Liberty not Chaos
On this Independence Day we invite you to read Alexander Lowen's perspective on freedom, liberty, and chaos.
A perspective seldom heard in the mainstream today:
"To exist every social organization must place some restrictions upon the freedom of its members. To further the common goal, it must limit the rights of the individual. If the restrictions are too severe or the limits too narrow, the freedom of the individual may be curtailed to a point where the sense of individuality is reduced. But the absence of limits can have an equally harmful effect upon the sense of self. A body of water flowing down a mountain is not a river unless it is contained within banks; it is a flood. The lack of structure leads to chaos, not liberty."
– from Fear of Life by Alexander Lowen, M.D.
"When structure breaks down in a society, chaos develops, creating an atmosphere of unreality. Unreality threatens a person’s sanity, unless the person cuts off feelings and operates from thinking alone… Yet an old structure must break down if a new one is to emerge. That is the natural process of growth.
We should not however, delude ourselves into thinking that the breakdown, in itself, represents progress. It holds out the possibility of growth, but there is no guarantee that the new will be better than the old. Historically, the breakdown of a society has sometimes led to a period of darkness before a new light dawns…
Above all, we should not regard the absence of limits as freedom. A leaf blown by the wind is not free in human terms. A person without emotional ties to people or places is removed, not free. Doing whatever one wants doesn’t make one free. Such behavior characterizes insane people, who are swept by the winds of their sensations without an awareness of reality. The absence of limits results in a loss of the sense of self. Limits are boundaries. Without a boundary to separate the individual from the environments there is no self. When a drop of water enters a pond, it is no longer an individual drop. Individuality and selfhood depend on recognized and accepted boundaries and limits. Such boundaries ensure the containment of feelings so that the ego is not flooded, overwhelmed, and lost. Secure boundaries lead to a secure sense of self, one that can base its identity on feelings.
The breakdown of social structure manifests in the disintegration of family life, the lack of respect for authority, and the collapse of established moral principles destroys boundaries, removes limits, and leads to the denial of feeling and the loss of a sense of self. In place of the self, one creates and image to provide some identity. In today’s culture, that image is described as a life-style. We are told that we are free to create our own life-styles, in effect creating our own identities. Obviously, there can be as many different life-styles as there are different images. But when one bases one’s identity on a life-style, isn’t one confusing the artifact with its creator, the house with its occupant, the façade with the feeling self? A house without an occupant is not a home, a life-style without a self is not a person."
– from Narcissism by Alexander Lowen, M.D.