Roman Calendar

Monday, October 21, 2013

Emotional Control (from "Stoicism and Emotion")

     Today's reading is on the concept of controlling one's emotions, from Margaret R. Graver's Stoicism and Emotion. Stoicism purports to offer control over one's emotions, but we often feel that emotions "hit" us out of nowhere, and can be impossible to control because you do not know they are coming. I would agree that while it is possible to surprise and startle even a very accomplished Stoic, nevertheless Stoicism has value in such situations, since after the initial impact the emotions just slide away, like a cloth that washes clean without letting a stain set in . . .

"There is a sense in which emotions have us under their control. Aristotle says-and it is hard not to agree with him-that a good person is one who not only acts rightly but feels rightly. Yet for ourselves it often seems as if we have no choice how to feel. A sense of passivity is expressed in the very word that became standard for emotion in Greek usage, for pathos is simply the noun form of paschein, to suffer or undergo. Nor is it only the reflex-like `startle' and `fight-or-flight' responses that seem to occur without our consent. It is, much more crucially, the core instances of emotion, responses that we not only feel but also express in our behavior. And emotional behavior is sometimes terrifying in its extremity. A mother finds herself driven to destroy the life of her innocent child, a child whom she loves and in calmer moments would not wish to harm. One does not have to condone her action to recognize that she was at that moment helpless in the grip of some very powerful feeling. Even our legal system admits emotion as a mitigating factor in some cases."

Margaret R. Graver. Stoicism and Emotion (p. 61). Kindle Edition.

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