control

Business advice, philosophy, Reflections, Self development

Separation of tasks


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“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will. ” 
― Epictetus

I’m pretty sure you know by now that no, it is not that bloody simple. The difficulty arises precisely in making the distinction of what’s in our power and what not.

Alfred Adler, one of the founding members of the Vienna’s Psychoanalytic Society as long with Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, claimed in his all too controversial at the time “individual psychology” that all problems are really just interpersonal problems.

But, really? Can you really go so far as to claim that every problem is an interpersonal problem?

Example. Let’s say that X person is working for a huge company and just two days ago, he messed up really, really bad. He made the company lose half a million dollars due to a stupid decision he took. He has a huge, huge problem and apparently, on the surface level, the problem is that the company will lose money but deep down, his worries are quite different. When he goes to bed he cannot stop thinking about arriving the next day and having to look everyone in the face, especially his boss, who will be furious. In reality, his problems spring from interpersonal relationships.

Interesting isn’t it? Something to think about. My point here, coming back to the distinction between things that are under our control and things that are not is too clarify it a little more, using Adler’s concept of separation of tasks.

The reason we are often unhappy as Epictetus cleverly claim is that we cannot make this distinction and so we worry about things that shouldn’t even concern us. The separation of tasks is another way of thinking about what you can control and cannot.

In a love relationship, for example, your task is to love, you cannot make the other person love you, or, well, you can, by being lovable yourself first. But the imposition, saying: “she should do this or he should do that”, is wanting to take the other person task.

“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

By separating tasks you can make the distinction of up to which point you can act and up to which point you should concern yourself with. Careful not to use this as an excuse not to do anything, because more than an excuse to not acting and leaving things be, on the contrary, you realize how much more it really is that you can actually do instead of waiting for other people to do whatever. If you are clever enough, you can always find a way in which you can act to come about anything you want, but knowing the distinction of up to which point you can do so is what will give you peace because you’ll know you’ve done your part.

Coming back to all problems being interpersonal problems, this Adlerian methodology comes very useful, because problems stop being problems, the only problem you are left with is with whether you do or you do not do your task and my friend, that’s always under your complete control.

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Stoic advice

Emotion Control


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We humans love power and feeling powerful, we admire stories of courage of people cliffwho 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.

Emotion

“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.

tumblr_inline_os6onoarwr1uk9lm5_500Emotion control

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 Michael_Zeno_Diemer_-_Ship_at_Seareputation from storms and tempests. ”
― Epictetus

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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