Your Prison Door is Unlocked

It's okay to be different

Many years ago, I had the privilege of working for several years with a spiritual organization. Eventually though, there came the time to leave, but I was conflicted. While I felt much love for the values which the organization served, I also felt an urging to find my own truth.

I felt really stuck. I imagine that at different times in our lives many of us feel stuck: stuck in a relationship which no longer works; stuck in a job which gives us nothing but a paycheck; stuck in a stale way of life.

Like others in such situations, each additional day I stayed at the job felt more and more soul-crushing. Torn between two loyalties, I stayed at the job until one night I had a dream.

I dreamed that I was in a prison cell, desperate to be let out. But the prison cell’s iron bars were strong. I walked over to the bars, and peering out between them, I saw a prison guard walk by. I called over to the guard, “Please, please, let me out!” The guard turned to me, and replied, “Don’t look to me. The door’s unlocked.”

The next morning, I went to work, and turned in my resignation.

Too often, when we’re stuck, we just stay hanging out in “stuckness”. Maybe we look for the situation to change by itself. Maybe we look to others for help. Maybe we look to God to intervene on our behalf.

My dream reminded me of what in psychological parlance is called my agency. Not God, not another, not the situation would be the cause of my liberation; I would be. I was not the victim of my situation. Not only was I the cause of my situation, but also I was the cause of my situation changing, if only I would choose to be so, and act.

Psychological agency is the capacity of a person to act upon the world. With regard to being stuck in our lives, agency is our capacity to act upon situations, so as to change them. With regard to our lives in general, agency is the experience of being the cause of our lives and the situations in which we find ourselves.

Yes, there are life situations which are seemingly unchangeable, in which case perhaps surrender is needed. Yet in almost all other cases, – a bad relationship, a meaningless job, a stale life, etc. – what life awaits is our showing up in our own lives with agency. The prison door is unlocked, if only we would open it.

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