The Discourses of Epictetus

I don't add to my troubles.

Our emotional responses to upsetting actions - not the actions themselves - are what create anxiety and depression; and that our emotional responses are products of our judgements - are in fact (irrational) judgements tout court:

'Much of what we call emotion is nothing more nor less than a certain kind - a biased, prejudiced, or strongly evaluative kind - of thought. What we call feelings almost always have a pronounced evaluating or appraisal element.

Talk to yourself, train your thoughts and shape your preconceptions.

What should we have ready at hand in a situation like this? The knowledge of what is mine and what is not mine, what I can and cannot do. I must die. But must I die whining? I must be put in chains - but moaning and groaning too? I must be exiled; but is there anything to keep me from going with a smile, calm and self-composed?

Whatever is rational is tolerable.

'But how do we know what is in keeping with our character?'

Well, how does the bull realize its own strength, rushing out to protect the whole herd when a lion attacks? The possession of a particular talent is instinctively senses by its owner.

Consider at what price you sell your integrity; but please, for God's sake, don't sell it cheap.

Even if I lack the talent, I will not abandon the effort.

Make it your goal never to fail in your desire and experience of things you would rather avoid; try never to err in impulse and repulsion; aim to be perfect also in the practice of attention and withholding judgement.

'Take the treatise On Impulse and see how well I've read it.' Idiot. It's not THAT I'm after, I want to know how you put impulse and repulsion into practice, and desire and avoidance as well. I want to know how you apply and prepare yourself, and how you practice attention, so that I can decide whether with you these functions operate in harmony with nature.

Don't put your purpose in one place and expect to see progress made somewhere else.

'Where is progress then?'

If there is anyone who renounces externals and attends instead to their character, cultivating and perfecting it so that it agrees with nature, making it honest and trustworthy, elevated, free, unchecked and undeterred; and if they've learned that whoever desires or avoids things outside their control cannot be free or faithful, and if from the moment they get up in the morning they adhere to their ideals, eating and bathing like a person of integrity, putting their principles into practice every situation they face - that is where you will see true progress embodied, and find someone who has not wasted their time making the journey here from home.

A student should practice how to expunge from his life sighs and sorrow, grief and disappointment, exclamations like 'poor me' and 'alas'.

Nothing can trouble or upset me, or even seem annoying. Instead of meeting misfortune with groans and tears, I will call upon the faculty especially provided to deal with it.

'But my nose is running!' What do you have hands for, idiot, if not to wipe it!

It is silly and pointless to try to get from another person what one can get for oneself. Since I can get greatness of soul and nobility from myself, why should I look to get a farm, or money, or some office, from you? I will not be so insensible of what I already own.

We, not externals, are the masters of our judgements.

You see, you are going to have to become a student again - that universal figure of fun - if you really mean to subject your opinions to honest examination. And you know as well as I do that this assignment can't be completed overnight.

Freedom, you see, is having events go in accordance with our will, never contrary to it.

Well - is freedom the same as madness? Of course not. Madness and freedom are poles apart.

'But I want my wishes realized, never mind the reason behind them.' Now, that's madness, that's insanity. Freedom is something good and valuable; to arbitrarily wish for things to happen that arbitrarily seem to you best is not good, it's disgraceful.

Getting an education means learning to bring our will in line with the way things happen.

You are only responsible only for what is in your power - the proper use of impressions. So why take on the burder of matters which you cannot answer for? You are only making unnecessary problems for yourself.

Nothing important comes into being overnight; even grapes or figs need time to ripen. If you say that you want a fig now, I will tell you to be patient. If the fruit of a fig tree is not brought to maturity instantly or in an hour, how do you expect the human mind to come to fruition, so quickly and easily? Don't expect it, even if I were personally to tell you it was possible.

Socrates routinely began his talks by analysing terms, in order to forestall any uncertainty as to their meaning.

What grounds do we have for being angry with anyone? We use labels like 'thief' and 'robber' in connection with them, but what do these words mean? They merely signify that people are confused about what is good and bad. So should we be angry with them, or should we pity them instead?

As long as you honour material things, direct your anger at yourself rather than the thief or adulterer.

We should discipline ourselves in small things, and from there progress to things of greater value. If you have a headache, practise not cursing. Don't curse every time you have an earache. And I'm not saying you can't complain, only don't complain with your whole being.

Walk upright and free, trusting in the strength of your moral convictions, not the strength of your body, like an athlete.

The essence of the good is the proper use of impressions.

And who exactly are these people you want to be admired by? Aren't they the same people you are in the habit of calling crazy? And is this your life ambition, then - to win the approval of lunatics?

The true man is revealed in difficult times. So when trouble comes, thing of yourself as a wrestler whom God, like a trainer, has paired with a tough young buck. For what purpose? To turn you into Olympic-class material. But this is going to take some sweat to accomplish. From my perspective, no one's difficulties ever gave him a better test than yours, if you are prepared to make use of them the way a wrestler makes use of an opponent in peak condition.

The chief thing to rememember is that the door is open. Don't be a greater coward than children, who are ready to announce, 'I won't play anymore.' Say, 'I won't play anymore,' when you grown weary of the game, and be done with it. But if you stay, don't whine.

In general, remember that it is we who torment, we who make difficulties for ourselves - that is, our opinions do. What, for instance, does it mean to be insulted? Stand by a rock and insult it, and what have you accomplished? If someone responds to insult like a rock, what has the abuser gained with his incentive?

That is what Socrates practised, maintaining always the same even temper.

We take pity on the blind and lame, why don't we pity people who are blind and lame in respect of what matters most?

What kind of person, then, pays no attention to the matters of impressions, do you think? Well, what do we call people who accecpt every one indiscriminately?


And do we act any differently?

*Practice maintaining an even temper

*On the silliness of craving admiration, glory from people

*Put your honor in yourself, your integrity - not in materials, external things

*Don't get angry with people who do you wrong, greet them with pity by realizing that these people with confused souls do exist and you just met one of them

* When explaining something, start with terminology

*Train your mind the way you train your body and allow it to ripen

*You can't control the outcome, but you can control effort - focus on effort

*Mental syllogisms for tough times

*To learn to never compromise to what's important to you

*What progress is - and in what areas you should make progress

*Develop the habit of never whining

*What freedom is

We cannot control randomness, but we can control our behavior. NNT on stoicism