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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Praemeditatio Malorum (from "The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy")

     In his book The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, Donald Robertson discusses a Stoic practice called praemeditatio malorum - "the premeditation of evils" - "preparing the mind in advance to cope with adversity." The practice involves spending time imagining the possible "evils" that might befall you, the things that could go wrong with whatever you have planned. By facing these "evils" in advance, in theory, one robs them of the ability to surprise us and overwhelm our reason with the sudden intensity of their appearance to be true "evils." We can take the time to identify them, realize that to the sage they are not evils, properly categorize them as indifferents . . . and so when one of these things does befall us, we are not overwhelmed. We are prepared. A "misfortune" presents itself to us, and rather than be shocked and overwhelmed and thinking, "Such a terrible thing has happened to me!", instead we find ourselves calmly regarding the "misfortune," able to say, "No, you do not fool me! You are not terrible. You are a thing indifferent, and you have no power over me."

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