January 27, 2018 - Ancient Stoicism in Plain English
Tag(s): Book Excerpts ||

Train to Deal with Impressions

Chuck Chakrapani

Key ideas of this discourse

  1. Train every day to deal with impressions
  2. Good and bad comes from your choices. What you don’t have control over is neither good nor bad.
  3. If you judge every impression by this criterion, you will see progress.
Training to deal with everyday impressions

Just as we train ourselves to answer obscure, nit-picking questions, so should we train to deal with everyday impressions because they implicitly question us. You should be able to answer those questions as follows:

 “So-and-so’s son died. What do you think of that?”

“That’s not something he can control. So, it is not bad.”

 “So-and-so’s father left him nothing when he died.”

“The son cannot control his father’s actions. So, it is not bad.”

“He was condemned by the authorities.”

“Outside his control. So, it is not bad.”

“He is distressed by all this.”

“This is under his control. So, it is bad.”

““He faced it with dignity.”

“This is under his control. So, it is good.”

If you make dealing with impressions a habit, you’ll make progress. You will not accept anything as true, unless the impression so convinces you.

“His son is dead.”

“What happened?”

“His son is dead.”

“Nothing more?”

“Nothing more.”

“The ship is lost.”

“What happened?”

“The ship is lost.”

“He was taken to prison.”

“What happened?”

“He was taken to prison.”

“It is too bad for him,” is a comment that we add on our own. Yet, you may say, God is being unfair in all this. How so? Because he made you patient and high-minded? Because he prevented these things from being evil? Because he made it possible for you to suffer and still be happy? Or because he left the door open for you to use when what happens doesn’t suit you? Go out, friend, and stop complaining.

If you want to know what Romans think of philosophers, listen to this. Italicus, who had the reputation of being one of the finest philosophers, was angry with his friends when I was around. He said, “I can’t stand it anymore. You’re killing me. I will end up like him,” –  pointing to me!

Think about this

We should exercise ourselves daily to deal with impressions. Discourses III.8.1. Epictetus [CG/RH]