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How To Control Your Emotions Like A Stoic (Or A Buddhist)

Last week, we talked about how to deal with fools. This week, we will discuss how to control your emotions in the face of trouble.

In life, many bad things are guaranteed to happen to you, and then you’ll die. You can fight it or deny it all you want, but it’s true.

  • You’ll get sick, possibly with a terminal affliction
  • People you care about will be impacted by illness, disaster, hardship, and death
  • You’ll say something fucked up and lose a friend
  • People you trust will bitterly betray you
  • People you love will abandon you
  • You will lose money unexpectedly
  • You will fail to achieve some of your goals

If you cling to toxic positivity, life’s natural hardships will catch you by surprise and knock you on your ass. You’ll be tempted to complain or to cry out, “Why me?” 

You might even decide to give into some of the darker parts of your nature. After all, if life sucks, why not be an asshole and take what you want by force? 

Of course, as students of the Logos, we understand that virtue is its own reward and vice its own punishment. No man has more to lose than a thief, who risks not only his ill-gotten fortune, but also his reputation, and most importantly, his clarity of vision as to what is right and what is wrong.

So how can you cling to goodness while under siege from life’s suffering? 

Accept trouble without struggling against it, but refuse to injure yourself a second time by clinging to the pain of your hardships.

Quote Of the Week

“We suffer not from the events in our lives but from our judgement about them.” – Epictetus

Stop Hurting Yourself

There is an old Buddhist parable of two arrows. The first arrow is trouble. It strikes you unexpectedly, and you cannot avoid it. Life is full of pain, and you cannot escape it, no matter how hard you try.

However, the Buddha says that a second arrow is coming to strike you in the same spot, but only if you stop moving. This arrow is suffering. You can avoid this arrow, but only if you refuse to let the first arrow stop your progress in life.

When we bitch about the circumstances of our lives instead of healing and moving forward, we leave ourselves wide open for the second arrow of suffering. The worst part about this arrow is that we choose to receive it, even though we know it’s coming.

We can choose to rise above any injury, frustration, or slight, or we can bow to it, and be struck even more forcefully by the suffering that follows.

So how can you avoid the second arrow? 

  • Don’t revisit past trauma and feel sorry for yourself – turn pain into a lesson to help you avoid similar trouble in the future
  • Don’t passively wait for bad things to happen – rehearse predictable hardships before they happen so that you’ll know how to recover from them

You’re going to get hurt, but you don’t have to be miserable. The choice is yours.

Question Of The Week

How many times has complaining helped you solve your problems?

Live On Purpose // Die Without Regrets

Hey, I’m Chris. I’m a writer, musician, and philosopher. My “life’s work” is to create content that helps people live on purpose and die without regrets.

Each Wednesday, I send a 3–4 minute newsletter that applies the wisdom of the past to modern life.

I draw these weekly lessons from ancient philosophies like Stoicism, Taoism, and Zen, along with examples from the lives of great women and men who lived and died long ago.

Want to grow together? Join the Garden to get these bite-size meditations delivered straight to your inbox every week.

 

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