Saturday, August 31, 2019

Notes and What I Learned from "How to Think Like a Roman Emperor" PART 3

Get the book: How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald Robertson

Pain is Inevitable and Stoicism Can Help
  • Marcus went to war when he was almost 50 years old; he was already a frail person
  • "He'd been preparing himself to face this inner battle for most of his life ... gradually [learning] to endure pain and illness by utilizing the psychological strategies of ancient Stoicism." p. 156
  • regarding pain, "the wise man neither strikes a tragic attitude nor whines about what befalls him." p. 160
  • he reflected on how Antoninus died ... he "was always contented, always cheerful.  It's said that even as he lay dying, with his last breath he whispered the word equanimity to his guard." p. 161
  • Epicurus was also a model philosopher regarding suffering well; he "didn't complain or dwell on his symptoms.  In fact, he used his illness as an opportunity to converse in a dispassionate manner about how the mind can remain contented while the body suffers terrible pain and discomfort." p. 163
  • Meditations 7.64 is an excellent quote about Marcus reminding himself: mind over body
  • use your opportunities of pain to learn to cope ... examples include, running, lifting weights, playing sports such as basketball, enduring long hours (being drowsy).  "everyday tolerance of minor physical discomforts can help us build lasting psychological resilience" p. 165
  • Learn to "withdraw" or "separate" your mind from your body
  • Epictetus' leg!  his leg was "cruelly twisted" by his master; "Epictetus didn't react but remained completely composed.  He merely warned his master that the body was about to snap.  Epaphroditus continued twisting it" until it did snap.  "Rather than complain, Epictetus responded matter-of-factly: 'There, did I not tell you that it would break?'" p. 166
Stoically Learning From Pain
  1. Cognitive Distancing
    • "it's not events/things that upset us, it's our judgments of those events/things"; therefore, suspend judgement when it comes to pain and pleasure
    • be indifferent to indifferent things
    • it's not a matter of suppressing the pain (or pleasure), but rather to "not assign judgments to them as good or bad" p. 171
    • "neither to suppress or worry about unpleasant feelings ... accept them while remaining detached" p. 172
    • "The Stoics want us to go through a radical upheaval in our underlying values so that our supreme goal is to live with wisdom and its accompanying virtues." p. 172
    • "When your conscious mind, your ruling faculty, invests too much importance in bodily sensations, it becomes 'fused and blended' with them and it is pulled around by the body like a puppet on strings." p. 174
    • I didn't notice if Robertson mentioned or quoted this in his book, but I find Encheiridion 41 to be very important in this regard: "It is the mark of a crude disposition to spend most of one's time on bodily functions such as exercise, eating, drinking, defecating, and copulating.  These are things to be done just incidentally.  All your attention should be on your mind."
  2. Functional Analysis
    • After some cognitive distancing, you can now perform some functional analysis, or in other words, evaluating the consequences of your thinking - your opinion of judgments
    • "the fear of pain does us far more harm than pain itself because it injures our very character." p. 174
    • "to live life fully, you have to get out of your comfort zone, as we say today.  Fear of pain makes cowards of us all and limits our sphere of life." p. 174 ... in other words, show some courage in the face of pain.
  3. Objective Representation
    • look at pain objectively "as if [you] were describing the problems of another person" p. 175 ... don't say "My leg is really hurting" but perhaps call yourself in the 3rd person when describing the pain (in plain language)
  4. Depreciation by Analysis
    • again, use the discipline of assent to break things down into parts that don't have as big an impact as the whole; divide time into the present moment
    • view the pain in the context of "the view from above"
  5. Contemplating Finitude and Impermanence
    • "physicalizing" pain; "by attributing an arbitrary shape or color to" the pain p. 177
    • similar to the view from above, you can limit the pain in both time and space
    • "this too shall pass"
    • Either you can endure this pain now, or you won't and you will die, in which case you won't feel anything
  6. Stoic Acceptance
    • "actively accept" the pain
    • the dog and the cart ... be the dog walking with the cart, instead of the dog being pulled by the cart
    • "pain becomes more painful when we struggle against it" ... instead we should "accept the sensation and relax into it or even welcome it." p. 178
    • this is where hugging cold statues, taking cold showers and such comes into play.  by doing these hard exercises, we expose ourselves to discomfort and therefore we become more accepting of pain when it comes our way
    • tackle pain head on; like stamping out a fire or "grasping the nettle"
    • "struggling against things we can't control does us more harm than good" p. 181
  7. Contemplating Virtue
    • get into the habit of asking yourself, 'what virtue or capacity do I have, that I can exercise in this circumstance?' ... in the context of pain, you might ask, "what resources do [I] have that might help [me] cope better with pain?" p. 182
    • we can look at others who might be in the same situation and are facing it with equanimity and see how they endure it ... then we can emulate them
    • What we face in life can be bearable; when we have a reason to bear the pain, it become easier.  Nietzsche said, "He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how." p. 183
The Large Black Spot
a large black spot is drawn on a piece of paper.  this represents pain, a toothache, sciatica, melancholy, etc.  if you acknowledge it, then you draw a circle around the spot.  subsequent affirmations of the the spot, draw subsequent lines around it ... thus it actually grows!  if you continue to fear it, worry about it and looking for ways to avoid it, more is added on.

"One exaggerates, imagines, anticipates affliction," wrote Seneca.

"Do not let us build a second story to our sorrow by being sorry for our sorrow." p. 185

"he who knows how to suffer suffers less" p. 185

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