This book is a Get Out of Jail Free card and a passport back into the playground.

The aim of this book is to set you free. But free from what? Free from neurosis. Free from the feeling that you have to obey authority. Free from emotional intimidation. Free from addiction. Free from inhibition.

The key to happiness, mental health and being the most that we can be is absolute and unconditional self-acceptance. The paradox is that many of our problems are caused by trying to improve ourselves, censor our thinking, make up for past misdeeds and struggling with our negative feelings whether of depression or aggression.

But if we consider ourselves in our entirety in this very moment, we know these things :

1. Anything we have done is in the past and cannot be changed, thus it is pointless to do anything else but accept it. No regrets or guilt.

2. While our actions can harm others, our thoughts and emotions, in and of themselves, never can. So we should accept them and allow them to be and go where they will. While emotions sometimes drive actions, those who completely accept their emotions and allow themselves to feel them fully, have more choice over how they act in the light of them.

Self-criticism never made anyone a better person. Anyone who does a “good deed” under pressure from their conscience or to gain the approval of others takes out the frustration involved in some other way. The basis for loving behaviour towards others is the ability to love ourselves. And loving ourselves unconditionally, means loving ourselves exactly as we are at this moment.

This might seem to be complacency, but in fact the natural activity of the individual is healthy growth, and what holds us back from it is fighting with those things we can’t change and the free thought and emotional experience which is the very substance of that growth.

How to Be Free is available as a free ebook from Smashwords, iBooks in some countries, Kobo and Barnes & Noble

It is also available in paperback from Lulu or Amazon for $10 US, plus postage.

The ebook version currently has received 611 ***** out of ***** ratings on U.S. iBooks.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Group Identification Vs. Freedom

We are all individual human beings. Paradoxically, this is what unites us. Though our individual experiences are different, they are all human experiences and thus share many common features. We are capable of love but we are prone to fear. Sometimes we think that love and hate are the great opposites, but it is really fear which is the barrier to love, and hatred is just one of the masks which fear may wear.

When we feel truly safe, love is inescapable. It is our natural form of communication with others and the natural feeling we feel towards ourselves. To the extent that we put up barriers to loving communication, we do so because we are frightened. The barriers are protective. At least they are intended to be. Love is open, honest, spontaneous and generous communication. If we are afraid, we close off. If we tell lies it is because we are afraid of what might happen if someone knew the truth. If our manner is rigid and stereotypical it is because we are afraid to set sail on the open sea of unending possibility. And if we are selfish it is because we are holding on to what we fear we may lose.

Sometimes we think that fear is simply the conscious experience of feeling anxious, but that is only its passive form. Whenever we take actions which are defensive or aggressive we are motivated by a sense of threat. We may not feel afraid. When we feel consciously afraid it is because we doubt our ability to meet a perceived threat. Even in the extreme danger of battle, soldiers often feel no fear while they are actually fighting. It is in periods of inactivity that anxiety is most likely to strike.

The protective barriers which interfere with communication between individuals can take the form of character armour – fixed defensive habits. Sometimes we adopt some form of armouring to meet a specific current threat. If you accidentally knock over a motorbike and then a big hairy biker comes up and asks you if you saw who did it, you might consider it wise to put up a barrier to honest communication and say Fucked if I know." On the other hand, armouring can be habitual. Past experiences where we put our foot in it" may leave us with a chronic underlying fear which prevents us from being open and spontaneous in what we say.

One common form of armouring is group identification. Loving communication is something we can only practice from the basis of our individuality. To communicate in this way we have to perceive ourselves as individuals first and members of groups second. The only group we all belong to is the human race. We may have a gender, a race, a nationality, a religious affiliation, a sexual orientation... While these things are not always clearcut, most of us identify to some extent with some of these groupings. Sometimes, usually if we feel under threat in some way, we may think of ourselves as a member of a group first and an individual second. This will be a barrier to communication. If I communicate with you as one individual human with another then we begin with our common ground, and from there the fact that I identify myself as an Australian heterosexual male in his fifties with left-wing tendencies, a pantheistic belief system, and a love of movies, gives us rich subject matter for our interaction. Our differences become a source of great creative possibility. But if a perceived threat makes me think of myself as an Australian first and an individual second, then my mode of interaction is dualistically split into the Australian" and the not Australian". This may not pose a problem if I am communicating with another Australian, but it will if I'm communicating with someone who is not. Our common ground is compromised.

