate their objectification of us, we feel, what we believe to be, their oppression of us. In truth, what we are experiencing, is our own self-denial. In any given moment we are faced with Peter’s decision, which is psychically related to Hamlet’s decision. We can choose to deny the truth of who we are, or enter naked into the world. Remember what Peter had just witnessed. By entering naked into the world we all face some form of annihilation. In keeping with this metaphor, what we fail to recognize while blinded with the fear of annihilation, is that this annihilation leads to resurrection, at least until the day of our physical demise.


Freedom

Posted by on Oct 26, 2015 in Therapy | 0 comments

I have been pondering the word “freedom” , and the wide range of images it conjures. Most of us at least believe that we would like to be free. However, the existential philosopher Jean Paul Sartre claimed we are all terrified of our freedom, for if we recognize our freedom we must then recognize the responsibility we garner for our lives. I was born and raised in a country that nearly deifies freedom, at least in thought, yet, was built on the backs of slaves. This country also  rounded up the indigenous peoples that occupied the land and...

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Transitions

Posted by on May 9, 2015 in Therapy | 0 comments

The way we meet change in our lives determines the quality of our experience of life. Have you ever heard the expression “life is change?” This statement may be a bit more profound than most of us suspect. The statement is not “life offers us many changes.” The statement is “life is change.” This means that every particle of life is change. There is nothing substantial about any part of life except the constant flow of change. If the above proposition about life and change is anywhere near correct, why would anyone have difficulty with...

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Depression, Choice, and Freedom

Posted by on Apr 9, 2015 in Therapy | 0 comments

People often come into the space of my practice reporting ‘feeling depressed” or “being depressed”. Most people have a pretty good idea what they mean when they say that they are depressed. Globally what people are usually saying is “ I don’t like the way I feel”. Most people also have at least some understanding of the “clinical” nature of the term depression and report at least a couple of the DSM criteria for a diagnosis of “Persistent Depressive Disorder”, which are: Poor appetite or overeating, Insomnia or hypersomnia, Low energy or...

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Magical Thinking

Posted by on Feb 26, 2015 in Therapy | 2 comments

Magical Thinking

  Recently I was thinking about moving my office    across  town, closer to where I now live. The commute is not a great distance, about twenty minutes. I simply prefer to be closer. There are things I love about my office; I painted and decorated it with my former partner in life and business partner, and the location is right across from Denver’s City Park. Still I was thinking it might be best to move closer. One day while these thoughts were churning in my mind I had a break between clients and decided to take a stroll in the park....

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Befriending Fear

Posted by on Feb 16, 2015 in Therapy | 0 comments

A few mornings ago I woke up remembering a poem I had written several years ago. I did not really write the poem, it was already fully formed  in my mind upon awakening. Waking up again with these words in my head led me to wonder what the parallel was between these two periods in my life. In both cases I had just come through painful adjustments. Life is always about change and adjustments. The choices  we are faced with associated with change and the need for adjustment often determines our perception of quality of life. There have been...

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Befriending Anger

Posted by on Feb 15, 2015 in Therapy | 0 comments

Anger holds a precarious position in our social constructions. If one were to view our news and entertainment, it would be easy to conclude that America is obsessed with, and practically worships anger. Yet, in practice, anger is treated as some mystical demon to be avoided, kept hidden, and at best,”managed”. Perhaps it is time to demystify anger. Anger is an emotion. Emotions are bioenergetic forces. Anger is a natural force designed to facilitate engagement with perceived threats. In and of itself, anger has no qualitative value, it is...

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Anxiety and “The Gap”

Posted by on Jun 6, 2014 in Therapy | 0 comments

Most of what brings people into psychotherapy is the discomfort one experiences in the gap between who we are and who we would like to be, or who we imagine we should be. When we imagine that we should be someone, or some-thing that we are not, it usually is experienced with great urgency It would then follow that what leads most people to seeking psychotherapy is a crisis of identity. It does not matter if the identity crisis is related to profession, career, gender, sexual orientation, relational issues, or spiritual. What matters is the...

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Why Go To Therapy When None Of Us Are Broken?

Posted by on Jun 6, 2014 in Therapy | 0 comments

Why Go To Therapy When None Of Us Are Broken? It is how we relate to the other and who we think we are that is the source of suffering in our lives. We place value on objects. A bar of pure gold, for most of us, is worth more than a bar of iron. When we place value on ourselves, whether good or bad, it is an indication that we are objectifying ourselves, turning ourselves into objects. Depression can be seen as clinging to a “negative” objectification of the self, while narcissism can be viewed as clinging to a “positive” objectification of...

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“Catastrophic expectations are memories” Fritz Perls

Posted by on Feb 3, 2014 in Therapy | 2 comments

Most of us experience situations where we expect something terrible to happen, or simply expect something to go wrong. Ever wonder where these expectations rise up from? Most often some event from our past, often childhood, went wrong, leading us to the belief that similar events will go wrong. The more extreme form of this ‘transference” of events from the past to future is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is when a traumatic event or a series of traumatic events leads to the expectation of similar traumatic events occurring in...

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