Categories
Anger

303 – The Antidote to Anger: The Art of Stoic Acceptance

Do you struggle with anger? Why do you think you get angry? What can you do to manage your anger better? In this weeks episode I want to talk about how Stoicism can help you to get a grip on your anger, and lead a more peaceful life.

“If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?”

—Rumi

The other day I was out on my balcony and heard someone from an apartment above me shouting and swearing. I couldn’t hear much of what he was shouting or even what language it was in, except for the swear words in English. I couldn’t hear another voice, though I could tell that he was directing his anger at someone else, so I assume that he was talking on the phone.

As I listened to this go on for a few minutes and wondering what he was so angry at, it brought me back to the arguments that I used to have with my ex-partner over the last few years. I could feel myself feeling his anger, and I felt this wave of shame wash over me for the way that I often behaved in that relationship. I started thinking about if I’d be better able to handle myself now, or if I’d fall back into that same type of behavior if I got into another relationship.

And to be honest, I’m not 100% sure.

So I started thinking about why I was so often angry with my last partner, because even though I have thought about it from time to time, it’s something that I want to get a handle on. I want to make sure that the reason I don’t get angry like that isn’t just because I’m not in a relationship at the moment. I want to understand why I was angry and why, even with my deep understanding of Stoicism as well as understanding the long term consequences of not controlling my anger, I still didn’t seem to have a handle on my temper when it came to her.

So, as with many of my podcast episodes, I decided to sit down and work through this by writing about it so I could rationally examine what the causes of that anger were, and what steps I can take to make sure that I’m living the way I want to live, and act in accordance with my values. Because with all reactive behaviors, until you can get to the root of it, by understanding the conscious and unconscious thoughts, perspectives, and beliefs, it’s really hard to change them.

Digging Deep

As I began to explore this, one of the key things that I realized was that in many ways I didn’t trust her. I didn’t trust that she would truly accept me for who I am. I would often tell her what I thought she wanted to hear rather than what I truly thought about something. I basically would lie to her because I was so afraid that she would hate me if she knew the real me. This of course made it harder for her to trust me because she didn’t know if I was telling the truth about something, or just saying what I thought would make her happy.

So, why would I do that? Why, given the Stoics emphasis on being truthful and facing reality head on, would I lie about things, especially small things that didn’t really matter all that much, which was something that she asked me several times? I think that some of it stems from trauma in my childhood. When my father was upset about something, or even sometimes when I was just worried that something might upset him, I would bend the truth a bit or even outright lie just to keep him happy. I was trained that lying was okay because it kept me safe from my dad’s anger and violence.

Another factor was growing up in a strong religious where conforming to the beliefs of the church were more important than saying what you really thought. There was a strong social pressure to fit in and behave in the way that was expected of you. You learned how to say and do all the correct things in order to be seen as a good member of the church.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are lots of good reasons for societies to have rules of behavior. It keeps things orderly and safe when there is a strong culture of following rules that are part of our social contract. This is how we are able to live together in large groups and communities. However, when it comes to a persons relationship with god, of their personal beliefs, I think that’s where it starts to intrude on you own self concept. When you feel pressured to believe in things that don’t make sense to you or that you don’t feel are part of your own personal principles and perspectives, you lie to yourself and others to keep them happy and to think of you in certain way.

Anger is Fear in Action

So how does this all relate to anger and Stoicism? It’s been said that anger is just fear in action. Usually we get angry because we feel fear, and we’re trying trying to control the situation with that anger. Whether that’s trying to control another person, or getting upset that things don’t work out as we want them, at the core of it, we’re afraid.

In my case, I wanted my partner to love me, and I tried control her through subtle manipulation with the lies I would tell to try and convince her that I was someone worth loving. When that would fail, I would get angry and try to control her with anger because I believed that she didn’t love me. I desperately wanted her to love me and when she was upset with me, I was afraid that she didn’t love me, because that’s what I felt when my dad was angry at me—that I wasn’t loved.

Holding Onto Anger

Another aspect I want to talk about is why we hold onto anger. Holding on to anger is also something that many of us do, but why is holding onto anger such an appealing thing? Anger feels like power, and power feels good. But the thing is, anger is the illusion of power. When we are angry, we are not in control of ourselves. When we hold onto anger, we may inflict harm on others and feel like we are in control, but the person that we harm the most is ourselves. For example, whenever I’d get any with my ex-partner, I felt awful and ashamed afterwards. I felt like I’d let us both down, and pushed her even farther away.

Frederick Buechner in his book Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, paints a great image of what happens when we hold onto anger:

"Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you."

When Marcus Aurelius wrote, “How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it,” he didn’t just mean that we harm others, but more that we harm ourselves. Seneca clarifies this further, stating, “Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it.” When we lose our cool, we become a lesser person. We show ourselves and others that we are not on control of ourselves, regardless of how much we rant and rave. We are also choosing to put ourselves in bad state of mind and disrupt our own inner peace.

How can we get better at managing our anger? What active steps can we take to not let ourselves let irritations, disappointments, or even betrayal, send us spiraling and behaving in a way that is destructive to ourselves and those around us? I think the biggest key is radical acceptance.

Acceptance of Externals

First: Acceptance of all the things in life you can’t control.

The Stoics teach about the Dichotomy of Control, which means that we truly understand what is under our power and what is not. Epictetus clearly explains the difference: ”Some things are up to us and some things are not. Our opinions are up to us, and our impulses, desires, aversions—in short, whatever is our own doing. Our bodies are not up to us, nor are our possessions, our reputations, or our public offices, or that which is not our own doing."

In short, what we control is our perspective, beliefs, desires, and actions. That’s it. Everything else is outside of our control. By accepting this fundamental truth, we can learn to focus on the few things in our control, and let go of everything else. We can’t control other people, our reputation, or even external circumstance and events. We can only control how we treat other people, our own behavior, and how we choose to respond to the things that happen to us. By accepting that most things are not in our control, we can look at things with a little more objectivity and rationality, and think about what choices we want to make that will be more likely to lead to better outcomes.

I think a good place to practice this is in accepting other people for exactly who they are. Before I moved to Amsterdam, I was dating a woman who I’m still close friends with. We spent a lot of time together, and never seemed to have much conflict. I asked her once why it was so easy to be around her and why things seemed to work so smoothly, given how my last relationship was often fraught with anger. She said, “Well, part of it is that we’re still getting to know each other, and that part of a relationship is often easier with new relationship energy. But, I think a bigger part is that I accept you for exactly who you are, with no expectation that you will ever change or be someone else. It’s not my job to change you, or expect you to. You will change, and if you change into someone that doesn’t work for me, then it’s my choice of what I want to do about it.”

