This Is Your Quest - Author Joanne Reed

You Can Be Free In An Unfree World

You can be free in an unfree world

It is possible to find freedom in an unfree world and this is exactly what Harry Browne[1] wrote in his book “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World.” I am taking you on an expedition, with Harry Browne as our tour guide – Destination: The Free World. [Warning: This is going to be an expedition, not a walk in the park. The ideas discussed below may be challenging for some.] According to Browne, in order for people to be free, they have to avoid all the traps that they will surely find on their path. Browne explained that, more often than not, it is not other people who take away our freedom, it is ourselves who tend to fall into traps that restrict our freedom.

You can be free in an unfree world as long as you avoid the traps on your path

I want you to picture yourself walking on a road. Each step you take will take you a little further on your life’s journey. Sometimes, you will find the road nice and pleasant, other times you will find it difficult and painful with many obstacles to overcome. What you should realize when you are walking along this road is that there are many traps not visible to the naked eye, but they are there nonetheless. These traps are waiting for you. If you don’t pay attention, you will easily fall into them and get stuck. But do not despair, even if you have fallen into one of these traps all is not lost, you can pull yourself out and get back on the road to continue your journey; except this time, you will be a bit wiser, you will be more aware, and you will be better at spotting traps.

This Is Your Quest - Author Joanne Reed
You can be free in an unfree world. Photo by Copperpipe via

There are many traps that Harry Browne has identified that will prevent people from being free:

  • The Rights Trap.
  • The Utopia Trap.
  • The Previous Investment Trap.
  • The Box Trap.
  • The Certainty Trap.

The Rights Trap

According to Harry Browne, the Rights Trap is the belief that your rights will make you free. Each one of us is born with inalienable rights. According to the American Declaration of Independence, every person has the unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Unfortunately, rights only exist in theory; history is full of examples where theory and practice are two different things. It is assumed that you have a right to life.

Unfortunately, however, if someone kills you, your right to life is of little value. The police may investigate, find the killer, convict him and send him to prison; but none of that will change the fact that you are dead. It is more effective to see to it that no one has the intention and the opportunity to kill you, and in the unfortunate scenario where you are being attacked you should be prepared to fiercely defend yourself to protect your right to life.

The right to self-defense is an inherent right of every human being. Animals and plants use self-defense mechanisms to ensure their survival. Learn martial arts. There are many benefits to learning martial arts in addition to teaching you how to defend yourself; they help build your self-confidence and your self-esteem, they help your body release endorphins making you happier, they help achieve harmony and balance between your body, mind, and spirit. Anybody who is trying to take away your inherent right to self-defense may have a hidden motive; and despite the narrative put forward, it may not be all good.

The Utopia Trap

The Utopia Trap is the belief that you must create better conditions in society before you can be free. Browne’s view is that an individual doesn’t have to live in a free society in order to free himself. No need to try to change the world. There are many ways to be free when you concentrate on the power you have. Free people recognize that they can’t change the world; instead, they first concentrate on the power they have to change themselves.

This Is Your Quest - Author Joanne Reed
You can be free in an unfree world. The Utopia Trap. Photo by Nomadsoul1 via

Free people realize that they can choose not to be involved in situations that don’t suit them and look for situations that do suit them instead. A free person doesn’t try to re-make the world or his friends or his family, they merely appraise each situation by the simple standard: “Is this what I want for myself?” If it isn’t you should look elsewhere; a free person uses their tremendous power of choice to get involved or not in a particular situation.

The Previous Investment Trap

The Previous Investment Trap is the belief that time, effort, and money spent in the past must be considered when making a decision in the present. For example, a woman decides not to divorce an incompatible husband because she has already invested 15 years in the marriage. In this case, the individual feels that changing the situation would mean wasting the previous investment.

Brown teaches us that the expenditure of resources is important only before you spend them. Once spent, they are insignificant. What is significant is what you receive in exchange for them, and what matters now is what happens in the future; that will depend on what you do now with whatever you have available to you.

The Box Trap

The Box Trap describes being in a box or an uncomfortable situation that restricts an individual’s freedom. The Box Trap is the assumption that the cost of getting out of a bad situation is too great to consider and that it is easier to slip into a box and stay there. You can come to believe that a difficult situation is just part of living and must be accepted.

This Is Your Quest - Author Joanne Reed
You can be free in an unfree world. The box trap. Photo by Chanwicht Khuy via

Browne explains that everything you want in life has a price connected to it. The price may be in time, effort, money, emotional turmoil, or physical discomfort. However, it always comes back to time. You are not going to live forever. Time is a limited resource. Whatever you do with your time, you pay a price by foregoing other alternatives, other things you could have done with that time. In effect, a box is any situation that restrains your freedom. If you stay in the box, you forgo other alternatives that are more desirable to you. There is a way out, but there is a price to pay to make it right and this price can be emotional upheaval, money, or time.

The Certainty Trap

The Certainty Trap is the urge to act as if your situation was totally certain. Unfortunately, a feeling of absolute certainty is unrealistic. What is true today may not be true tomorrow as things change all the time. At any given time, you have at your disposal only a small fraction of the information needed to make a decision with complete foresight. The important thing is to recognize the limits of any information available as any decision based on this information involves risk, and for every risk, there is a liability – a price that you will have to pay if things don’t go your way. You are in the Certainty Trap when you ignore that risk.

This Is Your Quest - Author Joanne Reed
You can be free in an unfree world. The Certainty trap. Photo by Ilin Serguey via

The presence of risk should not prevent you from doing something, you can go ahead knowing there is a risk but be prepared for it. Taking risks is an inherent part of life; it is only dangerous when you act as though you are not taking a risk. If you are in the Certainty Trap you might walk overconfidently into a situation where your loss could be overwhelming. You are in the Certainty Trap if you base your life on what someone has told you is the way to live.

You can be free in an unfree world as long as you avoid all the traps that you will find on your path. And, this my dear Friend is Your Quest.

You can find a more detailed analysis of this subject in Chapter 7 of my book; This Is Your Quest.

[1] Harry Browne (17 Jun 1933 – 1 March 2006 – USA). Author best known for his book “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World.”

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  1. Yes…. this is life! Very good description of the traps and unfortunately very easy to get into one of them. Very good post! Thanks!

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