My previous book Complete Liberty concerned the basics of our dire political predicament in America, as well as elsewhere; as goes Pax Americana, so goes the rest of the world. It explored the main problems with, and some of the reasons for, our distinct lack of freedom, as well as the solution of voluntaryism, or complete liberty. Yet from a psychological standpoint, the first book didn’t really explore the heart of the matter. So, in this second book about complete liberty, in addition to revisiting many philosophical topics, we’ll especially delve as deeply as possible into the psychological realm, in order to comprehend the full context. Ultimately, freedom is an inside job.
I began the Complete Liberty Podcast in 2008, a year after publishing the first book. Since then, I’ve covered many important topics on the show concerning why we don’t have complete liberty and, more importantly, how we can go about achieving it. While many of these vital topics didn’t make it into the first book, they’re definitely in this one.
As covered extensively on the podcast, childhood experiences prove to be key to political philosophy. The misfortunes, misunderstandings, conflicts, and other painful things that we experienced as children tend to have many parallels in our adult lives and in societies across the globe, which are awfully upsetting, frustrating, disappointing, and painful. This book can help us to breathe deeply and open a compassionate space for ourselves and others about these parallels.
Essentially, we can realize the connections between our present and past environments. Nearly all the harsh communication and violent conflict in the world represent the expressions of unprocessed, or unresolved, trauma from our childhoods. My dear friend Matt (http://deadeasylife.com) from southern California has a penchant for pithy acronyms, and on this topic he notes that we ASK (Acquire Self-Knowledge) because we ACT (Always Communicate Trauma). This book includes the various reasons why we have childhood trauma and, most importantly, how we can deal with it in healing ways. We’ll explore how to free ourselves from cycles of the painful past and change in profoundly enriching ways.
So, we’ll cover in significant detail the various aspects of what complete liberty involves from both a psychological and societal perspective. Much of this has also been explored on the podcast, particularly from episode 126 (the introduction to nonviolent communication) onward. The “inside out” aspect of complete liberty relates to acquiring explicit knowledge of our psychological world, which the first chapter defines and reflects on.
With a perspective of honesty and empathy, we’ll inspect the detrimental aspects of our culture, the disturbing “elephants in the room” with which we’re all too familiar. To know and experience a world of freedom means to fully accept and understand the presently unfree dynamics of coercion and obedience to so-called authority. These dynamics diminish the value and practice of self-responsibility. So, the second chapter empirically examines various mental shackles, which really hinder us from living well.
The third chapter scrutinizes domination systems in the family and the culture. We’ll start with our experiences as children in the family system and explore in lengthy psychological detail the ways we were treated quite differently than as adults. Politics is the quintessential domination system, and we’ll learn that it exists mainly as a manifestation of upbringings that weren’t respectful of our needs. Getting what one wants via “power-over” strategies is a costly but common process in both familial and political systems. We’ll discover why, as a species and as individuals, we’ve tended to view coercion—i.e., threats of force to get people to do things and punish them when they don’t do what’s demanded—as somehow useful.
The fourth chapter investigates more of the nature of childhood, for it remains the crucial part of our history that sets the stage for our adult lives. All of us have memories of our youth, however sketchy or incomplete. Following from our deep exploration of childhood experiences with parents in the previous chapter, we’ll step out of the conventional notions of what constitutes a “good parent” versus a “bad parent.” Such labels can keep us mired in the costly status quo. Grasping the essentials of childhood entails relating them to the nature of being a parent and/or being parented. So, we’ll identify key aspects of parenting, which concern every person, in order to determine how we can truly flourish.
The fifth chapter delves psychologically and empirically into the nature of learning, which is essentially the quest for self-mastery and understanding more and more of our inner and outer worlds. Applying these essentials amidst the common view of education can be quite challenging, since traditional pedagogy (aka, schooling) tends to be the opposite of what’s really helpful for individuals. Intrinsic motivation proves indispensable in this process.
The sixth chapter covers the nature of self-esteem and why it’s such a vital need for human beings. No other creature on this planet has this need, because it’s based on our self-awareness and reasoning ability, and we’ll learn what we can do to fulfill it without costs. The practices of self-acceptance, self-empathy, and self-compassion are integral to healing ourselves from harmful or dysfunctional processes and systems.
The seventh chapter explains the ethical notions of selfishness and sacrifice, questioning their various assumptions. We’ll learn that sacrifice, as both an idea and practice, causes lots of confusion and pain, personally and societally. This part of the book also makes explicit what’s been mostly implicit throughout: the methodology and vocabulary of nonviolent communication (NVC), as devised by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg. NVC educates us in making clear observations without evaluating or opinion-giving, identifying and expressing feelings without moralistic judgment, recognizing our universal needs underlying our feelings and, finally, making practical or doable requests (instead of demands) for self and others in order to make our lives more wonderful.
In the developmental process of cultivating a connected and compassionate consciousness, we go from being relatively unskilled, to awakening, to capable, to integrated. The human mind takes time to transition from our typical family and cultural training of non-integration and disconnection to one of needs-fulfilling integration, which we’ll learn about in detail.
The eighth chapter explores the explicitly peaceful philosophy of voluntaryism and how it can foster and keep a world of free-thinking, authentic and connected, happy adults and children. The nature of complete political liberty is a free marketplace in which trust in self and trust in others are the norms, rather than the exceptions. Currently prevalent practices of retribution and injustice can be replaced with restorative practices of empathy and justice, so people in communities can be safe, resourceful, and versed in both resolving conflict in win/win ways and helping people flourish.
The ninth and last chapter examines what promotes the aforementioned ideas and practices (i.e., memes), so that we can transform our society into one that facilitates genuine self-expression and beneficial contribution. So, we’ll deal with the nature of change itself, and we’ll delve into the future and imagine what’s possible. The future can look ever brighter for us, when we facilitate a mental shift in ourselves and others toward embracing life-enriching changes. Such changes can be embraced on a daily basis, which can be extraordinarily transformative. Change that enables us to heal and grow need not be daunting, or something feared and avoided at nearly any cost. For this reason alone, the coercive and disconnected status quo need not remain so.
Thank you for embarking on this inner journey and exploring these vital ideas with me. And many thanks to my dear friends and reviewers with “giraffe ears” of the preliminary manuscript: Zeke Woods, Katie Testa, Scott Banfield, Jason Hofacker, and Mary Vandenberg. I’m grateful for our friendship over the years, and your input helped me make this book even more psychologically connected and integrated. Thanks also to Michael J. Ross for helping to put the finishing touches on the final draft.