What is Freedom of Self?
Into the Wild meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
In 1975 Jack Nicholson played Murphy in the award winning film”One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” In 2007 “Into the Wild” escalated in popularity with Emile Hirsch playing Chris McCandless searching for his own intra-psychic freedom. Both characters were searching for their own intra-psychic freedom, a chance to shed the pressure from what others instructed them “Is the way.” Freedom from the tyranny and pressure of accommodating ideals and values from others. Others defined by pressures of society, family, bosses, and political, religious influence.
Jack Nicholson was NOT mentally ill by the strictest of standards. Some asocial behavior, not antisocial and poor impulse control with a mouth that was not harnessed by an intact super ego. This “I want to be who I am” attitude ended up giving him the loss of freedom, the loss of free thought. He incurred a lobotomy. The powers of the psychiatric facility, proved too strong for him.
Emile Hirsch was also NOT mentally ill in the movie “Into the Wild.” He was subject to an above average intelligence quotient and monetary successful parents who placed societal expectations on him to be the capitalistic clone. He saw otherwise and with H.D. Thoreau as a muse he headed for his own freedom to avoid dealing with the blatant disappointment that was voiced by his Father.
Both individuals were trying desperately to escape the handcuffs of imposed values of others. God forbid one tries to be themselves. God forbid one walks a path of independence. God forbid one has independent thought. In our society, all too often, in the workplace, at home, and even with professional health care providers, we are at the mercy of what others feel is the right path and it is usually due to monetary gain. The stifling of the ego, the stifling of independent thought can be slow and insidious or abrupt and ugly. Many are threatened by an independent soul, and many want to harness that independence and focus it toward a money making path. Finding your way, becoming yourself is not without a price and a very big question is: Do you want the sacrifice that comes with it? In both of our movie examples they were extreme examples, and some feel they must make extreme moves to compel them to make change. In reality we do not have to resort to extremes, but MUST look at values such as integrity, honesty to ourselves, and know the repercussions may be decreased friendships as well as different job paths. Whatever decision you make to avoid the pressure of conformity you must be aware of why you are in this position, what do want to do about it and how will you obtain your new path. Extremes on the silver screen are good, for they can be motivational. In real life they lead to most commonly bad outcomes, and even death, in Chris McCandless’s case.
Freedom of self is not just being who you are, but recognizing that who you are was unpleasant to you and was not fulfilling your goals of peace and happiness. Freedom of self is in many ways politely saying “the hell with your conventional ways.” Freedom of self is realizing meditation has physical and psychological benefits and it actually may work for you, if you stick with it. Freedom of self is not following the text book of life and it may be following the text book of life, as long as you are not jeopardizing your values. Freedom of self is not walking the rigid path of religion, politics, time clocks, or falling prey to a plethora of materialistic wants. Freedom of self means doing for you, not doing for others for their end to their means. Freedom of self is doing for others because it is the right thing to do for you and mankind. Freedom of self is being called arrogant when inside you know you are confident and it does not shake your self esteem. Freedom of self is also and importantly I might add, realize as Chris McCandless found out too late, “Happiness IS real when shared.”
Freedom of self is not going off half cocked with an idealistic dream and an impulsive backpack on one’s back finding the meaning of life. It is also not opening up your business, presenting a caring, loving bravado then with a sly con, change the rules to benefit you and your business, as opposed to genuinely helping your employees. Freedom of self is not touting your belief in God while weekends are spent intoxicated, brainstorming on how to increase your materialistic wants which one frequently perceives as needs. Yes, the mind can rationalize anything and then one can claim they are free. Free, what does that mean to be free?
What is the difference between freedom of inner demons and true freedom of self?
Freedom the want to be free. Some hear freedom and think apple pie, grandma and war. Some see freedom as freedom of tyranny and oppression. Some think of freedom and strive for freedom of external stress and the want to be allowed to be an individual. Freedom, is it alive and well in the United States? I am not completely sure. Yes we go to the store, have some freedom of choice, but we still incur limitations. Do we own our land? Absolutely NOT. Even when paid and cleared we still pay the government taxes. We have inner demons as McCandless and Murphy had and there are the external forces that be. The external forces of jobs, taxes, media imposition, location, traffic, and monetary freedom or the lack of.
Inner demons are those drivers we have incurred from past and present haunts. Some are very real, others are minimal yet we may embellish and distort to make them much more than what we can handle. We may actually use those inner demons to our advantage by disclosing, manipulating the symptoms and hooking another for secondary gain. Inner demons may bring one so much turmoil that they are the very “backpack” that prevents us from traveling lighter in life. They prevent us from finding that one blade of grass and contemplating life does not have to be so complicated. How we are influenced, tormented, abused, manipulated by those we have trusted, impact how we treat those we want to love in the present. To not be aware of this and change these old drivers is to sabotage your life path into a path of desperation and loneliness instead of freedom. “Most men lead their lives in quiet desperation and go to the grave with that song still in them.” Thoreau. Many dream of living out their dreams, in reality very few fulfill their dreams of freedom.
True freedom of self, is compiled of staying true to a few basic traits. Find integrity and hold on tight. Be honest. Duh, of course be honest, however how many are truly honest? Honest with ourselves, our job, our spouse, and our children. Integrity, believe in your values and stay true. No waxing and waning. Within these two basic virtues, true freedom of self is at your doorstep. WARNING! These traits do not go over well with many. Oh, on the surface they do. They are commendable, sound good, and people agree. If these traits hurt financial outcomes, step on others who enjoy control, or if it is met with intense disagreement we experience waves of discontent. This is when the test of life and consistency becomes intense. Can you hold onto the ship and keep it upright? Do you capsize? Do you return to shore and succumb to old drivers of white lies, appeasement, apathy, and conformity? The path of freedom of self is battling the pressures of daily enticements, the want to do a good job at your place of employment without vying for the limelight of the boss or succumbing to unethical demands, engaging your spouse or partner as a true undying friend and realizing that without trusting them freedom does NOT exist.
Jack Nicholson gave his peers a World Series without a television and hopes of escape and freedom. In reality he was giving them freedom of creativity and teaching them to avoid oppression. Emile Hirsch found that freedom can exist with the beauty of nature but there is no escaping the inner turmoil of past familial stress. You can run, walk to Alaska, and live without society however you cannot run from your memories and the impact they have. Freedom, it is within your grasp. You have it already, there needs to be consistency, a want, and a recognition of the obstacles. As Jackson Browne states “Doctor my eyes, is this the price for learning not to cry?” We can repair our own vision, allow yourself to cry and feel. Put one foot in front of the other and see your own freedom, for any and all pain in the past and present can be buried to give yourself a lighter take off. Spread your fresh wings of desire, fly my friend, fly experience your own freedom.