The Human Freedom Project
The Human Freedom Project
Do You Want Safety - or FREEDOM?

Do You Want Safety - or FREEDOM?

If you want freedom, you have to turn towards pain.

Dear friends,

You’re invited to go on a deep dive with me - into the worlds of pain, and freedom.

Pain and its transformation is the topic of the audio I’m sharing with you today. This audio is something I’ll be offering email subscribers who visit my newly redesigned website. Since you’re already subscribed, you’re getting it here.

‘Here’ being Substack - the platform I just can’t quit. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with it for a year, but after playing a game of brain breaking internet chess the past week with all the various pieces of my ‘tech stack’ (intent on migrating to another email provider), I’ve decided to make this my primary content and communication hub.

Starting next Monday I’ll be sharing new podcast episodes weekly (it’s finally launching!), along with new YouTube videos and short pieces of writing designed to help us “think with reality,” heal ourselves and our world, and walk the path of freedom.

As a Substack subscriber myself, I love the app. If you don’t have it, consider downloading it. You can choose to be notified of new posts in app only, or by email - or both. I’ve set mine to app only, which means my inbox is lighter. Hurrah!

Below is a written piece that acts as an accompaniment to the audio and a jumping off point for the soon to launch podcast. Enjoy!

The Human Freedom Project is a 100% reader supported publication! To support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

We live in a beautiful - and perilous - world.

Safety can never be guaranteed, especially if we do our best to curate “safe” bodies, “safe” relationships, and “safe” societies instead of courageously confronting our problems and fears - as individuals, and together as a human family.

Pain, on the other hand, is guaranteed.

Accidents, injuries, illnesses, betrayals, heartbreak, financial ruin and the unbearable will happen.

Death is coming for all of us.

Learning how to navigate competently and confidently through the many perils of life is the ultimate protection (not to be confused with taking unnecessary risks or intentionally putting ourselves in harm's way). It's about living as fully as possible and refusing to turn a blind eye to malevolence and danger, or retreat from the call to freedom because we're afraid of the obstacles we will surely face.

Way back in 2004 I wrote four words in a journal that changed my life forever:

I am utterly traumatized.

Panic gripped my throat as I began writing the words. Part of me was certain that if I admitted how traumatized I really was, then the trauma would have absolute power over me and I'd fall into a black abyss that would swallow me forever.

Instead, the most unexpected thing happened - I felt my body RELAX.

That was the moment I realized that truth is felt in the body, and if we want freedom then we have to turn towards pain.

Peace washed over me for the first time in my life.

The relief I felt was so substantial that I became a devoted apprentice to my body; and this thing called pain. What else could my body teach me about truth? What other promises did pain offer - if I turned towards it in every area of life, instead of opposing myself to it?

Twenty years have passed since the day I wrote those words in my journal, and I’ve learned a lot about the true nature and purpose of pain. I am convinced that when we know how we function, we know how to heal. This applies equally to a single human being as it does to the whole of human society.

I am equally convinced that seeking safety is tantamount to a self imposed prison sentence.

As discussed in the audio, pain is a word we use to describe physical, emotional, social, financial, ecological and existential phenomena. And it is nearly impossible to define scientifically.

Here’s my working theory:

Pain is [a request for] protection.

(The suppression of pain is called trauma).

PROTECTED is very different than safe.

What does it mean to be protected?

To answer this question, I want to tell you about a client of mine.

This was a woman who had been sexually abused as a child and then assaulted and raped as an adult. She felt very unsafe in her body, and in the world, and was dealing with chronic pain that simply refused to budge despite her willingness to “do anything” to heal. She had stopped nearly all physical activities and rarely left the house. Pain is protection.

Before working with me, she had spent 8 YEARS working with a very popular protocol that promises chronic pain sufferers complete relief through a specific brand of emotional healing work. Their reason for her persistent pain 8 years into their protocol? She still had emotional healing to do, and once it was healed her pain would disappear. (We cannot outsmart the divine wisdom animating the body).

Before that she had spent time in a spiritual community attempting to meditate all day on oneness and universal love. Sitting for 7+ hours a day made the pain much worse, but they told her it was all part of the practice, and if she became truly good at meditation then she wouldn't feel the pain anymore. Pain is a request for protection.

