I have less than one month to finish my History of Psychology class and I should be studying instead of writing for fun. I’m justifying my actions by convincing myself that I’ll be more productive after a break. In reality I’ll probably just feel more tired. I’m actually enjoying this class, although I’ll be relieved when it’s completed. For now though, it’s giving me the opportunity to use my brain in ways it hasn’t been used in a long time. There’s a good chance that a couple months from now I won’t remember most of the things that I’ve read, but for now it feels good to be learning.
Here is a sampling of some of this week’s deep thoughts:
Karl Marx thought that human behavior was controlled by society. Sigmund Freud thought that human behavior was controlled by biology. Erich Fromm considered the possibility that human behavior wasn’t completely determined by either society or biology. He believed that humans have the potential to make free choices. Here in America, in the land of the free, it’s easy to forget that the concept of individuality hasn’t always been a given, and in some cultures it’s still a pipe dream. For example, if I had been born a peasant in the Middle Ages, then I would have stayed a peasant. My life would have been predetermined by my birth. But nowadays, at least in America, one can conceivably be born poor and grow up to be rich. One can choose to get an education or maybe move across the country if they feel so inclined.
I imagine that being a peasant probably wasn’t much fun, but at least it wasn’t complicated. Very few choices had to be made. Life had structure. If you think about it, it’s unlikely that peasants experienced mid-life crises. Freedom, you see, comes with a downside according to Fromm. He said things like loneliness, confusion and alienation are byproducts of freedom. He went on to say that we do things to “escape from freedom” in order to avoid the discomfort that it causes.
He said we either a) submit to an authoritarian figure, or become one, b) become destructive to ourselves or others, or c) hide ourselves within the culture at large, making ourselves as inconspicuous as possible.
Each person, at least within our own culture, has to choose how to cope with freedom. For most of us it isn’t all or nothing. We experience it in varying degrees. We try to find that balance of how much freedom we can tolerate, and then adjust our lives accordingly.
All of this has me questioning where I fit into the spectrum of freedom. Do I try to avoid it or do I embrace it? I guess it depends on the circumstances. I do however feel thankful to live where I live, during the time when I live. At least I have the freedom to consider all of these complicated issues.