How to reduce suffering - Seneca explains
Seneca was a follower of the Stoic philosophy. An important part of the Stoic life is not to be upset by outside influences. But external influences can also quickly manifest themselves in our own thoughts. I have been working on myself in this regard for years and find the following quote particularly noteworthy in this regard:
Here are a few examples to illustrate how you can suffer in your mind:
- The partner comes home a little later than agreed and immediately you imagine where he has been hanging out. Maybe it has met with someone else?
- You haven't studied enough for a class assignment and you imagine how poorly the work will go and how disappointed your parents will be.
- You have a doctor's appointment and then you muse that the mild abdominal pain you're having could possibly be colon cancer.
Whatever the thought, we tend to imagine things or events much worse than they actually are. But even if events turn out to be as bad as we imagined, we suffer twice if we worry endlessly even before the event occurs.
We can think of thousands of ways in which an appointment can go wrong. However, it is very unlikely that things will actually go wrong during the appointment in all the ways we have imagined. So if you start changing the way you think, you will have less suffering in your life.
Also, reality is rarely as malicious to us as our own thoughts would have us believe. Nobody knows us as well as we know ourselves. This also leads to the fact that our thoughts know exactly which scenarios would make us particularly uncomfortable.
Of course, you can't change your thinking patterns overnight. It takes time and attention. But even if you put a lot of effort into changing your thinking, this is no guarantee that there won't be one or two thoughts that cause suffering in us from time to time. However, one should not be thrown off track by such setbacks and continue to work on oneself.
So the next time you notice yourself trying to avoid a situation or feeling afraid, remember that we suffer more often in our imagination than in reality.
We tend to fear the worst and therefore often suffer unfoundedly. Start to be aware of this and you will notice how you go through life more relaxed.
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