Our freewill is under attack.
We are told that we are free, that we should be free, but we aren’t.
It seems the older we get, the harder it becomes to act freely. The consequences we face for our free actions become scarier with each passing moment and appear to catch up faster. As a result, we are stuck playing it safe, living for what we are told to believe instead of what we actually choose.
What we need is a way to take our power back; to extend our chances of being firm in our freedom to decide. If we want to achieve that, we must re-learn the meaning of freewill, tap into its sources and be able to act when it is threatened at each level in our lives.
FREEWILL: WHAT IS IT?
Freewill is our ability to choose unique solutions to our problems– to voluntarily act and innovate to achieve personal goals – and to decide what those goals should be.
If we are to imagine our lives without freewill, they would be like free fall under gravity – we would fall for the same things following the same pattern till we hit the ground. We would have no initiative whatsoever to create or innovate.
Two conditions are necessary for one to apply free will effectively. These are;
- to be an authority in the moment of action
- to have a goal or be playing towards something
1. BEING AN AUTHORITY
An authority has the power to dictate the way things should be.
As an individual, you oversee your life, meaning you are the authority with the power to set the highest laws to manage everything under your influence. When adopting these laws, it is best that you use your experience, that is, your direct involvement in occurring events.
Experience-based authority is ideal because it contains all the details about what you have lived and will live as a consequence of your actions. You can feel, critique, and improve it at will.
In contrast, other people can lie therefore they cannot be trusted entirely. Ideas can be biased and mislead us therefore they should always be questioned.
Carl Rogers in On Becoming a Person states;
"Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. No other person's ideas, and none of my own ideas, are as authoritative as my experience. It is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to truth as it is in the process of becoming in me.”
Turning to experience for inquiry on our free action is a continuous 4-step process:
- Identify and arrange all areas in need of improvement in your life
- Find or create a solution which best matches your needs
- Apply the solution as best as you can
- Check if the problem has been solved, and move on or repeat the process if necessary.
Although the process seems simple, applying it is usually very difficult. We face opposition from authorities that exist inside and outside us.
The Individual vs External Authority
Collective or external social authorities are the most common opponents you will fight for your freewill. These include the communities you belong to - religions, societies, and identities - even the liberal ones.
Collectives have their own total experience and set standards based on it. They are founded on the belief that they serve the greatest possible good. What makes them dangerous is, they will do anything to weaken and destroy anyone who opposes them in their mission.
Realistically speaking, we can never be truly free from external influence. We are social creatures who must trade off some part of our freedom to maintain our membership. This means we are bound to them. The best we can do is to set boundaries so that the group does not encroach too much into our innovative potential.
If our interests clash with the collective then war breaks out. Ww must then turn to our experience to decide how to fight back, compromise or abandon our position altogether.
Usually, it is best to find other people with similar experiences and create a stronger resistance force with them - most social movements are born this way.
The Individual absorbed by The Collective
Sometimes, the collective’s ideas and authority can be completely soaked into our identity such that they override our experience-based initiative.
When that happens, acting independently becomes difficult because the collective’s ideas distort the way we perceive our reality. The result is an internal conflict between personal interests and external dicta. To break free, we must to turn to our primary needs to understand where our individuality starts. Primary needs are the foundation of our experience and they include our basic need for shelter, food, love, and self-actualization.
To get our free will back, we should always evaluate the usefulness of external ideas to our 'current' experience before we absorb and allow them to override our best interests. If it doesn't feel right, consider dropping it. Trust your inituition.
2. HAVE A GOAL AND A PURPOSE
While experience deals with evaluation of interests, having a goal deals with the specific targets for the action one must take. This important to remember because freewill is in action not in idea.
Ludwig Von Misus defines action as,"Will put into operation and transformed into agency. It is aiming at ends and goals, (it) is the ego's meaningful response to stimuli and to the conditions of its environment"
This means that free entities only act because they have a goal and a game they are playing at. Without a desirable goal to aim for, we would not act at all - everything would have the same value and nothing would be worth moving towards.
