We humans love power and feeling powerful, we admire stories of courage of people who face victoriously his enemies and challenges with the might of Hercules. We would like to feel, if we could, as the mighty cliff that faces the ferocious ocean without moving, without giving in just one bit. This is possible, we have that power within us. We have to understand though, what is that power and how to use it.
Stoicism is often depicted as a philosophy whose sole aim, is the suppression of emotion, popularly believed. It portrays a stoic as a piece of wood or iron, fearless but also emotionless. This does not hold true for Stoicism. Stoics are, at the end of the day, human beings charged with love, fear and shyness too. Humans all to humans.
The aim of Stoicism is not to suppress emotion, is to live life as best as it can be lived.
“an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate, or the like, is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness.”
There is no way in which we cannot feel emotion, emotion just arises.
If you happen to be at the subway in the middle of the night and someone pulls out a gun, you will be afraid, you cannot control not being afraid. The same thing happens with every situation in life. When you have an important meeting, you will feel anxious, asking a girl out? you will feel anxious as well.
What the Stoics argued regarding emotions is that you don’t have to suppress them, quite the contrary, you should act in ways that give you the would ones and avoid the negative ones. You don’t have to feel guilty about feeling afraid or angry. The rise of emotion is something, just as thought, that isn’t under our direct control, and so this too becomes part of the indifferents.
Indifferents, all the things that are not under our direct control. We have to be carefully aware of what it is and what is not that is under our direct control. Emotions play a tricky part, because we are the ones feeling it, and we feel rulers of our emotions because we ourselves are literally feeling them, but in reality you cannot control the next thought or the next emotion that arises.
A practicing Stoic, however, has the capacity of applied reason. Volition, the capacity to exert our will. It is in the power to exert our own will where we can become like the unmoving rock in the middle of the waves. Emotion may rise, but it is subjected to our reason and cardinal virtues (wisdom, temperance, courage and justice).
Stoically, we have the capacity to disregard passions as indifferents, but still feel the whole sphere of emotion without restrictions, it is in that power, where we have emotion control.
Make sure that the ruling and sovereign part of your soul remains unaffected by every movement, smooth or violent, in your flesh, and that it does not combine with them, but circumscribes itself, and restricts these experiences to the bodily parts. Whenever they communicate themselves to the mind by virtue of that other sympathy, as is bound to occur in a unified organism, you should not attempt to resist the sensation, which is a natural one, but you must not allow the ruling centre to add its own further judgement that the experience is good or bad. (Meditations, 5.26)
You can feel fear, but act with courage anyways.
You can feel shame, but stand proudly anyways.
You can feel anger, but act with justice anyway.
Stoicism and action go hand in hand. A Stoic does not wait, he acts in spite of. The greater the challenges, the greater for the Stoic mind becuase it can practice its power to overcome it.
“The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests. ”
The difference between a fool man and a wise man lies in the power to put everything that happens to him to the test of his reason and act accordingly.
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