Is true freedom possible, or is it a lofty ideal just out of reach? Freedom has always been a cherished ideal. But have you ever stopped to ponder how it plays out in real life? Is freedom the absence of constraints, or is there more to it? What is the connection between freedom and autonomy? Do they go hand in hand, or if they paradoxical concepts?
On the surface, freedom and autonomy seem like they are similar things. But they are more like paradoxical concepts. In modern culture, these terms are often used interchangeably. They are used to talk about human rights, but despite how these words are used, they mean different things.
What is True Freedom And Autonomy
In our modern world, we can find a range of meanings for freedom and autonomy. It all depends upon who uses these words and how they spin them to make their point. Learning the differences in how these terms are used is essential. That’s because these concepts have a considerable impact on the lives of everyone.
Freedom is not a license to do as you please. In any culture, there are boundaries. These boundaries aren’t always the same for everyone within the culture. Most societies have a hierarchical structure that affords more rights and freedoms to those who control the culture.
What if True Freedom is Based on Ideology?
At first glance, the concepts of freedom and autonomy would appear to be the fundamental rights of a healthy society. Freedom is the absence of constraints, and autonomy is the right of self-governance. Making decisions that do not harm or interfere with the rights of others is intrinsic to the notion of liberty. So freedom and autonomy need to have boundaries that protect the rights of everyone, not just a select few.
We are social beings bound by numerous constructs that govern our lives. Legal systems and cultural norms often conflict with personal and social freedom. Exploring the line between autonomy and social constraints prompts a question. How much freedom is possible in a world dominated by religious sectarianism and extremist political views?
Let’s look at two ends of the spectrum of autonomy and freedom. First is the ideology referred to as liberalism.
So Is True Freedom Possible?
The liberal view of autonomy does not free someone from their personal and social duties. Authentic autonomy is acting without harming others. Autonomy is acting with independence. The greater your independence, the greater your social responsibility. We all need to learn how to act in ways that bring autonomy to everyone. When you have the privilege of self-governance, you must not abuse the power it brings.
For liberals, true freedom is based on universal values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and equality. It means acting without harming others or the planet; it means not infringing upon the basic rights of others.
Is this kind of pure freedom even possible? Yes, if we work at it. But we must be aware and vigilant. Vigilance starts with self-observation. So, learning to observe our thoughts without judgment is a vital skill. With proper use, we can hone our thinking and behavior. You don’t need religious dogma or doctrine to do this. Religion impedes inner observation and clouds it with jargon. Memorizing religious mythology only makes the process of self-reflection more difficult. (1)
The other side of the spectrum is the conservative point of view. For conservatives, true freedom is the right to promote their religious and political beliefs. Their values are not consistent. Their values are a patchwork of agendas that oppose diversity, equity, inclusion, and equality. At the same time, they promote favoritism, racism, and discrimination.
They say they are pro-life because they oppose abortion. But also oppose social programs that provide food and shelter to children. Most oppose the regulation of firearms. Death by gunshot is the leading cause of children under 18 years old. They promote liberty while taking away the rights of women to make decisions about their bodies. The only consistency in their policies and thinking is chaos.
Conservatives promote Christian values. This means using scriptural references to justify a range of moral absolutes. They claim the moral high ground of being pro-life, but their inconsistent ideology says the opposite. These positions include everything from gentile mutation and stoning of unbelievers to genocide. They support the death penalty, owning military-grade firearms. And they oppose euthanasia, same-sex marriage, abortion, and non-traditional gender rights and relationships. Some also promote brands of racism. What is true freedom for this worldview is what others view as religious oppression.
“The deepest problems of modern life derive from the claim of the individual to preserve autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces.” — Georg Simmel
The first step on the road to autonomy is identifying the harmful structures. Some people think guidelines for moral behavior provided by religion are the answer. However, you don’t need religion to make sound personal and social judgments. All you need is need are a healthy conscience and empathy.
You must take steps to investigate everything, starting with what you think and why. Don’t just perpetuate traditional thinking. (2)
“Do not repeat after me words you do not understand. Do not merely put on a mask of my ideas, for it will be an illusion and you will thereby deceive yourself.” ― Jiddu Krishnamurti
What if True Freedom is based on Autonomy
Just because the US election in 2020 started us back on the road of equality doesn’t mean the battle is over. The same forces that brought Trump to power are still at work at all levels of government and society.