Let's look at some examples of how this can happen. It should be emphasised that, when a threat is genuine, group identification is a natural reaction and may be an necessary step along the road to a healthier mode of interaction. Let's look at the Black Pride and Gay Pride movements. The threat which led to the development of these forms of group identification were and are very real. Violence and discrimination against blacks and gays in various parts of the world have been extreme. People have been treated as if the colour of their skin or their sexuality were a cause for shame. And long term prejudice of this kind easily becomes internalised. People can come to think less of themselves because of the way they are treated and viewed by others. So the declaration of pride in the characteristic of which we have been told we should be ashamed is a crucial step forward. But it cannot be the end in itself. Our sexuality or the colour of our skin is not the real source of the pride. Sexuality and race are characteristics on which we cannot place a value. It isn't better to have one sexual orientation than another or to be one race rather than another. The source of pride is the way we as individuals have dealt with the challenges and threats placed in our path. If we are black or gay this may involve many cases of prejudice. But the healthy state towards which we are headed is one in which we are individuals first and everything else second. And, in the end, a state in which our self-acceptance is so unequivocal that the very question 
Am I proud of myself?" becomes meaningless.

Religion is another area in which group identification can take precedence over the individual. We may view ourselves first as a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim or an atheist and then as an individual. Or someone else may view us first as a member of one of these groups and only secondarily as an individual. Fear is the major factor in both cases. If we are insecure in our own beliefs then we will downgrade the doubting individual self and cling desperately to the group identification. And if someone has had bad experiences which prejudice them against our group then they may find it hard to see past our religious affiliation to the individual human who holds those beliefs. It is this insecurity which is the basis of religious intolerance and you can find it in many if not most religions and also amongst atheists. Insecurity about one's own belief system takes the form of an inability to agree to disagree. One finds minorities in Christianity and Islam whose fear won't allow them to enter into friendly communication with those of a different faith. Among atheists there are those who argue that even moderates of any faith should share the blame for things done by extremists because they are enablers". I read a comment from one in which he said something along the lines of Even a moderate Christian thinks you are going to Hell for your lack of faith." Now, leaving aside the fact that many modern Christians don't even believe in Hell, I ask myself So what?" As long as I don't believe I'm going to Hell why should it worry me that someone else does? I would be most happy to be friends with such a person. I'm secure enough in my belief system that I'm sure we could agree to disagree on the whole Hell issue and still find much to talk about and productive things to do together.
One of the starkest examples of group identification is what happens in time of war. When our country is attacked we close ranks and become nationalistic in our thinking.

If fear is the basis for both defensive and aggressive behaviour, it is worth asking ourselves what is the basis for safety. Sometimes defensive behaviour, either personal or military, can preserve our life against a present danger. But can it be the source of longterm safety or freedom? There is always a price to pay in both freedom and safety from defensive behaviour. Sometimes the benefits are greater than the price, sometimes not. On the personal level we can see that our armour cuts us off from a life of creative loving interaction with all of our fellows. In the case of international conflict, nations often end up sacrificing personal freedoms by instituting conscription or imposing censorship, and there can be great loss of life, international reputation, mental and physical health of surviving combatants, etc. Defensive behaviour may be necessary when a threat occurs, but if we really want to increase our safety and freedom then we have to look at preventative measures. The social health of our community is like the health of our body. What makes us healthy? Is it the medicine we take when we are sick? Or is it the healthy food and exercise which makes us get sick less often?

Communication is the key to freedom, happiness, safety and creation. All of these things grow out of communication. Freedom is the ability to do the things we want to do and not have to do the things we don't. Without communication we can do very little. Most of the things which make us feel happy involve some form of communication. Sometimes it is one way communication, as when we enjoy watching something or listening to something. Sometimes it is communicating with others, which can range from a chat over a cup of tea to engaging in an orgy. A large part of safety is knowing about potential threats. A lack of communication can have dire results. A young man sits alone day after day, not wanting to have any communication with others, and then one day he takes a bunch of guns and heads to the local pre-school. If we had been able to find a way to get him to talk to us we might have found out what was going on in his head and averted a tragedy. And, on an international level, imagine what the Cold War would have been like if Russia and the United States shared a language and had the internet. People from each country would have been conversing with each other on a daily basis. Tension between the nations would have been greatly lessened and the governments of both nations would have been held more accountable by their citizens. People will always go easier on their government if they feel they need them as protection against the Evil Empire" across the other side of the world. But when some of our best friends are evil ones" the picture changes. Plus, international communication of this kind makes national censorship impossible. Finally, most of our greatest creative endeavours are cooperative projects which require lots of communication. Even a lone artist gets ideas from others.

We have the image of the brave soldier who fights for our freedom. This can be one side of the equation when we are faced with a current threat. He or she may be the medicine when we are sick. But if we want to make the world safe for freedom, there is something we all can do, and it also takes tremendous courage. It has always been fear which has held love in check. We loved completely before we learned to be afraid. Perhaps the hardest thing in the world is to stand alone and naked. To be defenceless. But beneath our armour we are all alone and naked. That is what unites us. All we need to do is to be that naked self and to say Hello".

The Gift by Lone Justice (from their album Shelter) with images of primatologist Jane Goodall


  1. Nice post - we're on a similar path. Great track from a great album - love Maria McKee & Lone Justice - wish they had done more. :)

  2. Thanks. I don't think I have their first album. I should get it. My other favourite track on "Shelter" is "Dixie Storms". :o)