What is freedom for you?

What is freedom for you?

What is freedom for you?

In this world it seems freedom is something that is slowly disappearing. This is a radical statement isn’t it, but I ask for a bit of time to explain what I mean.

I watched an interview of Yeonmi Park, a North Korean who escaped and settled in America. She recalls how she was confronted by choices in the West. What is your favourite colour? Red of course, everyone in North Korea’s favourite colour is red.

What happens when you are not allowed to have personal choice? How do you decide what is good or bad, right or wrong?

Luckily for us, in the West we have freedom right? We can go to the shop and choose from a variety of food products, we can order anything to eat at restaurants, we have access to many books, we can study what we want, we can wear whatever we like, we can choose our own favourite colour.

Is this freedom?

What about freedom to feel, freedom to laugh, freedom to think, freedom to explore, freedom to follow your own spiritual path, freedom to express yourself?

Yoenmi Park shared that the most dangerous thing in North Korea is your tongue, what you say can kill you. This for me is in essence the true loss of freedom.

When you are no longer allowed to express yourself, how could you know who you are? Would you feel lost? Suppressing ourselves leads to feelings of abandonment, with a subsequent host of coping mechanisms, from substance abuse, denial and avoidance to anxiety and depression. [1][2]

Jung said:

“Our freedom extends only as far as our consciousness reaches. Beyond that, we succumb to the unconscious influences of our environment. Though we may not be clear in a logical sense about the deepest meanings of our words and actions, these meanings nevertheless exist and they have a psychological effect.” CW 13 par 153

How pervasive is society’s influence on these freedoms?

Mental health issues are skyrocketing in the West. The latest stats on suicide, self harm, depression and anxiety are shocking. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for U.S. children ages 10 to 14, preceded only by unintentional injury. Over four times as many men as women die by suicide in the U.S. You can imagine the stats on depression and anxiety are equally disturbing.[3] You can’t but wonder what is wrong. We have so much information at our fingertips, why would mental health be declining so rapidly?

We are subject to the collective feelings of isolation, rage, fear and the desire to dominate. We are bombarded on social media and mainstream media and the entertainment industry with a proliferation of images and ideologies designed to trigger fear and panic and feelings of self judgment and judgment of others. It is almost impossible to feel optimistic and have faith in the goodness of humanity. We are in the grips of a global existential crises. It is overwhelming and no one seems to have the answer. Perhaps it is time to accept that no ideology, person or group is going to save you.

What is the alternative?

I humbly suggest our part in this global crises is to engender love, kindness, empathy and compassion for all, not just whom society tries to convince you deserves it. And most importantly for yourself, as the relationship with yourself shapes the world around you and is the lens through which you regard the other. True freedom is to know yourself, how you really feel, what is truly humorous or tragic or meaningful to you. To be able to express your real thoughts and have dynamic dialogues with others who don’t think the same or share similar sentiments. To explore the world, nature and other cultures and enjoy the richness of life. To explore your own spirituality and connection to the divine. To be able to express yourself freely and creatively.

I would like to leave you with a final quote from Jung.

“It is a notorious fact that the morality of society as a whole is in inverse ratio to its size; the greater the aggregation of individuals, the more the individual factors are blotted out, and with them morality, which depends entirely on the moral sense of the individual and on the freedom necessary for this. Hence every man is, in a certain sense, unconsciously a worse man when he is in society than when acting alone; for he is carried by society and to that extent relieved of his individual responsibility. Any large company composed of wholly admirable persons has the morality and intelligence of an unwieldy, stupid, and violent animal. The bigger the organization, the more unavoidable is its immorality and blind stupidity. (Senatus bestia, senatores boni viri.) Society, by automatically stressing all the collective qualities in its individual representatives, puts a premium on mediocrity, on everything that settles down to vegetate in an easy, irresponsible way. Individuality will inevitably be driven to the wall…. Without freedom there can be no morality.” CW10 par 460

For me what is clear from Jung’s quote above is that it is paramount for us to seek out our personal freedom, emancipate ourselves from the collective views of society, because our very essence of being human, our morality is under threat.

