I’ve talked before about how I’ve started studying Stoicism. I want to take a moment and discuss how and why it helps me.
The word stoic usually invokes the idea of someone unfeeling, disconnected from their emotions. Which isn’t really what Stoicism is about. What I’ve come to understand is that it’s really the study of impressions, and understanding how that affects what you can and cannot control.
You can not control anything except your mind. You can direct your body, but you can’t control what happens to it. You don’t choose whether or not to get sick, as an example. So if you’re only able to control your own thoughts, then the goal of life is to find acceptance of that fact.
You can’t control what others do, nor what they do to you, you can’t control the world around you in any meaningful way. You can attempt to change things, and it is indeed good to try and do good things, but ultimately you can not control how other people react to you.
Anxiety is an internal state generally caused by externals. It’s something I have had to come to live with. What I’ve had to learn to contend with is that ultimately. that anxiety is something that I’ve created.
That’s not to say it’s not from unfounded fears. There are people in this world who want me dead, there are people who want to see my life destroyed. There are people who hate that I exist and feel so strongly that I am ruining their life just by existing. So feeling anxious doesn’t inherently sound like a stretch.
What I have to hold on to is that whether or not those people think that, or even if they act on that. If I’m beaten and broken, or even killed. Those are all external to me. I can’t change their feelings, I can only live, and I can only find solace in my own rational mind.
Being anxious and nervous, letting that fear build up, limits all of the moments that I could have been enjoying. One of the weaknesses that I’ve discovered about myself is that I have a hard time with vulnerability. I have put a substantial amount of effort into independence and limiting the way in which that which is outside of my power can hurt me. Rather then bringing me peace, it only magnifies the vulnerability I feel from what’s outside of my control.
The net result being that the more control I feel I have in my life, the more anxious and concerned I am with what’s out of my control. Which explains why I’m bad at keeping my thoughts in order, and my mind clear. I put so much stock in becoming independent that the thought of being dependent or even having another’s decisions affect me scares me. For no other reason then the fact that I have grown up so afraid of what the world would do to me when they found out I was trans, I’m almost waiting for the riot in the streets.
So I’m really only hurting myself, and I think I have to come to terms with the fact that the world just doesn’t care that much. I need to live my life, and I need to do it accepting that the world can hurt me, I can’t prevent that pain, and I might even be surprised when it isn’t that bad after all.