Freedom: Now You Can Have the Keys!

I have been asking myself lately: What does freedom look like in my life? How would I know if I were free? And, Why is freedom so important to me? In the past, I associated freedom with the physical, through my body. Running has always felt like freedom to me, however there have been few times in my life that my body actually felt the ease of running. What does physical freedom really feel like then? But what about emotional freedom or spiritual freedom? Have I ever experienced these freedoms?

As Above, So Below. My soul is Ready to Break Free!

I have been confronted recently with the implications of continuing to live day-to-day from my very limited self-imposed slave mentality. I look back and see it’s prevalence, to the point of believing now that my soul’s mission is to understand and experience true freedom. It feels like I have been fighting inside a paper bag trying to get free for lifetimes. I also believe “guilt” has been my jailer, guilt from believing I am a failure. There is no way I could ever be free with that going on. The side effect of such a mentality also ensures a consistent dose of self-punishment.

 

Freedom from pain, suffering and inner violence

 

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Somewhere in my unconsciousness lives a slave (someone who is not free) and this slave part wants to be acknowledged and healed. From what I can tell, my slave part has wanted to do a good job and get lost in a task, be a hard worker, keep it’s head down and be invisible. It doesn’t like confrontation and is content to “stay within the lines.” It also want to be left alone . . . to lick it’s wounds, sort-of-speak. Pain, suffering and inner violence (self-punishment) have been my friends and comfort through my darkest times. 

It’s backwards, finding comfort and pleasure in pain and suffering . . . it’s also safe.

In a strange way, I have been able to feel content (and possibly free) within my self-imposed jail. I know what to expect. I am “in control” as a follower, a hard worker, and do as I’m told. There is a lot of safety in that! I know what to expect. I was really good at this and received lots of praise and recognition as being a capable, able, dependable worker and person in general. I remember that my second grade report card said I was conscientious. I had no idea what that meant at the time, but everyone else thought it was good. So back then, in second grade (7 years old) I already had a well-developed slave on board, keep your head down, be a good-girl, and do as your told.

Rebel? Not even in my consciousness, or if it was, it was buried really deep. The words “learned helplessness” come to mind.

From Wikipedia: Learned helplessness is behavior typical of a human or non-human animal and occurs where an animal endures repeatedly painful or otherwise aversive stimuli which it is unable to escape or avoid. After such experience, the organism often fails to learn or accept “escape” or “avoidance” in new situations where such behavior would likely be effective. In other words, the organism learned that it is helpless in situations where there is a presence of aversive stimuli and has accepted that it has lost control, and thus gives up trying. Such an organism is said to have acquired learned helplessness.

Learned helplessness is a very real thing and I believe it has stopped me from recognizing who I am and from realizing I am in a self-imposed prison. There is a huge payoff to stay small. I have total control and can manage. The cost? Not living a life I love, and not having freedom. If I were to “step out” my life may get a little out of control and I may have to take responsibility for who I am. I may have to be impulsive, spontaneous and take risks. I may even have self-worth and self-love as a matter of course.

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My suffering would end.

My contentment at being a slave is being tested, it is no longer working since my soul is demanding I grow. It must be really important to me.

I usually cry when the Olympics are on. I cry when people overcome great adversity in order to rise to be champions! It’s because this is what my soul wants for me. Somewhere inside me is a champion that has been stuffed down, stamped on and told to be quiet. Time to brush it off, get to know this champion and empower it.

Survival in China Jail: One American’s Saga

(by Takashi Oka, Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor APRIL 1, 1980)

I have included below a story about a prisoner who overcame “imprisonment” and found freedom in jail. I read it about 25 years ago and it really struck a cord in me. It showed me that if one can be free in a prison, one can be free anywhere!

Sydney Rittenberg is an American who lived in China since 1945 with his Chinese wife and four children. He stayed in China after the communist takeover to maintain some link between China and the US. Everything went well enough until one night, at the height of the cultural revolution, a carload of soldiers came to his home and dragged him away to prison. He was in solitary confinement for 10 years. He left prison in good health and spirits and without bitterness.

How could he have survived such an experience? Mr. Rittenberg had to get back to fundamentals. What made life worth living? Wife, children, friends, books, music, food? All these he loved. But what really counted, he decided, was the sense of having made some contribution, however small, to the long river of human progress, to the cause of human happiness. Even enclosed within four walls, he could make his contribution. It was the quality of the contribution that counted, not its scale.

He defined freedom to himself as “the ability to develop a rational course of action based on facts and aimed at human happiness,” and decided in line with this interpretation that “whether I was free or not depended on me,” not on his jailers.

So Mr. Rittenberg talked to his guards about anything and everything including his boyhood in Charleston, South Carolina, methods of treating hiccups, and all sorts of facets of life in the United States. I’m making a contribution, he kept telling himself as he did so. I’m making a contribution.

Mr. Rittenberg also decided to keep his cell spotlessly clean. Whatever scraps of rags he had, he used to scrub and scrub until he could literally eat off the floor. When the keepers came around with their mops, he could truthfully tell them that there was no work for them to do.

He could see that his actions, as well as his speech, had an effect on his guards. He was proving to himself that even in prison one human being could communicate effectively with another.

All this is not to say that Rittenberg had an easy time of it. He reports that every morning he came slowly awake with the crushing realization that he was still in prison Every morning for 10 years, he had to recontextualize his situation.

