Fear of Freedom
“Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan”, goes the saying. Obviously, many people revel in someone else’s success, trying to take a share of the credit that rightfully belongs to the achiever. Failure is left alone for the condemned to suffer in silence and shame.
If one sees things through, one will realize that failure too has a father. In life, many people who have failed or seem to be losers take the blame to the doorsteps of their parents, fathers particularly. It is a fact that sometimes parents doom their children’s lives and careers with bad parenting, but nowadays one sees too many children blaming their fathers for their own failure.
A son of a modest farmer once said to his father “I don’t think this farm can support my dreams. I shall get into business”. The father tried to drill sense into the son’s head by telling him that if he would put some effort into the farm, he would be able to live a cushy life.
The son obviously had different plans and asked his father for 10 lakh rupees. “Give me this money and I will invest that in business and double it in no time, just you watch”, said the son. The father initially refused, but eventually the son prevailed and made the father mortgage their farm to raise the requisite sum of money. The son set up a business in the village and, just as his father had feared, razed it to the ground in a few years time.
Now the son has a new tune to sing. “You are responsible for my failure”, says the son to the father. “Three years ago if you had stuck to your guns and refused to give me the money, I wouldn’t have failed in business”. I was privy to the story of the father, who confided in me some years back. So many mature persons blame their fathers for their failure and carry on with their life singing the same old track.
It is a fact of life that we cannot choose our parents, nor the family that we are born into. This is a matter of natural probability. We have no role to play in this. Nonetheless we do have the right to exercise choice on every decision of our life no sooner we attain majority. Even though our parents and relatives do have an influence on our decision making process, the buck stops with us. In so far as decision making for our self is concerned, the decision to take a particular path is ours to choose. But the freedom to choose creates another perplexity in our life. We are afraid to choose. To be independent.
Internationally renowned social psychologist Erich Seligmann Fromm in his seminal book Fear of Freedom touches upon certain frailties of human nature.
We all covet freedom. From parental pressures, societal clutches, foreign rule. In other words, we love the feeling of independence, of freedom. But in our subconscious mind, we are also fearful of freedom, of independence. Somewhere deep inside the recesses of our mind, we abhor the idea of using our mind and taking decisions. Then sometimes we mortgage our independence to religion, fate, teacher, leader, sect or political thought, thus tying ourselves into such imaginary institutions. Just to have someone to blame for our failure in life.
I am yet to come across successful people who dedicate their success to fate or destiny. But if you look at anyone who is a self-proclaimed failure you will see him blaming fate, God, his father, his business partner and everyone except his own self. He would claim to be a victim of circumstances and continue to live in such a delusional, denial mode.
The line from the Geeta - “ma faleshu kadachana” (I shall not stake a claim on the fruits of my labour) is something that the less successful cite far too often.
Freedom and independence is one side of a coin, whose other side is responsibility. We do not want independence coupled with responsibility. Everyone feels freedom should come with no conditions attached to it. This in itself is too much to ask for.
Freedom without responsibility is much like a vehicle with no clutch or brakes and only an accelerator to zoom into the dark alleys of failure.
Own up to the responsibility of your freedom and enjoy the road ahead.