Being free is one of our greatest aspirations. It is also one of our main frustrations. It is difficult to resist the impact against the wall of a society pushing towards normalization and standardization. Thus we live the contradiction of the individual who seeks his freedom and of the society which has the task of delimiting the boundaries of that freedom. Can we escape this paradox?
According to Flávio Gikovate, a Brazilian psychologist who has dedicated his life to analyzing the problems faced in social life, we would be wrong in focusing on the problem, because "rather than external factors, it is internal conflicts that prevent us from being free" . The secret, therefore, would be within us. But to find out we need to radically change our perspective and way of thinking.
The projection of our internal conflicts
“There is an old tendency to try to attribute to external factors the inability to achieve our greatest desires. It has always been easier and more pleasant to think in these terms than to take seriously the existence of internal obstacles.
“It is much easier to maintain this attitude and project onto others (people or institutions) the attitude that opposes us, instead of assuming the fact that both belong to us. In this way an internal contradiction is transformed into an external conflict through the projection on another person of one of the components of the dilemma ”.
Gikovate points out that one of the first obstacles we must overcome to be free is to stop projecting our insecurities onto the outside world. Most people show a tendency to escape their intimacy, they are afraid of being alone with themselves.
The fear of being alone with ourselves
“Man, not enduring coexistence with his own condition - which also includes its contradictions - always tries to deal as much as possible with external things. This is an effective way to forget yourself.
“It is always difficult to live with doubts, dilemmas and contradictions, and thus arrive at hasty conclusions, often cowardly, which we tend to attribute to pressures from the external environment. These pressures, of course, exist. […] But what should be questioned is whether their weight is as great as we tend to think ”.
Society tries to impose its norms and rules, the people around us pressure us and obstacles continually appear in our path. This is not disputed. But are these obstacles really the main cause of the limitation of our freedom or are they an excuse for not daring to go further? The fact that the road is difficult does not mean that it cannot be traveled.
Self-knowledge as a means to achieve freedom
Gikovate says that “it is doubts and contradictions that prevent one from developing an effective attitude towards the path of freedom, which amounts to a lack of conviction towards one's own concepts. This belief can only exist in those who fully assume their contradictions, without resorting to the easy expedient of projecting one of their components ”.
Therefore, freedom, which for Gikovate “essentially means coherence between ideas, concepts and objective behavior”, should be sought through a profound exercise of introspection. Only if we know each other and know what we want, will we have enough strength to choose freedom.
“All people need to know to what extent they are fascinated by the material things our society offers for consumption and the price they are willing to pay to access them. Denying the fascination they exert can lead to enormous misunderstandings and cause serious frustration [...] Being willing to pay any price for them could lead to an even more serious mistake: the person may realize that he is dying of boredom despite being surrounded by it all that want".
“Our reflections oscillate between hedonism and asceticism, and it will be necessary to firmly arrive at a conviction before we can think of free and coherent action. Only in this way will we be able to strengthen ourselves intimately to resist the pressures of the environment and pave our way. If we are unable to do so, it will be useless to accuse the enslaving and oppressing social structure. We would only be justifying ourselves for not accepting our incompetence ”.
Therefore, the main enemy of our freedom is ourselves. And we can overcome this "obstacle" only by making peace with our "I", making conscious decisions that allow us to pursue our dreams, regardless of the obstacles that appear in our path, which will be many.
When we do this self-knowledge exercise, when we truly connect with our needs, the miracle happens because, suddenly, social pressures lose a lot of their weight. After all, society only chains us to the extent that we allow it to chain us.
Gikovate closes his reflections with an optimistic message: “if people who live in a coherent and consistent way were happier and felt more fulfilled, this could have unimaginable social consequences”.