Regaining a sense of freedom is one of the keys to recovery. 7

from book Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed

In deciding to throw caution to the wind and cancel her book contract, the author was also reckoning with the fourth and final underlying issue that often leads patients to seek out therapy: a lack of a sense of freedom.
One way or another, many patients feel trapped. For the author, it was feeling locked into a contract for a book she didn’t want to write. For the elderly woman Rita, it was feeling stuck in her social isolation; she didn’t want to seek out new relationships because she was afraid of being hurt by them, after having experienced multiple unsuccessful marriages and almost total estrangement from her children. For the television scriptwriter John, it was feeling unable to move on from the loss of his son, as well as feeling unable to be emotionally vulnerable with other people. And for Julie, a 33-year-old college professor, it was feeling doomed by the terminal cancer with which she had recently been diagnosed.

Now, Julie’s case brings up an important point to bear in mind – in some cases, people really are trapped in their situations. While the author would face consequences for breaking her book contract, that choice was still available to her. In contrast, Julie couldn’t just walk away from her cancer; she had no choice but to face it.

But how she faced it was up to her. She could have crumbled beneath the emotional weight of it, but instead, she decided to make the most of her tragic circumstances. Before she received her diagnosis, she had always been a pretty cautious person. But faced with the almost certain prospect of dying in just a few years, she resolved to start taking risks and doing all the things she’d previously held herself back from. She answered an ad for a local band seeking a singer. She went on a game show. She even decided to become a cashier at the grocery store Trader Joe’s after she went shopping there one day. Observing the cashiers, she thought their jobs seemed so much more social than her work as a professor. Julie’s story contains a lesson that applies to all of us, no matter what situation we face. Even in the direst of circumstances, we still possess the freedom to confront our circumstances in one way or another – and some ways are healthier than others. Unfortunately, many people choose the unhealthier options, for reasons we’ll look at next.