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The Stoic Road to Peace of Mind

evilphish

If you are like most people, you probably feel angry, frustrated, or disappointed, often. That also has naturally been the case for me, but I was told a trick that made it much easier for me to handle these situations, and it dates back to antiquity.

Stoicism was an ancient Greek school of thought (that still exercises some influence today), which among other teachings, advocated self-control and avoiding making your emotions and irrational desires influence your behaviour for the worst. What they claimed was that painful feelings were not a direct result of an experience that induced pain, but rather the human mind's irrational interpretation of it.

If we move from this theory to its implications, then once something frustrating happens to you, you can say to yourself “I don’t like this. This situation is not ideal. However, feeling angry and resentful will not be beneficial, and so I should just accept this as is, try to reasonably cope with it, and make the best of it. I might even grow to like it.”

My psychotherapist told me that “Things must always go my way.” has been identified as an irrational cognitive belief by many people. (It is mentioned in this page in the Google Books’ hosted book). The solution to this is simply to say to myself that “I cannot always get what I want.” and that “Things might not go exactly like I want them to and that’s OK because I’ll survive.”.

Back to Stoicism, we can draw inspiration from the Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius’s quote from his book Meditations:

Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All of these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill… I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him; for we have come into the world to work together…

I am not an authority to speak a lot further about Stoicism, because I’ve only heard about it from hearsay and read the wikipedia entry and some other online sources, but I think we can all become a little, or even a lot happier, by adopting the mindset that the key to peace of mind is accepting sub-optimal situations, instead of insisting that we will always have our way.

Thanks

Thanks to steerpike, mofino and perlmonkey from Freenode for going over early drafts of this essay and providing some comments.

Licence

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (Unported) (CC-by) or at your option any later version. Copyright © 2012, Shlomi Fish. CC-by is a common, permissive, free/libre/open licence for cultural works, which allows for almost unlimited use. See my interpretation and expectations from people who wish to build upon it (which I believe are pretty fair).

Meta

I realise I’ve neglected this blog for a long time, and I’ve been meaning to write and publish this entry for a long time, but didn’t, but I guess “better late than never”, right? Personally, I’ve been mostly fine recently having found a part-time job, which involves a short bus ride to the office in the downtown city, so it’s at a great location for me. I also enjoyed attending the latest Israeli Perl Workshop for 2012 and written a report about it.

In the meanwhile, livejournal.com’s handling of this blog’s DNS domains has deteriorated, and now just redirects it to shlomifish.livejournal.com. This probably made me even less motivated to post on this blog, and my reports about it appears to have been marked as duplicate without a proper resolution, but I'll try to get it handled and fixed. If not, I might have to investigate other hosted blog solutions.

There’s a lot more going on with my life, but I’m not sure how much it will interest other people and how much I should share it, but I’m fine and happy and have plenty of free time for work and leisure and whatever is in between. So good bye until next time.