C Freedom of Choice, Change and Conundrum

“In place of the clear and rigid ancient law, You [oh Lord] made man decide about good and evil for himself, with no other guidance than Your example. But did it never occur to You that man would disregard Your example, even question it, as well as Your truth, when he was subjected to so fearful a burden as freedom of choice?” 

― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Grand Inquisitor (this states the conundrum).

When I started drafting posts for this A-Z blog challenge, I would in other moments not at my desk doing other tasks, wonder if I was writing about Peace or Power and would have to remind myself that I was writing about Freedom. They are so linked – at least in my eyes.

I’m reading, very slowly, (as opposed to my usual speed reading) ‘The Choice‘ by Edith Eger. I am finding it very hard going in spite of the apparent ease and grace with which she writes. She shares her personal stories of the Holocaust. At all times she embraces the choice of the possible even in the face of evil. It is a tour de force, which I can read only in small doses.

Do we have the freedom to change? I know that I can never, nor would I want to or even if I wanted to, change another person by forcing them to change. I can change only myself, or my attitude towards others and myself. I know that I have that sort of freedom within; whether or not I exercise it is another matter. 

Mother Theresa: I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples’. Which makes me think of climate change and consumerism and that we each can do our bit in small or big ways.

An important conundrum of Freedom is expressed by Freud –

Kate R sent me her poem:

I see myself through your
Eyes, liberation.
Yet only through
The peaks and valleys
The waxing and waning
Of the journey
Do I know you
In each moment.

Thank you for reading. Please comment – I love to read them.

24 Comments on C Freedom of Choice Change Conundrum

  1. Thought-provoking quotes and ideas, Susan. Thank you. I pray for change and it’s inevitable. I long for it, but fear it–as in climate change, recent political change in the United States, change that comes from an erupting shadow which is good and necessary in theory, but disruptive and difficult in practice. No matter what the ego’s opinion, change is the nature of life and it will happen with our cooperation or resistance.

    • Thanks Elaine, I agree the shadow is erupting, as it must, and along with that looms change and hopefully of a creatively positive one .. but the fight for it is fierce and the shadow threatens more … so it is scary … may we accept change and co-operate, or not – resistance is a very real something and very powerful as well. This is one of the difficulties to be overcome … thank you for your comment…

  2. My suffering came from expectations – of how people should respond to me in life, disappointed that they were not living upto my expectations, for a long time in my life this hurt me until came a time i begun to realise that i can change none in this world except myself – then i no longer suffered – i felt free from within probably because I have learnt the hard way to take responsibility for myself and not for anyone else. ..I loved all the quotes here susan specially Thich Naht….. Buddha remains my all time favourite, thanks for sharing

    • Isn’t that amazing Gevevive – about withdrawing expectations of others to behave towards one the way one would like. It’s such an eye opener and so releasing! It’s not an easy lesson but once learned seldom forgotten!
      Thank you for coming by 🙂

  3. Phew, lots of material for thought here. Especially wondering about choices related to health right now…


  4. I’m appreciating this exploration of freedom Susan. The Thich Nhat Hahn wisdom is something I try to hold in my heart always. I often find myself thinking that the work is all internal; and it’s only the dancing that is external.

    • Thanks Deborah – he’s always so wise and I love what he says about cultivating freedom ourselves – and, as you say ‘…dancing in the external’ 😀

  5. This is wonderful, Susan. I can’t remember who said it, (Emerson?) but it was someone who had experienced the terror of choosing to leave the safe container of conformity and risk banishment for living on his own terms: “Nothing is so rare as an original choice.”

    • Thank you Jeanie. There is a terror indeed of leaving conformity behind. I’ll look up that quote … I think that I’ve saved it as an image for a future post. And if not, I’ll find it and use it.

      • Do let me know if you find it. I’ve looked everywhere. I’ve often wanted to use it too, and worry that I may not have it exactly right. I love what you’re doing with this topic.

  6. Do we really have freedom within? If we are run by unconscious complexes are we free? This presents a conundrum that continually challenges…

    • It is a real continuous challenge Susan, thank you for saying so … maybe it’s grist to/for the mill IF we want change within and are prepared to do the hard work in uncovering them – to some extent.

  7. “Most people do not want freedom …” Oh, how true that is. Freud hit it on the head with freedom and responsibility.

  8. Change sounds so easy yet is so difficult to put into practice, though not impossible I hasten to add. My work as a therapist over these past 22 years has often been spent, daily, if not hourly at times, looking for ways to help my clients “change” their out-dated coping strategies and old (and often unhelpful) childhood defences. Yet before the journey begins, I know I will need to explore their old “payoffs” that keep them stuck because “stuckness” as Freud states is often a grand refusal to take personal responsibility in the matter. However, once we’ve dug in there enough and excavated a few of those metaphorical bones and banished many a lingering ghost, the way for change becomes clear. Hmm, lots of interesting thoughts flying around my head now, and it was lovely to read Kate’s poem. Love and light, Deborah.

    • As Susan says above about unconscious complexes – how much are we run by them? I know I am to some real extent though I hope I’m beginning to recognise them and act accordingly. Absolutely Deborah, too many are stuck in childhood defences and use the payoff as an excuse. I look at my old and current wounds and defences and do the work, which most times I don’t really want to do, but I know it has value. Anyone who has a guide to help them in this work such as you provide is fortunate indeed. I was fortunate to have a Jungian analyst some years ago … it certainly brought about change for me. Love & Light to you too, Susan

  9. I LOVE your quotes as they are SO TRUE! I know when I was younger I thought I could make the people around me change, but years later I learned the only person I can change is me! This was a tough lesson to learn, but I succeeded. Many people out in the world need to learn this lesson. Learning to work together to generate change is another huge issue. I do wonder if we will succeed with this lesson. Great post!!

    • I’m sure I also thought that when I was younger Gwynn i.e. that I could change people. It’s nice to be let off the hook as it were – and take responsibility only for one’s self. Which requires great effort for sure. Generating change within and without society requires us each to change, individually and then working together as you say. Thank you for coming by!

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