It is interesting how the different authors portray the man. In a way, their portrayal also defines what it means for man to be free, and just how free he is in reality. Armstrong, for one, notes that man is not totally free to be anything, because he is hardwired to look for God. He is a religious being as much as he is descended from apes and has that particular anatomy. There in that vision of man, there seems to be already a defining and limiting of what man can be. He is not free to be anything he wants to be.
He must by his very nature act, think, and feel in accordance with his wiring. That wiring includes looking for God. Thurman also seems to think the same way, in a sense. He says that in essence the ego or the individual is not in control of himself, because the ego is always in flux. He is a bundle of passing thoughts, feelings, and actions. Stout seems to say the same thing, in the language of trauma and the human brain. She is saying that trauma, for instance, can affect the way people perceive the world.
Trauma changes the way the brain is wired. It is so that people are not in control of the way they react to things that remind them of traumatic events (Armstrong 22-38. Thurman 460-473. Stout 381-398).Reading Stout, for instance, we come face to face with just how vulnerable man is to trauma. Trauma can reshape the brain itself. With the brain reshaped, a person’s thoughts and feelings are affected. Of course with the thoughts affected and changed in profound ways, actions are likewise reshaped and affected.
We see that man can be so affected by trauma as to be unaware that he is acting out of reason, for instance. It can be also that man can be unaware that he is acting out of a reaction to a past traumatic event. How much control does man have in this instance? Obviously, man is not much in control. To be aware means to .know that one’s actions are coming from a deep-rooted fear. People who experienced trauma sometimes do not know that. They are unconscious of the effect that fear and memory have on their feelings, thoughts, and actions: “ … nor do we comprehend how swampy and vitality-sucking some of our memories really are…in the course of a lifetime such “protective” mental reactions acquire tremendous habit strength” (Stout 384).