True autonomy arises when we have broken free of all the old structures, all psychological dependencies, and all fear. — Adyashanti
It is a misconception to think autonomy frees you from responsibility. Autonomy is independence. Independence creates the responsibility to think and act in ways that bring harmony and not harm. Self-governing requires one to be vigilant.
The first step on the road of autonomy is identifying the structures that are harmful. Some people think guidelines for moral behavior are helpful. Moral behavior is one focus of religion. But you don’t need religion to act responsibly, you need empathy.
Breaking free of harmful structures starts with an inward journey. The journey for freedom starts first in the mind. To dismantle the boundaries of belief, we need the courage to face the objects of our fears.
Popular Culture Structures Of Fear
The dominant culture structures fear into the narrative. That way, it can profit from our insecurity and fears. The biggest fear we have is our existential fear of death. For this, the dominant cultural narrative offers the counterfeit of an afterlife. This way we don’t search for genuine answers. We accept the counterfeit answers of organized religion. We pay to belong and hope the fear goes away. But this doesn’t work. You can’t substitute one fear for another.
Only when we face our fear of death, do we find the wisdom to live in fearlessly. But living fearlessly means we don’t need the counterfeit offered by organized religion. Organized religion does not like this. They want to keep you a paying customer.
True autonomy is not trying to fit in or be understood, nor is it a revolt against anything. It is an uncaused phenomenon. Consciously or unconsciously all beings aspire to it, but very few find the courage to step into that infinity of aloneness.
Breaking Free of Old Structures
What are the psychological structures that we need to break free from? Most people do not know what they are or where to begin. The culture conditions us to become accustomed to the barriers. If we don’t see the barriers, we won’t try to break free. So, here’s a list of the most probable harmful social structures.
- Organized Religion
- Social Standards and Values
- Family and Cultural Hierarchies
Why do we need to break free from these structures? Because they often promote unhealthy thinking. Unhealthy thinking creates a chain reaction. How can you tell if your thinking is being influenced in unhealthy ways? We’ll get to this in a moment. First, let’s look at the root causes of unhealthy thought patterns.
Organized religion is rooted in ancient mythologies that contain bias and prejudice. Chief among these is the chosen one mentality that makes people kill other people who don’t believe in their version of an imaginary friend. These are unhealthy thought patterns. And they create social dependencies on several levels.
Basing your worldview on mythology makes you susceptible to groupthink manipulation tactics. This is the primary tool of organized religion. They use it to program thinking affects our social standards and values. Thus, the bias and prejudice become laws and these distort family and cultural values. It becomes a mission to convert others to your brand of mythology. Otherwise, they are your enemy. These are the structures we need to break free from.
The mythology of organized religion becomes social standards and values. This allows the culture to justify discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and gender. It allows the culture to promote harmful and destructive practices like slavery. And it drives violence up to and including genocide. Superstition drives fear. Imaginary enemies can never be vanquished. So, we find a scapegoat on which to focus our hate.
Our family and cultural hierarchies are molded by religion and social standards. This is what can mutate into things like mutilating reproductive organs, public torture, and executions.
Roadblocks to True Autonomy
It is fairly easy to tell which structures are harmful and restrict your autonomy? Ask yourself the following six questions.
1) Do your beliefs about the issue cause you fear or anger?
2) Do you feel you need to defend your beliefs about it?
3) Does the system or structure contain elements harmful to you, others, or the environment?
4) Does the belief structure contain justification for harming or discriminating against others?
5) If the structure has a hierarchy, does promote preferential treatment? Does it discriminate against people because of classes, ethnicities, or genders? In short, does it value some people more than others?
6) Does it place boundaries on what you can think, what you value, what you can do? If so, are these boundaries applicable to everyone, or are some exempt?
If you answer yes to any of the questions above, it means you have structures preventing your true autonomy. You have two choices. You can ignore it and go back to sleep. Or, you can fight for as much of your autonomy as your situation allows.
Many cultures do not like freethinkers. Some cultures are oppressive and restrictive. Some cultures still punish those who proclaim or demonstrate freethinking. So, in some cultures, you need to keep your autonomy of thought private. Or at least be selective with whom you share ideas that do not align with the dominant cultural narrative.
People think that North America is a bastion of freedom and tolerance for people of all backgrounds. But this is not the case. Documents like the constitution do not necessarily reflect reality. The extremism of racial bias and discrimination is still a generational practice. Some cultures are dominated by religious, ethnic, and racial bigotry. These are all enemies of freedom.
Regaining True Autonomy
Here are some practical things you can do if you chose to increase your breadth of autonomy.
1) Eliminate or minimize your contact news media filled with propaganda. If you are a news junkie switch to independent sources.
2) Eliminate your exposure to voluntary social and cultural programming. This is important, but it’s hard to do since it’s this comes under the guise of religion. Specifically, Western Organized Religion under the umbrella of the Abrahamic Traditions. These are the Semitic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
If you can’t disengage the counteract the social programming by doing independent sources. Study and learn how to use logical reasoning. This is imperative. Otherwise, the longer you are subject to this social conditioning, the harder it is to reason objectively.
3) Find other truth-seekers. If you can research together that is a great strategy. If the culture you are in is oppressive. You create and walk your own path. But that doesn’t mean you have to walk it alone.
Be careful not to share your new awareness and knowledge with those who would use it to persecute or ostracize.
4) Fill your life with hope and allow yourself to become vulnerable. Open your eyes to social injustice. Learn to live a courageous life.
You would probably be surprised to learn how many people there are who are in working their way around these roadblocks. You aren’t alone in your quest to regain your true autonomy. This is something many freethinkers and truth-seekers deal with as they become aware.
We hope you found this article helpful, maybe even thought-provoking. You will find more interesting posts on our blog page. Use the “search” option on the blog page to find articles by key terms, topics, or category.
Does spiritual exploration interest you? If so, we offer both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions. We use a blended learning process to get the best learning outcomes. This blended approach aligns with what Joseph Campbell calls the Hero’s Journey.
Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia
Abrahamic Religions, Wikipedia