02 Jul Let Freedom Ring
As we celebrate Independence Day as a nation this month, I’d like to also reflect on another type of freedom. To be free mentally and emotionally is a great way to live. But what does that mean?
Many people feel burdened by anxiety or depression; some with trauma from their pasts. Some people are under the yoke of eating disorders or chemical dependency. Others may suffer from gambling or sexual compulsions. Others wear the yoke of unhealthy interpersonal skills and seem to be stuck in toxic relationships.
As a result of any of these, mental health and peace and contentment suffer. When I think about mental and emotional freedom one of the first things that comes to mind is Galatians 5:1. It’s one of the cornerstone scriptures of our counseling practice. The New International Version reads:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
That sounds great, doesn’t it?! Being free and unburdened! No yoke of slavery.
But where do you even start to achieve this type of freedom?
Mental freedom begins with detaching yourself from habits that keep you stuck.
Here are some of the primary ways that we can find ourselves bound in ways we don’t want to be:
Living in the Past
How often do you find yourself replaying a conversation or a scenario from last week or last month or last year? Sometimes it may even be something that happened a decade or more ago. When we look at it in those terms, how silly is it to allow your mind to focus on something over which you have no control…that’s already happened?
And even worse, when we replay those conversations in our heads, we re-create the same emotions and the same brain chemicals that then keep us stuck. In his book “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself,” Dr. Joe Dispenza states, “So a person may consciously want to be happy, healthy, or free, but the experience of hosting 20 years of suffering and the repeated cycling of those chemicals of pain and pity have subconsciously conditioned the body to be in a habitual state.”
Living in the Future
Another place people often find themselves is in the future. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a planner so I completely understand if you like to plan. But how often are we living out scenarios, in a negative context…and usually based on past experiences, under the guise of “planning?”
Dr. Dispenza goes on to say, “We create worst-case scenarios in our minds so that we don’t have to rise above those familiar feelings. Because when we try to break the internal chemical order we have made so second nature, the body goes into chaos. Its internal badgering feels nearly irresistible—and plenty of times, we succumb.”
Again when we look at it like this, does it make any sense to continue in these patterns of behavior?
Having No Margin in Your Schedule
This is one area that trips me up repeatedly. I will get to a place of near-burnout and realize that I need to adjust my schedule (i.g. purge some activities or delegate responsibilities). I’ll experience success for a while with having room in my schedule and then I get comfortable and think that I can begin to add more things to my schedule and say “yes” far too many times. And then the pattern begins again.
So how do you break free from this cycle? (Preaching to myself here!) For me, it’s a combination of knowing my purpose, which is “to inspire and empower others” and by prioritizing what’s truly important in my life. I also continue to look for ways that my old habit of “people pleasing” tries to creep in.
Looking for Happiness Outside Yourself
We are created to be in relationship with others, so I hope that your relationships are life-giving and empowering. If not, well…that’s a whole different blog topic. I also believe it’s wonderful to derive enjoyment from the experiences and things in our lives.
HOWEVER, true contentment, joy, happiness…whatever you choose to call it, comes from within. It doesn’t matter what kind of car you have. Or house. Or income. Or clothes. Or what you weigh. Or how many dogs you have (this one’s for me!). If you don’t have contentment apart from those things, you will not have lasting contentment with them.
Avoiding Things in Your Life that Should Be Addressed
Although I’m a really direct person (possibly too direct sometimes), I even struggle with this occasionally. Sometimes it’s just easier to ignore something in your life that really needs attention. That’s the easy way, right?
Well, not really. Because the problem may become bigger than if it had been addressed earlier. And how many times have you avoided something, causing yourself mental anguish, only to discover that once you do handle the issue, it wasn’t nearly as bad as you thought it would be.
In those instances, I always wish that I’d handled whatever it was causing me distress long before I did. It’s sort of like leaving lots of tabs open in your browser. It can affect the performance of your computer. (Believe me, as a person who leaves multiple tabs open and is married to an IT professional, I hear this one all the time). By “leaving tabs open” in your mind, you run the risk of compromising your own “performance,” mentally, emotionally and physically.
Take some time to consider what I’ve shared with you. Then ask yourself:
What are some of the things from which I desire to be free?
Happy and Safe
4th of July!!