The Power Of Pessimism | Stoic Exercises For Inner Peace

The Power Of Pessimism | Stoic Exercises For Inner Peace


Because my video with 7 stoic exercises for inner peace was so successful, I’ve decided to go a bit deeper into each exercise, giving you a little bit more intellectual baggage to ponder over. I’ll start with explaining the praemeditatio
malorum by Marcus Aurelius, that harvests its strength from pessimism. First of all, thank you Jean-Claude for your
support on Patreon. Very much appreciated, and it will help me
to continue creating these videos. Now, let’s dive in. The praemeditatio malorum can be translated
as negative visualization. An example is derived from Marcus Aurelius’
work Meditations, in which he proposes a maxim that can be used to prepare for the day ahead. Because there are different translations,
there are different versions of this maxim, that you can find in opening verse of the
second book. It goes like this: When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself:
The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous,
and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell
good from evil. End quote. Now, the first part of this quote is quite
pessimistic. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long
as there’s is truth in it. Marcus Aurelius points out that in our daily
lives we indeed encounter people like that, and that it’d be a good idea to prepare for
them. People that are too optimistic often tend
to deny the harsh realities of life. But by denying them, these realities won’t
magically disappear. And when they face them nonetheless, they
are disappointed that reality isn’t as beautiful as they imagined. Stoic philosopher Epictetus proposed a similar
thought exercise that is presented less often as a model for the negative visualization,
which goes like this: When you are going about any action, remind
yourself what nature the action is. If you are going to bathe, picture to yourself
the things which usually happen in the bath: some people splash the water, some push, some
use abusive language, and others steal. Thus you will more safely go about this action
if you say to yourself, “I will now go bathe, and keep my own mind in a state conformable
to nature.” And in the same manner with regard to every
other action. End quote. An essential part of the praemeditatio malorum
is reminding ourselves of the nature of things. What’s the nature of the action we’re
about to take? What’s the nature of the objects or people
we’ll encounter? Marcus Aurelius reflects on this a bit further
in the same passage: But I have seen the beauty of good, and the
ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own—not
of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate
him. End quote. In his meditations, Marcus Aurelius keeps
telling himself that we, as human beings, are here on earth to work together. We are part of a whole, everything is interwoven,
all parts are connected, and our role is to live alongside each other in harmony. From this belief he concludes that people
that are acting against this premise, thus, those who aren’t virtuous, and are obstructing
their fellow human beings instead of cooperating, are acting unnatural. Thus, he argues that this behavior stems from
ignorance of what is good and evil. What other people think and do is not up to
us. Although, with a little bit of compassion
we can see where their actions are coming from. So, what is up to us in a situation in which
we meet with meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly people? Our own faculty. There’s no point in being angry at people
that don’t know any better; in this case; anger is just another obstruction that works
rather divisive than inclusive. There’s no point in being angry at nature;
it is what it is, and being resentful about things that are beyond our control is pointless. Instead, what we can do is accepting the things
we cannot change and keep our own faculties in a state of tranquility. For thus, if any hindrance arises in bathing,
you will have it ready to say, “It was not only to bathe that I desired, but to keep
my mind in a state conformable to nature. And I will not keep it if I am bothered at
things that happen.” End quote. The negative visualization has several positive
effects on the mind, which are: 1) Coping. Preparing a situation in our minds gives us
the opportunity to find solutions beforehand, and visualize how we could handle difficulties
that may arise. This increases our ability to cope when the
difficulties are at hand; no matter if we face a catastrophe like losing all our possessions
or loved ones, or minor hardships like being stuck in traffic. 2) Creating perspective. Because we’ve played a certain scenario
in our minds several times in a very conscious manner, and also rationalize it, we put things
in perspective. By changing our thoughts about events, we
will change the way they influence our mood. So, instead of seeing things as ‘undesirable’
and creating aversion towards them, we simply see them as part of nature. 3) Healthy detachment. By contemplating on the impermanence of the
things we love, that we can lose our spouse today, and that all our possessions can be
taken away from us, we’ll remain realistic about our relationship towards them. As everyone, the people and objects we love
are also part of the ever changing whole; and, as everything, they will also cease to
exist someday. As Epictetus would argue: never say of anything,
“I have lost it”; but, “I have returned it 4) Less ‘shock’. The negative visualization is an anxiety reducer. Preparation means that we create order beforehand,
so we become more resilient to chaos. When we know that a certain place is full
of jerks, for example, we’ll be less shocked if we encounter them. Whether or not something bad will happen is
always uncertain. But, if it does happen, at least we are prepared. We can overdo this, of course, and become
obsessed by certain scenarios that might happen, which will only lead to fear and anxiety,
so the key is moderation, by doing a short reminder occasionally, without transforming
these reminders into worry. The praemeditatio malorum is not about harbouring
fear; it’s about dissolving fear in advance by rational thinking. So, by addressing possible future scenarios
in a pessimistic way, we not only set ourselves up for functioning well in miserable circumstances;
we also eradicate the possibility of disappointment and see that everything in this universe comes
and goes. Thank you for watching.

