Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is released by rhythmical activity and that feeds the prefrontal cortex, attributed to thinking, goal-directed behavior, and perhaps even our will for life. Our will is some certain and powerful, yet invisible and intangible, quality of us. When we harness our will can do just about anything, and when we lose it, it seems to lead to some inevitable defeat. Our free will is perhaps known best by the soul, we treasure and protect free will, knowing it is an essence to our vitality.
My dad used to say, “When there’s a will, there’s a way,” continuing with, “and you’ll always have will because your name is Williams.” And so it is, as if by English Magic, the quality built into the surname would always stick with you. It should not have surprised me that when my dad died, he used the word Williams to signal me and as a sign of his continual spiritual existence.
Will may be described as an intention, desire, request, or wish. The proverb, “When there’s a will there’s a way,” suggests that determination will overcome any obstacles. We are resolved when we engage our will. We are focused and deliberate.
For healing to occur, the will must be engaged. Do you have the will to heal, to live, to care for yourself, to try something? In therapy we ask, are you willing to try it? For the tool must first be acceptable.
We value free will when it comes to our own lives, although sometimes with others we lose this generosity or awareness. When the movie, “Free Willy,” came out, it raised our consciousness to the utter cruelty of capturing and containing our fellow sentient beings, the Orca whales. Indeed, we have ample scientific proof of the intelligence of animals, with examples including the large and complex limbic brains of whales and dolphins, and the photographic memory of chimpanzees.
In truly holistic and integrative medicine, free will will not be overlooked. Practically speaking, aspects of our healthcare system require examination. Once admitted into the ER, hospital, assisted living, or psych ward, free will may take a back seat to the administration. There is most certainly good intentionality, but it is authoritarian approach, lacking in partnership.
Is there a remedy? I think so. But it is a radically different choice to give patients choices, to ask for their voice, and allow their free will. If we do indeed include this soul quality, however, then we have struck closer to home in providing actual medical care.
We harm others when we impose our will onto theirs. When three men in my neighborhood cut down my tree against my will, using their positions of power on the HOA board to do so, I was deeply hurt. The tree provided beauty and privacy to my home, and was a home to birds and squirrels, whom I delighted in seeing.
Although our will may be imposed upon, our will can never really be taken from us. We can engage our will to heal from any atrocity, large or small. Self compassion and forgiveness may serve in this remembrance.
Some speak of “personal will,” and “divine will,” distinguishing the ego self from the spiritual self, collective, or Divine (with the language and name of your choice). This may lead to the practices of "not my will but yours,” or to "surrender your will."
I want you to know that your personal will is a part of the Divine will, as you are a part of God and God is a part of you. What you desire is indeed what God desires for you. When you follow what you are attracted to, what you love, what you are interested in, you are indeed following Divine will.
As Joseph Campbell put it, "follow your bliss."