It matters that people have a way to use the latest findings in psychology beyond buying a pill for depression. It matters that people have a way of looking at their lives that lets them ask the big questions and determine how they want to live – and that this is supported by therapists and mental health professionals.


Freedom, destiny and the authentic self

Posted on 19 Aug | 1 comment
The Destiny spacecraft
The Destiny spacecraft

“Freedom transcends and opens the door for the possibility of being and finding one’s authentic self. Freedom though cannot be experienced without the presence of destiny. Only in those moments when one exercises one’s freedom in conjunction with acknowledging one’s destiny is it possible for the true self to shine through” (May, 1981). 

There can be no sense of the self without a sense of the destiny of that self. The events, experiences, and aspects of one’s life whether good, bad, or ugly are crucial parts that make up one’s destiny. (May, 1981) For the sense of self to be accurately experienced a relationship between a person’s freedom and his or her destiny must harmoniously take place. If there is a lack of a sense of reality we can conclude that destiny has been omitted (May, 1981). To be free is to be centered in our genuine subjective being while knowing we are limited by aspects of our destiny.

Destiny provides us with limitation. We can only be the best we can be within our personal limitations. Thus, freedom is to be understood as the “capacity for choice within the natural and self-imposed limits of living” (Schneider & Krug, 2009, p. 13).

The natural limits of living refer to the inherent limitations of birth, heredity, age, etc., and the realities of living-often referred to as “the givens of existence”-such as death, separation, and uncertainty: Self-imposed limits are boundaries established by humans, such as culture, language, and life style. (Schneider & Krug, 2009, p. 13)

We must strive to be in the process of our subjective awareness and in order for this to take place we must confront our destiny so we can be free to be and become. Our freedom is in the choices we have that are within our control. Natural limits are beyond our control.

Destiny sets limits for us physically, psychologically, culturally, and has made our most important decisions for us (May, 1981). There is much in life that we cannot choose, such as our race, the color of our eyes, and our skin color. “At birth we are thrown, to borrow Heidegger’s term, into a family we did not pick, into a culture we knew nothing, and into a historical period about which we had no say.” (May, 1981, p. 90)  All of these things are the givens of existence that are part of our destiny, which is part of who we are.

It is a highly difficult challenge for a person to confront one’s destiny. In doing so, one might have to face a harsh reality. It is sad but true that some individuals will never be able to make up for the heartache that life has bestowed upon them. The past cannot be changed; it can only be acknowledged and used for knowledge. Confronting destiny and its unfortunate reality can free us to explore new possibility and within the possibility and the confrontation is the freedom we seek to be our true self (May, 1981). What is most important for us to understand is that freedom and destiny are vital to the search for our truest nature which is our authentic self; the self that is attuned to our inner subjective voice that operates on the being level. The goal is for us to integrate freedom and our destiny so that we can be autonomous human beings who escape the cages of objective determinism and who hear the voice of our subjective being (Bugental, 1976).

 It is a startling fact that freedom has been considered, throughout history, so precious that hundreds of thousands of human beings have willingly died for it (May, p. 8, 19). However, the question still remains as to how many of us are willing to live for it. How many of us have exerted a strong effort to discovering our authentic self with the intention of living with vitality and the aspiration to live out our hopes and dreams?

Freedom comes from within. It makes things possible in spite of self-imposed or natural limitations. Choice is central in allowing the possibility of freedom to emerge. Freedom allows one to choose to live fruitfully or wither away bitterly. “When one asserts I can, or I choose, or I will, one feels one’s own significance” (May, p. 8, 1981).  As this suggests, freedom illuminates the empowerment an individual might experience. Freedom to be and become focuses on reclaiming and “owning” our lives in spite of circumstance (Schneider & Krug, 2009).

-- Robert Buonfiglio

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Comments and Discussions

I appreciate your post

I appreciate your post Robert, particularly the focus on destny, in terms of inherent and unavoidable limitations, and its relationship to human freedom. While I am such a passionate advocate for human freedom, and at times have been even to the exclusion of inescapable limitations, I am becoming increasingly as passionate in advocating for the role of destiny and the ways in which it empowers our experience of freedom. I affirm your emphasis on the importance of this message, which I have found many people do not want to hear. I am struck by how forcefully many of my students reject this crucial message in favor of some version of the all-too-popular "you can do anything and become anything" argument, which I find ridiculously absurd, as if we could truly do or become absolutely anything if we just believe enough in ourselves. While this argument seems to promote our freedom it actually restricts and negates it, because it denies the reality of destiny that should be integrated with freedom. What do you think? I also really value your question regarding the extent to which we as human beings are willing to live for freedom. Yes, many have been willing to die for it, or at least for something that they defined as "freedom," but I think it is extremely questionable whether many of us actually live for our freedom, in terms of passionately embracing and engaging in the moment-by moment process of actualizing the full range of our capacity to make meaningful choices and decisions. As Thoreau states, "I have never met someone who was fully awake; how could I have beared to look him/her in the face?"

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