“He robs present ills of their power who has perceived their coming beforehand.” Seneca
Not too long ago, I started going out with a girl. We went out a couple of times, and frankly, I was excited. The girl was pretty and I was in the mood for having a female presence in my life. But then, I got, kind of, ghosted. I’m not sure why, or well, I have some ideas, but none of them are relevant to the point I am trying to make here.
I was obviously hurt. I thought it was going well, but apparently not. I wasn’t prepared to deal with the hurt either. I remember ruminating about the reasons why over, and over, and over again.
But eventually, as with everything, I forgot about it with time. But, I knew I had to do something about those feelings, as, not too long ago, something similar happened to me in Colombia.
Is there a way out of these feelings? No.
I wrote in a previous article about an idea I read from Montaigne, “bearing the pain”.
The idea is that no, there is no way out of those feelings of rejection and all that good stuff, at least, not immediately. But I lied, there is a way out, but the way out is not how we think it is.
We think the way out of the feelings you don’t want to feel is running away from them, but that doesn’t work, they just become bigger monsters. Something like that happened to me every time I fell in love with a girl and she didn’t reciprocate. I tried to hide them and act like everything was well.
The way out is actually through them. Feeling them in your body and asking yourself if that pain is so unbearable, as to force you to cry and listen to sad love songs until you forget about it in a pathetic tantrum. The truth is that that pain is completely bearable and that it will not kill you, in fact, it will most likely make you stronger and more experienced if you decide to take it that way.
Once you see that, things do become easier. It becomes more of a question of how you are going to bear your feelings and the situations of your life. Which is infinitely better, as your problems and your feelings become more like challenges that ask you to rise up to them and meet them in the field.
And we love doing this, that’s why video games are so widely played, they pose challenges to overcome.
Now, knowing this, there is a Stoic practice that can further help you deal with and, better yet, thrive in your life. That’s the premeditation of evils.
Premeditation of evils
The practice is a simple one:
To prepare oneself for potential misfortunes, reduce their impact if they do happen, and increase gratitude for the current moment.
It’s about thinking ahead of what can happen. For example, with girls in my life, I know that many things can happen, not necessarily because of me, and it is better to be prepared for the possibility of them leaving.
The question you ask yourself is the same: would I be able to bear that pain? Even from the woman I love the most?
Now, we have to take into account the idea of “not actually being able to bear something”, and that, ultimately, is death.
But, if you’re alive, you’re bearing it, perhaps not in the best way, but you are. The best option you have, apart from death, which samurais decided sometimes was better than life and so they killed themselves for honor, is to bear life with dignity, whatever that is for you. Standing tall and proud against the wave.
You will have to bear terrible things in your life, this is a fact, like the death of your parents, your friends, your loved ones, and lastly, yourself. You don’t have an option here, that is something that will happen. How will you bear that?
I believe this is why we love stories of great courage, because of the greatness of the soul shown, which, due to our shared humanity, is also available to us. I’m thinking about Aragorn charging against the orc hordes of Mordor, which in the movie, translated to charging against and unto death itself, choosing at least, if not whether to die or not, how to die.
It’s about choosing who you want to be, despite the world, and the consequences. It’s a kind of blatant honesty. The premeditation of evils shows you this side of yourself, and it shows you a way to independence, the acceptance of the inevitability of things ending, and the appreciation for what life is right now.
Now, when I am with a girl, and excuse me for the cheesy example, the principle is the same, that of dealing with loss. If you wonder about losing something or someone, and then you imagine how that would be, and how you would deal with it, you begin to see that you are not so hopeless after all.
Loss has happened to you before, and yet here you are, reading this, kicking. Why wouldn’t you be able to keep dealing, bearing, and processing the losses and pains of your life?
Montaigne said that to learn philosophy is to learn how to die. You are not fit for life if you’re not prepared to die. The reason for this is that you cannot live your life if you’re afraid of losing it.
A perfect example of this idea is when Sponge Bob Squarepants, in an episode in an episode, breaks his ass, and too afraid to incur in another accident, becomes agoraphobic, too scared to leave his house, not being able to do anything other than play with a napkin, a potato chip, and a coin.
A boring life, that just gets smaller, and smaller, and smaller, up to the point of becoming unbearable, leaving you, paradoxically, desiring the very same thing that you were afraid of at the core and start of your fear journey, death itself.
So, the answer seems to be to live your life, of course not recklessly, but welcoming the idea of death, fear, and everything else, and envisioning it all with all its inevitability.
The principle stays the same with anything. Me, being afraid of the feelings of rejection, to give an example, can leave me in the same place Sponge Bob found himself, not being able to enjoy a relationship for fear of losing it.
The cure for this is the premeditation of evils. Asking yourself if you can bear the loss, and more than bearing, in a petty way, asking yourself if you’ll still be able to be your best self despite what happens or at least try, the answer is yes. There’s that, bearing the pain and using it for transformation, or there’s death, and death is the end of everything, so it doesn’t matter in your choice.
What this means for you
We will all experience loss, defeat, and some kind of “evil” in our lives. But we will not be in the same boat when it comes to how we choose to react against those “evils”. The Stoics believed that things in themselves are not evil, our reactions are. If I pity myself after a rejection, and let what happens outside of me rule how I act in life, then evil is something I am doing, not life. Evil and good lie in our choosing.
Now, for you, if you want to live, truly, and independently, you need to be able to see your fears in the face and decide that you are going to rise to whatever life throws at you and charge against it, as Aragorn did, in the way you see best.
I am not perfect. I indulge in suffer fests, and pity parties as well, but I intend to do so less and less. Every time I do, I feel a spirit of peace like no other, I feel self-reliant, and I stop depending on other people for how I feel, it is a vibrating feeling, one that you don’t want to let go. Once learned, you become a true person, full of the knowledge of death and life is one.
Fear and courage merge, and you begin to ride the wave of life, if you get me.
Suffering is not going anywhere, but you’re better equipped for it, and in your understanding of it being a part of this, you stop fighting it, knowing that nothing in this life is permanent and that that same suffering can turn into happiness.
We’re on a weird trip fellows, happy to share it with you.
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