This is a timely book by Jules Evans and I loved about these on Epictetus & Seneca:
The art of maintaining control
How could a stoic stay calm and mentally strong in the midst of so much uncertainty and oppression, when their ability to control their own destiny is so hampered? How can they hope to remain the ‘captain of soul’? Epictetus answer was to remind himself constantly what is in control and what isn’t. Epictetus makes a list of things that are in control and those aren’t.
Zone 2: Our body, property, reputation, job, parents, partners, friends, co-workers, boss + The economy, past, future + the fact we’re going to die
Zone 1: Our beliefs
We’ve to learn to exercise our will & power in Zone 1 and we’ve to accept that we don’t have complete sovereignty over zone 2 – over external events. We’ve to accept what happens in the world, otherwise we’re going to be angry, miserable for most of our times. A lot of suffering arises, Epictetus argues, because we make 2 mistakes. We try to exert absolute control on zone 2 which isn’t in our control. When we fail to control, we’re helpless, angry, guilty, anxious and depressed. Different people go through these level of emotions and stop at those different levels. Secondly we don’t take full responsibility of Zone 1. Instead we blame for our thoughts and beliefs on others in Zone 2 and then we end up feeling bitter, victimized, out of control and at the mercy of external circumstances. Many mental illness and emotional disorders come from these 2 fatal errors. Also a person with depression will often blame external factors for their bad mood. They will blame past, or their parents, or their co-workers, or the economy, or the global politics. They constantly abrogate responsibility for their own beliefs and feelings. And this only makes them feel more helpless, out of control, and depressed. A 2010 study of British soldiers found that the main cause of emotional suffering among the troops was not battle-related. It was getting phone calls from their wives, in which their wives complain about problems back home – problems which the soldiers were powerless to do anything about. The feeling of being out of control and powerless to help one’s loved ones is more demoralizing that any Taliban bombs.
What can we do?
- The Serenity Prayer: The omnipresence force, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can change, and the wisdom to know the difference. This is the best attitude to tide over our adverse circumstances and have to bide our time and wait for the situation to change.
- Don’t blame yourself and don’t use other people as an excuse for what has befallen you.
Epictetus greatly influenced Marcus Aurelius’ that he once visited this old man in Greece to learn from him, so good read of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is befitting to act on what has been said so far. Stoic is used very much ion sports training and the Wimbledon center court has this Rudyard Kipling’s saying inscribed in there – ‘Meet with triumph and disaster and treat those both two impostors the same.
The art of anger management
Seneca, called by his full name Lucius Annaeus Seneca, lived in Rome Empire between 4 BC and 65 AD. He was chronically ill for much of his life, plagued by asthma and suicidal bouts of depression. He served both Caligula and Nero, the necromantic dictators of his time. After making a particularly brilliant speech aroused the emperor Caligula’s jealousy. Seneca was exiled from Rome, and it’s said his life was only spared because he was so ill that Caligula expected him to die soon anyway. In the last decade of his life, Seneca returned to Rome, became tutor to the young emperor Nero, amassed a fortune as a moneylender. and for a while as one of the most powerful and wealthy men in Rome. But he eventually fallout with Nero , was accused of plotting against him, and was forced to commit suicide.
His advice to anger management was to
- always wait in the moment of anger.
- If over-optimistic expectations are one for the main causes of anger, then the cure is to lower our expectations. Try to bring them more in line with reality.
- By reading and watch more tragedy, we can think of our pampered lives and learn to be grateful.
- Obstacles add fuel to the flame of the stoic’s virtue and regard all adversity as a training exercise.
- Be tortoise like, withdraw from externals and find peace and contend-ness in the inner citadel – what is really valuable is not your house, career or reputation but your soul