The Enchiridion - Part 5

When something bad happens to us, what is it that actually causes the harm?

Men are disturbed not by the things which happen, but by the opinions about the things; for example, death is nothing terrrible, for if it were it would have seened so to Socrates; for the opinion about death that is terrible, is the terrible thing. When we are impeded or disturbed, or grieved, let us never blame others, but ourselves - that is, our opinions.

This is an interesting idea: nothing harms us but our own judgement. In a way this seems like like a mental trick to give us the impression of control. But if you think about it there is certainly some truth to it. Consider how different people deal with same tragic event, like the death of a close family member. There is nothing materially different about the loss, but how people react can vary wildly. Surely that has something to do with how they percieve the event.

It is the act of an ill-instructed man to blame others for his own bad condition; it is the act of one who begun to be instructed, to lay the blame on himself; and of one whose instruction is completed, neither to blame another, nor himself.

Realising that you are to blame for your situation is only step one. A master will have moved past blaming himself, as he has no longer feels the sting of his "bad condition".

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