Once a goal is set, it takes highest priority. Everything and everyone become pieces to be used in the game we are playing or the point we want to prove. It is the same for us and for everyone else.
If we are in control, we set our own goals. Otherwise, we would be manipulated and used by outside authorities which want to use us as pawns for their own goals.
Governments, ideas and religions as free entities are playing a different game altogether for their own goals. In their game, all people are disposable pawns which can be easily replaced. Isn’t that a good enough reason to turn to experience and challenge them before acting? They can cheat and we would never know – after all it is their game and they decide on the goals and the rules.
Your only defence when setting your purpose to act is to turn to your experience- the things you independently feel are worth it. However, do not delude yourself into thinking you will ever be completely free. Remember they will crush you if you present yourself as a threat.
Achieving your goal will require a tradeoff. Only a naive chess player aims to win without losing some pieces. We must be prepared let go some things to help you beat the system and keep playing your game under the best conditions. As Ryan Holiday puts it ,"Are there not goals so important that you would put up with anything to achieve them?"
Freewill is therefore your decision to let go off important things to pursue more meaningful and personally rewarding goals. Your decision on the goal, the tradeoff, and the subsequent action, are the essence of freewill. Always remember that one cannot work without the other.
THE GREATEST THREAT AND BURDEN OF FREEWILL
The greatest threat to our freewill is internal.
We are manipulative and tyrannical to ourselves much like the external authorities we hate so much.are always. We will attack anyone who threatens our control, especially ourselves.
Each time we want to freely move out of our comfort zone, ‘the self’ emotionally attacks us. The self is the internal collective set of concepts which make up our identity. THIS INTERNAL COLLECTIVE IS OUR REAL OPPONENT. It assaults us with feelings of fear, anxiety, self-doubt, and inadequacy to brutally cripple our initiative.
The most common attack is the imposter syndrome – a crippling fear of not being good enough. It usually grips people working to penetrate a new space of business or craft. The self presents its assult in sentiments of self-doubt. it says "Who am I? I am not good enough. I should just leave this to the pros" It is the reason why most people don't act. Why they would rather surrender their free will and responsibility to external authorities. They would rather feel safe than bear the full burden of being alive.
Too often, our excuses to avoid action come from trying to avoid the emotional violence we unleash on ourselves. There is no escaping it. We must fight ourselves to become masters of our decisions everytime. This is the inescapable burden of freewill. We must have the courage to say ,"I will do this and I will gladly accept the blowback." I wish there was a silver lining to all this, but it seems our freewill is ultimately a choice about what we want to suffer for - to decide whose slave we want to be: our own or someone else’s.
If you are your own slave then you are your own master. And, you are truly free.
POSSIBLE MISAPPLICATION OF FREEWILL
Freewill gives us an inescapable burden and a very seductive trap – a false escape.
We like the idea of freewill and the power of being in control yet we despise the responsibility and anxiety which are part of the package. As a result, we create ways of avoiding the burden of that fear - methods of cheating out of action – excuses - deceitful adaptation.
According to Professor Peterson this is how it happens:
"The intrinsic nature of human experience ensures that potent motivation for deceitful adaptation (lying) is always present.......the lie is wilful adherence to a previously functional schema of action and interpretation.......the liar chooses his own game, sets his own rules and then cheats."
Jordan B Peterson - Maps of Meaning: Architecture of Belief
The message here is clear: Your freewill depends on the way you value your experience and the goals you set from it.
When things go bad you must adapt. But, don’t do it by lying or cheating yourself. You must adapt towards progress not to drift towards what feels good. There is always one more terrible feeling coming for you whenever you choose to act freely. What will you do when it strikes?
See, we have always been free to choose. Maybe the problem is that we have our free will but we don’t know what do with it.
I hope what you read here will help in your considerations.