We tend to assume that people, who are for the great part sane, are fully aware of what they are doing and are left with full freedom to decide, at times even the outcome of important events or the fate of vulnerable people. Such are the basis of human rights and democracy, two movements that supposedly gave us more freedom of being ourselves and of making our own choices.
But is this really the case?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘decision’ as “the action or process of deciding something or of resolving a question” and ‘choice’ as “the act of choosing between two or more possibilities or the right or ability to choose”. This clearly brings to light that both require a process of deliberation leading to a final act of choice. Subsequently what we choose or decide will mark the outcome of our existence both individually and socially.
But are we really deciding on what we truly believe, understand and want for ourselves and are we taking responsibility and accountability for it?
A bird’s eye view at our society today clearly shows a total confusion in the understanding of basic concepts of being, like responsibility and accountability, which comes from a lack of awareness at an individual level and a lack of conformity of society at large. As a result, we either take decisions based on what the mass or the immediate other thinks, giving no space whatsoever for our thougthts and opinions, or abstain completely and allow others to decide and act on our behalf even on issues which affect us directly.
Being the eternal idealist I find it hard to beleive or accept that we are all completely devoid of the capability to understand these concepts especially when we are legally and morally given the freedom to choose. As a result it all boils down to us relinquishing our responsibilities in favour of what we perceive to be an easier life. In reality we are narrowing our horizons, and thus our freedom, while allowing our decisions to be shaped by forces around us totally denying ourselves in the process.
According to Carl Jung (1958) this process comes about as “most people confuse “self-knowledge” with knowledge of their conscious ego personalities…(and) measure their self-knowledge by what the average person in their social environment knows of himself, but not by the real psychic facts which are for the most part hidden from them……Hence one is always coming up against the prejudice that such and such a thing does not happen “with us” or “in our family” or among our friends and acquaintances, and on the other hand, one meets with equally illusory assumptions about the alleged presence of qualities which merely serve to cover up the true facts of the case. In this broad belt of unconsciousness, which is immune to conscious criticism and control, we stand defenseless, open to all kinds of influences and psychic infections……
The mass crushes out the insight and reflection that are still possible with the individual….” (The Undiscovered Self).
While we all seek complex and ‘state-of-the-art’ ways of bettering our lives and ‘be more in control’ we are missing out the wood for the trees as the answer is as simple and natural as it is for us to breathe, blink and sleep. True understanding of ourselves and the world around comes from self-awareness and only decisions and choices taken from that truth can be truly called ours. Otherwise we will be like paper doll chains our fate decided by the hand that uses the scissors and our identity and individuality wiped out like chalk off a board.
Quoting Marie Curie:
“You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.”
In my case it sums up my responsibility as an individual in society and most especially as a medical doctor and Gestalt pscyotherapist. And you?