This process of emancipating ourselves Jung called individuation. It is not for everyone, as individuation demands us taking responsibility for ourselves, a very difficult and lonely path. Individuation is the act of discretion. What is right for you, what is wrong for you? These questions are simple but profound and the very essence of self knowledge.

The payoff is integrity, autonomy, and a true experience of freedom. Along the way you will find others who value their humanity and freedom as much as you, and perhaps for the first time experience the true magic of what it means to be you. Someone to like, respect and even admire.

I would love to hear your thoughts on what you think freedom means to you.

All the best


1 https://psychcentral.com/blog/imperfect/2018/12/why-we-abandon-ourselves-and-how-to-stop


3 https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/mental-health-statistics/

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Comments (14)

  • Andy Reply

    Hi Anja,

    Well I’m utterly relieved to read Jung’s quote you’ve kindly educated me with.

    I was taught at university when I was studying water management, that the greatest existential threat to humanity and our planet – is population growth. When this notion was offered to me, I lapped it up like a kitten would a bowl of milk! Unfortunately, as time went on and I adopted this philosophy, I found myself butting heads with people about the issue:

    My stance being “we must curb population growth”. Which was in conflict with a lot of people, to the extent that when I suggested to people that it may be prudent to think about our environment before having a child, or another child, or your 6th child, it would enrage people. Especially females.

    And then I saw a reel of Jordan Peterson (who I hold time and space for his opinions) where he too was infuriated with such an ideology, labelling it as dangerous!

    But to try and answer your question about what freedom means to me, in the context of the above quote from Jung; to me, freedom is being able to breathe. Unfortunately, all our resources are infinite (even oxygen – especially at the rate we’re destroying our biodiversity).

    So to summarise… Freedom to me is having hope for a better future. And in this context, I’m in 100% agreement with Jung in the sense that: “The bigger the organization, the more unavoidable is its immorality and blind stupidity.”

    God help us 🙏

    March 16, 2024 at 5:09 pm
    • Leto Reply

      Regarding poplation growth:

      I agree with Peterson that it’s not a sane and healthy view to regard humanity as some kind of problem or cancer on the planet, which must be kept on small numbers. But on the other hand I’m all for quality of life rather than quantity of life.
      For me it’s better that say one billion people live on western standards than 7, 9 or 12 billion live all like in a poor third world country.
      But nowadays you usually get called out as a racist, if you argue against furthe population growth – since of course western populations are already shrinking.

      July 11, 2024 at 10:40 am
  • Mr Sankimo Nael Reply

    Hi there,

    The name is Sankana , to Sankana freedom is a way of life that encompasses Ubuntu (humanity) , a way of life the Western is far from living and even comprehending , the unfortunate fact is that the entire world is under the terrible influence and control of these spiritually and morally bankrupt self imposed delinquents.

    March 18, 2024 at 5:05 pm
  • Anne Merrily Haug Reply

    I love your post on freedom and I concur. The group/herd mentality is pervasive–even polarizing on the far right and far left. It takes strength and courage not to be swayed by public opinions and to me the way to be strengthened is through spiritual/psychological development. Not a popular course of action though because as you said, it requires responsibility and a turning within to know what we are truly aligned with.

    March 18, 2024 at 5:10 pm
    • Pavi Reply

      Sometimes to me, freedom is the ability to willingly give away your power in order to love someone or something else.

      And sometimes it’s to eat ice cream for breakfast.

      June 25, 2024 at 4:14 am
  • Mary Manning Reply

    Freedom has become a journey of individuation for me. It has been over a year since I began the Magnum Opus course, and its winding and steep path has brought me confrontation within myself. Yet the shadows and facing the guilt of what I had done to my daughter freed me from a prison of the mind. Freedom allows me to savor each moment or life, both inner and outer worlds.

