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Family History Therapy by Dr Matt:
Getting Clear about Your Identity

Freedom: What Is It?
 by Dr Matt Moody, Ph.D.   

The function of Word-Symbols is to describe or point to the Things and Beings as well as Activities and Relationships within our World. So, "Freedom" is a "Word," and the burning question is . . . what Realities in our World does this Symbol point to?

           Word = Symbol / Representation
           World = Reality / Referent

Things and Beings are typically referred to by using noun-words, whereas Activities and Relationships are best represented by verb-words. And this is where conceptions of "Freedom" go wrong for some people.

"Freedom" is a noun-word, hence we speak of it in a "thingish" way—as if Freedom has an existence apart from the Beings who conceive it. But, "Freedom" is not an "it," instead, Freedom is a word to describe things and beings in various contexts of being Free; specifically, orientations of being Free that go to these three scenarios:

           Freedom from what?
           Freedom to do what?
           Freedom to be what?

Freedom from what? Here's a few example: Freedom from physical disease, Freedom from pain, Freedom from emotional fear, Freedom from being annoyed by annoying people, Freedom from financial cares, Freedom from the oppression and abuse of thieves, liars, murderers, or terrorists—you get the picture.

This aspect of Freedom goes to what you can be "Free From." However, phenomena of Freedom From will cut both ways: You can realize freedom from undesirable things as well as have freedom from beneficial things.

Ironically, freedom from possessing certain good things, defines a lack of Freedom: Freedom from knowing how to play the piano, Freedom from knowing algebra or calculus. This is the freedom to be ignorant!

Freedom to do what? Here's a few example: Freedom to drive a car, Freedom to live in a comfortable home, Freedom to marry, Freedom to divorce, Freedom to end mortal life, Freedom to pay-off monthly bills, Freedom to buy what you want, Freedom to enjoy your favorite music, Freedom to play your favorite sports, Freedom to play your favorite sports . . . with a high level of competence—you get the idea.

You will notice how some freedoms are mutually exclusive; meaning, if you choose one form of freedom, that very Free Choice eliminates the possibility of possessing other forms of freedom. For example: Once you choose the "Freedom To" marry, you no longer get to possess the immediate "Freedom To" experience a single life.

Here's a more graphic example: Once a person chooses the freedom to commit suicide, that same person no longer gets to possess the freedom to continue living mortal life.

Freedom to be what? Here's a few examples: Freedom to be consistently loving, Freedom to be consistently patient, Freedom to be consistently happy.

Note that the word "consistently" puts each possibility of "Freedom to be" on a continuum from less freedom to more freedom. This means, as long as you are NOT able to consistently be loving, patient, or happy . . . you do not get to enjoy total "Freedom to be" in these aspects of personal living—hence you are limited, and NOT Free to enjoy these certain ways of being.

This begs the question: Is it possible to become consistently loving, patient, and happy? The immediate answer is . . . no! But the answer in terms of eventual progress is . . . yes. I explain this second scenario in an online article: Better than Doing Your Best: Perfection without Stress.

Freedom is NOT an achievable goal in and of itself

Freedom as a stand-alone notion, is really . . . nothing! Freedom is always a word that describes, or points to, a particular relational context—typically, a relationship of various freedoms found between You and the World.

Again, as we choose to pursue certain Freedoms, we actually exclude or limit our ability to choose other Freedoms that are reciprocally opposite—or have a complementary connection.

Every reality of "Freedom" is embedded within relational contexts of "Freedom From" or "Freedom to Do" or "Freedom to Be."

Yale-trained philosopher, C. Terry Warner, maintains that one of the most essential forms of Freedoms is: Freedom from Emotional Misery. Of course, as we enjoy this particular "Freedom From," we also get to enjoy a complementary Freedom that is inseparably connected—Freedom to Be Happy.

Mortal Life: A Context of Continual Constraint

Unless we choose "Freedom to end mortal life," we are never free from the Constraints that make up immediate mortality—never. While the person who chooses to end life may hope to escape mortal misery, truth is, the misery continues into the next realm of existence—such was the observation of Dr. George G. Ritchie in his book, Return from Tomorrow.

What we learn from George Ritchie's near-death experience, is that we might as well take on our troubles in this life, else they will follow us to the next. To tackle our troubles straight on, we need to understand that the nature of this mortal world one of continual constraint—this is why I began my book by explaining that "Life is a Set Up."