59 thoughts on “The Power Of Pessimism | Stoic Exercises For Inner Peace

  1. Pessimism is not that bad. The problem lies in overthinking. When you overthink, you create an exaggerated negative version of something. Basically if something bad is inevitable, overthinking makes you go through that twice.

  2. When you "KNOW" that everything is sh*t, from there and on, all positive additions to your life will be a bonus.
    If your worst predictions become the reality, then you were right all along.

  3. If you need to tell yourself all of that when you get up, it's way past the time for you to QUIT YOUR JOB, OR WHATEVER IT IS THAT YOU'VE BEEN UP TO.

  4. You really make good videos. It is a pleasure listening to this together with the visuals. This is how lectures should be.

  5. I have a “ worst case scenario“ mindset when I’m at work.. I’ve had people say to me that “ your always thinking the worst of every situation “ .. I’m not a negative person by any means. I believe in planning for the worst case scenario because it means I am always prepared to solve it .. if the situation ends up being not as bad as I expected then it’s a pleasant surprise for me.. people who think too positively leave out a big sense of reality in everything they do and are often not prepared to handle situations that catch them off guard.. and are often very disappointed in how their day went.. to be too positive is an unrealistic way of thinking and frankly just not helpful mentally

  6. I like how stoicism and budhhism are the same in some ideas… looks like the gods offer us chances… "you cant beat death but you can beat death in life..". i love how charles bukowski make this line in a poet..

  7. Are you natively speaking the Dutch language? Because I think I hear a Dutch tong in som pronunciations.

  8. SO addicted to these videos. Thank you for all the effort you put into these! XOXO from Minnesota (land of stoics).

  9. I strongly disagree. Here "pessimism" is not used in the way as we use the word today in 2019. Aurelius "pessimism" is closer to realism. I think by "realism" I mean an attitude which assumes bad things will happen just like the good, and a rejection of the view that "everything will be awesome". But pessimism as a term today refers to a DISTORTED perspective which has no rational basis for expecting the worst, or generally bad outcomes.

    Going over difficult, unpleasant, tragic….bad, scenarios of life is not pessimism. So is detachment. A big difference between realism and pessimism is that realism is more like a "maybe" or "could happen". The use of the term "pessimism" is different. It is a mental expectation, or insistence, that necessarily "bad" things will happen instead of the "good". Focusing disproportionately on the possible undesirable outcomes when it may only be 50/50.

  10. I don't feel this exercise pessimistic…..but it doesn't fit the common definition of positivity and optimism…..then there must be something inbetween that I don't know🤔

  11. 4:06 you just described most people on the planet. It's naive to assume that for example, some who is a constant asshat doesn't know any better – wrong because he/she has CHOSEN by free will to BECOME an asshat. Most people DO NOT CARE anything about others, and if you can't see that god help you.

  12. "Everything in the universe comes and goes." – Very true sir. I think that is the secret to coping right there.

  13. The irony about stoicism but what I find to be a major positive is once you realize how people continually act against nature or unruly as Marcus stated it becomes in your best interest to distance yourself from these people. When you do this you no longer feel anger and resentment for these people you simply accept them for who they are. You yourself also become more resilient in the process. Creating a healthy distance has personally helped me tremendously.

