Issue 58 –
What is the role of free will?
Don’t we have the ability to make free choices?
Drs Hal & Sidra Stone
The idea of free will and choice is a fantasy based on being identified with one’s primary self-system that does not allow the individual to see other selves – or views – as valid.
A young man chooses to go to law school and he sees himself as making a very clear choice as to his career. In fact, there is no choice. It is a group of selves he has grown up with – and that runs his life – that has made this decision and this group of selves is quite convinced that this is truly what the young man wants.
We do not make judgments about this. It is just the way decisions are usually made and it is perfectly natural and normal. It is rare, however, that this is a matter of free will.
Free will – or real choice – only happens when we can feel in ourselves the conflict between existing opposing selves or self-systems.
Let’s look at the law school choice in another way. Ben is interested in law in some way and he certainly loves the security it would bring to him. But he also loves his musical studies though it is harder to picture what form this interest in music might take. He also would like to have some time off. Jumping into graduate studies feels somewhat onerous to him after so many years of school. When Ben becomes aware of these very conflicting feelings in him and begins to take them seriously as different voices/selves to be honored, then he begins to move into the realm of conscious choice and free will.
Real personal freedom, from our perspective, does not occur by doing what you want or by following your heart. It occurs by feeling the power of the heart and the power of the mind and the power of whatever other selves are competing for attention. In this way of living we learn how to stand between opposing value systems and live with the tension and heat of this process. It is from this kind of “sweating of the opposites” that real choice and free will begin to emerge in our lives.