Our fear of freedom is a profound source of difficulty in our organisations.
We’re afraid of taking up our own freedom, because with freedom comes risk, and with freedom comes responsibility.
If I speak up, create something new, make a dent in things, allow my feelings to show, do what matters, say no to something, or question a process, person or idea… then who knows what might happen? I might inspire someone, influence a whole system, do something that really matters, fail, be embarrassed. I might be loved, adulated, judged, hated, despised or – for some of us worst of all – not noticed at all.
No, better not to take up our own freedom.
It’s way too risky.
And we’re afraid of others taking up their freedom, because we fear our own wishes will be thwarted or we’ll be ashamed.
If others are free then I might get questioned, I may lose my sense of control, I may get judged, my ideas might be sidelined, I might be less powerful. I might feel vulnerable, afraid, surprised, opened. I might find out I don’t know as much as I thought I knew. I might find a whole new path opening up before me, or end up somewhere quite different from where I expected.
No, better not to allow others to take up their freedom.
And so we curtail our liberty in every direction. We become the inventors of and followers of rules that don’t serve us. We declare boundaries where none are needed, or fail to declare them when they could help. We stay small, in predictable bounds. We bury ourselves in email. We invent processes that keep us feeling safe and secure. We try to fit in at the expense of standing out. We do things because they’re ‘best practice’ but not because they help. And we do what we can to avoid making a ruckus, inviting trouble, or allowing ourselves or others to shine.
It’s tiring. It leaves us diminished and scattered and at odds with our own aliveness.
But at least it’s safe.
Or so it seems.