To experience all the happiness that the Creator intended, we get to discover how to find "Freedom" within a world that ever presses upon us—pressing constraints that are there NOT to be avoided, but to pass through, for a divine purpose. This World of Constant Constraint aligns well with the assumptions of Realism:

Realism: A philosophical theory that emphasizes the independent existence of things or objects, in contrast to theories that dispense with things in favor of words, ideas, or logical constructions. In particular, the term Realism stands for the assumption that there is a reality independent of the mind that perceives it.

Because mortality is finite and change-able, Plato surmised that the most fundamental reality is NOT in what perceptually appears in a flesh and blood world; instead, Plato suggested that what we perceive with mortal eyes are as shadows on a cave wall. Hence, what people typically accept as real, is an illusion (according to Plato). The Greek Philosopher concluded that the most fundamental reality is found in the "Forms"—which are unchangeable and infinite. Plato is a pioneer of the perspective called Idealism:

Idealism: the theory that only minds and their contents exist. This philosophical perspective maintains that the external world (tangible reality) is simply a construction of the mind. George Berkeley, one of the central advocates of Idealism, maintains:
"All the choir of heaven and furniture of earth—all those bodies which compose the frame of the world—have not any subsistence without a mind."

Plato's "Forms" are the ε?δος (eidos) and ?δ?α (ideas) that parallel what appears in our mortal world. Again, Plato posits that the "idea" is fundamental and real because it does not change through time—it is not corruptible—in contrast to fresh & blood phenomena that is born, and then dies.

In his allegory of the cave, the infinite and perfect Forms are the reality against which Fire-Light casts shadows against a cave wall—the shadows represent our mortal world. But, Plato's conclusion and allegory is fatally flawed: Flesh and blood phenomena is no illusion, and has more importance and substance than mere "shadows." Let me explain why Plato got it wrong!

Where Plato Went Wrong

First, realize that Plato was asserting that Ideas/Forms exist apart from the living Beings that conceive those Forms. What Plato did was to Reify every thought-category. Definition—Reify = To regard or treat an abstraction as if it had concrete or material existence.

In contrast, I maintain that the Idea and the Conceiving of the Idea are precisely the same thing, and the problem before us is one of language. Specifically, when a noun-word (Idea) is used to represent verb-activity. This means, the reality of "Idea" is better symbolized by the term "Idea-ing." Thus, the Idea IS a particular Thinking at a particular moment in time—an "Idea" is simply the specific thought-category that is being contemplated.

The thought-category is abstract, representational, and symbolic of the tangible world being thought-about. But the thoughts/ideas are NOT material or concrete. What IS material and concrete are the embodied human beings engaged in acts of Idea-ing. What IS very real . . . IS the activity of Thinking or Idea-ing.

With Descartes' brilliantly simple logic "cogito ergo sum"—I think therefore I am—he established that the very act of thinking . . . proves our existence. Descartes would likely side with Plato, as he doubted the real existence of the material world around him, entertaining the Assumptions of Idealism—what a human being perceives is a creation and construction of mind.

Paradigm Shift to Correctly Conceive Freedom

What do the philosophical perspectives of Realism and Idealism have to do with the conceiving Freedom? Everything! For "Freedom" is understood differently and experienced differently, when you accept and assume Plato's conception of the Forms.

Within a mindset of Platonic Idealism, you will live life as if you can create reality by "thinking it" into existence. Hence, "freedom" becomes something you create and perpetuate with your mind. You will recognize this particular Assumption of Idealism in the assertions of The Secret and the premise of Positive Mental Attitude.

Let me illustrate why this philosophical scenario is not quite right: At its extreme, Idealism implies that a friend or a spouse is literally generated by one's thinking! And if that were the case . . . then why wouldn't a person mentally create a companion that acts in non-annoying ways? The fact that annoying people can be found around every corner, is an evidence that Realism is real.

In it's milder forms, Idealism suggests that beings and things MOVE as a person mentally visualizes a particular want; for example, visualizing a parking space opening up at just the right moment. This notion—informed by Assumptions of Idealism—suggests that my mental thoughts somehow influence, and even override, the independent choosing power of another person—a person who may want to hog a prime parking spot beyond the time that a Secreteer is visualizing its vacancy.

Seeking for Freedom by creating it in your mind, is NOT how the highest and best Freedoms will be realized. In this way, I reject certain Assumptions of Idealism. In contrast, the most valuable Freedoms will be found IN YOUR WORLD—not IN YOUR HEAD.

