The dichotomy of freedom

There are so many rules and regulations dictating how to observe Passover properly that it boggles the mind how anyone can feel free at a time like this.

Love puzzle (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Love puzzle
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
 Many of us are baffled at how Passover can be called the “Holiday of Freedom.” After all, the word that most commonly comes to mind when we hear the word Passover is “work.”
There are so many rules and regulations dictating how to observe Passover properly that it boggles the mind how anyone can feel free at a time like this. Rules about cleaning one’s home, and of course what to eat, how to sit, and what to think about and feel during the Seder are confining. It seems counterintuitive that the structure of Passover is connected with freedom.
Many shy away from creating a long-term relationship out of fear that doing so will cramp their ability to feel free. What if our partner has certain rules about how they want you to be in the relationship that you simply can’t meet? What are your expectations of your future partner? What if they can’t meet them? How can something that confines simultaneously provide freedom? Existential philosophers talk about freedom as being strongly interconnected with responsibility and choice.
Freedom is created by knowing what our boundaries are, living within them and knowing how and when to stretch them. Boundaries provide a framework that enables us to feel safe and comfortable. When we are aware of the parameters that define our existence, we can relax and move forward from that secure base. We can work out how to use these boundaries to our advantage, and create a holding space – a place that makes us feel both safe and alive. Without boundaries, we have no start or finish. We have no walls to hold on to. No clue how or where to begin. We can be thrown into a panic over this shapelessness and become frozen… inactive.
Twentieth-century existential psychotherapist Ernesto Spinelli said, “Our freedom does not consist of our ability to control or determine the stimuli that meet us every day. But the significance and the meaning we give to the stimuli and the interpretation of the event and how we experience it is a matter of choice.”
Passover is full of meaningful boundaries. The Seder provides a structure that gives meaning to freedom.
Through external stimuli created at the Seder, we can choose how to understand the story of the Exodus from Egypt and give our own meaning to the experience of moving from slavery to freedom. The rules and ritual objects at the Seder provide the structure that enables us to think about and relate to all of the component elements of freedom. They also help us to better experience our personal journey from slavery to freedom by providing the necessary stimuli.
Within a relationship, there are rules of engagement that we must keep in order to protect the relationship.
These rules protect us from hurting and getting hurt. Following relationship rules enables us to nurture and receive love. If we can contain our feelings of anxiety about losing our sense of freedom, rather than project this feeling onto our partner, we have the potential to maintain freedom within the relationship. Once we learn how to communicate our difficult feelings in a way that can be understood by our partner, we actually teach him or her what we need and model how to create a safe space where two free individuals can thrive.
As long as we clearly define our own rules for the relationship, communicate these rules respectfully, and have an openness and a willingness to negotiate and be flexible, we can build a freedom within the confines of a relationship that will enable us to soar. • The writer is a marriage therapist and relationship coach.