I was floored. What she said resonated deep in my bones. I did feel incredibly accepted and appreciated for who I was, not some persona that I was putting on so that she would like me. Now this is not say that my previous partner didn’t accept me and love me. It was that I believed that she didn’t or couldn’t, which was not fair to her because I didn’t trust her to do so. It was a good lesson for me to work on accepting others for exactly who there are without trying to change them.

Acceptance of Yourself

This leads me on to my second point: Acceptance of yourself for exactly who you are.

Because anger is driven by fear, often we will react with anger because of some insecurity deep within ourselves. When others point out some flaw of ours, or someone says something disparaging about us, we often react with anger because deep down we’re afraid they might be right. This due to not really knowing and accepting of all parts of us, especially the things we don’t like about ourselves. When we feel the discomfort of who we project ourselves to be to others being in conflict with the darker parts of ourselves, we often feel afraid of what others might think of us, or even who we think we are.

For example, if we think we’re a very generous person and someone points out that something we’re doing is selfish, there’s an inner conflict. We might get defensive and even angry that someone would think that we’re being selfish. But if we can accept that sometimes we may act in ways that are selfish, when someone calls us out, we can objectively look at our actions and decide if we were acting selfish in this instance. If we were, then we accept that, and so our best to make amends. If we weren’t and we felt that we were acting in a way that aligns with our principles, then we can try to understand why the other person felt like we were acting selfish.

Marcus Aurelius said, “If anyone can refute me—show me I'm making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective—I'll gladly change. It's the truth I'm after, and the truth never harmed anyone.” This means that if the other person was right, there’s no need to get angry about it because it’s the truth. If the other person was wrong, then there’s still no reason to get angry about it because you’re living up to your principles.

Anger in Danger

Now, I often have people ask me about getting angry in dangerous situations, and if that isn’t key to our survival. When something frightens us, we often get angry about it, which can feel like an instant visceral reaction. But the more we can keep our cool in dangerous situations, the more we can make rational choices. This is why soldiers train in challenging circumstances, so that they can keep their fear under control. Once they get angry, the chances of them taking a rash or dangerous action increases dramatically putting themselves and others at risk. The more you can rationally control your fear, the more control you have over yourself in any situation.

Conclusion

Before I go, let me leave with this thought from Seneca:

“People who know no self-restraint lead stormy and disordered lives, passing their time in a state of fear commensurate with the injuries they do to others, never able to relax. After every act they tremble, paralyzed, their consciences continually demanding an answer, not allowing them to get on with other things. To expect punishment is to suffer it; and to earn it is to expect it.”

Dealing with anger is something that all of us have to learn if we want to thrive in the world. By understanding that anger is driven by fear, we can start to look at the root causes of why we often act in ways that are truly counterproductive to the well being of ourselves and others. By learning to accept ourselves, and accept those things out of our control, we can make better choices that benefit not only ourselves, but more especially, those we love.


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Categories
Anger

255 – The WISER Model

How well do you manage your emotions? Do you feel like you’re on top of things or do you feel like you let situations get under your skin? Today I want to talk about a model I came across that can be a useful tool for managing your emotions, and handling situations like a stoic.

"Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it."

— Seneca

The Harvard Study of Adult Development, is a longitudinal study that was started in 1938. Researchers followed the same cohort for more than eighty years to gather information about quality of life. Every few years the participants were interview and subjected to a physical to track both mental and physical health.

The Good Life, a book by Robert Waldinger & Marc Schulz based on the data from the Harvard study, and were able two important conclusions:

First, was that those who handled the emotions better by facing them head on and not trying to repress or ignore them, generally reported a higher quality of life and better memories of the past.

Second, it is incredibly challenging for people to change their emotional responses. They found that it didn’t come down to willpower or intelligence, but rather their awareness of their coping patterns.

In studying those that managed their emotions in a healthy fashion, they found that there was a similar pattern amongst them. They call this the WISER model, and I’m going to explain it here.

Watch

When a strong emotion comes along, the first thing we need to do is engage our awareness. Usually our first reaction is based on an impulse and not a clear understanding of the full situation. When we give ourselves some space to get curious and just observe what’s going on, and see how we’re feeling, we can get a fuller picture of what’s really happening.

Waldinger and Schulz write, “Thoughtful observation can round out our initial impressions, expand our view of a situation, and press the pause button to prevent a potentially harmful reflexive response.”

Interpret

"It is not events that disturb people, it is their judgments concerning them."

— Epictetus

Once we have some more information, we need to interpret what we learned from observation. Often, situations are ambiguous and we jump to all sorts of conclusions. By asking what assumptions we made about the situation, we can quickly see were we misinterpreted what someone said or meant, or see what meaning we gave to something.

Select

The Select stage is where we make a choice of what we want to do about the situation. This step should be a thoughtful and deliberate choice, and not reactive or impulsive. This is where we try to slow things down so that we can make choices that are inline with our values, and that have a better long term outcome.

"The key,” according to Waldinger and Schulz, “is to try to slow things down where you can, zoom in, and move from a fully automatic response to a more considered and purposeful response that aligns with who you are and what you are seeking to accomplish.”

Engage

Once you have made a choice, it’s time to put it into action. This part is can be challenging because it may mean that you have put yourself in an uncomfortable but necessary situation. But if you have taken the time to make a deliberate choice, this will be easier to do than if you are acting reflexively and will have better outcome than just ignoring the situation.

Reflect

"The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control."

— Epictetus

The last step is to reflect on how things went. Did our plan work out as expected? Why or why not? What could we have done that might have been more effective? Taking the time to think about how things went helps inform us of how we can better handle things in the future. Even if we handle a situation well, this is a good step to take because it helps us to reinforce our good choices, as well as find even more room for improvement.

Conclusion

Dealing with strong emotions in the heat of the moment is not easy, and is something that we all need to work on. For me, I really like having an acronym that helps me walk through a useful process. When we’re struggling in the moment, it’s always helpful to have another tool at the ready. So go out and be a little Wiser.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

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Categories
Control

232 – QTIP

QTIP
It is our own opinions that disturb us

How often do you take what other people say and do personally? How often do you feel like you have to “fix” someone else’s mood? Today I want to talk about emotional responsibility, and how it can lead a stronger sense of self and keep you from getting pulled into other peoples emotional mayhem.

Not to display anger or other emotions. To be free of passion and yet full of love.

—Marcus Aurelius

The other day I was talking with my therapist about how I feel like I’m dealing with conflict a little better in my life. I was talking about how I was getting better about not trying to control or change other people’s emotions, and how that was very liberating. In doing so I’m able to just let them be annoyed or frustrated or upset with me without having to do anything about it. And she used a great turn of phrase, she said, “QTIP. You quit taking things personally.” I laughed because I’d never heard that before, but it was a great shortcut to keep that idea in mind.

