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Do-It-Yourself Prison

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We all live somewhere. Some of us live in our nice comfy houses. Some of us live in our big palatial mansions, some in our trendy apartments. Some of us live in our modest bungalows, and some of us live in prison.

Jail (gaol). The big house. The slammer. The slot. The pen. The joint. In fact, many of us live in a prison. More people than you might think – millions. In fact, lots of people you know personally. Possibly you.

Many of us live in a place where there are so many rules, limitations, and restrictions that we live in constant fear of doing the wrong thing. We live in constant fear of upsetting the warden or the other in-mates and we have a constant fear of rocking the boat or getting into trouble. We are so determined to not break the rules that we hardly do anything. We play it safe.

We don’t say what we think, we don’t have an opinion, we don’t eyeball people (dangerous in the big house), we don’t make waves, we don’t take chances, we don’t wander far from our cell, and above all, we never consider escape. We all know what happens on the outside. It’s a jungle. You get hurt.

Prison ain’t fun, but at least we know what to expect: the predictability, the routine, and we know the rules. The rules control what we do and don’t do, always. We know our limitations and we don’t step over the line, ever. It’s not fulfilling, exciting, rewarding or fun, but at least it’s safe – kind of.

Yes, I’m speaking metaphorically, but the reality is that many of us build our own prison and then choose to live in it forever. We may not do it consciously or intentionally, but we do it. We create rules for ourselves that make it impossible to be happy. The very thing we don’t want (to be unhappy), we create. Then we wake up one day and realise we’ve been living in our own personal DIY prison for years.

Some of us create our own prison where there are actually more rules and limitations than in a real prison. Sometimes (now’s as good a time as any) it’s interesting (necessary even) to explore where we live and why we live there, and perhaps how we might relocate – maybe to something a little bigger where there is more space and fewer rules; a place beyond our (current) state of mind.

When I say “where we live,” you know I don’t mean our physical address. I mean where we spend most of our time emotionally and psychologically. How we think, decide, react, communicate, process, interpret, rationalise, explain, relate, and cope. How we see our world – and us in it.

I’ve done some work speaking in prisons and I gotta tell ya, they’re not that much fun.
I’ve also done some work with people who have never been near a (real) jail, yet in many ways, they are more imprisoned than anyone I’ve ever met on the inside. They have become prisoners of their own mind, their thinking, their attitudes, their beliefs and way too often, prisoners of their all-consuming fear.

They are so scared of so many things that they create their own psychological and emotional prison; a place where the walls are so high they can never get out, and conversely, nobody can ever get in.

Fear is the ultimate prison for many. It’s where some of us live 24/7 – in a prison that doesn’t need to exist.

There’s good, healthy, appropriate fear (the one that shows we’re not idiots), and then there’s the fear that controls minds, breaks spirits, extinguishes potential, kills dreams, and destroys relationships and lives. It’s unnecessary and destructive.

I don’t know what you’re scared of, but you do. Here are some of the biggies I deal with in my work:

* Fear of failure.
* Fear of disappointing others.
* Fear of being physically hurt.
* Fear of embarrassment.
* Fear of death.
* Fear of being alone.
* Fear of being unattractive.
* Fear of commitment.
* Fear of being not needed or wanted.
* Fear of a loved one dying.

I can’t tell you (specifically) how to deal with your (personal) fears, but I can tell you (from personal and professional experience) that facing up to and overcoming your fears is one of the most liberating and fulfilling growth experiences you will ever have. You will so wish you had done it sooner. So many people (the majority) tell me things like:

“I wish I did that five years ago.”

“I feel like a massive weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”

“I don’t know what I was so scared of.”

Facing our fears makes us stronger, more capable, more adaptable and ultimately, happier. Sometimes we need to employ a little of that righteous anger and get a little pissed at the thing (issue, habit, situation, fear) that has held us captive for way too long. If this post speaks to you, then why don’t you do something in the next twenty-four hours to break down the walls of that psychological and emotional prison, something that scares you but needs to be addressed?

Make a life-changing decision. Stand up to someone. Get uncomfortable. Take a chance. Stop being safe. Be uncharacteristically adventurous.

I know it’s tough, but I know you can do it. Where we live and how we live is a choice. It’s not always an easy one or comfortable one, but it is a choice.

What’s it gonna be for you, the big house or freedom? Let me know how you go.

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About Craig Harper

  • Marcia L. Neil

    A recent Tabloid Column entry describes female prison guards as employees who ‘have sex’ with inmates more than their male counterparts. We should wonder how many guards of both genders are ‘planted’ [from families or formal groups] in Federal prisons with the express purpose to coddle or protect or sexually accommodate specific inmates, and what testing can be offered that will weed out such applicants who might be prolonging or otherwise affecting the prison-time scheduled for specific people and/or carrying out information that can be used in bookmaking schemes — a continual interference which can hinder penitence and legal aid efforts, as well.