Living in a chaotic world can be a huge struggle when our external environment has more power than our internal selves.

There are different ways to determine if you are struggling to find a balance between your external and internal lives. Overthinking can be indicative of this struggle; external thoughts dominate your inner peace.

The internal locus of control drives us to actively fulfill the purpose we have set for ourselves. Feeling weak causes us to rely on external factors to dictate our drive. Ultimately, the problem is that we begin to live in a mental prison where we have little control over anything. And if the problem is mental prison then, consequently, the solution is mental freedom.

Mental freedom begins with detaching yourself from all of the emotions, ideals, definitions, and standards you learned growing up. Language is manmade and objects aren’t born with names, they are assigned terms.

Think about what your name means to you. Then assign yourself a different name for a moment. It is difficult to consider the person you currently are with a different name. It is also uncomfortable.

This is what it means to detach yourself from all of the labels you are assigned. In not giving power to these labels, we are able to act outside of what our labels expect us to be. For example, if you are considered intelligent, you probably feel obligated to fulfill this role and have difficulty accepting and enjoying other roles such as weird, creative, and clumsy.

The solution to this isn’t to ignore these labels but to explore their effects on us. People are very reactive and opinionated toward others’ actions and beliefs. It is not others’ actions and beliefs that we struggle with, it is what those actions and beliefs say about us.

For example, criticism is hard to take even when it is given with the best intention. We tend to become defensive because we mistakenly perceive the critic as being a danger. The actual danger, however, is that it is uncomfortable for someone to see flaws in us. We are raised to believe that in order to survive we must strive to be perfect. Consequently, we have learned to be cautious with our vulnerabilities.

In criticism, it’s very clear to see how external people affect us internally. It is not what other people say about us that defines who we are, it is how we react that defines who we are. People are their own set of emotions and beliefs. They will act and say things as a direct reflection of what they are experiencing.

For example, a supervisor is very strict with his (or her) employees. He constantly is setting high expectations and punishing employees when these standards are not met. This suggests that this supervisor is struggling with being too strict on himself and is projecting this struggle onto the workers.

The workers’ reactions say more about who they are than the actual situation does. If a worker developed low self-esteem and depression following the incident, this suggests that the person’s self is highly determined by others’ evaluations.

Interactions with people are an exchange of reactions. Sometimes these reactions are triggers to our unresolved issues. When others say something that cause an angry reaction, they have discovered an unaddressed sore spot. In exploring why this situation has triggered us, we are able to consciously explore what lies in our subconscious mind.

Unfortunately, we aren’t quick to explore our reaction when we have these types of interactions. As soon as others trigger a reaction, we are quick to prove our point and dismiss their arguments. These interactions can be helpful — people who trigger reactions can be productive for us because they will teach us things we didn’t know were a problem for us. Ultimately, we don’t have to act on our emotions and reactions; we just have to understand why they are there.

Master the art of letting go of ideals and reactions and you have taken the first step to mental freedom.

Mental Freedom image available via Shutterstock.