We’re not as free as we think, even if we do live in a democratic country. People who have achieved substantial political freedom can still be sorely lacking in psychological freedom. We’re likely to feel like prisoners of fate when emotional conflicts limit our creativity and potential.
How can we be free if we don’t even have free will? Neuroscientists say humans are just puppets dancing to the brain’s unconscious tunes. Philosopher-neuroscientist Sam Harris writes in his recent book, Free Will:
Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. We do not have the freedom we think we have.
Harris is right when he says we don’t have as much freedom as we’d like to think. But he’s wrong in other ways, notably his implication that the “background causes” of our thoughts and feelings are beyond our conscious influence. He says at one point, “No one has ever described a way in which mental and physical processes could arise that would attest to the existence of such freedom [of will].” With this statement, Harris apparently dismisses depth psychology. A discussion of that subject goes missing in his book.
Depth psychology, which dredges up unconscious content from our psyche and makes it conscious, becomes our means to acquire a higher range of free will and inner freedom. We become more conscious as we uncover the ways that our unresolved negative emotions have been producing our suffering and self-defeat. We’re indeed lacking in inner freedom until we’re able, at a deeper level, to break free of our compulsion to recycle and replay these negative emotions that are unresolved from our past. [Read more...]