If we seek social status, we give other people power over us: we have to do things calculated to make them admire us, and we have to refrain from doing things that will trigger their disfavor.

—William B. Irvine

Why do we find it so hard to just let other people be annoyed? Why do we so often feel like we have to fix how they feel?

For many of us, we confuse trying to fix other people emotions with being nice. We’re raised to find ways to keep the peace, and often that includes us finding ways of placating others or take on other peoples emotions. We may even take the blame for things that we had no control over just to try and keep others happy.

One of the hardest things that I’ve had to learn in my life was how not to taking things personally. If someone is upset with me, I find it very challenging to just let them be upset with me. I usually try to either fix whatever is upsetting them, or I try to change how they are feeling by arguing with them about why they are wrong to be upset with me. And you know, that never really works. When you try to change how someone feels about something, they often get even more upset or resentful because you are invalidating how they feel. You are letting them know that their emotions are not acceptable.

Think about how you feel when you tell someone about how something they did impacted you, and rather than listening and hearing what you have to say, they start trying to argue about why you shouldn’t feel the way you do. Talk about feeling dismissed and invalidated. When someone is upset with you, it is not your job to fix their emotions. You don’t need to change how other people feel. Let them be mad, frustrated, and upset with you. It’s their right to feel what they feel. It is not your place to try and change them. And the thing is, that’s not something you need to take on. It’s not your job to manage their emotions. It’s theirs.

Now many of us this can be challenging. When people are responding to you, often it really has nothing to do with you but more to do with their trauma and baggage. I know that when I’m upset about something, I’ve often reacted in way that later, upon reflection, wasn’t really even related to what the other person did. I reacted to what they said or did in a way that had more to do with my past than what happened in the present.

Our brains are constantly using past data to try and predict future outcomes. If you have lots of bad data from growing up in a dysfunctional family or suffered some kind of trauma or abuse, sometimes your responses aren’t going to be appropriate to the current situation.

For example, because my dad was so unpredictable, when he was annoyed about something it could quickly escalate into something very volatile. So when someone close to me is annoyed, my brain screams “danger!”, and will often overreact. It’s gotten much better, but it has taken tremendous effort to reprogram those responses.

As a recovering “people pleaser”, I often feel like it’s my job to try and fix other people’s moods. A big reason for this is because growing up, I had to be conscientious of my dad’s emotions because if I didn’t, I could end up being beaten. I had to be on guard all the time and find ways to soothe him or make him happy to keep myself safe.

So does this mean that you should just be calloused and not care about how other feel? I mean it’s their emotions to deal with, right? I think there is a fine balance between not taking on other emotions and being an ass. Humans are always trying to subtly and not so subtly manipulate and persuade each other. Most times it’s harmless and often beneficial. But there are those that try to emotionally manipulate others to try and take advantage of them. Blaming others for their moods or for the problems in their lives, throwing tantrums, and guilt tripping are all things that I’ve seen people do to each other, and I’ve done my fare share of it as well.

It is our own opinions that disturb us. Take away these opinions then, and resolve to dismiss your judgment about an act as if it were something grievous, and your anger is gone.

—Marcus Aurelius

So how can we get better about not taking on others emotions and not taking things personally? By taking responsibility for your own emotional management, and encouraging others to do so as well. When you are responsible for your emotions, you have a good handle on where those lines are. You don’t take responsibility for emotions and actions that are not yours.

When you take the blame for things that you have no control over, it does little to really solve an issue. This also robs others of the chance to take responsibility for themselves. Each of us need to be clear about what is ours to manage, and was is not.

The other thing is that you can’t fix someone else’s emotions anyway. The stoics teach us pretty clearly that out thinking is what distresses us. If the other person is upset abr something, it’s their perspective on things that is causing their distress, and it’s something they need to figure out. What we can do on our side is support them and do our best to reign in our emotions to help defuse situations whenever possible.

We’ve all been on both sides of arguments where we blame others for how we feel, and have had other blame us for how they’re feeling. Neither of these perspectives do a very good job of helping us manage ourselves and support others. When we practice being a little more dispassionate and to quit taking things personally, the more we’ll be able to be in control of ourselves, and support others in managing their own emotions, which helps create more emotionally balanced relationships, and helps each of us be a little more kind and patient with each other.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

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Categories
other people

229 – Conscious Communcation

Conscious Communication

An ignorant person is inclined to blame others for his own misfortune. To blame oneself is proof of progress. But the wise man never has to blame another or himself.

— Epictetus

Have you ever thought about how often we have judgments in our language? Are you even aware of how often we communicate our opinions and feelings about others? What if we could remove judgments from our language? Today I want to talk about ways that we can make our language more clear, and increase our ability to communicate non-judgmentally with others.

A few months ago I picked up a book called Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenburg. The idea behind nonviolent communication, or alternatively what the author calls conscious communication is that there are many aspects of how we speak, and the way we hear things that cloud communication with others.

There are many aspects of nonviolent communication, but the part that I want to focus on in the podcast is one idea in particular. That idea is if we could strip out the judgments from our communication, then we could communicate more clearly with each other. Doing so would allow us to deal with issues for what they are rather than all the judgments about the issues, which often become a distraction or even a roadblock in communicating with others.

The process of communicating this way is not an easy because unconsciously we make all kinds of judgments in our language. Most of those judgments are what the author calls moralistic judgments, which are judgements about the rightness or wrongness of other according to our values. Each of us make value judgements about what principles we hold and how we think the world could best be served. When we make moralistic judgments we are comparing others to our ideal of what we think they should be or how they should act.

For example, if someone cuts us off in traffic, “they are an idiot”. If we think someone isn’t working hard enough, “they’re lazy”. If we don’t like the way someone dresses, “they’re dressed inappropriately”. All day long we are passing judgments on others, and ourselves, and we’re usually not all that aware that we’re doing it, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the stronger we feel about something, the more intense our judgment is about the idea.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

—Rumi

When we focus too much on classifying how good or bad or to what level others or ourselves are in relation to what we think they should be, we’re not paying attention to what other person, or ourselves might need. For example, if our significant other is wanting more affection from us than what we we’re giving, we might judge them as being too needy or clingy. We might argue with them to stop being so clingy or make it mean that we’re not good enough for them, rather than noticing they have some need that isn’t being fulfilled.

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.

—Carl Jung

So how can we get better about communicating is ways that carry less judgment? As with most things, it takes awareness. Until we are aware that we’re doing this every day, it makes it challenging to change our behavior. The better we get at noticing when we’re passing judgement, the more progress we can make.

