By Life Positive
‘Human beings are not victims of circumstances. Human nature has the ultimate freedom to rise above circumstance and fate,’ said Victor Frankl, a Jewish doctor-turned-psychologist, who experienced the hardships of concentration camp in Germany and who, based on his experiences there, founded Logo therapy.
The most distinguishing mark of the human being is his capacity for freedom. It is this capacity that differentiates man from animal. A man can become an animal by using his choice. A man can also become an angel because of his choice. It is the art of making use of freedom that makes a man an animal or an angel. People generally approach freedom in three ways:
License, not liberty
Some people live their lives as if they are free to do anything under the sun. But very soon they realise that life is much larger than they envisaged and there are aspects beyond their control. Total and complete freedom is an illusion. Even God does not have total freedom. For example, He does not have the freedom to go against the freedom of humans.
Victims of circumstance
The second category of people live as if they don’t have freedom at all. They are the victims of circumstances. Not realising their self-worth and their dignity as human beings, they allow life to play with them.
The third category consists of mature people. They know where they have freedom and where they do not have. They know for sure that they have total freedom over themselves – their attitudes, their mindset and so on – but not over situations and circumstances.
A person of maturity is aware that freedom of choice is a gift given to him to transcend the lower self and gradually move towards higher consciousness. One can allow oneself to be ruled either by the body, the mind, the emotions or by Divine Existence. All the four dimensions are present in him. But it is the freedom of the particular individual which causes him to choose one dimension over the other. Here we see a beautiful paradox. On the one hand, a person has to be ruled by certain aspects of life (which implies that there is no freedom) but on the other he has the freedom to choose which aspect should rule him.
A person with lower self-awareness chooses to be ruled by his bodily dimension. He goes wherever it takes him. He does whatever it prompts him to do. But when a person grows in self-awareness, he begins to be ruled by his mind. Mind has more choices than the body. The scope of the mind is much larger than that of the body. It allows him to differentiate the good and the bad. Even though the analytical mind at times can deceive us, still it is much better to be guided by the mind than by the body.
A person of still greater awareness begins to be guided by his emotions. There is a difference between having an emotion and being emotional. Being emotional means to be carried away by one’s emotions. Whereas having an emotion or ability to experience an emotion indicates maturity. Non-experience of an emotion results in indifference and insensitivity. Only people with emotions can experience compassion, mercy and love.
The highest form of self-awareness comes when a person allows himself to be guided by Divine Existence. In fact, life is no more in his hands. He has surrendered his life into the hands of God. Universal Intelligence now guides him. It is in this self-surrendering that a person realises his true self. Self-surrender leads to self-realisation. It is a paradox which needs to be experienced, not merely intellectually grasped.
The remarkable gift of freedom has been given to us in order to move towards this final level. The well-known 19th century existentialist philosopher Nietzsche said, “Freedom is the capacity to become what we truly are.”
-J. Maria Antony via email
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