Financial blogger Julianna Summers writes that Stoic philosophy has much to teach about properly channeling emotions in a recent op-ed.
- Ancient Stoic philosophers saw anger as an unhealthy passion that harms a person’s reasonable capabilities that are created by poor judgment about one’s expectations for the world.
- Controlling anger comes from controlling false judgments and fostering a logical and calm outlook on the world through reason.
- “No plague has cost the human race more dear than anger,” says Seneca, the Roman philosopher who lived from 4 BC to 65 AD.
- Summers recommends six steps for processing destructive emotions: separate desires from the part of life you control, change your desires, watch how you judge others, improve your emotional response, and learn to speak slowly and gently.
Why It’s Important
Anger is a powerful and dangerous emotion—but learning how to make your emotions less destructive can help your work. As Summers writes, unchecked anger can ruin personal relationships, careers, and mental well-being. Anger is a natural emotion, but it requires self-discipline to work through its irrational dangers and live a healthy life.
“Stoics saw anger as a pointless, destructive emotion. They believed anger serves no good purpose, leading people to act irrationally and often making situations worse. According to the Stoics, the ideal state of mind is tranquility—being clear-headed and unperturbed by emotional turmoil,” she writes.
“Man is bothered by nothing so much as by searching for someone to blame, and he finds fault as if he thought it necessary that someone should be at fault. We get angry because our illusions about the world do not match reality. Rather than get angry, it is wiser to adjust your desires to accept whatever happens,” says Seneca.
Summers outlines basic solutions for how the Stoic viewpoint can help individuals better grapple with anger. To accomplish this, one must learn how to challenge their judgments and distinguish between subjective feelings and objective realities. This requires developing the discipline to step back from emotional situations and ask basic questions:
“Is this judgment accurate, or am I exaggerating? Is this situation truly bad or only different from what I wanted? Is the other person acting with ill intent, or are they just ignorant?”
Learning to challenge these desires and impulses allows individuals to improve emotional responses and align them better to the truth over time. As we previously reported, Stoic philosophy teaches that you cannot control what happens to you, but you can learn to control your reactions and expectations.