Right-wing religious and political leaders live to trigger the fear and anger of their constituents. When people are in a heightened emotional state, they are easy to manipulate. What will be the trigger today? It could be banning books that reveal scientific or historical facts. Or their fear of the sexual preference of other people.
In the USA, there is a concerted effort to drag society back to the dark ages. The Supreme Court overturned Roe V Wade, which gave women the right to decide what happens with their bodies. Republicans have launched a nationwide effort to attack the personal rights of those they deem undesirable. Is autonomy possible in a society with so many fighting to destroy the freedom and autonomy of others? If true freedom is based on autonomy, then it gives people more choices. It provides freedom without religion, and they don’t want that.
The inner journey is the path where we identify and remove harmful programming. We break down the barriers that imprison the mind. It’s the only way to achieve freedom but to dismantle the boundaries of belief, and we need the courage to face our fears.
But we must take what we learn from internal freedom to the outer world. It’s time to be as vocal as the proponents of discrimination and prejudice.
“Autonomy… is freedom to develop one’s self – to increase one’s knowledge, improve one’s skills, and achieve responsibility for one’s conduct. And it is the freedom to lead one’s own life, to choose among alternative courses of action so long as no injury to others results.” — Thomas Szasz
Cultural 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. The dominant cultural narrative of organized religion offers the counterfeit of an afterlife. This is a marketing scheme that also prevents people from searching for their own 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.
We can only live fearlessly when we face our fear of death. We don’t need the counterfeit of the afterlife by organized religion. Our existential dread is what should prompt us on our spiritual quest. Organized religion does not like this. They want to keep you a paying customer. Is true freedom possible when your mind is dominated by fear? No.
“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.” — Adyashanti
Breaking Free of Old Structures
What are the psychological structures that we need to break? Most people do not know what they are or where to begin. The culture conditions us to become accustomed to the barriers. We won’t try to break free if we don’t see the obstacles. So, here’s a list of the most probable harmful social structures.
— Organized Religion
— Social Standards and Values
—Family and Cultural Hierarchies
“A woman cannot have real autonomy unless she has reproductive autonomy. My hope is that one day both Church and society will embrace this justice issue.” — Donna Quinn
Why do we need to break free from these structures? Because they often promote unhealthy thinking. Unhealthy thinking creates a chain reaction. Is it possible to determine if harmful influences affect your thinking? We’ll get to this in a moment. First, let’s look at the root causes of unhealthy thought patterns.
The three most popular religions are the Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. It is not disputed that these religions are the primary source of harmful bias and prejudice. Hate and prejudice are a part of their teachings. Self-hypnosis and group hypnosis are the primary tools of organized religion. They use them to program social standards and values. It is how bias and prejudice become laws.
However, society does not reject or condemn these ideologies. Instead, we accept and protect them. This religious freedom allows them to promote discrimination and violence without restraint. It is all part of their plan to install a Christian brand of Sharia Law. They have enacted laws restricting women’s autonomy to solidify their cultural values.
“Nationalism can be a destructive force when it promotes intolerance and division. But it can also be a force for good when it seeks to defend local autonomy against the homogenizing forces of larger entities.” — Maxime Bernier
“The state of controlling a woman would mean denying her full autonomy and full equality.” — Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Roadblocks to Real Autonomy
It is easy to tell which structures are harmful and will restrict your autonomy. To see if true freedom is possible for you, ask yourself the following questions.
1) Do your beliefs about the issue cause emotional distress?
2) Are you programmed to defend the belief system and associated causes?
3) Does the system have beliefs or policies that harm any group or the environment?
4) Does the belief system justify harming or discriminating against others?
5) If the structure has a hierarchy, does it promote preferential treatment? Does it discriminate against people because of their gender, race, or socioeconomic status?
6) Does it tell you what to value, what is right, and what is wrong?
7) Is freedom something you support for everyone, not just yourself?
If you answer yes to any of the questions above, you have structures preventing your path. Genuine autonomy is living free as possible. You have two choices. You can ignore it and go back to sleep. Or you can fight for as much of your independence as your situation allows.
Many cultures dislike freethinkers. Some cultures are oppressive and restrictive. Some cultures still punish those who proclaim or show freethinking. So, in some cultures, you must keep your thought autonomy private. Or at least be selective with whom you share ideas that do not align with the dominant cultural narrative.
People think North America is an example of a culture built on equality, but this is untrue. Documents like the Constitution do not reflect reality. The extremism of racial bias and discrimination is still a generational practice. When religious, ethnic, and racial bigotry dominates and controls the culture, it is the enemy of freedom.
