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 Negative – Positive Liberty?

WordsSir Isaiah Berlin OM CBE FBA (6 June 1909 – 5 November 1997) was a Latvian–born British social and political theorist, philosopher, and historian of ideas. When I read Educated by Tara Westover, I learned about his work. In Westover's book she states, "Negative liberty is the freedom from external obstacles or constraints. An individual is free in this sense if they are not physically prevented from taking action. Positive liberty is freedom from internal constraints. Positive liberty is self–mastery––the rule of the self, by the self: To have positive liberty is to take control of one's own mind; to be liberated from irrational fears and beliefs, from addictions, superstitions, and all forms of self-coercion."

Berlin derived 'negative freedom' from the British tradition, and 'positive freedom' which asks not what we are free from, but what we are free to do. Berlin points out that these two different conceptions of liberty can clash with each other.

My journey to this positive liberty began after a painful divorce while attempting to raise my five, three, one year old children mostly alone. Like Tara, I experienced childhood traumas that caused me much confusion, distrust, and pent-up emotions. My coping skills were destructive and my environment unstable. Once I was educated on mental illnesses and addictions through the 12–Step program, self-help books, and classes, I was able to create the changes I desperately needed and wanted to live a success filled and happier life.

Berlin's positive liberty definition fits perfectly with my accomplishments. As my self-awareness increased, I was distinguishing past thoughts and sensations from what was actually happening in the present moment. This was so freeing. One of the keys was to allow myself to feel. When I speak about my recovery from codependency and alcohol addiction, often I share that I could get through life easily if I just did not have to feel. This is important because it informed me that I need to learn how to be with my mental thoughts and emotions.

Stephen Levine, author of Who Dies?, states, "Until we have nothing to hide, we cannot be free. If we are still considering the contents of the mind as the enemy, we become frightened, thinking we have something especially wrong with us."

Many people are exploring mindfulness practices to strengthen their self-awareness. If you are interested in a movement program that can give you the ability to explore your inner world, I invite you to try the Meditative Movement technique. A 2017 University of Minnesota research study found this innovative program reduces anxiety, depression and fatigue while improving emotional and functional wellbeing. Although it is powerful, it is also simple. You move your body as you adapt the physical movements to your own ability. Then you add the breath which is calming in and of itself. Lastly, you speak aloud a spoken affirmation. This combination awakens your inner power. You can then listen to your body and the thoughts that are going through your brain in a more objective way.

The 140 cardio, flexibility, balance and strengthening movements give you a way to release harmful energies like worry and replace them with centering and energizing states of being like joy and peace.

For more information about Meditative Movements, mindfulness, meditation practices visit

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