Every man, woman and child alive today or who have ever lived have at some point in their lives, oftentimes their entire lives, been subjected to an imprisonment of the mind, body or soul. Those who have escaped these prisons have found internal and external success in the form of fulfillment, fame, or fortune. Some who escaped did so with instinct alone, while others studied and learned from those who came before. By learning to harness both instinct and knowledge, any individual can attain any height of power they desire.
On Defining Prisons
The first step to escaping your prisons is defining them. There are three categories of prisons: self-imposed, cultural and societal. The most damaging and difficult to escape are self-imposed prisons. Examples of self-imposed prisons include bad habits, low self-esteem, low confidence, self-doubts, self-hatred, obsessions, addictions, fears, and ignorance. A self-imposed prison may include influence from the other types of prisons, cultural and societal, but it also includes your unique interpretations and the most powerful tool you have available: imagination. While a cultural or societal prison can show the negative affects for people trying to escape their prisons, your self-imposed prisons relies entirely on the imagined punishments you have conceived for yourself.
The second and most prevalent imprisonment are societal prisons. For better or worse, we all rely on the government to protect smaller communities within the larger community of the country you reside in. This protection brings laws and regulations, some we may not agree with but are forced to abide with the threat of violence and literal imprisonment. This natural imprisonment can be traced back to our species’ founding, with primitives being constricted to tribes for the sake of survival. This form of prison may be essential to survival, but it must be acknowledged as a confinement nonetheless. Defining all boundaries is essential when trying to overcome them.
The third type of prison are cultural prisons. These do not rely on physical imprisonment as societal prisons do, but rather social ostracization and ridicule to force conformity. Examples of cultural prisons include religion, marriage, careers, and political parties. All of these examples rely on criticism of those who are not part of that particular prison or who are critical of them. People who don’t follow a particular religion need to be saved, those who are not married will die alone, someone without a prestigious or lucrative career is unsuccessful, a person who is not of a particular political alignment is wrong, etc.
In summary, a self-imposed prison is one you place on yourself that utilizes your imagination against you to confine you, a societal prison relies on forceful physical imprisonment or violence to encourage you to conform, and a cultural prison relies on attacking a person’s image or reputation to shape you to its expectations.
On Planning Your Escape
Just as real escape artists can attest, the most important factor in escaping confinement is preparation. You must prepare for resistance and conflict when attempting to escape your prison. Plan for all scenarios and reflect on how much you are willing to sacrifice to escape. Without sacrifice, there can be no freedom because it is the catalyst for it. Use your time wisely as you plan and prepare your escape, because once you are aware of your prison it will eat at your consciousness and consume your thoughts.
On Fellow Inmates
Every person has their own form of imprisonment, but not every person wants to escape. For most people, their prisons have become a part of their personalities and identities. Without the restrictions, they would be unable to navigate the world that exists outside of it. To free them of their prisons would be to strip them of their persona, a cruel and unconstructive thing to do. Instead, provide advice and guidance for those actively aware of their cages and seeking to rid themselves of them. If a person cannot consciously recognize one of the prisons outlined here, they are not ready to escape it. Everyone must escape their own prisons, and doing it for them would take away from their journey as a person and dampen the freedom bestowed upon them.
Caution must be used when interacting with those protecting the prison you find yourself trying to escape. These people either benefit from the prison or are so deeply ingrained that they must defend it to survive. These traitorous inmates will slow you down on your path to freedom and try to deter you from your quest. They cannot be avoided and must be dealt with in a way that does not provoke them to a radical response, for there are far more inmates than free men and you will find yourself constantly outnumbered.
On Dreaming of Freedom
Once you have visualized your prisons, you can begin to visualize the freedom from those prisons. Envision this freedom everyday, dream of it, desire it with all your being. Imagine the benefits you will reap from the changes you can invoke in your life and realize the harm you will endure should you continue to be confined. Look to the people who escaped their prisons and study their success. Specifics can not be given by anyone but yourself, because only you know what prisons you currently reside in.
Do not pity yourself for being imprisoned for so long, knowingly or unknowingly. Do not pity others for being imprisoned or look down upon them for being content in their cells, because they are on a different path than you with its own challenges and tribulations. Taking action and making sacrifices is how you can repay the debt to your former self who resided in that prison.
On Failed Attempts
The punishment for a failed escape attempt pales in comparison to the regret and guilt of not trying. Relapses will occur in any self-imposed prison, be it the struggle against an addiction or the struggle of becoming more social or extroverted. By acknowledging that these things will likely happen, you can prepare yourself for the coming fight. Make no mistake, it is a fight and you will need to fight these self-imposed prisons with every fiber of your being.
A cultural prison, on the other hand, is a battle of defense. You must stay true to the path you have set for yourself, and defend that ideal from any and all who may attack it. Prepare to be attacked from all sides: friends, family, acquaintances, inspirations, successful, unsuccessful. No castle can withstand an eternal siege, and there will be times when your values and beliefs are shaken by the bombardment of conflicting ideologies. If you willingly open the gates to these invaders, make sure it is on your own accord and for the right reasons, not as a compromise.
A societal prison cannot be successfully escaped because it is inherent to human nature. A revolution may overturn a societal prison, but it is always replaced by the revolutionaries. Acknowledging that it is a prison, one of the body, is essential when seeking to expose and understand the more subtle prisons present in each of our lives.
On Enjoying Freedom
Once you have attained the freedom you desire, make a vow to never go back to the prison whence you came. You must always be aware of the chains that bound you and the burdens you lifted from yourself. Always keep an image of what your prison was like so that you can compare it to what your life is like with your newfound freedom. Take time to reflect on how you were imprisoned in the first place so that you are aware of future prisons that will try to restrict you.
Finally, take time to celebrate and rejoice in your success. If you have escaped a prison, no matter how small or insignificant you may deem it, you have done something most people are not capable of and have put yourself on the pedestal of great men and women of yore.