  14. Pessimism is kind of good if you know his meaning. Optimism is bullshit, it just makes people blind and angry

  15. Thinking pessimistic to dampen your expectations or make you feel better about certain things does not help you at all. It will drag you down, kill your motivation and make you depressed. Maybe not today or tomorrow but over time it will happen.

  16. I remember when i bought my first Enchiridion but it was not translated by my favorite translator and it seemed to have christian themes inserted. As i became more and more angry … i suddenly realized a passage . What am i a grammarian or a philosopher ? In the spirit of the Enchiridion i allow many interpretations to pass my eyes now . Following the spirit of stoicism insteam of exact grammar.

  17. Except that we STOICS aren't Pessimists…. shut up. Next Time Try bacing yourself more on common sense on being Stoic in a practical way, than just listening to books from ages ago. I'm literally a Stoic, yet i'm almost never pessimist.

  18. You can only see the light when you know the dark. It's the one thing I live with, I consider myself rather a optimistic realist.

  19. Einzelganger, I viewed this excellent piece almost 10 days (to the day) after having a heart attack. Needless to say pessimism was at the very least in my background. I had already been 4 or 5 days in hospital and was to attend again within 24 hours for a procedure that (In honesty) had me very worried and not in any way my usual self. I sat and viewed the latest offering from my favourite Presenter, Adviser or Sage and Ironically the title was "The Power Of Pessimism!." For a short while it really felt like the world was having a joke and I was the brunt of said joke!

    I am writing to THANK YOU so much for making an equally scary and very confusing time not only easier for me, but actually much, much calmer! . GENUINELY, Your words helped me through a very bad time in my life. I combined your words and direction with meditation, on and off over the 24 hours and I am happy to report the procedure went off literally without a hitch and while I could not claim that it was a pleasant experience, I can claim it was not as worrying, dreadful or pessimistic as it appeared prior to YOUR guidance. I Really Just Wanted To Say Thank You :O)

  20. Thank you for this video! There’s alot of improvement in my overall mental wellbeing by applying the teachings of stoicism. But what about being assertive? Is there any verse about it?

  21. This is a terrible mindset…. Why not just understand that there are far worse situations you can be in or how fortunate you are to still be breathing… People in 3rd world countries are dealing with far worse than alot of us on youtube typing up comments… Negative visualization literally is a sad way to live life… Your mind and thoughts creates your reality.

  22. Like we all would like "virtue"; sometimes you'd accomplish it, or not. I'd like to accomplish virtue some, and I often feel to accomplished mistakes!

  23. Interesting video. I hope people will try both negative and positive visualization on small things, to see what works for them. "Negative visualization is an anxiety reducer." is definitely the OPPOSITE of true for me. I've made some terrible choices in my life based on negative visualizing which did nothing but increase anxiety tenfold for me and scared me from acting at all on a situation where the worst case scenario or negative visualization would likely never have happened. Had I created positive visualizations of the exact same situation and gone through it in my head with a positive visualization and positive outcome, even still being aware that the situation in real life was not all sunshine and rainbows but with some real adversity involved, I believe I would have gone into it with much more ease and a much better and attitude and stronger stance, and seen that there was actually not much to fear. Maybe it differs if you normally have anxiety or don't. I now believe I do, but didn't realize that when I was busy visualizing the worst case scenario, then scaring myself from acting altogether. Now I know that negative visualization doesn't work for me and have to actively stop myself when I do it, and remind myself to come up with a positive visualization, even while knowing that the real situation may be more adverse than my positive visualization.

  24. Its not about being optimistic or being pessimistic, they are both polarities that twist the reality in front of us. By preparing for the worst in people or situations you already expect the worst, in that case you are not seeing what is really in front of you cause you have already pre judged reality. same goes for optimism. Non judgement is the way. We are too attached to our comfort zone and always looking forward to it and when things dont go as planned we struggle. If we take people and situations as they appear in any moment without resistance we become better listeners and flow trough life. To learn to do so you must practice non action. One way is meditation. Patience is key.

  25. you attract what you focus on, like attracts like, and cause and effect, there is two truths to everything, a good and a bad, focus on the one you want

  26. I think the key here is letting go and trusting that we know what we know and don't need to spend precious mental resources on what we don't want, we are already very aware of these things, without constantly regurgitating them, but rather we should use our creative resources to find positive solutions for the challenges we face

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