It will be easier to perform these exercises if we think of them as a vaccine against unfortunate changes. How many of us get nervous just thinking about difficult, embarrassing, embarrassing situations and failure? Do you remember the last time you missed a meal; tell a joke that didn’t make anyone laugh; forget someone’s name; have to cancel a vacation; find yourself in a place without wi-fi; say that the coffee has run out and you need to drink instant; take the yarn out of a new sweater; or find out at the laundry that your extra clothes for tonight’s party won’t be available until tomorrow? All these first world problems, these little annoying inconveniences, can destroy our inner peace, or worse, ignite the flame of anger, causing confusion in other areas of our lives.
However, if we get used to minor inconveniences – for example, fasting for several days, going barefoot, deliberately freezing, or looking stupid when we go out – then by the time the real problems come, we will already be endowed with the following benefits:
- we have already experienced inconvenience,
- we know we can handle them
- we know it’s not the end of the world – and that the only thing that really matters is our character.
Health – the hardest lesson
Okay, but what about health? After all, it is certainly much more difficult to become mentally immune to the loss of health, energy, vitality and mobility.
Since we do not have 100% control over our health and it is not essential to the cultivation of virtue, the Stoics have assigned it to the category of things preferred but indifferent. According to philosophers, physical health is of secondary importance as long as our character remains flawless. Yes, I agree that’s a bold statement. However, let’s remember that Epictetus had only one (working) leg! We cannot control our health by willpower alone. When we are ill, we often wish for a quick recovery, but recovery takes time anyway, right?
In such a situation, the Stoics advise that we think of everything we have (including health) as things that do not belong to us, but are only borrowed and will one day be taken away from us. Thus prepared, we will not be surprised when this happens, we will spare ourselves bitterness and maintain inner peace. On this occasion, I also happened to test my stoicism.
My stoic journey had been going on for several years when I suddenly fell ill. I had been visualizing my illness and disability for two years, and the inevitable moment had come when I was going to see how well prepared I was.
In November 2021, I agreed to be a guest judge on a reality TV show. When we were transferred from one location to another, climbing into a military vehicle, I hit my head hard against the roof and suffered a concussion.
–? Oh! All the passengers groaned at the sight.
“It’s okay, I’m fine,” I assured them. After half an hour with a plastic bag of ice to my head—melting and dripping down my face like a grotesque parody of tears—I went back to work, deciding everything was fine.
But that same evening, back in Sydney, I felt strange. I was cutting a placemat-sized schnitzel at Una’s when I suddenly felt nauseous. Something was wrong with me. I had to go home immediately.
The next day I was wandering unconscious with dizziness. With permission from the ER doctors (they said the concussion symptoms would subside over time), I flew back to Victoria. Then I even attended a concert. But I still didn’t feel well. Arriving at my parents’ house, I was so tired that I had to rest.
When my parents picked me up at the station, they didn’t look too pleased to see me. On the contrary, they were terrified. “It didn’t look like a normal broken capillary. You literally had blood in your eye. And you were gray as concrete, my mother announced a week later. “We were worried about you.”
At their house, I buried myself in the guest room on the ground floor and left my bed only for meals. My parents were impressed with the amount of time I slept. “It’s like you’re in an induced coma,” Mom said.
And I was kind of in it. I couldn’t go more than a few hours without sleeping. Spending a long time in the vast land of feverish dreams, I hoped that I was recovering.
That week, whole days passed without anything happening. I hardly noticed that they were passing because they merged with the nights, which turned into mornings again. Without any activities or meetings, I could fall into sleepless timelessness. Relax.
In fact, nothing happened either. After the concussion, I couldn’t cope with any stimuli, my head was dizzy, I couldn’t absorb too much information at once. Just scrolling through Twitter on my phone was beyond me. News on the Internet, especially live blogs, I also did not understand. Another addiction that used to consume me an hour a day just disappeared. My brain demanded white walls, silence and dreams.
My executive functions were also lying and squealing. The day after the accident, I bought three plane tickets with the wrong destination or date. I wanted to go back to Melbourne, but I couldn’t concentrate.
One of the worst aspects of the experience was the almost constant panic fear that my brain would forever malfunction and I would never regain my energy. When sick or injured, especially if recovery is not making any noticeable progress, it’s easy to think we’ll never get better.
Losing fitness, even temporary, is a powerful blow. Experiencing it on my own skin and in the face of the fear that for the rest of my days I will vegetate in the guest room of my parents (almost without waking up), I wondered deliriously, how can one be indifferent to an illness or a serious injury?
Fortunately, however, I already had some understanding of the stoic approach to the matter. We should practice indifference to our health because, like money and reputation, it is beyond our full control. If another area of my brain had been injured, I might still be lying in my parents’ spare room with the windows drawn even in the middle of the day.
It’s a matter of luck. But during the weeks of recovery, I began to think of her as a true Stoic. I practiced negative visualization, imagining that I wasn’t getting better, trying to figure out what I had under control under these circumstances (avoiding overstimulation, using the internet, getting as much sleep as possible), and trying to recover.
Keep Calm. Stoicism in practice for today promotional materials – Capital Letter
Bruce is a talented author and journalist with a passion for entertainment . He currently works as a writer at the 247 News Agency, where he has established himself as a respected voice in the industry.