What it really comes down to is how well we can observe something or someone without evaluating. A way to practice this is to take whatever it is we’re saying and distill it to just the facts. If we only say the things in it that are verifiable or provable then we are already making a big step towards conscious communication.

In the book there is a great example where the author is working with a group of teachers who are frustrated with the principle because they feel he talks too much and overruns conversations. He asks the teachers what the issue is, and their answers include statements like, “He has a big mouth”, “He talks too much”, and “He thinks only he has anything worth saying”. All of these statements are judgements or inferences about the principle and not evaluations. It took some work to help these teachers come up with a list of specific behaviors and the outcomes of those behaviors, such as because of his extra story telling, meetings almost always ran over their time limit. Learning to separate our judgements from observations is not an easy thing to do, but pays huge dividends in communicating with others.

A simple exercise that can help us be more aware of the judgments we make is to practice separating observations from judgments. For example, if we meet someone, rather than thinking about how attractive or unattractive they are or how humorous or boring they are, we can practice just noticing factual things about them first. We can notice the color of their eyes, how tall they are, or the length of their hair. After that, we can pay attention to the opinions that we form about them, such as, “They have a pleasant speaking voice”, “They’re too tall or short”, or “They have great taste in clothes”.

Another key part of conscious communication is that we own our judgments, opinions, and feelings about a situation. If we think someone is lazy, rather than declaring that they are lazy, we can simply say, “In my opinion I think that someone that works less than 60 hours a week is lazy.” It is still a judgment, but we are owning that we are making a judgment. If we have a friend that dominates conversations, we might say, “I feel frustrated when talking with you when you interrupt me and don’t let me finish my thoughts.”

Let’s a talk a little more about value judgments. Value judgments in and of themselves are not bad. We each have principles and ideals that are important to us. We may value honesty or kindness or compassion or a host of other ideals that help us decide how we want to show up in the world. When expressing these ideals we also need to be careful not to attach judgments to them. When we express our values, we can do so in a way that expresses our feelings about it, without passing judgments on others.

For example, if we think that honesty is a very important principle, we might say, “I value honesty and people who are dishonest are awful and should be fed to a pack of coyotes.”, which obviously has a strong judgment attached to it. Instead we could say, “I value honesty, and I understand how it can be hard to do, so appreciate it when others are honest with me.”

The last bit of advice I can offer on this topic is to try and be more compassionate with your communication. Before you say something to someone, think about how it might be received. Think about how you might receive it. Is it something that would upset you if your friend or partner said it to you? Is there a way that you can remove any judgements and just state the facts? Are you saying this because you are trying to get the other person to change? The closer you can get to just stating the facts, taking out judgments, and not placing blame or having expectations, the easier it will be to work on the root of the issue, and avoid getting into an argument about how you think they are right or wrong.

One of the most important skills that we can develop in our lives is communicating with other people, and nonviolent communication is a process that can help communicate more clearly. The more conscious we become about how we’re communicating, the better we can connect with others. By learning how to separate our judgements and opinions from our observations we more likely to have our concerns received better, as well as keep the conversation focused on the real issue, and not our opinions about the issue.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Find me on instagram or twitter.

Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Anger conflict philosophy stoicism

196 – How To Win An Argument

How to Win an Argument
How to Win an Argument

How do you win an argument? All of us have to deal with conflict in our lives. To think otherwise is completely unrealistic. But when we have an argument, what is our goal? What do we hope to achieve? To change the other person’s mind? To prove that we are right?

Today I want to talk about why we argue, and the best way to win an argument.

It is possible to curb your arrogance, to overcome pleasure and pain, to rise above your ambition, and to not be angry with stupid and ungrateful people — yes, even to care for them.

— Marcus Aurelius

Why do people argue? If you asked most people, they would probably tell you that they don’t like to argue, that they don’t like conflict. But if this is the case, why do we have so many arguments as humans? But so much of what we read, see, and hear in our media is people arguing about what they see as the “right way” for things to be done or how someone else is wrong.

The nature of conflict

At its core, the main reason we have so much conflict is that we each experience a distinct reality. Every person in the world has a unique perspective on reality. This is a combination of so many factors including their past experiences, biological makeup, current state of mind, education, and general outlook on the world. External factors include the culture they live in, the culture they grew up in, the language they speak, the country they live in, and their physical environment, to name a few.

Because of the large number of variables to go to make up a persons perspective on reality, no two people are ever going to see the world in the same way, and there is bound to be conflict in any area of life as people interact with each other. The only way to completely avoid conflict with others is to completely avoid all contact with any other person.

In religion, people have settled on a set of beliefs that strongly influence what they believe about the world. Some believe that there is a grey-haired man in the sky who is watching every action you take and knows every thought you think and is judging you for every thought and action, and will punish you once you die. Some claim that because of thoughts and actions of others, bad things happen as a punishment from god. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and even earthquakes are a manifestation of this god’s wrath upon one part of humanity for the alleged sins of another part of humanity. This capricious nature of some higher power that would punish people for the sins of others is one thing that drove me from religion.

When it comes to politics, peoples political views are strong enough for them to take actions that can be highly detrimental to those less fortunate, have the wrong skin color, or speak a different language. We find people on opposite sides of the political spectrum holding wildly different ideas about how things should be run. Often we see how people will often oppose an idea, not on its merits but because the other side supports the idea. They may even believe the idea is good, but are completely unwilling to support it simply because their side did not propose it.

Some people believe that there is a certain hierarchy of humans based upon factors such as education, family, class, money. Some believe that there is a ruling class and that others are simply meant to be ruled. Some believe that others are born inferior, based upon their family, race, sex, or gender identity and therefore are lesser beings. This often leads them to act in ways where they feel they have privileges not afford to others. When someone fundamentally believes that they have the right to control another person without their consent, there’s bound to be conflict.

In our personal relationships we find that most of our conflicts arise from when we believe that the other person’s ideas or actions are incorrect and we try to change them. When we feel like we have the right to coerce others to change their opinion or change their actions, we’re going to have issues. We are trying to control something that we do not have control over. We might think that because of our relationship with this person we have that right. This happens frequently with romantic partners. We might find that we disagree with our partners on something that we find troubling. Maybe they have a point of view about something that we think is just plain illogical or frivolous. Even so, we do not have the right to coerce them either through arguments or physical means into chaining their minds simply because we disagree with them.

