I recently read Everything is Fucked—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. So, I’ll be discussing this topic from the book.
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. The calculations and analyzing part is for this brain. The Feeling Brain, on the other hand, is driven by emotions.
It seems pretty apparent that we do most things with our Thinking Brain. After all, it is the smart one. But, surprisingly, it is not so. Our Feeling Brain drives us. 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 pound on the pizza, and we are now happy and satisfied.
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 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 more accessible than ever. In a way, it has given us freedom. But, has it?
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 not freedom. It only makes people want things that they don’t really want. When people have more diversions, they try to live a comfortable life, making them more fragile. Unfortunately, life is not always easy and comfortable. It won’t be easy when our ease and comfort are replaced by pain. 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 TV series. Is being able to do all that really freedom?
Freedom is also not happiness. The need to feel happy all the time is an inability to identify and tolerate negative emotions. It’s not that being happy is not good. Instead, you must be able to identify negative emotions and deal with them instead of finding external validations and comfort.
Lastly, freedom is not having a lot of options. We go to the supermarket and choose from various 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. Instead, he has more variety. Having more stuff does not make us free. Instead, we face a dilemma of which one to choose. Variety is not freedom. It’s just another way to make us feel insecure.
Real freedom is an ethical form of freedom. You can accomplish it through self-limitation. Choosing everything you want is not freedom. It is to determine what you will give up in your life. We, as individuals, can choose what we want and what we don’t have. But again, there is the Feeling Brain. It’s the ability not to let the Feeling Brain make every decision that will give us freedom.
For example, if we exercise every day, we build physical freedom. We become more robust and have more energy and more stamina. But the Feeling Brain does not want us to exercise. If we commit to exercising despite our Feeling Brain not wanting it, we are on our way to physical freedom. Similarly, if we build our skills, we will have the freedom to pursue more job opportunities and build a better career.
Freedom is in the limitations that you set for yourself. For example, I am a morning person. I wake up early. It’s not that I don’t like sleeping. I like it very much. But I choose to wake up early. So I have more time to do whatever I want in the morning. I decide to work out or go for a run in the morning. It gives me physical freedom. It’s these small commitments I make every day that makes me free.
“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 to show that they can do it. Mark says that this is another form of fake freedom. I couldn’t agree more. These videos are just cheap ways to make content and grow their YouTube subscribers. Before, I used to love these videos. But then I began to realize that these videos don’t make any sense. They aren’t providing much value to the viewers.
For example, there is this video where a guy meditates for about a month and talks about his experiences. I watched the entire 15-minute video to hear, at last, that nothing had changed. I was looking for something meaningful in the video. But all I got was a wasteful 15 minutes of my life. I mean, did he even meditate for a 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. But, if the guy didn’t experience anything, why make a 15-minute video? Why not just wrap it up in 2-3 minutes? Since then, I have unsubscribed to all these life-hack channels. It is just another example of fake freedom.
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 it’s not enough. Real freedom is repetitive, predictable, and sometimes dull.
- Fake freedom has diminishing returns. It requires greater and greater energy to achieve the same joy and meaning. Conversely, real freedom has increasing returns. It requires less and less energy to achieve the same pleasure.
- Fake freedom sees the world as an endless series of transactions and bargains that you feel you’re winning. Real freedom is witnessing the world unconditionally, with the only victory over your desires.
- Fake freedom requires the world to conform to your will. Real freedom requires nothing of the world.
A study in America showed that people are now engaging less in social activities, especially those requiring 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. 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 meaningful lives.
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 matter. Companies and their products promise to give what we want, but they are just tapping into our Feeling Brain and making us buy stuff that we don’t need. We have the power to make smart choices, give up fake freedom, commit to stuff that matters, not live in ease and comfort, identify our emotions, and 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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