Month: September 2018

Conquering Fears, Modern problems, Stoic advice

Responsibility and power


13 Comments

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” 
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

What exactly is this power over our mind? Why will you find strength in it?

The expression “To rule over our minds” can be misunderstood, ruling over your mind is not lockingchariot your mind in a prison, it is not being cautious about it but to actually use it for your benefit. Picture yourself as the driver in the chariot, your mind being the horses, muscular and powerful, but also naive and easily scared, so you have to lead strongly.

When Marcus speaks about power over our minds he is referring to our capacity to respond. We are not capable of exerting power over events external to us but we do have the power over our mind to direct it and use it in a way that can meet the challenges and events outside of us and for this ability we find strength

You are not powerless, you are however responsible, for everything that happens to you and because of this responsibility, you are powerful if you choose to exert your power.

Responsibility

Responsibility is the ability to respond, simple as that.

There are no complexities in being responsible, either you accept it and become an active participant in your life or you neglect it (and your power as well obviously) and embrace passivity and like a death log in the river, be pushed around by anything.

It’s simple, but not easy. Choosing to be responsible is also accepting everything that happens to you. The bad choices from of the past, your circumstances, all the injustices, but also the good things. But if in spite of all, if you choose to take the reins of your life, you will no longer be a spectator, but the spectated, the decision maker.

Past, fault, and responsibility

There is a lot of fuss with the “living in the moment” phrase. It is incomplete. Living in the moment is a good thing, but, if you use it as an avoidance method and do not consciously learn about your past mistakes and from that point choose to be responsible for whatever your situation might be, living in the moment will just be an excuse to neglect your responsibility and become the death log being pushed around in the river.

Living in the moment will help you only if you embrace your responsibility, in other words, your capacity to respond to your environment and your situation and become an active ingredient in life.

Past mistakes can make us feel at fault or ashamed  and it becomes hard to “live in the moment”, it is hard because that feeling of fault/shame, but that feeling is there to teach you something and if you are trying to live in the moment just to forget your past, trust me, you are going to have a very hard time trying to do so. Your faults are in the past, you cannot change them, you can just learn from them, but by embracing responsibility, you are choosing to live in the present and in the present, you can actually do something about your faults.

Once you’ve learned the lesson, and choose to be responsible for it, it’s easy to live in thetumblr_ogy5dcjXAM1uj062xo1_500 moment, but the decision to act must be made.

You are always choosing. You cannot deny your freedom. You can choose to choose or not choose, but you are going to choose anyways.

Choices can harm you or benefit you. The power over your mind is there, it will depend on your decision to be responsible for it or not. The choice is yours.

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Modern problems, Psychology, Stoic advice

Attitude


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marcusaurelius“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 2700with 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.

Attitude

Being ok with your emotions is not acting on your emotions. If everyone did this, many kingpeople 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.

Subscribe and receive for free the Askesis ebook to further develop your practice of stoicism. 

Subscribe here

Visit our Patreon page for more stoic, Patreon only content. Thanks.

Support Stoic Answers

Stoic answers is committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious stoic contemporary thinking. No ads, no paywall, no clickbait – just thought-provoking ideas from the great ancient Stoics and contemporary knowledge, free to all. But we can’t do it without you.

$10.00