    March 18, 2024 at 7:53 pm
  • sush Reply

    Thanks for sharing this Anja. I just met with an educator and she told me kids don’t want to go to college here anymore so colleges are doing whatever is needed to get students to come. I was so surprised. She said they just want to follow their TikTok influencers, and be on social media, and do what they are told there is right and good.

    I have done some interviews with youth a few years ago and one shared his story about Instagram during the pandemic and how he would turn on his computer and go back to bed for virtual school, and never wanted to see anyone. But then one day his mom sat down and told him her story and how horrible it was for her to escape the Taliban, who had killed her father, and come to the West. It made him realize that actually his life was good. His parents were alive, he had food, school… He decided to finish high school, play soccer, get a part-time job, and go to college.

    For me freedom has always meant to be creative to find my own ways out from within the constraints and do things my way. It hasn’t been easy but clearly it also is nothing compared to what so many others go through.

    I am now going to make a list of what various people have told me freedom means to them… maybe even a project… so thanks for this!

    March 18, 2024 at 7:55 pm
  • Jim Reply

    Thank you. I’ve shared it on FB with this note: I can hope these kinds of hopes and desires are becoming conscious to many Americans as a Presidential election looms. We can hope for clear-eyed awareness of the fragile state of our nation and its potential influence for good or bad on the whole planet.

    March 18, 2024 at 11:03 pm
  • Annie Arrowsmith Reply

    Thanks for this Anja. Many choose the easier path of following the crowd or continuing to live by the values and beliefs that informed our childhood but not necessarily our own, thus denying their true selves in order to fit in, to be accepted. This comes at the cost of losing (or never finding) their own authenticity. We have a responsibility to ourselves to explore the unconscious, to look within, as difficult as this may be at times, if we are to be part of a more humane and loving world. I for one am grateful to have the opportunity to undertake this exploration.

    March 19, 2024 at 1:35 am
  • Yvonned Reply

    The Spectre of Truth

    A spectre haunts society – the spectre of truth in the inward parts. Like communism it threatens human pride, that fell protector of our selfish thoughts, our cannibalistim of others’ dignity. The truth highlights our unkind words, our anti-social deeds, and our shame with offers of forgiveness; pleads that we weep with contrition, make amends, and praise the mercy in our every breath. Truth in the inward parts re-shapes our ends, is heaven’s call to raise us up from death. Let truth therefore be welcome, banish fear; each soul be bound in peace, that costs love dear. 13iii 24

    The question to consider “What is freedom to me?” Is a question I’ve pondered many times over the years and even before Anja’s article arrived in my inbox it was uppermost in my mind. It was uppermost because of the attached words written by a dear priest friend of mine. He wrote these words for a mini sermon on Wednesday March 13th at our weekly Eucharist following the gospel reading of John 13: 21 and then todays reading, March 20th from John 8:32.
    Both of these texts address truth and it strikes me that this is what freedom is for me…..the willingness of my heart and soul to speak and live out truth in my day by day joys and woes.

    Doug’s words pierce deeply the call to truth and how difficult it is to speak it out, to feel fully able to speak it out, for we/I are haunted by outcomes of speaking truth and thus freedom is curtailed.

    I agree with everything Anja has written about freedom and like her believe that the way forward towards freedom is to practice speaking truth daily without fear of the possible repercussions. Only then can the personal freedom become more alive and that which dwells in the collective unconscious can be gradually accessed across the pain and terror of our beautiful planet.

    March 21, 2024 at 4:00 pm
  • Trevor Watkins Reply

    Anja van Kralingen asks “What is freedom for me?”

    What is freedom for me? As a long time advocate of the freedom philosophy, it is important for me to have a clear and unambiguous answer.

