Freeing the Prisoner in our Mind

Words swirlI just read a very thought provoking article on Flavorwire.com, which reviews the film based on the Stanford Prison Experiment, where a psychology professor set up a prison environment in the basement of the Psychology Department and where students were randomly assigned the roles of “prisoner” or “guard”.

The author of the article, Moze Halpern, chose to make comparisons between the film and what happens in society where we have roles either assigned to us or where we chose them. Moze gave a few different examples of different situations where even in “play” situations our minds can very quickly come to accept the limitations placed upon it and how some people can be very traumatized at the hands of others who inhabit their roles too strongly.

It’s very important to note that the students in this 1971 experiment were free to leave at any time, for any reason, yet for the students who were assigned the role of prisoner, they had come to believe their pretend roles so completely that they only left via the “normal” route of a parole board hearing!

While I found Moze’s analogies and writing to be very explanatory of this phenomenon, I also saw how it affects so many of us in our everyday lives.

How you may ask? By virtue that many of us have been so indoctrinated to accept the power/authority and follower/passive roles we live. Look at how many of these roles exist very naturally in our lives: parent/child, teacher/student,  boss/employee, military/civilians, police/civilians, etc.

We have all been raised where we have experienced these roles and even if there were people who rebelled against them, we all have an understanding of these roles and our position within them.

The in-habitation of our roles can get so ingrained that we don’t question whether we should stay in that role. Conversely, we may be so unhappy within our role all we want to do is to get out, but we feel powerless to make changes or to leave.

The role has become so ingrained that it has become a prison in our minds. It’s very difficult to leave our role or change our lives for the better because now we fear many things: reprisals, punishment, loss. Under the category of fears of loss I’ll include: approval, social stability and standing, relationships, just to name a few.

This powerlessness so many people feel regarding being able to leave or change a role leaves many with intense feelings of anger, resentment, even depression.

I speak of these things in my book “On Becoming a Lemonade Maker” because I went through all of those negative feelings for many years and struggled to see my way out. It was very difficult to learn how to choose a new path for myself and free the inner prisoner in my mind!

Years ago when I was a private art teacher I had come to see that many people need someone in more of a position of authority to give them permission to pursue a desire to learn something new, to try on a different role.

It became my role as teacher to give them permission to follow a dream!

If a person has had negative people in their lives bringing them down and effectively destroying their dream, it becomes an insurmountable wall in a person’s mind; those words seem set in stone.

Our understanding of who has authority over us is so ingrained that many of us accept the negative messages into our inner soul and don’t stop to asses if that person is even correct in their assessment!

It’s mind blowing to realize that we don’t have to accept other people’s opinions of us as if it were immutable truths!

Everyone is entitled to their opinions but when we have picked up consciously or subconsciously on these cues and have allowed them to define our world, these have become the prison many of us have found ourselves in!

In our world we now live, we are told we can be the author of our own lives. This understanding is loudly proclaimed: “Dream it and do it!” with so many variations of this thought. For people who have a good sense of self, they can change their lives simply by putting their minds to it!

However, for many of us, myself included, we suffered verbal and physical cruelty which made it very difficult to just step out of the mental prison. Even if we changed our lives radically and moved on into happy and productive lives, the vestiges of those negative times had left a strong imprint on our minds, so belief in oneself and feeling good about oneself remained the last barrier to overcome.

I’ve learned that we do need each other to give and receive support. Just as the negative people had reinforced the negative thoughts in our minds, so too positive and supportive people help reinforce positive thoughts inside of our spirits!

We can all break free from our past, we can all heal and grow toward a future we design.

Is this a guarantee that everyone will?

Unfortunately no, because for some the learning curve far exceeds their time here on Earth. Please don’t despair! We live in a time where there’s more support than there ever was, so the possibilities of being able to change are much more tangible than they ever were before!

Even though we can do our jobs very well we may still have the inner desire to change certain things in our lives, and have long felt powerless to do it. I wrote my book I think not to “fix” people, but to provide resources, even a plan, to help people look inwardly to see what are the inner barriers holding each person back from changing certain things in their lives and to give support and direction to do it.

Is there any book or person who can free us from these mental prisons we can live in? The shocking answer: No! This is a job for each of us to do for ourselves, to realize we are in fact free and can step away!

The difference between someone freeing us and someone giving us insight and strength to do it for ourselves is the difference between staying dependent and becoming free and independent! This has been the approach I’ve chosen to take with people!

What are your thoughts? Have you been a prisoner of certain thought patterns? What are you doing to break free and to change how you see things?

Moze Halpern’s full article is here if you wish to read it

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Moze Halpern’s full article is here if you wish to read it

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