Stoic Lessons: Anticipate Negativity 

Say to yourself first thing in the morning: today I shall meet people who are meddling, ungrateful, aggressive, treacherous, malicious, unsocial. All this has afflicted them through their ignorance of true good and evil. But I have seen that the nature of good is what is right, and nature of evil what is wrong; and I have reflected that the nature of the nature of the offender himself is akin to my own — not a kinship of blood or seed, but a sharing in the same mind, the same fragility of divinity. Therefore I cannot be harmed by any of them, as none if infect me with their wrong. Nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate them. We were born for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of upper and lower teeth. So to work in opposition to one another is against nature; and anger or rejection is opposition. (Marcus Aurelius)

By meditating on what potentially might happen during the day you can take the emotional element out of the occurrence. Because you anticipated it happening, it is easier to detach from the situation and not respond with your initial reaction. Instead, you get to respond with the meditated attitude which Marcus Aurelius suggests should not have any venom or hate in it.

Just as you may plan for potential problems with some project or goal you are working on, it is a good idea to plan the kind of day you want to have and then pinpoint problems that may arise so you can either avoid them completely or have a better mindset to navigate them.  

The meditation exercise should include the kinship aspect. We might be born under different circumstances and environments, but certain emotions and feelings are universal. If you take a moment to empathize with the supposed offender, you can see where they are coming from because you can place yourself in their shoes and know that you might have the same reaction as them. Once you humanize someone, it is much easier to forgive them or look past their shortcomings.

Keep the actual hate or anger for what opposes nature. Don’t waste it on pettiness or reactive emotions. Save it for the wicked and the truly disgraceful aspects of life and human nature. You want to keep the right emotions for the right situations.

Lastly, the point of cooperation. It is Marcus Aurelius’ belief that we are put on this planet to work together. Cooperation is part of nature and if you go against nature you are doing something evil. So, then it becomes an exercise of virtue and goodness navigating people that might not mesh with you right away. It is a mindset shift. Instead of hating, you are actively looking for ways to cooperate, to find a common ground, and build relationships because that is what nature intended. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s