Free at Last: Challenges Facing Those Who Are “Liberated”

Free at Last: Challenges Facing Those Who Are “Liberated”

We must each ultimately be the measure of our own worth. In returning to our metaphoric Eden, we find that “reason, man’s blessing, is also his curse” (Fromm, 1955, p. 24). Reason differentiates us from all other species, yet also alienates us from the world in which other species seem to live with greater contentment and less intraspecies hostility:

Human existence is different in this respect from that of all other organisms; it is in a state of constant and unavoidable disequilibrium. Man’s life cannot be lived by repeating the pattern of his species; he must live. Man is the only animal that can be bored, that can feel evicted from paradise. Man is the only animal who finds his own existence a problem which he has to solve and from which he cannot escape. He cannot go back to the pre-human state of harmony with nature; he must proceed to develop his reason” (Fromm, 1955, p. 24).

Like his famous intellectual predecessor, Sigmund Freud, Fromm believes that traditional religion offers only the illusion of meaning, and other institutions of economic and political origins are even less well equipped in modern times to provide meaning. When we rely on these institutions and give them our unswerving allegiance, we create conditions for the fascism that Fromm witnessed in 1941 Germany and the alienation that he observed in the American (and Western European) culture of the 1950s.

Freedom in Eastern Europe

As Weiss and I looked specifically to our interviews with men and women of Hungary and Estonia, we wondered about the choices they have made given the rich, and abrupt, opportunities for freedom in their newly liberated countries. To what extent did they tend to escape from freedom? Were their strategies for escape like those found in the United States: friendly fascism, consumption, and/or substance abuse? Had they constructed their own illusion(s) of freedom? If so, what was the nature of their illusion regarding forms of leadership, patterns of consumption, and the management of personal emotions?


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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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