A while ago I saw a magician’s act on T.V. He was bound by chains, shackles and locks and put in a box. Then by some magic or skills he broke all the chains and things that bound him and was a free man. Such an amazing feat! Such an amazing feeling to break free of all that binds you.
Well that was magic. Maybe a trick of hand or eye or whatever else. Unfortunately though in real life too all of us are bound. All of us have chains that bind us, which are wrapped around us tightly. The more we struggle to break free the more we get entangled. I am yet to meet a person free of these chains that bind. Some get bound in one particular place while others seem to be able to drag themselves slowly and painfully. No one however has completely been able to break free.
So what chains are these? Who binds them around us? Why do they seem so impossible to break?
These chains are the obstacles that we have created for ourselves. We have bound ourselves in these chains unknowingly and now cannot find ways to unbind. Unfortunately it is not one chain but multiple chains that bind us. Let us have a look at some of these chains:
- The victim chain: Some of us or rather most of us tend to look at ourselves as a victim of circumstances. We look at ourselves as a passive victim of things that happen around us which are seemingly out of our control. The chain that wraps you here is the belief that one has no control or choice in what happens around us. The simplest example of this is “I have no time to exercise” excuse or “My job leaves me no time to go for a vacation” or “It is the fault of the system”. We are not passive observers in our life. Our circumstances offer us a choice. We are just too scared to make that choice and find it easier to be the victim.
- The ‘what if’ chain: This is one of the chains that is the most tight and difficult to break. Mark Twain once said “I had many problems in my life, most of them did not happen”. The human boon of imagination going drastically wrong. We spend most of our time anticipating possible scenarios without even considering the possibility of that ever happening. “What if the boss does not approve of my leave”, “What if I fail”, “What if I get hurt”. We anticipate even the remotest possibility of things not going our way and bind ourselves from even trying.
- The approval chain: Our life and its goal seem to be dictated by the need for approval from someone else. Sometimes these people are not even important but it is so imperative for every single person in the universe to approve of me. I can understand that sometime approval of relevant people matters but what we bind ourself with is the constant need to be approved by everyone for every single thing. So what if someone does not approve of my ideas or does not like me?
- The ‘yes sir’ chain: This chain is more toxic than any nuclear weapon. The inability to say no to people. We burden ourselves with unnecessary things and expectations simply because we cannot say no. ‘If I say no they will not consider me a friend’, ‘If I say no they will reject me’. ‘If I say no they will make fun of me’ and it’s an endless list. The chain of peer pressure. It is not limited to children and teenagers but to us adults as well. This chain is bound so tight that it has become a part of our thinking pattern. We not only find it difficult to say no but also get offended when someone says no to us. See where the fear of no brought us!
- The righteous chain: It has been instilled into us to do the ‘right’ thing since childhood. Nobody however told me that seemingly right things may not be right in that situation. A simple example, I was taught as a child to finish my food. Now I have food which has mushrooms that I am allergic to. The sensible thing to do is simple not eat it but the chain of righteousness does not allow me to throw it away and I choose to suffer. The righteous thing to do for a parent to put the child as their priority. Does that include your health? How many times I have seen people cancel appointments with doctors because the child has exams!
- The should/should not chain: This chain is of the compulsions that we bind ourselves with. I should be able to manage everything. I should not get angry ever. I should be independent and should not ask for help even when I am in pain. I should be the best in everything I do. All excellent ideas but should they be compulsions or desires. Albert Ellis spoke about how these ‘shoulds’ cause anxiety because we take them as be all and end all. We build up very high expectations about ourselves and then bind ourselves to them because we cannot fulfil them.
As you can see these chains that bind us are connected to each other. One starts where the first ends. That means if we just start unravelling one the others might come off too. However the main question is are we willing to unbind ourselves. Somewhere these chains have become a part of our life. We are unable to distinguish ourselves from these chains. Maybe the chains have become a source of comfort, means to explain our failure or inabilities.
We were born without chains yet we choose to become prisoners of our own mind. It does not need the skill of a magician to break the chains, it takes the will of the fighter. Set the fighter free…..
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About the author
Dr Gauri Choudhary is an MPhil in Clinical Psychology from Mumbai. She has her expertise in Adult and Child Psychotherapy and diagnostic Psychometry. She is also competent in neuropsychological assessments and retraining.