Life Coach Magazine

The Illusion of Freedom: We’re All Slaves!

By Rohan @rohanforsale

Modern_incidence_of_slaveryMy heritage is Irish and Polish, two cultures that are no strangers to slavery historically. But when we look back, what race hasn’t both perpetuated and suffered slavery at one point in time or another? Race and religion have certainly been used as a justification for slavery, people tend to find it easier to subjugate another person when they are “different” from themselves. But slavery really isn’t a race issue at all is it? It’s fundamentally a human issue.

But this post is not about cultural slavery – the enslavement of one person or group by another – it’s about our slavery to our environment, and more importantly to ourselves!

This might sound like a very negative premise for a post on a blog about happiness, but it’s not really. Once we identify how much sway we really have over things, we can stop beating ourselves up about those things we really have no control over. So let’s take a look a few items that enslave all of us, no matter our status or station:

* We are Slaves to Hunger: We have to eat and drink or else we die. If we want to continue to live we must find a means of feeding ourselves. Go too long without a meal and that’s the end for us! No one is free from this.

* We are Slaves to the Weather: Hot or cold, windy or snowing it comes down the same upon us. Some may have better means of sheltering themselves, but shelter they still must; no one has mastery over the rain and sun!

* We are Slaves to our Culture: Break certain laws or breach certain taboos and you risk facing the consequences. Sure, those in power and those with plenty of cash may get away with more, but their elite circles comes with their own stringent set of social rules and regulations. Oh and if a country’s leader flashes the press after giving a speech they are still going to lose their job! None of us are above whatever culture we find ourselves in.

* We are Slaves to Other People: We all have to deal with the other people. Other people have opinions, needs, desires and some people have other forms of power and influence over us like police officers and bosses. We simply don’t get to opt out of “people”. From your partner, to your kids to the people you pass on street, they all limit and influence you in some way.

* We are Slaves to Our Bodies: If you break a leg you won’t be running that marathon, sorry. We all get sick, injured, and in some cases severely incapacitated. Not only this but the natural size and shape of our bodies is mostly outside of our control as well. If you’re five foot nothing you’re not going to be playing in the NBA.

* We are Slaves to Our Desires: Choose your desires and dreams carefully because once you decide on a desire it will become your master. Watch how we work ourselves to near death in the pursuit of that which we desire.

* We are Slaves to our Past Actions: We are living with the consequences of past words, decisions and acts, we can’t change the past. We must make do with what we have right now.

I could go on, but I won’t. What is the point of all this? Am I just trying to depress you? No, it’s not that. You see by identifying all the ways in which we are enslaved we can, by a process of elimination, find out what freedoms we truly have! And what’s the point in overly worrying ourselves with things we can’t control anyway?! Many of us become so concerned about the so called “societal” freedoms, all of which come with great caveats and conditions like the freedom to vote, to travel, to marry, to work, to have an education, to walk the streets, of equality and so on, that we forget about our few true freedoms! Notice that all the societal freedoms listed can all be taken away through force or changes in policy? Is it really a freedom if has to be given? And can be taken just as easily?

So let’s take a look at our true freedoms:

* The Freedom to Form an Opinion: This is our true power. No matter how badly we are beaten, and no matter how much propaganda we are subjected to no one can take away our ability to form an opinion or alter our beliefs. Sure other people can influence what we think, but in the end only we can decide to take on that belief or reject it. All beliefs can be changed if the will is there from within, so why not decide to choose opinions which are life affirming and basically positive!

* The Freedom of Speech: No, I’m not talking about government policy or constitutional rights which are subject to change, I’m talking about our ability to open our mouths and form whatever words we like. Providing we have the physical ability to speak, what we choose to say is entirely up to us and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Our ability to speak can be hindered, but our freedom to choose our words cannot.

breaking chains
* The Freedom to Prefer: What happens to us is not important, but what we make of it is. We are defined as individuals by that which we prefer and that which we are averse to. We may not always be free to decide what will happen, but we always have the freedom to prefer a certain outcome over another and to like or dislike what’s going on. We may not be able to make everyone kind to us, but we have the freedom to prefer kindness.

Opinion, speech and preference. These are our true freedoms, unhindered by outside forces. Sure they can all be influenced by others, but ultimately the buck stops only with us.

We’re all slaves, and to so very many, highly restrictive outside forces. But what’s the point of fretting over things we don’t control? It’s not our responsibility. Why not focus attention on our true freedoms? Define yourself through your opinions, words and preferences. And take time to exercise your freedoms; learn, study and practice. Make your thinking fluid and open, see what it’s like to believe something different for a day, try seeing another’s point of view.

And remember the words of Bob Marley, the great poet: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.”

Thanks for reading, all the best!


Rohan Healy is the author of “Greeks to Geeks: Practical Stoicism in the 21st Century”, “The 7 Things That Made Me Genuinely & Irreversibly Happy: And How They Can Do The Same For You”, “SEX, Not as a Separate Subject: A Guide to Great Sex with Great People” and Sci Fi Action/Adventure novel Gyaros: The Mice Eat Iron!

Click the book titles to visit their Amazon pages, read the reviews, and sample or purchase the books.

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