Finding Freedom, Part 2: The Traps
There are two types of Identity Traps:
- The belief that you should be someone other than yourself.
- The assumption that others will do things in the way you would.
Each person in the world is different and unique. Each person has their own knowledge, understanding, perceptions and attitudes. Each person acts in a way that will get them what they want – and acts in a way that will avoid consequences they don’t want. Certain actions will produce certain consequences… you can’t change that. And you can’t change the nature of other people. But you can control who you interact with and how you interact with them.
The Intellectual and Emotional Traps:
The Intellectual Trap is the belief that your emotions should conform to a preconceived standard. Remember that an emotion is an involuntary response to something that happens. Observe your emotional reactions and take them seriously. Learn what makes you happy (and unhappy). Then you can change things around so that you experience situations that create happiness, and avoid situations that create unhappiness.
The Emotional Trap is the belief that you can make important decisions at a time when you’re feeling strong emotions. Thinking is the conscious, deliberate, volitional attempt to perceive identities and utilize them. You think in order to observe, identify, create, and establish the conditions necessary for your happiness. But at moments when you experience strong emotions, your thinking is usually clouded.
The Morality Trap is the belief that you must obey a moral code created by someone else.
No one can decide for you what is moral or right. Doing what is right is doing that which will bring you long-term happiness. Only you can determine your personal mortality.
A personal morality is a set of generalized rules that steer you away from potential disasters and remind you of what you must do to achieve long-term desires. It is an attempt to consider all the relevant consequences of your actions and to answer the question: “How can I get something I want without hurting my chances for other things that are more important to me?”
The Unselfishness Trap is the belief that you must put the happiness of others ahead of your own. But everyone is selfish; everyone is doing what be believes will make himself happier. When someone calls you selfish, it’s because you are not doing what they selfishly want you to do.
Too often it’s assumed that in a relationship one must sacrifice their interests for the benefit of another – or make others sacrifice their interests for you. But there is a third option: a mutually beneficial relationship where no sacrifice is required. Your happiness depends on your freedom to gratify your desires.
The Group Trap is the belief that you can accomplish more by sharing responsibilities, efforts, and rewards with others than you can by acting on your own. But groups can’t think or act – only individuals can.
Groups require compromise. And it takes both time and effort to arrange that compromise. In a group endeavour, the rewards are shared between the members, yet we have no control over the efforts of the other group members. As the group gets larger, each individual’s participation becomes less relevant to the outcome, and each individual’s incentive is reduced.
There are four Government Traps:
- The belief that governments perform socially useful functions that deserve your support.
- The belief that you have a duty to obey laws.
- The belief that the government can be counted upon to carry out a social reform you favor.
- The fear that the government is so powerful that it can prevent you from being free.
Governments are really a giant group trap. They have no power to achieve something faster than the free market can provide. They don’t add anything, they merely replace what is available on the market. Governments take away individual choice. If the government doesn’t want something, it prevents individual consumers from getting it. And if the government wants something, it forces the individual consumer to pay for it, whether they want to or not. EVERY government regulation is enforced with violence.
The government trap that I struggle with the most personally is the obligation to obey the law. I was brought up to be a law-obiding citizen. But my rational brain understands that the only relevant concern with obeying the law (or not) should be the personal consequences to myself: what I will gain by disobeying vs. what I will lose should I get caught.
The Despair Trap is the belief that other people can prevent you from being free. Once you realize that you don’t have to please everyone, there is a whole world of relationships available to you.
The Rights Trap is the belief that your rights will make you free. By implication, a right to something means that someone else must provide that something, whether or not he wants to. Rights are invoked only when there’s a conflict of interest. Otherwise, there’s no need for them. Forget about your “rights”.
The Utopia Trap is the belief that you must create better conditions in society before you can be free. Trying to change society is an indirect alternative, it’s far simpler to find a direct alternative within the society to get what you want.
The Burning-Issue Trap is the belief that there are compelling social issues that require your participation. The issues were there before you were born, and will continue beyond your death. Why concern yourself with them when you only need one partner, one job, one set of friends and one place to live? Find the life you want and let the rest of society be.
The Previous-Investment Trap is the belief that time, effort, and money spent in the past must be considered when making a decision in the present. Once you’ve spent the resources, they’re gone.. Why waste time dwelling on them? What you must consider is how to spend the resources you have now to maximize your current and future happiness.
The Box Trap is the assumption that the cost of getting out of a bad situationis too great to consider. The box is any uncomfortable situation that restricts your freedom. Recognize that staying in the box requires you to pay a price: you must forego more desirable alternatives. And recognize that there is a price you can pay to get out. There is a choice, and the choice is yours.
The Certainty Trap is the urge to act as if your information were totally certain. We can never be totally certain. It’s important to realize that we never have all the information and that there is always a risk. Walking into a decision with your eyes open gives you far more control over your future – and your happiness.