I recently read a book called Everything is F*cked – A Book About Hope by Mark Manson. As the title suggests, this book is about hope. But, this article is not about hope. I’m not about to do a book review either. In Chapter 8 of the book, Mark speaks about Freedom – Real and Fake Freedom. I found it quite interesting and thought that it was worth sharing. I’ll just be discussing this small topic from the book. Maybe I’ll do a book review/summary in the future. But for now, let’s talk about FREEDOM.
Before I begin, let me tell you about our two brains – the Thinking Brain and the Feeling Brain. The Thinking Brain does all the thinking, obviously. The calculations and analyzing part is for this brain. The Feeling Brain, on the other hand, is driven by emotions. It seems quite obvious that we do most of the things with our Thinking Brain. After all, it is the smart one. Surprisingly, it is not so. We, in fact, are driven by our Feeling Brain. The Thinking Brain only gives directions of what our Feeling Brain tells us. For example, the Thinking Brain knows that we should eat healthily. So, why not order a salad? Then, the Feeling Brain steps up – “but, I want to eat a pizza.” We then think to ourselves, “Yes, I haven’t had a pizza in a while. After all, I’ve worked hard this week. I deserve to have a pizza.” Eventually, we end up pounding on the pizza and we are now happy and satisfied.
Now that you have a simple understanding of our two brains, let’s talk about freedom. Freedom could mean different to different people. For some, freedom could be having a lot of money. For others, it could be having the ability to work on their own terms. People, in general, think that freedom is when you have what you want. Businesses and companies today promise to give people what they want. Technology has made our lives easier than ever. In a way, it has given us “freedom”. But, has it really? Let’s think for a while.
When it comes to what we want, our Feeling Brain is in charge. Technology has only given us diversions and having too many diversions is actually not freedom. It only makes people want things that they don’t actually want. When people have more diversions, they are trying to live an easy/comfortable life, which makes them weaker and more fragile. Life is not always easy and comfortable. There will be pain. When our ease and comfort is replaced by pain, it will be a really difficult time. So, making life easy and comfortable is not freedom.
Technology drives people to addictive behaviors. We are all guilty of being addicted to our smartphones – checking social media, instant messaging, playing games, watching videos, and spending hours switching between the same apps. We have also been addicted to binge-watching our favorite television series. Is being able to do all that really freedom? It’s only making us mentally ill. God forbid, physically.
Freedom is not in happiness as well because having the need to feel happy all the time is basically an inability to identify and tolerate negative emotions. It’s not that being happy is not good. It’s that you must be able to identify negative emotions and be able to deal with them instead of trying to find external validations and comfort.
Lastly, freedom is not having a lot of options. We go to the supermarket, we can choose from a variety of products and brands. It seems like freedom. But, not really. For example, if Karen can choose from two brands of noodles, and Jimmy can choose from ten brands of noodles, Jimmy does not have more freedom. He has more variety. Having more stuff does not make us freer. Instead, we face a dilemma of which one to choose. What if this is better than that? What if I chose the bad one? Variety is not freedom. It’s just another way to make us feel insecure.
Real freedom is an ethical form of freedom. It can be accomplished through self-limitation. Having to choose everything you want is not freedom, but it is to choose what you will give up in your life. Sounds complicated? Let me explain. We, as individuals, have the ability to choose what we want and what we don’t have. But again, there is the Feeling Brain. It’s the ability to not let the Feeling Brain make every decision for us that is going to give us freedom. For example, if we exercise every day, we build physical freedom. We become stronger and we will have more energy and more stamina. But the Feeling Brain does not want us to exercise. If we make a commitment to exercise in spite of our Feeling Brain not wanting it, then that is a way of having physical freedom. Similarly, if we build our skills, we will have the freedom of pursuing more job opportunities and building a better career.
Freedom is in the limitations that you set for yourself. I am a morning person. I wake up early. It’s not that I don’t like sleeping. I do like it very much. But, I choose to wake up early. Now I have more time for myself to do whatever I want in the morning. I choose to work out or go for a run in the morning. This gives me physical freedom. It’s these small commitments I make every day that makes me free. I chose to sacrifice sleep in the morning to read a book and work out. “The most meaningful freedom in your life comes from your commitments, the things in life for which you have chosen to sacrifice.”
There are these life-hack videos we see on YouTube where people try to learn something, do an activity, or take a challenge for about a month just to show that they can be done. Mark says that this is another form of fake freedom, and I couldn’t agree more. I think these videos are just cheap ways to make content and grow their YouTube subscriptions. I used to love these videos before. But then I began to realize, are these videos actually making any sense? Are they providing any value to the viewers?
There is this video where a guy meditates for about a month and talks about what he experiences. I watched the entire 15-minute video just to hear, at last, that nothing had changed. I was actually looking for something meaningful in the video. But all I got was a wasteful 15 minutes of my life. I mean did he even did it for a whole month? Who knows? I know that meditation is different for different people. I can speak from experience that it is difficult to find change when you meditate. Some can feel change instantly, some take days, even months. But, if the guy didn’t really experience anything, why make a 15-minute video? Why not just wrap it up in 2-3 minutes? Since then I unsubscribed to all these life-hack channels. This is just another example of fake freedom. It takes a lifetime to master meditation and other crafts and these YouTubers are doing it in a month’s time? Give me a break!
Fake Freedom vs Real Freedom
Here are some of the points I took from the book that differentiates Fake Freedom from Real Freedom.
- Fake freedom puts us on the treadmill toward chasing more, whereas real freedom is the conscious decision to live with less.
- Fake freedom is addictive: no matter how much you have, you always feel as though it’s not enough. Real freedom is repetitive, predictable, and sometimes dull.
- Fake freedom has diminishing returns: it requires greater and greater amounts of energy to achieve the same joy and meaning. Real freedom has increasing returns: it requires less and less energy to achieve the same joy.
- Fake freedom is seeing the world as an endless series of transactions and bargains which you feel you’re winning. Real freedom is seeing the world unconditionally, with the only victory being over your own desires.
- Fake freedom requires the world to conform to your will. Real freedom requires nothing of the world. It is only your will.
A study in America showed that people are now engaging less in social activities. Especially, if these activities require group participation. More people are feeling lonely. They’d rather spend time alone watching TV, surfing the Internet, or playing games than going out and engaging in social activities. “We are replacing a few high-quality relationships in our lives with a large number of superficial and temporary relationships.” We would rather spend hours talking to someone via text message than talking a few minutes on the phone. Heck, forget about talking face to face. The situation is only likely to get worse. With so many diversions, including unnecessary information and distractions all over the place, people have forgotten to make smart commitments and live a meaningful life.
We need to find value in stuff that matters and stop looking for what we want. Instead, make commitments by giving up things that don’t really matter. These companies and their products promise us to give what we want but they are actually just tapping into our Feeling Brain and making us buy stuff that we don’t really need. We have the power to make smart choices, to give up fake freedom, to commit to stuff that matters, to not live in ease and comfort, to identify our emotions, and to give a fuck about real values. Make sure you don’t forget this power that you have. Find real value, real meaning because life is going to fuck you up one way or the other.
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