What to Do When We Lose Our Freedom: The Principle of Reactance:

by godbersen

We all face unpleasant restrictions of our freedom from time to time. In these cases an appropriate reaction is required.

As we are living in a free country we are very proud of our personal independence and freedom of choice. However, through political or societal decisions and through a change in our social relations this freedom can be restricted. Then, we normally feel unpleasant or even angry with a strong motivation to reinstall the former balance in our lives. There are two approaches to cope with this loss of freedom.

What Not to Do: Evasion, Aggression and Self-Delusion

After you have lost your freedom in one area of life it would be an easy way out to do similar activities in another area which are out of the control of the person or organization who restricted your initial freedom. Just imagine you have a problem with alcohol and regularly drink at home. After a while your partner tells you that he or she will no longer accept your behavior. You could easily go to a bar and continue drinking out of his/her sight. But such evasive reaction does not solve your problem and the dispute in the relationship. Therefore, never avoid or deny a personal or relationship problem.

As mentioned in the introduction, it is not unusual and fairly normal that people get angry when they lose some of their freedom and cannot see a way to regain the former freedom. So a very common reaction is aggressive behavior. You can ask every doorman of any bar, each one was violently targeted by guests denied entry and sent away. Again, aggression does not solve a problem; and this example should also clarify that you will most likely cause more damage to yourself because, in this example, it is nearly certain that a doorman is stronger and has better hand-to-hand-combat skills than you.

Another easy but wrong way out of the dilemma of loosing some of your freedom is self-delusion. Devaluing your lost freedom, even though it was and is highly important to you, will only work for short period of time. Sooner or later you will feel discontent because you have not causally coped with the problem.

What to Do: Positive Problem Solving and Rational Reevaluation

After explaining what not to do it is time to state what you should do when you have lost some of your freedom. The best way is to positively and constructively solve the problem. You need to analyze your situation with its social relations. This includes the causes and reasons why you have lost your freedom and the opportunities to reinstall it. For example, if your partner does not want you to meet some of your friends you should talk to him/her to uncover the reasons for his/her position. Then, you can find a solution together that suits both of you and your couple relationship. In this example, as well as in most of the other cases, you will face complex and difficult social interactions. Therefore, you should understand and follow the principles of good communication.

Amongst the causal problem solving, there is another possibility. As mentioned before, it is advised that you analyze your situation. You can come to the conclusion that giving up some of your freedom is simply the right thing to do. The measures against terrorism give a very good example. Of course, every decent citizen had to give up some of his/her freedom because of higher security standards in travels or other public areas. But quite frankly, if it helps to prevent terrorist attacks I very happily accept that the security check in the airport takes longer and the government stores some of my personal details.

Updated: 05/20/2013, godbersen
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