• Stephanie Hammond

I want to be FREE!!

For decades, that was the cry of my soul - “I want to be free!” I never thought or said any more than that. All I knew then was I didn’t feel free. I longed to feel free. I ached to be free. But what did it mean to me then to be free? It's only in looking back that I know the answer to that question.

I wanted to be free to be myself. I wanted to be free to think my own thoughts, feel my own feelings. I wanted to be free to let my heart love in my own way. For decades, I lived with censor. Every thought, every act, every word was censored.

It was like I had a voice in my head, someone on my shoulder, taunting, demanding, questioning whatever I was thinking or doing or feeling. And sometimes a physical person was right there doing just that.

And, however I responded, those voices never went away. They quieted for a bit, but they never quieted for ever. I was never good enough and I never felt good enough. And I wanted to be free from feeling like that.

Paradoxically, part of me was really afraid to be ‘free’ - what if I was free of this censorship and able to think and feel and act and be myself and what if I sucked at it? The pain of being enslaved (because that’s the opposite of ‘free’ isn’t it?) was so intense that I just had to find a way to be free, regardless of the consequences!

Bit by bit I started to find ways to lessen the voices and along with that lessening came the feeling of freedom. And I came to understand that it was freedom from my own self judgement that I was longing for.

All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players, They have their exits and their entrances, And one (wo)man in (her) time plays many parts. (As you Like It by William Shakespeare).

And I started to see the many parts I was playing. And I found a couple of techniques that helped me settle the voices these parts constantly rehearsed and acted out.

I would see these critical voices as players on the stage of my mind. And as soon as they’d start, I would shout (not out loud, but in my mind) “No! I don’t listen to you! Get off my stage!”

It took a while but over time the voices and players lessened. And I got some peace. And I began to glimpse that freedom that I had cried for.

Yet, the voices didn’t go completely. I was still feeling censored.

When ordering the players off the stage of my mind stopped working as effectively, I realised they were repetitive and kept playing the same messages.

I needed yet another strategy. The repetition reminded me the playing of a tape. And I needed to replace the tape with a different tape - a tape of positive reinforcements.

And surprisingly, As the new tapes played more and more they soon started of their own accord. I started to feel that freedom I longed for.

I was free to be myself, to have my own thoughts and feelings about the intricacies of life. I was free to give and receive love, to share my interests with others. I was free to be a good neighbour. I was free to develop new skills and try out new things that challenged me. I was free to feel pain, to get hurt discovering what it was like to push myself physically.

Finally, I was free enough to continue expanding and growing freely. And I was happy in this newfound state of freedom. I AM FREE!

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