EPICTETUS • Acceptance

Greek Stoic Philosopher | c. 50–135 AD  | Epictetus spent a portion of his life as the slave of Epaphroditus, an important administrator in the court of Nero.  Major work is a four-volume text, often referred to as the Discourses.

“Some things are in our control and others not.”

Epictetus taught that happiness and freedom begin with accepting this reality of life.  First, we must learn to discern the things which are within our control—ourselves; our opinions, aspirations, emotions, desires; and the things which are beyond our control—external things; rude people, the weather, someone running into you.  Second, we must not let our energy and attention be drained by the things we cannot control, rather we put that energy toward what we can control.

After recognizing this fundamental principle of acceptance, the Enchiridion (a short manual of Epictetus’ philosophy) teaches us to be aware of our “desires” and “aversions;” the things we are drawn to or crave, and the things we avoid.  If our cravings are centered around or are dependent on the things we can control, then, naturally, we will  experience the fruits of accomplishment and achievement.  However, if our aversions are centered around what we cannot control, naturally, we will experience disappointment and frustration.

Take a moment now and reflect on what has made you frustrated in the past few days or weeks. Was the frustration based on events that you could control? Of course, this is not an attempt to trivialize or be dismissive of legitimate frustration, or objectively horrible events. But rather, to push you put your responses in perspective. Especially if you are beating yourself over something you cannot control. See it for what it is. Accept it. Do not give it excessive air-time. And put your energy toward the things you can control.