Wednesday, July 04, 2012

It's a Free Country

In America, the Fourth of July is a celebration of self-rule. The first settlers (now a bad word, settlers) suffered under taxation and fought a war to break free of British rule.  They won.

Whitney Houston (sniff, sniff).

So we shoot rockets into the sky and sing our national anthem.  Some of us walk around all day singing God Bless America,  The Battle Hymn of the Republic,  America the Beautiful,  and My Country ‘Tis of Thee.   I love them all, American classics.

The skies light up at night, throughout the week, even in cities where private ownership of explosives is  illegal.  I could see four separate fireworks displays from my balcony last night.  All to celebrate independence, theoretically, something therapists discuss every day.

NPR, to keep it in perspective, has a nice discussion of what July 4th really means.  We should think about freedom as the freedom to walk the streets, heads up something not everyone has.  Some of us are in real prisons, penitentiaries.  Other prisons are virtual; they're in our heads.  Some of us are prisoners in our own homes, at the mercy of whims of dominant partners, parents, guardians, institutional staff, and care-givers.

So here's another short spin on it, because we all have to get to the pool or the beach, begin the potato salad.

Volunteered slavery, doing what the doctor, parents, or other authority figures tells us to do, feels like the opposite of independence.  Since it is our choice, follow orders or not, we'll often procrastinate, or deliberately act out, not follow at all.  This deludes us into thinking we’re in charge, independent.

Nobody is the boss of me. I can do what I want, when I want. Whatever it is can wait. It's a free country, America.

The paradox is that if we don’t want to do what's good for us, we'll find a reason not to do it, and of course, nobody is forcing us to do anything.  We can lie in bed as long as we wish in the morning. Our parents might throw a glass of water in our faces, our spouses or partners may flip off the covers.  But we can decline to cooperate, nevertheless.

True psychological independence is separating out the pleasure of what we want to do, which is slack off, from the pleasure of doing what is good for us. The pleasure of saying No! You can’t make me! versus Oh, that sounds like a good idea, actually.  I should, I will.

No, can be a stubborn pleasure, won't necessarily please us in the end or make us better people, not stronger physically, nor psychologically.

Saying I’ll pass on the pie, but save me a piece is good for us (how we hate those people).  That kind of control is a source.  Every anorexic knows this, which is why it's good to qualify control.  In fact, in therapy we're not all that big on control, a famous line from the movie Ordinary People. But self-control feels good, feels like independence, assuming we're not doing it to spite anyone.  If we are, psychological dependence factors in.

Getting change to be a choice is beyond difficult.  Convincing others that they are hurting themselves, not doing what is in their best interest, impossible.  It is what therapists work at so much of the time, but ever so subtly. Really?  Please build on that.  I’m so interested. That’s working for you, is it?

Very mild spoiler:

Saw The Amazing Spider-Man last night. I won't give away any plot, suffice it to say that the new Peter Parker, Andrew Garfield, is handsome and engaging, as is the entire cast, especially girlfriend Gwen, played by Emma Stone.  The writing is good, too.

In this film Peter (Spider-Man) is put in the position of rebelling, seemingly, but he doesn't want to  rebel, he just can’t help it.  He's always coming home late, making Auntie May and Uncle Ben worry. They try their best to tell him that it isn’t cool, making them worry like this, and not necessary.  Peter has a cell phone.  You could call, you know.

At one point Uncle Ben lectures Peter via voicemail.  Peter starts to listen then turns the message off.  Most kids do this, right? They don’t listen to our lectures, aren’t interested. To really listen, a person has to elect to listen. If you have had the privilege of going to college, you know that the good lectures at school are in classes called electives.   We choose to take electives, as opposed to those other classes that we have to take, requirements. Electives get our rapt attention.

Thus it is electing to choose what is healthy, what is good for us, that turns volunteered slavery into independence, more so in life than in the movies.  Only then, when we choose, does it feel we’re in charge, in control. And control feels like real freedom because it is not submission. Control is often about having the feeling of independence, if not the reality. Again, think anorexia or any eating disorder in which we choose to eat-- or not to eat.

Happy July Fourth, Happy Independence Day.  Don't drink and drive.

Not that we're telling anyone what to do.


A couple more patriotic songs before we go:

Celine Dion, God Bless America

And Marian Anderson, 1939, at Lincoln Memorial, after being denied the right to sing at Constitution Hall by the DAR, Daughters of the American Revolution.


Liz said...

wonderful post. thank you.

Christina said...

Feels good to be patriotic....and that Whitney Houston...what a talent she was...


lynette said...

awesome post, and much food for thought. i hope you had a great independence day!

inquitech said...
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