    Freedom is the opportunity to think, talk and act on my choices in pursuit of the “good”, within certain constraints. Freedom is limited by harm or the threat of harm. Freedom without limits is Licence. Freedom without practical constraints is futile.

    What is the “good” is a matter of extended philosophical debate, from Plato, Marcus Aurelius, Epicuris and many others, including me. It is not necessarily that which benefits you, or pleases you or society. It varies widely from person to person. Most people can barely articulate it. But it is what gives your life meaning. It is your most important value.

    Here is a partial list of what many describe as their “good”:

    Love, pleasure, kindness, courage, wisdom, knowledge, free time, truth, humility, chastity, wealth, health, happiness, freedom, common interest, family, survival, genes, species, reproduction, challenge, power, success, opinion of others, security, long life, eternal life, friends, companionship, comfort, order, chaos, pride, honour, purpose, legacy, religion, planet, beauty, justice, novelty, well-being, surfing

    Anja says “I humbly suggest our part in this global crisis is to engender love, kindness, empathy and compassion for all, not just whom society tries to convince you deserves it.” She suggests that “True freedom is to know yourself, how you really feel, what is truly humorous or tragic or meaningful to you.” I totally agree with this point.

    For me, after long consideration, I decided that the “good” for me is the 3Fs, Family, freedom and fun.
    Their love, safety and well-being
    Free time, free choices, free thoughts, free acts
    Friends, sports, hobbies, travels, adventures, entertainments, achievements

    March 22, 2024 at 1:10 pm
  • Angela Reply

    Anja, thank you for this article . I have “chased” freedom my entire life . 53 years … constantly spouting to those that would listen , ” The most important thing to me in life is freedom”. I would say these words without truly understanding what I was saying, all the while understanding deeply with a great knowing exactly what they meant .
    It is a deep gnawing in my soul. Which when threatened, I reach down into my animalistic ways in response.
    Now, as I am faced to ponder the meaning again, I will say it so simply , Freedom is BEing ME .

    May 11, 2024 at 11:32 pm
  • Magda Reply

    Freedom is being able to live simply without the stress and ennui of modern day work environments. Wendell Berry is a great example of someone individuating and not being distracted by the noise of society. He’s developed his soul life throughout all the major changes of the last century and seems to have dodged the angst and over stimulation most people wrestle with each day.

    May 27, 2024 at 10:13 pm
  • Jack Ingersoll Reply

    In my process of Individuation, I found that it is intrinsically bound up with the psychology of interdependence with in and without. The psychology of wholeness includes the psychology of Interdependence. A win-win relationship based on equality, empathy, and reciprocal altruism. This includes the relationship of my Ego with the Self and the Collective unconsciousness and My Ego with Others. There is no Me without We nor No We without Me, within and without. In individuation and its reconciliation of opposites Me and We needs to be resolved, I have done that and created a realm of Dear Ones… Etymologically friend and free have a common root meaning Dear. My realm of the free, Freedom, is the degree of reconciled opposites my conscious Psyche has achieved, my psychological integrity and wholeness I carry with me wherever I go, This in my inner freedom. External is the next work of friends and community that are interconnect by the relationship of interdependence, win-win relationships based on equality, empathy, and reciprocal altruism. This puts good limits on my realm of the free, freedom in protecting me from the corrupting influences of the collective and individuals who have not learned and lived this lesson. The more I can extend my freedom the more I can influence Others and generate greater freedom in my life and community. If community is based on this principle of wholeness of interdependence it does become oppressive of the individual rather as Von Frans suggests in Projection and Re-Collection in Jungian Psychology a soul family (or community) that produces reciprocal individuation (pp 24-25 Archetype of the Apocalypse by Edward F Edinger). Imagine an empathetic Civilization based on this and to foster this is part of one’s individuation process, part of the transformation of the Human psyche and its consciousness that is qualitatively symbolized by the Divine Child. This is where Freedom lies for me.

    June 1, 2024 at 7:38 pm

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