After one of our sessions I gave her the homework of defining, in her own language, the words “safety” and “danger.”

During a follow up session she shared her definitions with me:

“Safe” = free from all threats and able to do what I want.

“Danger” = unable to protect myself from violations and threats.

Like most people, she defined safety to mean a body or a place or a world “free of threats.”

Her body, however, knew the truth:

Life is full of very real perils, and to live fully would mean to make herself vulnerable and risk facing her worst fears.

Her definition of danger was spot on; so I had her flip that definition into its opposite, and map that onto the word safety.

“Safe” = the ability to use every available resource to protect myself from violations and threats.

What a world of difference!

Safe is a state of being that can only be owned fully when we have learned the skills necessary to protect ourselves wherever we go in life.

Armed properly, we can now travel freely, do what we want, and live fully, because we know that dangers exist and we're prepared to deal with them.

Ironically, it is this state of being that acts as an invisible shield and repels bad actors from seeing us as potential prey. We've become the hunter, instead of the hunted.

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How would your life change, if you chose the following definition of safe?

SAFE = the competence and confidence to protect myself from all threats: physical, emotional, social, financial and existential.

Before you can OWN the competence and confidence to protect yourself from all kinds of threats, you have to:

  1. Learn how to identify real threats, and distinguish them from imagined threats.

  2. Fully map the territory - your body, psyche, subconscious vs conscious mind, relationships, ecosystem, perhaps even the government and society at large.

  3. Voluntarily face what you fear in order to learn something new and grow your capacities.

  4. Develop the skills needed to protect yourself from the real threats you identified in step one.

When you do the above, you will not be someone who shrinks your world in fear. You will not retreat when life tests you. Instead, you will welcome the opportunity to be tested in order to learn new skills, strengthen your resolve, grow your courage, identify new resources, establish new allies and evolve as a spiritual being.

I talk about this at length in the audio, but it bears repeating:

Developing real freedom often feels terrible in the body because it necessitates that we override the primitive aspects of our biology; namely, the survival mechanisms of the nervous system. Which goes against most trauma healing and nervous system health advice circulating the internet today.

Certainly, we have a choice.

We can focus on creating "safety" - or we can focus on developing ourselves into becoming more than we are. I am not here to judge anyone for their choices.

But maybe, like me, what you're being offered isn't working, and/or doesn't make sense to you - and you're looking for answers and solutions that will help you become less afraid and more courageous; less ignorant and more wise; less incompetent and more capable of skillfully navigating the realities of your body, relationships and life.

Facing what we fear is literally transformative.

This practice changes us physiologically, psychologically, biologically and spiritually.

Since I started systemically and voluntarily facing my fears, I’ve been rejected, humiliated, threatened, canceled, banished, ridiculed, financially jeopardized and betrayed. And...I learned something useful from every one of these experiences that has helped me become wiser and more actualized in my potential.

The path of freedom is NOT risk-free.

The path of freedom is one of personal integrity, moral will and sourcing authority from within.

If you want freedom, you have to turn towards pain.

There’s the pain of staying where you are, or the pain of growing.

As Viktor Frankl said:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”

Pain is a stimulus.

Before responding…pause.

Consider answering yourself some of the questions I propose in the audio. Questions like:

  • What is pain?

  • What is freedom?

  • What does freedom mean to YOU?

  • What is your pain protecting you from?

  • What dangers do you need to face in order to deal with them competently?

  • Is there something you're doing that has put you in harm’s way?

  • Is it something you're NOT doing that is putting you at risk today?

  • Do you have what it takes to walk away from what is harmful, even if it is familiar?

  • What is it about yourself that made (or makes) you vulnerable? Are you too ignorant? Naive? Lazy? Maybe you have unhealthy movement (or relationship) patterns. Are you in denial? Perhaps you are too willing to hurt yourself and unwilling to be the [real or imagined] cause of hurt.

After a period of introspection and investigation - choose wisely. Freedom is always a choice.

With love,

P.S. Please tell me what you think of the audio, and if you have comments/questions - post them here! I’d love to create a robust discussion of about these two Mysteries: pain and freedom.

The Human Freedom Project is 100% reader supported. To support my work, consider becoming a paid or free subscriber.