Month: October 2019

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How To Control Conflicting Emotions


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Unresolved emotions cripple our relationships, our work, our relationships with ourselves and our kids and all we seem to be doing it NOTHING.

Let’s change that.

“It is the power of the mind to be unconquerable.”
Seneca

The secret of how to control your emotions is: not seeing them as a problem and actively feeling them in your body to hear what they have to say. Feeling your emotions will get your mind to the present moment and the conflicting emotions will not be conflicting anymore. 

Let me elaborate

Courage, virtue, character, humility. These are great emotions. Man, I feel proud of myself every time I write about the Stoic ideals of bravery and grandness of soul. That’s easy, but life is never easy. I struggle with feelings of shame, guilt, and cowardice as well. I still feel embarrassed and anxious when I’m at parties and I don’t know anyone. I also get nervous whenever I’m talking to a pretty girl. 

I used to think that, from the Stoic viewpoint, I should’ve been able to control my emotions, to put my will above them. But the truth is that I was never able to do so, I was just hiding them under the rug. Which was a stupid strategy and not Stoic at all. 

The power of emotion

Have you ever heard those stories that tell how a mom lifts up a car to free his son from the crushing metal piercing through his body? 

Where do you think that power comes from? Rationality?

Of course not, it comes from raw, uninhibited emotion. 

We think about shame, guilt, and fear as our enemies, something to be embarrassed about. We tend to think that it is wrong to feel shame about our bodies or life situations. We feel embarrassed about having feelings so we try hide them.

Terrible strategy. Emotion is going nowhere. You ARE emotion. In denying emotion you are literally denying yourself. 

Like our minds, feelings have their purpose. They work wonders if you’d know how to use them. They are not there just to bug you and make you uncomfortable at parties. They are there to help you. They are the doors to authenticity and connection with other people. Out of fear, for example, comes to the mighty force of the mother lifting up a car. Out of shame, comes the possibility of authentic human connection. A connection that is badly needed in our times of “everything is always OK”. 

But, please, please tell me. 

Who the hell wants everything to be “ok” all the time?! That’s boring. 

“I’d rather be myself,” he said. “Myself and nasty. Not somebody else, however jolly.”
Aldous Huxley

Where Control really is. 

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”

― Seneca

Control is in the present moment. Right here, with what you feel right now. It might not feel good, but nevertheless, the feeling doesn’t stop being necessary. There’s no: “when this happens, I’ll feel better”. Nope nothing of that. Nothing of: “I’ll feel good when I’m finished working”. Nothing of that, nada. 

If your goal is to be at peace and in control of your emotions. You can’t run away either from them nor the present moment. However uncomfortable they may be, in them lies the answer, the way for peace. 

YOU DON’T HAVE TO ACT ON THEM. 

Nothing good comes out of going on an angry rampage. 

The secret is to let them be. Don’t try to understand them intellectually. You have to understand them at their level, the level of feeling. 

Think with your heart and feel with your mind. 

Stop running and you’ll realize that you are already there. 

Homework. 

There is a trick. Let’s do it right now. I want you to think about how you are feeling at the moment. Ready? Ok. Now, feel in your body the emotion. Where do you feel it? In your chest? Your stomach? Are your hands cold? Maybe your feet? 

Feel the emotion until it goes away. Don’t fight with it, just feel it. Like a cloud in the sky, it will eventually go away. 

You see we don’t just think with our minds. We think with our whole body. Sit up straight with your shoulders back and you’ll realize that your mood changes instantly. 

Throughout the day. Go into your body, as you talk with people, as you work. Think with your body as well, feel your stomach, feel your heart, your chest. This exercise will inevitably bring you back to the present moment. Whenever you catch yourself just thinking and not feeling do the exercise again and again and again. It will become easier as you develop a relationship with your feelings and emotions again. 

And voila! My friend. You are in control again. 

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

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I’m always open to suggestions and am happy to answer any questions. stoicanswers@gmail.com

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How to Think Right


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“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives — choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”
Aristotle

Excellence is not difficult to understand, it really boils down to the formation of new neural connections in your brain through consistent action. Easier said than done. Excellence requires a literal, ever-evolving, “new you”.  

The first time I grabbed a book to learn german, it was exciting. From the 3rd time to the 30th time, however, it was hard. I forced myself to wake up 45 minutes earlier than usual before going to school to open the damn grammar book while half asleep and studying it until the 30-minute session was over. I knew I wouldn’t do it at any other time other than first thing in the morning. 

When I finished the 30-minute session, I felt really, really good. Learning is addicting. The 45th session draws you in like the smell of your mom’s food. I did not longer open the book dreading the constant reminder of: “you’re not good enough”, but rather because I was genuinely interested in knowing what happened to Harry Potter next. By that point, I had switched from grammar to novels. Learning german became fun. The neural highways had been formed. 

Learning anything new is similar to the take-off of a rocket ship into space. At first, it needs massive amounts of energy just to be able to get to the higher atmosphere of the earth and stop being pulled down by gravity. 

Anything can be learned. Literally anything. This is not an attempt to motivate you, it’s literally how the brain works. 

Awesome? Right? 

There is something important to note though. Whether you are conscious of the workings of your mind or not, you are reshaping and molding your brain at every single second. Either for the good or for the bad. 

Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity is the term used to define the capacity of your brain to change connections and behavior in response to new information, sensory stimulation development, damage, or dysfunction. (Brittanica) ***quote 

The brain is modeling and remodeling itself all the time. You are continuously getting better at whatever you happen to be doing at the moment, whether that is thinking negatively of yourself or cooking pasta. Endlessly reshaping your brain.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle 

This is good news and bad news. Good news because you could get better at literally anything, you just have to put your brain to work. Bad news, because if you are not getting better, most probably you are getting worse, or better at something bad.

Stoicism, Neuroplasticity and Thinking right

One of the things I love about Stoic philosophy is that it forces you to think right. It makes you think straight. If the brain is designed to get better at whatever you are practicing, then practicing Stoic philosophy is getting better at thinking right. 

Let’s think about hardship, to give an example. We all get some of it through our lives, it’s inevitable, it’s part of being alive. When you are experiencing it, you’d wish that things be different. You begin to think that if you had made a different choice in the past, you wouldn’t be having so much trouble now. 

This way of thinking is incorrect. First, because you cannot do anything about the past and second because you are blinding yourself from the opportunity that your trouble/hardship/challenge comes with. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, rich or poor, correct reasoning is available to anyone who will use their brains. 

“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Thinking right

Start thinking right enough times and you’ll change your brain and yourself into a straight-minded person. 

How does one go about that? 

Once again, Stoicism is great for its simplicity. 

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
Epictetus

I’ll leave you with a bit of homework this time. I’m sure you’re going to have many challenges today, deadlines to meet, sons to take care of and all the other things that life demands daily. 

So I want you to apply this today: The problem is always inside, never outside, every time you think the problem is “out there” that is the problem. 

Choose to be smarter, choose to be wiser, choose to be a better parent, choose to be a better person. 

Focus on being what you want to see in the world. 

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

Subscribe here

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

I’m always open to suggestions and am happy to answer any questions. stoicanswers@gmail.com