One of our greatest desires is to be free and spontaneous. If you look at most personal and social problems, you will see that somewhere along the way we were striving to be free from our physical, emotional and mental constraints. To be able to express ourselves freely and spontaneously, to be freed from our fearful beliefs and the emotional pains that grip us – these desires are what sprouted the whole self-help and human potential movement.
But the desire to be free and spontaneous can become a trap. In our efforts to get unstuck, we can lead ourselves to a place of even greater stuckness. This does not mean, however, that we shouldn’t strive to be free, for I believe that freeing ourselves from feeling trapped is our spiritual purpose. The journey of unshackling ourselves is both exciting and rewarding, to be savoured throughout our lives, as every bit more freedom we gain moves us closer to becoming our ultimate self.
How is it that we trap ourselves when we want to be free? There are four aspects in the dynamics of freedom and imprisonment which I want to explore:
On a conscious level, we aim to be free and spontaneous. But our fear of being trapped may be so intense that we end up creating the very thing we fear. It may come in the form of an accident that leaves you bedridden; getting into trouble with the law and consequently ending up in prison; indulging in mood-altering substances to the point of being addicted; being in a relationship with a highly controlling person; or running into financial problems.
For a balanced person, responsibility and commitment aren’t bad things. In fact, having a healthy sense of responsibility and commitment helps us to be in touch with our personal power. But for those with an exaggerated fear of being trapped, the idea of responsibility and commitment can trigger this sense of fear, so they tend to avoid them at all costs. When we disown these aspects of our power, we create an imbalance within ourselves that drives our psyche to bring back some balance by overcompensating with the other extreme.
So if you lack responsibility or commitment, you might end up in a trapped and limited situation even as you embark on creating a situation that makes you feel free and spontaneous. An example of this is when you leave things to the last minute and end up creating chaos around you. That chaos puts you in stress which limits your resourcefulness. Your world shrinks tighter and tighter, and you become more and more trapped.
Another example is when you want to enjoy feeling free and spontaneous by getting into your car, driving too fast without putting on the safety belt and getting into an accident. You might suffer the consequence of being seriously hurt and ending up in hospital, or having hurt others and being persecuted for it. In your pursuit of freedom and spontaneity, you have ended up in a situation of being trapped and limited.
If you find yourself in such a situation, where you’ve created your own prison, consider working on your attitude towards responsibility and commitment (especially if the idea of it makes you recoil). Responsibility means taking something into your realm of control. Trust in your capability to effect changes in your world, the power of your field of influence. Bring in that which you have been pushing out of your field. See the force in your field as vibrant and dynamic as you step up to own your power in it.
Commitment means making a pledge to be fully engaged with something instead of having one foot in and one foot out. Bringing both your feet in to stand firm and solidly in one place will give you the power to reach forward into a place of joyousness. Both of these power aspects enable us to consolidate our resources and maximise our accomplishments. Exercised in a balanced and healthy way, they help ensure our freedom rather than limit our freedom.
Healing the Source
Most of us, when we find ourselves in a trapped and limited situation, tend to focus on changing the symptoms – e.g. how to get more money, how to get out of a controlling relationship, or how to make the bathroom floor less slippery to prevent accidents. While these strategies are helpful for your immediate security, unless you also work on the source of the pattern, you will recreate the same symptom in one form or another, over and over.
If you’re aware of having a pattern of getting into a similar type of situations that make you feel trapped, it’s likely that you have a mentality of being trapped. This means that you consistently see yourself as a person who is trapped; even when you’re out of your ‘down cycle’, deep down you still see yourself as a person whose fate is to be trapped. It is so entrenched in your psyche that it’s become a part of your self-identity. This self-fulfilling prophecy will lead you to recreate the pattern. Until you change your mentality, you will probably end up in the same place again.
Changing your mentality requires more work than just visualising yourself to be free when your circumstances show you otherwise. Not only is this level of work ineffective on its own, it is bloody difficult! You need to go deeper, and confront, address and heal the source of what made you feel you are trapped.
To truly undo this pattern, you must escape your prison – not your current symptoms of trappedness but your original prison. It can come from cultural, social or family dynamics. Where across these dimensions do you experience a strong emotional charge about being trapped? Make peace with it through forgiveness and changing your perception of your place in it.
Examine your battle in your original imprisonment. Even if you are no longer in this context, you are still engageed in an emotional battle. Whether your battle is taking place in a real or mental place, you can free yourself by finding the little doors that lead you out of your imprisonment. Where could you be receiving of useful, positive energy that supports you to thrive as a person? Where could you say no to being belittled, abused, limited, controlled? How could you assert your individual rights?
You can take steps now, no matter how long this situation has been around, to reconcile the emotions you have about this situation. True freedom is when you feel free within you, and this inner freedom will lead you to create more situations that reflect it.
With the irrational fear of being trapped gone, you will no longer reject responsibility and commitment to gain freedom and spontaneity and end up destroying yourself. Responsibility no longer means a loss of spontaneity but a way of enhancing it. You no longer fear commitment because you know how to use it to pull you further into a productive future and make things happen for you (read The Power Of Saying “I Have Decided!” ). As you stop resisting these previously feared concepts, you gain more freedom, relaxation and creativity. Life flows, and good things can come to you, because your efforts are no longer being cancelled out by something hidden from your awareness.