Six Steps to True Freedom and Autonomy
There are some practical measures you can take to increase autonomy and freedom.
1. The Power of Awareness
The first step towards breaking free of old structures is developing an awareness of your thoughts, beliefs, and habits. Take a closer look at the ingrained patterns that no longer serve you. Are your thoughts primarily negative? Do you find yourself stuck in self-doubt or fear? By shining a light on these aspects, you lay the groundwork for change.
There are excellent tools that can help you understand your thinking patterns and values. We recommend The Enneagram, Comparative Analysis, and The Culture Assessment Questionnaire. These are free tools that are key to the process of removing harmful programming.
2. Challenging Limiting Beliefs
Our minds are often clouded by limiting beliefs that hold us back from reaching our true potential. It is essential to identify these beliefs and challenge their validity. Take a moment to reflect on the values instilled in you throughout your life. Are they still aligned with who you want to be? True freedom is based on challenging our beliefs to create space for personal growth.
Now don’t just question, eliminate or minimize your contact with propaganda. If you are a news addict, switch to independent news sources. Social media is also filling up with propaganda aimed at inciting fear and hate for marginalized groups.
3. Cultivating a Healthy Skpetical Mindset
Embrace the idea that personal growth is a lifelong journey. Learn to see setbacks as learning experiences rather than failures. Adopting a healthy skeptical mindset allows you to see possibilities where others see roadblocks. Cultivating this mindset opens doors to new opportunities. Embrace challenges as chances to learn and persevere, shaping a more resilient and adaptable mind.
To cultivate a healthy mind, you must eliminate exposure to harmful religious and political propaganda. What religions contain this kind of thinking and values?
The Abrahamic Traditions are the religions that contain the most harmful programming (3). These are the Semitic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Living free as possible starts with the autonomy to make an informed decision about what you believe.
These systems despise those who don’t need to be told what to do. They detest people who think for themselves. Freethinkers are considered heretics and heathens. They live free of harmful religious, social, and political conditioning. Who would want that? I would, how about you?
The longer you are subject to the social conditioning from these religions, the harder it is to use reason and common sense. The most effective option is to eliminate it.
Many difficult to remove the negative programming and conduct unbiased research. If this sounds like you, it’s a sign you need to shift gears. Study logical reasoning. Logic can give you the structure to put mythology in its place.
4. Embracing Meditation and Mindfulness
Repairing and reprogramming the mind requires discipline and dedicated practice. Incorporating meditation and mindfulness exercises help you become more present and aware. These practices create a calm and focused mind. This makes it easier to monitor and control your thoughts. You will make healthier decisions when you can observe your thoughts without judgment.
5. Surrounding Yourself with Positivity
The people we surround ourselves with greatly influence our mindset. Strive to be in the company of individuals who inspire, support, and uplift you. Engage in positive conversations, and seek out role models. Create an environment that fosters growth and self-acceptance. Surrounding yourself with positive energy reinforces the process of repairing and reprogramming. Stretch yourself and practice fearless love and compassion. It will create good karma.
Be careful not to share your new awareness and knowledge with those who use it to persecute or ostracize.
6. Embracing Change and Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone
To break free from old structures, you must step outside your comfort zone. Challenge yourself to try new experiences, develop new skills, and explore unfamiliar territories. Overcoming fear and embracing change can be liberating. Change allows you to grow and expand your horizons beyond what you thought was possible.
Conclusion of The Six Steps to Freedom
Breaking free from old structures requires effort and commitment. By developing awareness and challenging beliefs, we create space for growth. Adopting a healthy skeptical mindset creates a platform for change.
Embracing meditation and mindfulness is vital to a healthy mind. Learn to surround yourself with positivity and step out of your comfort zone. Opening your heart to practice fearless love, courage, and compassion will unlock the true potential of your spirit.
Remember, it is never too late to embark on this transformative journey and become the best version of yourself. So, are you ready to break free and rewrite the story of your mind? The choice is yours!
You would be surprised to learn how many people work around these roadblocks. You aren’t alone in this quest. These issues are something many freethinkers and truth-seekers deal with as they become aware. When is true freedom possible? When we no longer accept the intrusion on the rights of anyone.
(1) Understanding Autonomy, An Urgent Intervention. Oxford Academy.
(2) Autonomy: What’s Shared Decision Making Have to Do With It? National Library of Medicine.
(3) Abrahamic Religions. Wikipedia