A Stoic's guide to feelings

I like to call myself a Stoic, yet I give in to my emotions very easily. It feels like my inner world is a crackling fireplace than a still pond.

That led me to wonder... what IS the Stoic Way of living? Is it about suppressing my feelings and emotions and living like a robot? After having read Meditations several times, I realise it's all about navigating your emotions wisely, understanding their source, and not letting your emotions get the best of you.

Most times, the source of all your suffering stems almost always from your own mind, so the only thing you can do is gently calm your mind, acknowledge your feelings/emotions, and just let them go. Gentle being the keyword here.

So, yes, I feel deeply. I sometimes am ashamed of having such an open heart which always gives and gives because it has always led me to disappointment. However, all of that is only because of my own perspective—because I, or rather my ego, expects something proportional in return (hard not to, honestly). So it is my own fault. I need to manage my expectations. There is no shame in loving deeply and giving freely—unconditionally—even if it is not returned.

Some contextual/relevant quotes from Meditations by Marcus Aurelius are going to be inserted throughout this post.

To stop talking about what the good man is like, and just be one.

Do good work for mankind, but don't seek out approval for it. When you've done good and someone doesn't appreciate it, don't take that as a reason to quit doing good. Keep doing good even if none of the people you interact with understand what you're doing. Remember why you do it.

Here's how I try to acknowledge most emotions these days: I understand the context, make a mental note of it, and let it go. I also try and process it through music, if it's overwhelming.

On rare occasions, I feel annoyed/angry too. I like to think that I have a strong core (inner peace, that is). I just remind myself that the source of my anger often lies within me—for example, MY inability to do certain things, often due to frustration because of things which are beyond my control. I just take a deep breath (sometimes a deep sigh), and feel grateful for the things I can control in my life, and let go. It is hard.

External things are not the problem. It's your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now.
If the problem is something in your own character, who's stopping you from setting your mind straight?
And if it's that you're not doing something you think you should be, why not just do it?

—But there are insuperable obstacles.

Then it's not a problem. The cause of your inaction lies outside of you.

It's all in how you perceive it. You're in control. You can dispense with misperception at will, like rounding the point. Serenity, total calm, safe anchorage.

This doesn't mean I'm numb to the world. Quite the opposite. I think feeling deeply allows me to connect with others on a profound level. I don't feel ashamed showing my 'sensitive' side, because I believe in complete honesty and transparency. I find it easy to live with myself and empathise with my friends' joys and sorrows, celebrate their victories, and offer comfort in their struggles by being open and welcoming.

To enter others' minds and let them enter yours.

By embracing my own emotions, I don't get swept away by them. I can be a rock for others, a lighthouse in the storm, because I've weathered my own internal tempests. I think it works wonderfully in personal AND professional relationships. As long as you have a good understanding of your thoughts (ie. you're self-aware), and can feel and process your emotions gently in the moment, I'd say you have a better chance of getting along well with others. Being kind to yourself is the first step, which is hard, because we are often our own worst critics.

To be like the rock that the waves keep crashing over. It stands unmoved and the raging of the sea falls still around it.

If it's in your control, why do you do it? If it's in someone else's, then who are you blaming? Atoms? The Gods? Stupid either way.

Blame no one. Set people straight, if you can. If not, just repair the damage. And suppose you can't do that either. Then where does blaming people get you?

No pointless actions.

The Stoics of the ancient world would often say that one of the only things you can control in your life is your own mind. If one is mindful in most (if not all) aspects of their lives, then nobody can hurt you. No one can tell you what to feel, because you choose how you respond to whatever life throws your way. You end up being in control and nothing can stop you from making the most out of any situation.

Let it happen, if it wants, to whatever it can happen to. And what's affected can complain about it if it wants. It doesn't hurt me unless I interpret its happening as harmful to me. I can choose not to.

Stoicism reminds us that while we cannot always control what happens to us, we can control how we respond. While being a Stoic and also feeling emotions might seem like an apparent contradiction, I believe it allows one to navigate life fully with both heart and wisdom.

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