Feeling free in our world, in our lives and within a relationship is a hard state to achieve. Not the kind of freedom that allows for boundary-less commitment, but the freedom that actually solidifies one’s sense of self and place in the world, yet allows your spirit to be authentic and free. Commitments are often scary for people who love their freedom, but we need to look at commitment to another and to self in a new way.
‘You must love in a way that makes the other person feel free.’ ~ Thích Nhat Hanh
Limitations and traps
We have societal rules, relationship rules and self-imposed rules that follow us from childhood or our own need for boundaries. Some of these rules are healthy and functional, but others create such limitations that make many of us feel trapped and restricted – most certainly when we signed documents to prove our love to another or “tie-the-knot.”
People say they feel stuck or like they are in an invisible cage. Some people feel this way because of old stories in their mind and fears in their hearts. There are those who are dependent on relationships to prove their worth. There are others who feel trapped because they don’t feel secure enough to share their genuine feelings inside a relationship. Other reasons arise due to our history and programming in our development due to the way we received acceptance and love or did not receive these things.
So, we trap ourselves in the beliefs that either we are not good enough or that the other person is doing something to wrong us, proving that we are not worthy. These beliefs often travel back to our original wounds as children. We did, in fact, grow up in imperfect environments being shepherded through life by imperfect people.
So how can we feel free in the confines of such emotional baggage or societal pressures? The answer lies in that sacred place of the heart.
Control vs. love
It’s easy to blame others and our life experience in creating these cages. Personal freedom is a skill to be fostered, not something that can be handed to us. It is our emotional work to heal the binds that tie us, and it is also our work to allow ‘the other’ to do their work to heal the binds that tie them. This can only happen from a place of emotional maturity that owns and accepts and not blames.
We create confining feelings within relationships to give us a sense of control. However, being ‘right’ often makes us overly ‘tight’ in our experience. We begin to harden the edges and create prickly borders around our hearts. This controlling mechanism is usually put in place to protect us from our fear of being hurt – of being unlovable. If we create self-imposed limitations, we always have control of who gets in and how far they get. Yet this kind of control and manipulation also creates self-imposed repression, distancing and that feeling of being trapped. If the barbed-wire fence around your heart is in place, it’s equally hard to get out as it is for someone to get in.
Honest and authentic self-love is the best antidote
We yearn to be free. And the only antidote is honest, genuine and authentic self-love.
When we’re in denial of our deepest pains, we lash out, build walls and blame the world for why our lives and relationships suffer. The only way to shift this energy is to unlock your heart and dowse yourself with loving compassion, grace and forgiveness and dive into the parts of yourself that are wounded. The walls will soften as you allow yourself to begin processing the less-than-desirable feelings of insecurities, guilt or self-doubt that you harbor within (and often feel ashamed of). When we own and take responsibility for our pain, the door to the cage begins to open. The honesty of self may be scary to share, but this kind of truth and vulnerability strips away the anger, fear, resentment and blame we often place on others. They are not responsible for our recovery and self-growth.
Love truly is the answer. Not the hallmark love or the “anything goes” superficial kind of love, but love that accepts and trusts that you are ok to be imperfect, to heal and to be lovable in the eyes of another. To experience freedom inside a committed relationship, you must first experience the freedom within.