Freedom Requires Willpower

16 September 2022

By Linda Ferguson

What do you believe? Can meditation and breath work help with real medical conditions? Is it possible to lock your buttons so that no one else can push them? Can you be free and natural and still be self-possessed?

These are not easy questions. We feel that there is something real about sickness that can’t be thought away. We feel that other people make us have emotions. We feel that being controlled all the time must be limiting and uncomfortable.

Our feelings are often misleading. We can check them against research. Your basic instincts about what will work can be wrong.

The placebo affect is real and well-studied. It means that your belief in the efficacy of something can change your physiology. There’s also evidence that the way you breathe is related to everything from your emotional well-being to your experience of illness. Even if it feels obvious that meditation can or cannot help you, the answer is more complicated.

We can decide to notice people pushing our buttons and not go there. Sometimes by changing our breathing pattern to balance and regulate our emotions. Sometimes by thinking differently about what they stand to gain by changing our state in a way we don’t like. Sometimes by understanding that states are contagious and we can put on a mental mask to avoid catching one we don’t like. The key is to make a deliberate choice about how to respond. 

Wake up each day and say, this is me and this day is mine and I will be accountable for what I do with it. You won’t feel comfortable all the time, but you will feel the freedom that comes with knowing you have choices and you are making choices.

Going with the flow sounds like freedom, but it is freedom owned by whatever is generating that flow. Real freedom requires the willpower and energy to make choices. Start small. Find the choices you do have the energy to make and make those. Work up to bigger choices.

And remember that you are never alone. You are a socially connected human being and one of the easiest ways to grow your energy and willpower is to connect with someone whose contagious states and beliefs are useful to you.

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