Free Will(y)

Growing up, I loved the movie “Free Willy.” I loved the idea of being a kid with an Orca for a friend and being able to go out into the ocean with him. I mean, who doesn’t want a massive, potentially dangerous animal as their best friend?!

Additionally, there was something beautiful about the theme of freedom that appealed to me and, as a kid who felt very set apart from the rest of the kids, the topic of friendship was also a button pusher for me.

I think that, as kids, we often find the magic of such stories inspiring and compelling, but as we get older they become more and more like wishful thinking.

As an adult, I think of my own journey and realized that I too was in a type of captivity and am now trying to find my way back home. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, I was robbed of much of my free will (and I wasn’t even a Calvinist!).

While it is truly difficult to fully take away every last shred of free will, one can lose a significant amount of it without there even being ropes or guns involved. The imposing of another’s will, as well as psychological misdirection, are more than enough to leave a human (or an orca) in captivity.

I think of high schoolers today trapped by their culture and their peers, each of them trapping each other in unreasonable expectations and false systems of value and disvalue. Often having to put on a show to be accepted or to get the attention that they have been told they need in order to have a happy life. Yet, no matter how much applause they get or how much they get rewarded, something inside aches and hurts.

They lose their sense of self and, without knowing it, many lose their sense of free will.

A friend of mine challenged me once saying that he felt like I sat in my depression; that I chose to stay where I was even though I was capable of making myself happy. Although his statement was a bit hypocritical on his part, I couldn’t help but find myself convicted by what he said.

I began asking myself the hard question: how much of this struggle and pain is my fault? My choice? I discovered that at that time I was enslaved to every thought and emotion as I had found myself experiencing the effects of cognitive fusion. My friend was both right and wrong.

Much of my hurt and pain was out of my control and it was all too real. I could not simply choose to be happy, and being in the state of burn out it made it nearly impossible to change.

Yet I did have a choice. It was a hard one but it was still there for me to choose. I left my job and I took off into the unknown.

Thus my last 5 months have been a journey in cognitive defusion: a war to take back my will. I sought help and support in my time of need what I could not choose for myself at that time. I began taking back areas of freedom that I had lost due to poor theology, childhood deceptions, and all the other enslaving elements of life that we all face as humans.

My tank was suffocating me, and instead of staying there and dying as most of my kind do, I saw the ocean beyond and took a jump of faith into the unknown.

It’s been difficult and I’m not quite out of the woods yet, but the journey to freedom has been so incredible and life-giving. The sun is rising, I see the ocean before me, and I can almost hear  Michael Jackson singing an inspiring song in the background.

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