Welcome to the archived web site of
Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Psychologist (1950-2013)
California License No. PSY 10092
Specializing in Presence-Centered Therapy
balancing mind and heart, body and spirit
Now in memoriam - This website is no longer being updated
Articles by Dr. Friedman (except where noted otherwise)
Freedom Means Little Without Will To Use It
© 2011 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
in The Sun, San Bernardino, California, Sunday June 30, 1991, page D1,
What better day than the Fourth of July for
a personal holiday and liberation from any oppression, addiction, condemnation
or manipulation? Freedom so taken is anything but easy. There's a great cost to
be free, and to stay free.
Archibald MacLeish crystallized how choice is at the root of freedom when he announced, "What is freedom? Freedom is the right to choose: The right to create for yourself the alternatives of choice. Without the possibility of choice and the exercise of choice a man is not a man but a member, an instrument, a thing."
The lack of choice is easy to describe because it's all around us. All "forced," "have to," "must," "got to," and "should" statements lack any real choice. Similarly, every resistance, "must not," "shouldn't" and defiant statements of rebellion don't allow any real choice either.
Ask a child or teenager what freedom is: "Doing whatever I want, whenever I want to do it." Is this true freedom? No. Without some limits and workable structure, freedom doesn't occur. Rather, such so-called freedom is chaos, license and injustice.
Take the too common situation of children who have no boundaries or consequences for their behavior. Permissiveness and lack of care don't teach a child that he or she is loved or esteemed. It teaches children just the opposite-that their parents or guardians don't care enough or don't see them as important enough to set the healthy structure that will instill authentic responsibility and mutual respect.
Choice can only live in the vital oxygen of taking your own personal stand, for better or worse. True freedom doesn't come about without some realistic framework, a real choice and clear consequences. It is these very constraints, boundary lines, and firm yet loving discipline that provide the essential conditions for being free.
Isn't this form of limit-setting exactly what someone does who is bold, gutsy and courageous enough to overcome obstacles? These individuals call their own self-deceptions, set rigorous perimeters and schedule no-nonsense disciplined actions - and then they do them.
Models of freedom abound. Freedom means shutting off the television and going to bed earlier to be punctual and rested for work. Freedom means doing regular exercise and cutting back on fats to clear flab and tighten muscles. Freedom means not buying and not asking for cigarettes to release ill health and feel better.
Interestingly, the magnitude of the challenge in no way affects the liberty so chosen. However large or small, incapacitating or merely irritating, challenges are ever present. No one is immune to the unending problems of life. Many growth opportunities remain, even in the most functional life, and await us to ferret them out, unflinchingly face them, and somehow resolve them.
America's founding fathers did something brashly surprising and electrifying on a Fourth of July more than two centuries ago. Fifty-six independent representatives from 13 fledgling colonies, now calling themselves "states," unanimously united in adopting a Declaration.
This Declaration of Independence boldly recounted the extensive litany of authoritarian injustices, arbitrary taxes and petty tyrannies of King George III of Great Britain. The high watermark of this document was this singular line: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." This proclamation of human rights continues to provide a bright vision for us.
Each signatory risked nearly everything for freedom with these words: "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."
It is unlikely that we can' fathom or know how bold, radical and highly unreasonable an act this Declaration most certainly was then, and is now, or at any time. Showing remarkable stalwart nerve and taking an honorable stand is unusual and precedent-setting for anyone, any time.
Independence Day deserves to be the greatest secular holiday in the United States. In the true spirit of this noble Declaration of Independence and genesis of our country, I propose that this day also be the greatest personal holiday for breaking free of whatever is unnecessary, outgrown, corrupt or damaging in our lives.
Is transforming your life worth risking your existence, livelihood, family, community, country, and liberty? What needs to be broken free of and firmly released from your life? Alternatively, what is there to begin doing to create greater substance and sustenance in living?
As only the person who votes truly lives in this democracy, so only the person who executes his choice-making abilities truly lives the freedom to create his life directions. Part of the cost to choose your own stands is the possibility of being misunderstood, unpopular, falsely branded as idealistic or controversial, and worse. And, lest we not recall, there was the cost of the Revolutionary War.
Paradoxically, authentic freedom isn't free at all -without exception, it demands and will settle for nothing less than being continually hard-won, fully-earned, and finely shaped and honed. And it takes constant vigilance to re-win our freedoms daily.
living a life, deeply rooted in the choice that is freedom, what makes us essentially
human? Can we really not succeed when we have fully chosen our existence, moment
Friedman, of Redlands, Is a licensed clinical psychologist, writer and radio commentator practicing in Loma Linda.
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