Archive for April 2011

Action and Reaction: Free Will   Leave a comment

Nothing is without consequence. Every single choice and action we make has an effect on our individual and consensus reality. There are no exceptions to this natural law. So long as one accepts the premise that he or she as a human being has free will than one is already better prepared to; examine themselves and the events which have occurred and are occurring in their life, forgive themselves for their own transgressions and the suffering one’s words or deeds may have imposed upon themselves and others, recognize the more adaptive and appropriate choices one must make to break away from the patterns of choices and actions that have led to said suffering, and ultimately make those choices and actions that will heal themselves and the world around them.

But what if one does not believe in the concept of free will? What if we are organisms that are responding to our environment and are controlled by external events? To a certain degree this is true. Rather ,we are influenced by the external world, Almost entirely so as an infant and child. Philosophically speaking the absolute truth of belief or dis-belief in free will is probably not going to be decided in one blog post. However, one who does not believe in free will risks conceding a great deal of personal power and may fail to recognize their role in their own suffering to support this belief, while one who accepts free will is more likely to recognize their role and becomes empowered. Regardless of belief, one is still subject to the natural law.

By influenced I do not mean control.

The natural law of action and reaction is in fact our primary basis for learning as we grow into adults and live out our lives. The child who places his or her hand on the hot stove top will be burned. He or she may not know this at first out of sheer ignorance, but the experience of burning their hand will greatly influence the child’s subsequent choice in the future. But, he or she is still free to make that choice no matter how much they are influenced by direct experience or by the instruction of a parent. This highlights the importance of a child having nurturing parents for obviously the child lacks experience living in the world and is almost entirely ignorant of it, but the child still has free will despite this ignorance.

Then there are people who are physically and psychologically handicapped. Some who have great difficulty in expressing their will. They too are subject to the natural law and have the ability to cause or not to cause their own suffering. For example, suppose a delusional person believes that demons have infiltrated his or her body and have congregated in their left hand. Then he or she cuts their left hand to remove them. This is still an expression of free will despite the misperception/belief to which the person is using as a template (as we all do) to perceive and interact with reality. It is that person who expressed their will, not the influencing delusion. They are still subject to the natural law and have made the choice to cut themselves with the consequence being the experience of pain and a wounded left hand.

The natural world exists in a manner that supports our existence, supplying oxygen in every breath, food, water, and materials for shelter. Human beings are much better equipped technologically and medically to survive the external world. Only a massive catastrophic natural event could truly threaten the survival of a large number of people or the species. With these basic needs met many of us are able spend time in reflection, have time for leisure, and be free to move about as we please without immediate attention required to survive in the moment.

This is why we as human beings are often the cause of our own suffering. Regardless if these choices and actions made and done out of ignorance, false beliefs, or irrational thinking it is still the expression of ones will that creates the resulting effect. As Carl Jung said “The gigantic catastrophes that threaten us today are not elemental happenings of a physical or biological order, but psychic events. To a quite terrifying degree we are threatened by wars and revolutions which are nothing other than psychic epidemics. At any moment several millions of human beings may be smitten with a new madness, and then we shall have another world war or devastating revolution. Instead of being at the mercy of wild beasts, earthquakes, landslides, and inundations, modern man is battered by the elemental forces of his own psyche.”

Now take for instance the person who’s seaside property is damaged by heavily rising tides off the ocean because of a powerful storm system out at sea. One may not be surprised to hear this person proclaim that he or she is a victim and question “How could this happen to me?” What seems like a person who is a victim of a random external event is nothing more than a human being suffering as a result of choices he or she has made. For he or she had made the choice to invest their energy and build their home so close to the sea and as a result when a large storm system came and caused the tides to rise their property was damaged. Whether such a person was or was not aware of the increased risk of such an event happening to them by having their property on the ocean is irrelevant. He or she made the choice to live there.

Now, after reading the above example one may be thinking. “Aren’t you a clinical psychologist?” “Don’t you have empathy for people and want to care for them when they suffer?” To which I would reply “Yes!”, by offering empathic support and understanding along with guidance towards recognition of the natural law and the empowering realization of the expression of ones free will.

What about people who experience traumatic events such as rape, or suffer from criminal violence, was this also the result of a lack of free will expression? No, these events are the result of people violating another person’s free will. However, the continuation of the effects of the trauma by the victim themselves through prolonged failure to resolve their present maladaptive perspective of the experience eventually becomes an expression of their own free will and continues to be so long after the persecutor committed the violation.

The goal of resolution for people who suffer from violations of their free will is to have the person stop attributing so much power to the memory of these experiences so that it they don’t restrict their own free will. (desire for a trusting relationship with the opposite sex, desire to travel to new places, etc) Also, bear in mind that people who violate another person’s free will and inflict suffering upon others will bring suffering upon themselves, Rapists and those who commit other forms of criminal violence usually end up living out their life locked in a cage.

Not all traumatic events are a violation of one’s free will. Take the example of the mercenary. If a mercenary is suffering PTSD as a result of their actions in hostile environments the mercenary has created their own suffering with their choice to be a paid killer. Still, the same goal applies for the repentant mercenary, to learn to reduce the power given to their memories and feelings of self-guilt. To express their free will and forgive themselves.

Still, many people will externalize their suffering and become defensive when confronted with the alternative that they are responsible for their own suffering. For they are using the belief/template that they are perpetual victims or that it is the “others” responsibility, etc. etc. This thinking highlights perhaps the greatest misconception of therapists and therapy in general, that one goes to therapy and the therapist “fixes” their problem (psychologically speaking) when in reality the therapist is a facilitator who can help the client recognize the problem in order to establish potential solutions. But only the client him or herself can carry it to fruition. When the therapists fails to properly address, challenge, and change this belief client’s will often be disappointed in the therapy when this expectation is not met.

An acceptance of the concept of free will is incredibly empowering. When one truly understands that the value of the opinions and actions of others, whether directed towards them or not, is only as great as he or she deems them to be, and that one is free to do as he or she wishes (with the natural law in mind) it is a very liberating experience.

You are your own savior and destroyer.

 Stay peaceful.