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Marcus Aurelius: How to escape fear

There are many well-known quotes from Marcus Aurelius, the famous Stoic philosopher. However, there are also lesser known quotes that are of great concern to me and, in my opinion, carry important messages. We will take a closer look at one of these quotes in this article.

"Today, I escaped the fear. Or no, I put it down, because it was inside me, in my own perception - not outside."

Marcus Aurelius

There are various philosophical approaches that address the fact that our problems arise primarily from our perception of things.

So rain in and of itself is just rain, but we humans usually put it in a certain context: it's good for plants after a dry spell, it's bad when we want to do something outside, and so on. At this point, the following quote comes to my mind:

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

It becomes difficult when we have unconsciously created certain paradigms that determine our lives, that limit us or are simply negative. For example, we may manifest fears that are unjustified (and strictly speaking, all of them are).

For example, the fear of speaking in public. Many of us make our lives hell when a speech is coming up. And not only shortly before, but often as soon as we find out that we are going to give a speech.

And this has nothing to do with how the audience normally reacts and thus the fear is not based on anything external. Instead, it is our imagination and lack of self-confidence that make us fear that the speech will go wrong.

Jim Kwik shows this very nicely in his book "Limitless Brain". He makes it clear that we normally have no basis whatsoever that would justify being afraid of speaking. He notes that we actually know that it is absurd to expect that we would be booed off the stage or that our superiors would talk to us afterwards and advise us to change industries. Usually the audience is very sympathetic.

This is just one random example and can be applied to countless other situations. I'm sure you can think of many more.

Perhaps the above statement still hangs over you that actually all fears are unjustified. Perhaps an event also came into your mind, before which you have fear and these for absolutely legitimate hold. I do not want to put on airs here and pretend that I am free of fears. I am only concerned with reproducing the philosophical concepts of great thinkers.

And quite soberly, I feel that this statement is true. Even at the prospect of terrible situations. Even the possibility of being betrayed in a relationship or losing one's own child should not be met with fear, but with rationality.

According to Stoic doctrine, such events are very possible and have befallen countless others throughout human history as well. This way of looking at things can bring a certain normality and trough.

When we focus on optimizing our response to external circumstances rather than the external circumstances themselves. In this way, we spend our energy on something we can actually control. This is how the Jewish psychologist Viktor Frankl managed to survive the horrors of the concentration camps in the Third Reich (if you are interested in this topic, you should read his work "Man's Search for Meaning" or in German "still say yes to life" which is considered the foundation of logotherapy.

So it is important that we realize that it is our own perception that makes circumstances good or bad.

Another quote in which Marcus Aurelius discusses our subjectivity has been explained in more detail by Luke:

"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth."

But this quote (which, by the way, is usually incorrectly attributed to Stephen Covey) also addresses this:

"We don't see the world as it is, we see it as we are."

If you want to correct your perception of things accordingly and thus for a life with less worry and anxiety I recommend you read the two linked articles as well. There is incredible value in mastering this. And you are already a big step ahead of most other people - because they are usually not even actively aware that they are actually in control of their sensations.

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