Freedom from and Freedom to


My intention is to offer a short dialectically based conversation on the idea of freedom. When I say dialectic I am referring to the coexistence of opposites inherent in all things material and/or conceivable.

Freedom is the very thing which inhibits freedom

When we come to an appreciation that oppression is the result of freedom we can move forward with more open-mindedness as we search for communally created solutions.

Let us start with an example… If I were to have freedom from regulations which would inhibit my ability to freely dump my trash into the river, then I would be able to do so without obstruction. I am free and no one is submitting my desire to engage in my chosen behavior (incidentally I also become free from my trash and the discomforts which surround having trash).

If I am free from such a restriction then all those people down river from me are not free to unpolluted drinking water. Therefor my freedom from regulation oppresses another person’s freedom to clean drinking water.

–          It was my ‘freedom from’ which removed the other’s ‘freedom to’. In this way my freedom was the cause of another person’s lack of freedom.

Our country often finds itself in debates surrounding this idea of freedom. Freedom is a very emotionally charged word that is often used dichotomously in the hopes of polarizing the populace for the advantage of a potential promotion of an individual (a candidate).

Whether you increase or decrease regulation you will always be both increasing and decreasing freedom.


  • If you hold an ‘enemy’ captive you are removing that person’s freedom from restraint for the purpose of increasing your freedom to experience felt security.
  • If you refrain from restraining an ‘enemy’ you offer that person a freedom from restraint while decreasing your freedom to experience felt security or safety.
  • If you increase the population’s freedom from taxation you are often reducing the population’s freedom to the benefits of social or community funded services (such as the military or the school system). The opposite would be that you are not free from taxation but you are free to public services.

As a family therapist I have an interest in facilitating functionality within a system… I am writing this piece to shed light on how dichotomous thinking related to the concept of freedom often divides us.

When a family system or perhaps a larger community system learns to hold the idea that ‘freedom from’ can reduce a ‘freedom to’ and ‘freedom to’ can reduce a ‘freedom from’, we can move forward with an understanding that we paradoxically very often have the very same intention – to increase freedom.

Finding Commonality around intention is the glue which can hold us together.

Commonality can often arrive from deconstructing an intention into it’s purest parts.

“If your solution came to fruition what would you be able to experience? What feelings would you be free from or free to experience if your solution were manifested?”

These questions help us arrive at our deconstructed intention… as I have said before, my experience as a therapist has taught me something very positive… the nature of us all is good. Our intentions behind our strategies of freedom are relatively universal and generally good intentioned.

It is the dichotomous way in which we enact our strategies of freedom which often manifest our dysfunction.

I will leave you with an unanswered question…

If freedom is the creator oppression how do we free the word from oppression?


William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.
William Hambleton Bishop
William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

Leave a Reply