Dying Daily #153: Mindfulness and Stoicism: Emotions
Look at me getting things done sooner than I promised. It looks like all of this will be more than a single blog.
The mindful aspect of Stoicism is what initially drew me to it. There are, of course, differences between mindfulness and Stoicism, especially as one is an established philosophy of life and the other is a way of being present in the moment. That being said, all philosophies must be practiced in the moment and all intentional ways of being have a philosophy behind them; we wouldn’t practice them otherwise.
One of the primary areas of overlap seems to be in regard to emotions. Both Stoicism and a mindful lifestyle encourage the recognition of our emotions as being not necessarily “us”, and both recognize the importance of not letting them run amok. The Stoics seem to place a little more emphasis on regulating emotions than mindfulness does, and this brings charges of repression and detachment, but these are things that mindfulness is charged with as well.
I don’t think the issue is so much repression as it is understanding that emotions are temporary, and that they are rarely good indicators of the wisest path we can take.
Think of it this way. Someone you love makes you very angry. Are your choices limited to believing the anger completely and letting it run the show or refusing to acknowledge it, pretending you are fine and moving on?
Where did this dichotomy of flipping our shit versus stuffing our anger down and developing heart disease come from?
There is another option.
We can feel our anger, we can acknowledge it and even express it appropriately. We can know it is there – feel the sense of injustice, the betrayal, the shaking fists, the shallow breathing, the pounding heart and head. We can hear the thoughts racing to justify our position by telling us we don’t deserve this, telling us the other person sucks and can go to hell.
We can be present with all of this, we can fully experience it, but we don’t have to turn everything over to it.
We can also remember that the other person is someone we love. We can understand that they believe they are right, we can choose not to pull the pin on a grenade in the middle of everything we care about. We can have compassion for ourselves in our suffering, and, if we are mindful and Stoic about it, we can have compassion for them in theirs as well. Compassion opens doors to communication, anger shuts them.
All of this seems like a better outcome to me, and it can be applied to all of our emotions.
Sadness, guilt, despair, frustration, and, unfortunately, happiness, all come and go.
They don’t even last that long if we don’t feed them with our thoughts or by indulging them.
Ask yourself just how much leash you want to give your emotions today.
Can you feel them without letting them control you?
Express them without destroying relationships and things you’ve built?
Can you let them have their place while still maintaining a mindful awareness of what really matters?