“Don’t let the force of an impression when it first hit you knock you off your fee; just say to it: Hold on a moment; let me see who you are and what you represent. Let me put you to the test.” — Epictetus
The ancient Stoics tried to practice apatheia. Not to be confused with apathy, which has a negative connotation, apatheia can best be described as a state of calm equanimity. Free from irrational or extreme emotions.
So how to put apatheia into practice?
For any external event that happens to us…
First say to yourself, “Okay, it happened.” Take some deep breaths. Then before emotions or judgment come flooding in, probe deeper. “What exactly happened?” “What is this thing that happened?”
Forget about wondering why it happened. Or why did it have to happen now, at the worst possible time, etc…
It happened. Not good or bad. This thing happened.
Next, ask yourself the question, “How can going through this thing–even if I can’t possibly see how right now–help me in some way?” Write down any thoughts that come to mind.
Then ask yourself, “What are some possible action steps to achieve the outcome I want based on this new event?” Get creative. Force yourself to come up with at least ten action steps.
Finally, ask yourself, “How can going through this thing enable me to help someone else?”
All this is easier said than done of course, but it’s in the attempt at apatheia, the practice of it, over a long enough period of time, that we and others can benefit.