“I’m not passive. I’m learning something, doing something, thinking about something. I’m going to live on, I’m not going to die.” As thus he disciplined his thinking, he found that his entire prison experience was “not a subtraction from life, but an addition, not a black hole but part of my ongoing education.”

Mr. Ritttenberg stayed active and refused to let his circumstances drag him down. He triumphed and lived without focusing on suffering. He maintained his priorities and in that, he was free.

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It’s time for me to stop using the “service” industry to feed my inclination of being a slave. It’s time for me to become of service out in the world. Time to find the key and leave my jail cell. (It really is only an illusion that it’s locked.) Time to meet the champion inside me, one step at a time.

Click here if you would like to read the entire China Prisoner article.

Mr. Rittenberg’s book is called The Man Who Stayed Behind and is available on Amazon.

Please feel free to share comments!!

9 thoughts on “Freedom: Now You Can Have the Keys!

  1. Wow, great post. I can definitely relate to putting myself in a prison and not taking risks because it feels safe, but I’ve come to realize that it isn’t making me happy and just isn’t enough any more. Best of luck in your journey forward. Much love – speak766

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    • Hello speak766 and thanks for your comment! I am glad you have found your keys -when being safe isn’t working anymore and knowing you want more out of life. I am close and thanks for your well-wishes! Much appreciated! Much love to you too! Donna

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  2. Excellent post, Donna!! Absolutely powerful. I have gained freedom in so many ways yet still to this day recognize patterns that still enslave me. Once recognized however, that is the first step to change that pattern towards freedom. This key element in my life, leaving the prison behind and the comfort in dysfunction, is the main reason why I do not associate with my family and why my family doesn’t like me. I scare them and also deep down they are jealous of me. This Journey I am on is too important and so “selfishly” I quietly close the door on those who do not comprehend the massive work I am doing on myself nor who will accept me for who I have become. I’ve learned to live in Love. Does this mean I’m perfect and my Journey is over? No. Far from it. Thank you, dear friend, for giving me words to think about today. Much Love to you! 🌹

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    • Exactly right on Amy!! Your journey is important!! So many people on the path of self-growth and love end up estranged from their bio family. It’s a very unfortunate thing, but also necessary in most cases, like yours. However on the bright side – the door is opened for new, supportive family!! Thanks so much for sharing your growth process with me!! And I am happy to hear you have peace in your heart so soon after your mom’s passing. Much love to you my friend!! ❤️

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      • It is difficult to explain, Donna, but even though I really do have Peace does not discount I have anguish within my Heart and that I miss my Mother in ways that tear me to pieces. I am just allowing the process to unfold and in so doing when the tears come I let them fall. I chase away the depression by forcing myself to do things that are beneficial to me, either by resting, reading or watching a movie, hiking, biking, taking pictures, spending time with my cats …. whatever it takes, yes even writing. Writing to me is a supreme outlet for me where I can voice my emotions and to have my pain validated. WP is my MAIN source of comfort. I was so wrong about my family because once upon a time I thought it would take a major death for this family to start acting like family. We are now on major death 2 and still this family has not learned how to support and to reach out. How sad for them. Sometimes I feel as if somehow my biological family is not mine because no one and I mean no one, mirrors me. In the end, my Mother did. And for this I rejoice!!! ❤

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      • Thanks for sharing yourself so honestly Amy. As you know my mom’s journey is close to an end and I don’t know what feelings will surface for me. I can’t even imagine, so I appreciate what you are experiencing and sharing. I am so happy to hear though that you and your mom persevered through the tough stuff and came to love each other!! Absolutely a reason to rejoice!! ❤️❤️

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      • Honey, I am not “reacting” as I “thought” I would so no one, inclusive of you, can “predict” how you will act when your Mom passes. If it were not for my persistence in calling her every day, the relationship that came to be would not have been. It took a lot of will power for me to call her at first. I believe I will be writing a lot about my experiences in the near future about those phone calls, and how I have walked away and still am doing so, the dysfunction handed to me as a child. Just hang in there and if there is any advice I can give you it is this …. come to Peace NOW in your Heart about your Mother and even if she does not recognize you, tell her you forgive her. If that is too much, just tell her you LOVE her. It was too much for my Mom to hear that I forgave her (intuition) so I did not. Instead I said I LOVE YOU, MOM a lot. (smile) Hang in there, Donna. I know what that waiting is like. It is hell on earth. (((HUGS))) 💝

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      • Thanks Amy!! I can say I have peace in my heart and my mom knows I love her. Like you, I made sure of that. I have forgiven the past and all that’s left is my own stuff I’m working on. The other thing I made sure of was that she knows I feel her love for me and accept it knowing she did the best she could. I am worried about her struggle with her own demons from not being able to forgive herself. She has not been able to release anything with my sisters and I even though we have given her many chances. I am also feeling I have some unexpressed feelings of deep sadness that are going to arise. You are right, it’s the waiting that is horrible. I’m also in the middle of a move in the UK to be completed the end of September – I have to trust Divine timing. I also have two sisters, brother-in-law, nieces, nephews, cousins in Tampa and lots of friends in Ft. Myers and Naples who are not evacuating from Irma. Keeping peace is a challenge, bit it’s all I can do! Thanks again for all your support Amy!! ❤️

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