Freedom means – freedom to resist conditioning so our conditions don’t condition us.
We aren't as free as we like to believe we are. In fact, a lot of our behaviors and thoughts, are conditioned and happen whether we want them to or not.
I teach people how behaviors are conditioning and trained up and how to resist that conditioning and how to stop unwanted behavior in yourself and others.
In a very utilitarian way, freedom really is the freedom to be free from your conditioned responses. After all, if you are responding in a way that is conditioned, it means, you are not choosing your response.
Unlearning takes time
Think of the brain as a pattern recognition and prediction machine. As you learn patterns, your brain cells create connections to contain that learning. The more you practice, the more automatic whatever you are learning becomes.
This is one of the reasons why it takes ~30 days to learn a new skill. The brain needs time to learn the patterns of the behavior, recognize them and start to be able to predict based on those patterns.
Just as it takes time to learn a new skill, unlearning also takes time. You can't just say - ok - I will no longer recognize a patter that has become a physical connection in the brain. You have to practice ignoring the pattern and - basically - learn to ignore it and replace it with something else.
The good news, is - this is totally doable. The bad news is - it's REALLY hard to do. But knowing how to do this and how your brain works at least gives you a chance to change.
Critical Thinking is important
One of the reasons Humanists are so adamant that we teach people critical thinking skills is that in order to unlearn your conditioning so that you CAN choose your response to your conditions, you have to spend some time thinking about how you think. And that is what critical thinking is. It's thinking critically about thinking.
Our brains get lots of things wrong. It takes a lot of energy to think so our brains like to do it as little as possible. It likes to recognize patterns and simplify things by automating our thinking.
There are tricks you can learn and practice that can help you interrupt the brain's automation. It's like learning a new skill and once your brain learns how to do it - it will self reward itself for doing it. I have a book and course on - Reality Based Decision Making where I teach some of these skills. https://humanistlearning.com/video-reality-based-decision-making-for-effective-strategy-development/
The point is - if you actively work at practicing critical thinking, you will get better at it and it will become more automatic and doing this - thinking about how you think - will help free you from your automatic brain processes so you can double check whether what your brain is thinking is true or not.
The reason I am writing about this is because - I'm watching people in cults believe they are free and - they clearly aren't. Specifically, I'm thinking about the violent extremists in the USA - the supremacist militias that are radicalizing young men to pick up guns and go on shooting sprees. These young men - are not freethinkers and they aren't free. They are being manipulated by others to do incredibly horrible and stupid things.
What cults offer is community. The price? Conformity of thought. These men join cults because they have some idea of what sort of man they want to be. But - strong men don’t join cults. And they certainly don’t join violent cults. They are strong enough to stand on their own and don’t need a cult to make them feel safe.
Standing alone, takes more courage than standing in a group. If you want to truly be free, you need to think critically and learn how to choose your responses so that your conditions don't condition you to do stupid things.