Again, the very fact that others do annoying things is sufficient proof that other people exist independent of our "thinking" of them. Accepting that there IS a tangible, material world is a tenet of Realism; it is called the "Empirical Assumption"—that what we hear, taste, touch, see, and smell . . . is REALLY THERE. This includes the tangible existence our friends, spouses, and ex-spouses, and curiously, the existence of one's physical body.

It seems so obvious, right? What is out there . . . is really there! Thus, the tangible facts of a physical world (Realism) present constraining limits, perceptual boundaries to creative imagination (Idealism). In a nutshell, a black cat cannot be changed into a white cat via an imaginative mind (only crazy people can do this). Neither can a hard-core advocate of Idealism, jump from an airplane at 30,000 feet, and "think" himself into a soft landing—no parachute necessary.

Herbert Blumer put forth a balanced blend of Idealism and Realism in the development of Symbolic Interactionism theory. He uses the term "obdurate" to describe the stubborn realities of a tangible world. Yet Blumer admits that the only world every human being experiences, is the one perceptually constructed via the senses—but those perceptions will be constantly constrained by an obdurate material world.

Highest Freedoms Realized in Relationships

Again, Freedom needs to be found IN YOUR WORLD and not IN YOUR HEAD. It's a deep subject, and I explain more in my book, Changing Your Stripes.

But let me offer just one example of a freedom realized "in your world" and not merely in your head: The Freedom to Love! This Freedom requires relationships with other people—you cannot simply create "Love" in your head. Love is a word to describe two beings that are actively seeking the others best benefit—in terms of emotional and spiritual enrichment and/or in terms of physical comfort and pleasure. Freedom to Love and the Freedom to Be Loved are both IN YOUR WORLD phenomenon.

Now back to the obdurate realties of a tangible, material world (Realism). In the face of annoying friends, spouses, and ex-spouses, the fact that you cannot "think" away the annoying impact of others, suggests their real flesh and blood existence. An existence, apart from you, and not merely a "shadow" of something that Plato posits is fundamentally real—the Forms—created and perpetuated by mind.

It is a world of contrast that teaches us to appreciate "sweet" directly because we have experienced "bitter." Thus, working through the frustrations constrained by others beings who act in annoying ways, is an opportunity to learn the higher Freedoms of Love. Mortal life presents the opportunity to learn how to return the compassion in the face hatred. Most people are not Free to Be that kind of compassionate person.

Now, there is an important truth associated with Plato's Cave Allegory: Although I'm sure its not what the Greek Philosopher intended, The Fire-Light that makes the shadows possible, is an excellent metaphor to represent the Source of our highest and best Freedoms—Freedoms that are realized within a world of Continual Constraint.

Curiously, our Obdurate World includes realms beyond our visual senses. It is within this unseen realm that we access another High Freedom: Freedom from the bondage of misery and despair—hence the Freedom to be happy! A Freedom that is found in relationship with our Creator, . . . the Source of all Love and Light.

Again, all Freedoms will manifest as a Freedom From or a Freedom To; further, every particular freedom from or freedom to scenario is a reality manifest in directly-lived experience within the context of a constraining world.

So how does one find the Highest and Best Freedoms in a world where Life is a Set Up? That's why Changing Your Stripes is 300 page book—it's explained in the book.

Dr. Matt



The Greatest Prize
for Life's labors isn't
in material possessions
or impressive accomplishments,
but in the progress of personal character.
You labor for your own becoming, this is your richest reward.
Who You Become is your greatest possession,
make it your Masterpiece!

(Changing Your Stripes, 2nd Edition, page 274)

"Changing Your Stripes" presents principles for getting out of
the ditch in which you've been dumped (the difficulties of which you are a victim),
and the ditch in which you've jumped (the difficulties for which you volunteer).

"Mastering a challenging situation
is ultimately a matter of
mastering yourself!"

- Matt Moody 

"Changing Your Stripes," teaches you the principles that lead to lasting change,
making you a new kind of creature capable of communicating
with calm, even as storms of contention swirl.

If these ideas resonate and ring true,
then . . . this book is for you!

Sold Exclusively

through this website

Changing Your Stripes is a
unique reference book that will help
you understand, . . .
and solve all of
Life's ever-appearing problems
Here are more reasons to buy
Changing Your Stripes

Social Psychologist & Personal Advisor

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