In the case of parents, depending on the level of maturity, we have the duty to take care of our children. We need to take care of their physical needs, and do our best to teach them how to manage in the world. But even though we are in charge of them, we do not have the right to force our children to change their opinions to suit us. Our job as parents is to teach them how to form their own opinions and teach them the skills they need to survive in the world. The less we focus on making sure they have the right opinions, and help them understand how to form opinions and apply critical thinking to the world, the better they’ll be able to cope with the challenges of life. They may have less experience, and may not have skills in many areas, but this does not mean that we have the right to violate their personal autonomy. When you beat your kids or verbally abuse them, your are violating their person, and trying to force them into conforming to your will. You are trying to control something you cannot control. Think about how many times your parents told you something, and you just agreed with them to avoid an argument, even though you did not agree with them. Beating your children as punishment causes trauma in your kids that is not easily remedied. As the provider and protector of children, your children should not fear you, but should be able to lean on you to get their physical, mental, and emotional needs met, and to help them learn how to navigate the world

“As you move forward along the path of reason, people will stand in your way. They will never be able to keep you from doing what’s sound, so don’t let them knock out your goodwill for them. Keep a steady watch on both fronts, not only for well-based judgments and actions, but also for gentleness with those who would obstruct our path or create other difficulties. For getting angry is also a weakness, just as much as abandoning the task or surrendering under panic. For doing either is an equal desertion— the one by shrinking back and the other by estrangement from family and friend.”

— Marcus Aurelius

How To Win An Argument

First and foremost, we need to accept that we all have a different version of reality.

Second, we need to recognize that we do not have the right to force anyone else to agree with or believe in our version of reality.

Third, we need to understand our goal for the argument. Are we trying to convince someone of the rightness of our position and the wrongness of theirs? I know that if someone if trying to push me over to their opinion, I almost automatically resist. If they aren’t interested in why I hold the opinion I do, then it makes it really hard to want to listen to what they have to say. It says right off the bat that they think I’m wrong and they’re setting out to prove it. No one likes to feel this way.

The other thing is that if you don’t understand why a person believes what they do, you won’t be able to address the factors that caused them to believe it in the first place. Often, when you listen and try to understand why they hold their opinion, they may even discover the flaws in it, and you may discover flaws in your own thinking.

I propose that the goal of any argument you have is that you act honorably. That upon reflection, you can feel good about your behavior. For me, that includes not yelling or name calling. It means listening to why they feel the way they do. It means that I care that something bothered the other person. It does not mean that I have to do anything about it. It does mean that I have concern that something bothered them. That’s it. I don’t have to agree with them, but I should care.

If you are unwilling to be open to changing your opinions, why should you expect someone else to be willing? Remember, the only thing you can control is your thinking, your opinions – not anyone else’s.

Any time we deal with other people in any situation, there will be conflict. We will never agree with someone else 100% of the time. It’s just not possible, nor is it going to help you grow. If your goal is to act honorably, with compassion and caring and not just to change another person’s mind, then you can win any argument.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

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Coffee Break philosophy self-improvement stoicism

177 – Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

 

“It is our own opinions that disturb us. Take away these opinions and resolve to dismiss your judgment about an act as if it were something grievous, and your anger is gone.”

— Marcus Aurelius

Over the centuries, the term “stoic” evolved from the original meaning of someone that follows the philosophy of Stoicism, to someone who does not show emotions.

When you look up the definition of stoic in the dictionary, it says:

“stoic: Not affected by or showing passion or feeling. Firmly restraining response to pain or distress.”

Stoics are not emotionless automatons. All humans feel emotions. Reading Meditations, Marcus Aurelius seems far from being cold and emotionless.

“If you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable.”

— Marcus Aurelius

Practicing stoicism is not about repressing emotions. It is not about pretending you feel nothing. It’s about understanding how your mind works, so that you can use it to benefit you and those around you. It’s about finding balance and equanimity. It’s recognizing that you have control over what you think, feel, and do. If you are swayed by every little thing other people say, or frustrated by outside events, you will be at the whims of your emotions. Others will easily control and manipulate you.

So why do people equate being stoic with being emotionless? I think it’s because anyone that follows the tenants of stoicism understands that emotions are like the weather. They come and go. They’re in a constant state of flux. Because they understand this, Stoics know that if you sit with uncomfortable emotions for a while, they will eventually change. They will pass.

Whenever you have a thought, you create an emotional state. Some are subtle and others can be powerful, but every single emotion starts from a thought. It could be a very conscious thought you are actively choosing to think about. It could be a non-conscious background thought that you aren’t particularly aware of.

When we’re offended or upset by someone, it says more about us than about the other person. The thoughts that create the emotion are our own, not someone else’s. If you are offended, it’s because you chose to be offended. Your mind creates every emotion you have. If you are the one creating your emotions, you also have the power to change your emotional state. By processing those difficult emotions, you are also taking responsibility for your emotions. You recognize you cause those emotions and you do not blame them on other people or events.

As Brooke Castillo, one of my favorite life coaches, says, “No one can make you feel anything without your permission.”

Other People

Another reason that people think of being stoic as being emotionless is that your reaction is being compared to how other people might react in the same situation. The person making the judgement has their own idea of how someone “should” respond. Because a Stoic does not react how they think someone should, it seems strange. It also means that it is someone else’s opinion, and as we all know, that is something we don’t have control over.

When we get comfortable with uncomfortable emotions we also do not take on other people’s emotions. Now what do I mean by this? When someone is angry or frustrated with us, they may try to use those emotions to control or manipulate us. We may feel it’s up to us to change in order to manage their emotions. It is not. Their emotions are theirs to deal with. It is not up to us to manage their emotional state. When we can learn to separate ourselves from someone else’s frustration or anger, we can act in a way that is calm and wise. We don’t let others control us.

Examples

Let’s look at some examples.

If someone says something rude or offensive to you, is what they said intrinsically offensive? Like if someone said that you looked like a warthog, would that offend you? It is only offensive because of your judgment. It’s only offensive because of the meaning that you give to it. Maybe you think warthogs are awesome and fierce, so you could take it as a compliment.

Another example. Say that you’re feeling down and sad about something. You feel that emotional distress. You may feel depressed. Suddenly someone says something that makes you laugh and suddenly your mood has changed. The feeling may not completely go away, but the intensity lessens. All because what your mind focused on shifted. The power those thoughts had over your mind moments before has faded.

Bad Choices

Succumbing to your emotional reactions can be a detriment to the task you are trying to accomplish. I remember seeing a new report after a particularly devastating earthquake in Haiti. Some aid workers were so disturbed by the devastation, they felt overwhelmed with shock and sadness. And while this is a natural feeling, getting stuck in that sadness made them far less effective than if they recognize they were making the tragedy all about them rather than the people they were there to serve. If they had taken the time to recognize which things are not in their control and focused instead on what they can control, they would have been much more effective.

Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t shouldn’t feel what you feel. Having empathy and compassion for others is part of what makes us better humans. But learning to sit with those uncomfortable emotions and finding better ways to process them helps you and those around you in the long run.

Know Thyself

I think the most important tool in learning to sit with uncomfortable emotions, is that we need to identify what we’re feeling, and ask why we’re feeling the way we do. Are you angry? Fearful? Ashamed? Why? Often the reason that we feel uncomfortable is that there is truth in what someone said.

Maybe we’re insecure about something. Maybe we acted in a way we’re not proud of and we don’t want to own up to. Maybe there is some true injustice happening, and that’s feeling is a signal for us to step up and take some action.

To be a Stoic is to be striving to be a better you and being willing to stretch yourself when things are hard. It is being willing to develop strength in areas that others won’t. It means developing the mental fortitude to recognize how your emotions are impacting your thinking. It is finding healthier ways to process emotions. Maybe that means you go for a run or a walk when you’re angry. Maybe it means that you give yourself some time to just vent to a friend or even just out loud.

Just remember that an emotion is sensation in your body, and barring certain medical conditions, an emotion can’t physically harm you. It won’t kill you. Emotions are the drivers of our actions, which is why it’s so important to sit with them, especially when they are uncomfortable. Because emotions change and fluctuate so easily, we know that the emotion will subside just by thinking different thoughts. If we can’t sit with uncomfortable emotions, we’re prone to acting out in ways are harmful to ourselves and others.

Any time you have an uncomfortable feeling, don’t run from it. Embrace it and ask what it is trying to tell you. If you don’t understand what you’re feeling, how are you going to know how to respond properly? If you fly off the handle at every minor challenge or lose your cool when things don’t go your way, you’ll be easily derailed. The more you can sit with uncomfortable emotions, the better you will be at handling difficult situations.


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Coffee Break self-improvement stoicism

157 – Don’t Feed the Trolls

Don’t Feed the Trolls

 

Don’t be a dick.

One of the hazards of being alive is the fact that we’re never going to please everyone. We’re going to have people that will not like what we do. People are going to criticize whatever it is we’re doing. And in the 21st century, this is nowhere more apparent than in social media. This weeks episode is about how to be your best online.

I’m always amazed and saddened by the vitriol and hate that I see online, especially towards women. It’s as if the anonymity of being online, that separation of the digital world, they aren’t talking to a real person. I read comments and the like from others saying things that they would probably never say in person. That social pressure to not be an asshole somehow gets ignored. That distance gives them license to express their most vulgar selves with no repercussions.

Compassion

So how do we deal with criticism? How do we deal with vitriolic tweets and Facebook trolls?

“When someone criticizes you, they do so because they believe they are right. They can only go by their views, not yours. If their views are wrong, it is they who will suffer the consequences. Keeping this in mind, treat your critics with compassion. When you are tempted to get back at them, remind yourself, ‘They did what seemed to them to be the right thing to do.’”
— Epictetus

What Epictetus is reminding us here is that someone else’s opinion is just that – their opinion. It has very little to do with you but says volumes about them. What they are expressing is their view of the world. Often, they don’t have anything to truly criticize other than they don’t like your point of view. They may feel insecure about themselves, and they don’t like the facts presented because it threatens their worldview. I see this a lot in political areas. People often adopt an “us vs. them” mentality where anything that doesn’t come from their “team” is wrong. Often all they can do is threaten or insult the author because they can’t offer up any real counter-arguments.

The next thing Epictetus advises us it to have compassion for our critics. And why is that? Why should we be compassionate towards someone that says mean, cruel, vulgar things to us? Because they are the ones that suffer if their views are wrong. The fact that they can be so cruel tells you that they are pretty unhappy people if they can get so easily riled up and jump quickly to insults.

The easiest way to do this as well is to simply look at the facts. If all they have to offer is insults, then you can easily dismiss it because there are no facts involved. If they actually have something factual and logical, you should be delighted because then you have something you may able to learn from and improve yourself.

Confidence in Yourself

“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.”
— Marcus Aurelius

When someone does disagree with us, how do we react? Do we get riled up? Do we dash off an angry tweet to our critics? Why do we feel angry anyway? If we are acting in a way that we are proud of then nothing that someone else says should upset us. Usually, when we act in a way that comes from anger, we are insecure about something. If we are secure in who we are, if we are holding to our values, then others opinions don’t matter.

When we get into a flame war with a critic, we are no longer in charge of ourselves. When we let the opinions of others dictate our actions, then we are giving them control of us. If we get mad or get depressed because of the criticism of others, we have given them control over our emotions. We become the victim.

Being the Critic

So how should we act online, and in real life when giving criticism to others?

“If it is not right, do not do it. If it is not true, do not say it.”
— Marcus Aurelius

This simple maxim should be our guide in what we say and do. As Jiminy Cricket once said, “Let your conscience be your guide.” Or put more bluntly from Will Wheaton, “Don’t be a dick.” Most of us know when we’re being an ass and when we’re not living up to our best selves. If we have something honest and helpful to contribute, then do so. If not, it might be best to leave well enough alone. Spending time arguing with online trolls is pretty much a waste of time, and you really don’t change anyone’s mind. Usually, you end up getting dragged into a bunch of shit, and each side gets more and more dug in and convinced that they’re on the right side.

The world is full of haters. As we spend more time online and less time in person, and as political divisions become wider, I think we’re only going to see upticks in the vitriol. We need to be sure that we don’t get sucked into the vortex of online hate. By taking the time to be compassionate towards our critics thoughtful on our responses to other people and realize that they are coming from a place where they think they are doing what is best, then we could be part of the solution, not the problem.

—–

Hey friends, thanks for listening to the podcast. If you like what you hear, I would really appreciate it if you could help support me by making a pledge on Patreon. You can find me at patreon.com/stoiccoffee. Even just a small amount helps in keeping this podcast going. Also, head on over to my website at www.stoic.coffee and sign up for our weekly newsletter. And lastly, if you know of someone that might like or could benefit from this podcast, please share it with them. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

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Anger Awareness Coffee Break

149 – The Vocabulary of Anger

The Vocabulary of Anger

I talk a lot on this podcast about anger because it’s something that I’ve been working to manage in my own life. And today, I want to talk about the language of anger, and about learning to redefine and talk about anger in a different way.

For those that struggle with anger, we often get stuck in a bad pattern of mismanaging how we deal with strong, negative emotions. Something comes up and kicks off your fight or flight instinct kicks up and you find reacting in a way that is way out of proportion to the situation. And the worst part is that we often feel so helpless like it’s a split second reaction to things that are happening around you. You often go from 0 to 60 in just a moments notice. Often, that response is left over programming from things that you had little control over as you were growing up. Trauma can miscalibrate our ability to read a situation properly. Something that might just be annoying or frustrating gets treated with the same level as something more threatening.

