“Things have no hold on the soul. They stand there unmoving, outside it. Disturbance comes only from within — from our own perceptions.” — Marcus Aurelius
The idea that disturbance only comes from within can be difficult to understand, but even more difficult to implement.
Your emotional responses to particular events and situations often have been wired into you very early on from traumatic childhood experience, and in some cases directly from your genetics at birth (survival instincts), so they are hard to override.
But it seems that despite our urge to respond irrationally and emotionally to misfortune, we always have the capacity to choose we respond to any given situation.
Any discomfort or discontent that you feel can be erased and replaced with happiness through enough inner work (clearing mental clutter is a good start).
“Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.” — Marcus Aurelius
You are not in control of the world around you. Nature is indifferent and you will inevitably be faced with tragedy and disaster — it’s only natural. What you do control is how you respond to those circumstances, and the key to doing that is learning to be detached.
These events are going to happen regardless, and so you can either whine about it and pity yourself, or you can choose to use them as opportunities, and a test of your character and endurance.
“It can only ruin your life if it ruins your character. Otherwise it cannot harm you — inside or out.” — Marcus Aurelius
Your character as far as I can tell refers to the quality of your mind. You get to choose your experience of life, and your interpretation of events. Easier said than done, but the potential to see the event as neutral — or rather a natural, and therefore good process of nature — lies entirely in your hands. Nothing happens that isn’t natural, that is, permitted by nature.
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Originally published at medium.com