“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law – and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Talk about starting a day with an attitude.
It’s important to know what attitude is and what it is not, however.
Recently I started reading the (to my surprise, quite stoic) book: The Subtle Art of not giving a Fuck by Mark Manson in which he discusses a term that can greatly aid you in correcting your thinking.
The feedback loop from hell
Remember the last time you were nervous about something? An uncomfortable chat with someone? Maybe you had to address a difficult topic at your job or something similar? Ok, nobody likes to be nervous. We’d all want to be perfectly confident and secure of ourselves but the reality is that nervousness is a universal feeling that you will get from time to time as we all do. The problem here is not the feeling itself, but our wanting not to have that feeling, which is what keeps feeding this perfectly normal feeling and converts it into a mountain of nervousness that shouldn’t be that big in the first place. This is the feedback loop from hell and it happens every time we don’t want to feel angry or sad.
The way out of this loop is to “not try” to eliminate the emotion. Trying to eliminate it will interrupt its natural cycle and will perpetuate it until you are fine with having it. This is how you stop the loop.
It’s especially difficult today when we are indoctrinated to “feel good” all the time, it’s culturally inappropriate to feel inappropriate, ironically.
You cannot decide “not to be angry”, you can only decide how you are going to respond to your anger and here is where attitude begins.
Being ok with your emotions is not acting on your emotions. If everyone did this, many people would be punched in the face daily, trust me. Being ok with them is not to ignore them either, emotions are emotions are propositional content and you do not have to act on them, however, it is extremely useful to take them into account.
Knowing this you can focus on what you can control, which in this case is your attitude.
An attitude is a composition of manners and dispositions.
Just like Marcus Aurelius knew, you are going to encounter many things throughout your day, some pretty and some not so pretty, you are going to feel bad and you are going to feel good. This does not change the fact that your attitude towards what happens to you should not be one inspired in the Stoic teachings.
An attitude of courage and responsibility, of compassion and magnanimity.
Your attitude is always under your control. And it will make you way cooler as well.
If you are interested in understanding emotion, stoically speaking, I recommend the book by Margaret Graver’s, Stoicism and emotion. How to be a stoic has excellent series as well, you can check it here.
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