And it sucks.

Once you finally get back in control of yourself, you feel like shit and feel ashamed of your behavior. You feel like you’re a bad person. You feel like you’re broken. You feel like it’s just one more instances showing that you fail at being the kind of person that you want to be. You feel unworthy, unlovable, worthless. That your failing as a human being.

And it sucks.

And after you blow up, you just want to hide. You want to push everyone away because you don’t feel worthy of being loved by others. You feel damaged at the core. Maybe even irredeemable.

So what do you do?

“When you have been compelled by circumstances to be disturbed in a manner, quickly return to yourself and do not continue out of tune longer than the compulsion lasts.”

— Marcus Aurelius

You listen to that anger. You sit with it and listen. You can question it. “Am I doing this to cause hurt, or is it really what I feel about this situation?” Because if you really feel that strongly about something, then maybe that anger is telling you something important. It is something that you should listen to. Maybe it’s anger at injustice. Maybe it’s anger at how someone else it treating you, and you really do need to take some action. If something upsets you that much, it should not be ignored.

Part of the problem, when we ignore our anger and feel bad about feeling any anger, at least for me, I feel terrible after I feel angry about anything. Even when it’s something that is probably okay for me to feel angry about. Because there are things that we should feel angry about, but when we blow up at seemingly trivial things, we start to feel shame towards any anger. Appropriate anger and inappropriate anger get lumped in the same pile.

And it’s hard sometimes when you’re caught up in it to know the difference. But when you’re in an argument and you feel that urge to just lash out, and you can catch it, count to 5 or even 10 before you say it. And ask yourself, “Do I REALLY mean what I’m going to say?” And if you do, then say it. Maybe try to say it in a way that is not confrontational. Maybe try to say it softly.

But if the compulsions that you have are things that you are doing or saying only to cause harm or to push someone’s buttons, then it’s probably better that you stop and sit with them a while. Give yourself some time to cool down. Take a break.

Being a stoic about anger doesn’t mean that we don’t feel it. It means that we learn to manage it. That we don’t let it ruin our lives. That we learn how to communicate what we feel in more productive and helpful ways. That we find new tools to talk about these things.

“For if anger listens to reason and follows where reason leads, then it is already not anger, of which obstinacy is a proper quality; if, however, it fights back and does not become quiet when it has been ordered, but is carried forward by its desire and ferocity, then it is as useless a servant of the soul as a soldier who disregards the signal for falling back. And thus, if it suffers a measure to be applied to itself, then it must be called by a different name, and it ceases to be anger, which I understand to be unrestrained and untamable.”

— Seneca

And what I think Seneca is telling us here is that we should learn how to label things better than just anger. It’s kind of like the old saying, if you only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you only know how to be angry in one way, or to express distress, irritation, annoyance, sadness, depression as anger, then you can’t deal with these strong emotions in an appropriate and useful way.

So what are some of the tools that we have? I think the biggest thing is to expand our vocabulary on our emotions. Rather then everything boiling down to anger, can we learn to identify more nuanced emotions. Maybe what we’re really feeling is frustration, or humiliation, or rejection. If we can learn to better identify what we’re really feeling, then we can start finding different ways of viewing the feelings we’re having.

When we can identify our emotions better we can see that dealing with annoyances is different than how we deal with frustration or resentment. But if we only have one word for it, then we don’t deal with effectively.

On my website, I created a worksheet that I’m calling the emotional vocabulary worksheet and basically what it is, it’s an exercise you can go through when you’re dealing with the strong emotion. And maybe you are in a situation where you didn’t deal with things very well. And it kind of walks you through trying to identify some of these different emotions and look at how these emotions maybe were appropriate or inappropriate for the situation. And if our reaction was appropriate or inappropriate for the situation.

Dealing with strong emotions in life is something that all of us have to do. But in order for us to actually deal with these different emotions that we have, we need to be sure what we’re actually feeling. So expanding our emotional vocabulary will give us the words to be able to really identify what it is that we’re feeling and then respond appropriately. So if you’d like a copy of this worksheet, if it’s something that sounds interesting to you, you can go to my website and download it from there will be a link on the front page. My website is www.stoic.coffee and I’ll have the link sitting there on the front page.

And that’s the stoic coffee break for this week. Remember, be good to yourself and be good others, and thanks for listening.

Categories
Anger Awareness Coffee Break stoicism

135 – No Easy Thing

No Easy Thing

 

“You must know that it is no easy thing for a principle to become a man’s own, unless each day he maintain it and hear it maintained, as well as work it out in life.”

– Epictetus

Show Notes:

  • How often do we hear something, think that we understand it, but yet it still takes us quite a while to make it a part of our daily life?
  • Change is not easy.
  • Studies show that it takes 3-6 weeks for a habit to become ingrained, depending on the complexity of the habit.
  • It also depends on if you are trying create a new habit or replace an existing habit.
  • And that’s just for a single habit done daily.
  • How much information do you get in your life that you want to implement?
  • How many things are there that distract you from your habit?
  • If we want something to become a habit, I’ve found that it’s best to focus on one thing.
  • Work on it until you don’t have to think about it.
  • Then move on the next thing, and repeat.
  • If you want to exercise, do it every day, even if you don’t do it well.
  • If you want to be less angry, first pay attention to your mood.
  • Just getting it done each day is more important than the quality.
  • Creating this podcast for me was first about getting it done each day.
  • Then, once the routine was created, I was able to focus on the quality.
  • Is there a principle or a habit that you want to improve in in your life?
  • What can you do today to move you little closer to creating that habit?
  • Focus on the hardest part – creating the habit.
  • Worry about the quality later.
  • Soon you’ll have a shiny new habit.
  • And then you can start on the next one.

Photo by Scott Gruber on Unsplash

Categories
Anger Awareness Coffee Break Control

121 – Anger If Not Restrained…

Anger if Not Restrained…

“Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it.”

― Seneca

Show Notes

• Today’s topic is one that is a bit personal to me. It’s something that I struggle with at times.

• I’ll get upset about something, and because I let anger get the best of me, I make the situation far worse than the event that I got angry about in the first place.

• And getting angry also causes me to ruin my inner peace. We make myself unhappy by not dealing with anger in a constructive way. I give ourselves a bad day.

• And it’s because sometimes anger feels good. That righteous indignation when we feel that someone has done us wrong and that we have the right to put them in their place.

• Anger is something that each one of us have to deal with.

• We don’t need to turn off anger. Repressing what we feel is not a good idea either.

• But dealing with it in a healthy way is something that we can all learn.

• We can feel the feelings, acknowledge them, then decide what to do about them.

• We can ask whether we were actually harmed. Remember, we are only harmed if we believe we have been harmed.

• We can ask ourselves if our response will do more harm than good.

• We can ask ourselves if this will be important in the future, or will it be some forgotten trifle.

• By giving into anger is like kicking the hornet’s nests because it was in our way, when we could have just as easily gone around

• I know that we’ve discussed anger fairly often on this podcast, but being able to apply principles in your lives is a daily practice. A daily exercise.

• Just as we wouldn’t just go to the gym once and workout and declare that we are in shape and never go back again, working on applying these principles is something that we need to work on everyday. It’s a way to get in our mental exercise.

• And like an athlete, we’re going to have days where we run the perfect race and everything works in our favor. We also going to have a lot of days where we’re off and we fall flat on our faces.

• And just like an athlete we need to gauge our fitness level for the day, and put in our best effort, regardless of how meager it might be.

 


Photo by Gabriel Matula on Unsplash

Categories
Anger Awareness Coffee Break Control

119 – Who is Your Master?

Who is Your Master?

“Any person capable of angering you becomes your master;

he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.”

― Epictetus

Show Notes:

• Stoics believed strongly that we are all in control of our own emotions

• One of the strongest emotions we have to deal with is anger

• From an evolutionary standpoint it seems to makes sense. We feel threatened and we respond in a way that we think will deal with the threat.

• But the thing is, fear is usually the response to a physical threat. Anger is usually response from a threat to our ego. Anger is usually what we use to try and control something that we can’t.

• When someone speaks poorly of us, or does or says something we don’t like, we’re trying to control them through anger.

• If someone is easily offended and flies off the handle at even the smallest thing, they are are trying to control others.

• But when we get angry we’re failing to control the one thing we truly can control – ourselves. We’re giving control of our emotions to someone else.

• Have you ever seen a kid do things just to get a rise out of someone? Maybe their siblings or their parents? It’s their way of trying to see if they can control the other person.

• This is why politicians like to get people angry about something. Why they choose a polarizing side on an issue. It’s about control.

• Get people angry about something and you have a lot more control over them.

• People don’t go to war because they’re happy and want to be kind to others.

• They go to war because they’re angry about something. And it may have started of being afraid of something, but was channeled into anger.

• Remember, the only thing that you can control is yourself, so it’s up to you to decide – are you the master of yourself, or are you going to give that power to anyone else that upsets you?


Photo by Peter Forster on Unsplash

Categories
Anger Awareness Challenges Coffee Break

112 – Anger Always Outlasts Hurt

Anger Always Outlasts Hurt

 

“How much better to heal than seek revenge from injury. Vengeance wastes a lot of time and exposes you to many more injuries than the first that sparked it. Anger always outlasts hurt. Best to take the opposite course. Would anyone think it normal to return a kick to a mule or a bite to a dog?”

— Seneca

Transcript

I was talking with a friend the other day about how to deal with anger. He asked me specifically about how to deal with anger in life, so I felt it only appropriate to talk about anger today.

Anger is something that I’ve certainly struggled with. Growing up with a terrible example of how to deal with anger, I would either avoid it, or I would be consumed by it. Finding a way to deal with it constructively has taken years of work, and I still struggle with it.

Sometimes it feels like we live in a world that often seems to be fueled by anger. You turn on the news and it seems that story after story is about some of the worst instances of humanity. Almost any political talk show seems to trying it’s best to whip us up into fearing and hating the other side. So much so, that it seems that we can’t have an actual discussion with those that disagree with us politically. When we live in a society that thinks it’s okay to take down those that do you wrong or disagree with you, it’s hard to stop and take those steps to be kind to those that you feel have injured you.

But the idea of not returning hate with hate is not a new new one.

Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

In Buddhist teachings, anger is often compared to an “out of control forest fire” and a “rampaging elephant.” Because reactive uncontrolled anger is so destructive so quickly.

Confucius said, “Holding onto anger is like holding onto a burning ember that you want to throw at someone. You’re the one that gets burned.”

And the Stoics are no different. Seneca is warns us that vengeance wastes a lot of time. It also wastes a lot of energy. When you seek revenge, you injure yourself with your own anger. You often say or do things that make the situation far worse than it was before.

Why do we give into the angry path? Because anger is easy. Because there’s a part of anger that feels good at the time. The desire to strike back at those that you feel have wronged you is powerful.

What if all that effort was put into understanding why the other person tried to injure you? What if you took that same time and energy and tried to heal the situation? What if all that effort was put into mobilizing people for good? For getting people to talk to each other and work on solutions?

How do we deal with anger? How do we train ourselves to not give into our impulses?

The first step, which is often the hardest, is to truly grasp the concept that you are 100% responsible for your emotions. No one else is. Nothing else is to blame. Regardless of the circumstances or the events that happen, you decide to if you want to respond in anger. And just as you have conditioned yourself to respond with anger, you can condition yourself to respond with calmness and rationality.

The next step is being aware of our anger. Do you notice when you are in throws of anger, rather than only really seeing it after you cool down?

Next, try to step back from it. Can you look at it from a detached perspective? Can you look at as if you were just someone else in the room observing it? When you are more able to catch yourself in the middle of it, and can take a step back, resist the urge to lash out. Think about if what you want to say will do harm or help.

Stick to it. When you are in the heat of the moment and you do get some control, the other person may still be arguing or pushing back even though you are making honest efforts to defuse the situation. Don’t revert back to lashing out, no matter how much you want to. Think before you speak. If you have to leave the situation, then do so. Step away and delete that angry Facebook post.

Once you’ve worked to cool yourself down, understand that healing the situation is about the other person, not about make yourself feel better. It’s about meeting the needs of the person that you have harmed. It will take time, and humble attitude to work things out.

Changing a habit of reactive anger is not easy. It may be one of the hardest things you will ever have to overcome. But the damage that is caused by not learning to control your emotions can take a long time to heal. The more you can keep a reign on yourself, the less you have to repair. The more inner tranquility you cultivate, the more you can apply your energy to building things up rather than tearing them down.


Are you struggling with something in your life? Do you have questions about Stoic philosophy? I would really like to hear from you. If you go to the front page www.stoic.coffee and scroll to the bottom of the page, you can send me a message. I’ll do my best to address your question on the show. I’ve found that Stoic ideas and principles are some of the most practical teachings there are, and can be applied in any situation in your life.

 


Photo by Jonathan Harrison on Unsplash