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Roman Republic: Res publica Romana • View topic - As a Stoic are you able to manage your anger?

As a Stoic are you able to manage your anger?

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As a Stoic are you able to manage your anger?

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Thu May 05, 2016 2:03 pm

Salvete amici!

In our daily interactions with other people we often encounter situations that provoke our anger or put our patience to a test. Stoicism regards this as negative passions.
So when you feel treated unfair by others or have to face obvious incompetence of others, do you get angry and react in an aggressive way, even if it is not helpful? Or do you have your negative passions always under control?

As an example let us assume you have an appointment and you had to make a major effort to arrive in time, but the other person does not show up because he forgot it. How do you react? What do you do to remain calm?

Anger and the desire for revenge are irrational. They will not bring you any benefit. Since humans are rational beings and no instinct-driven animals an emotional reaction is not according to human nature according to Stoicism. And we are taught to live according to our nature. However we have a biological body and therefore also this animal nature within us. How can we overcome our animal nature and embrace our rational human nature?

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Re: As a Stoic are you able to manage your anger?

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Thu May 05, 2016 8:25 pm

I can only say of my own experience regarding that. My culture is polychronic and not monochronic , in other words people dont tend to get to places on time. People hardly ever even plan things with a specific time in their mind. They'd say "Let's meet around eight." "Let's meet around nine." and "around eight" and "around nine" in this case is never before 8 or 9, but at least 10-30 minutes afterwards at least lol It has always been a source of frustration and irritation for me. But when we go to the doctor, for example, we are expected to be there on time, but the doctor isn't, so it is extremely common (and when I say extremely, think of it as practically the norm and a very very strange anomaly when it doesn't happen) for doctors to take at least an hour to see you (after the appointed time), and in some cases it can take up to 4 hours. This is common here. Crime is also abundant and it is rare to find someone who hasn't been stolen before. Even rarer (incredible as it may seem) is to find someone who hadn't known a person who has been murdered. Our public service is highly inefficient and you can hardly get anything done in one day when it comes to the public service. If you go to one place to get something done, it's not that unlikely that you'll have to wait at least an hour to get attended, then the attendant might not know how to help you. They'd then call in someone else to help and they'd probably not know either (seriously, sometimes it looks like no one has a clue what they're doing there...) and after a long while you'd find out that the place you went to isn't the right one to get your problem fixed (even though you were specifically told to go there) and you'll have to go somewhere else in the other side of town. After going there you might end up being redirected again, it happens...

Why did I say all this? To explain why I feel the brazilian mindset is very good at managing frustration. We are basically hardwired over time to expect very little from people and from government. To expect to be ill treated by those around and to value what little we do have our hold on. Generally brazillians try to be contempt on simply being alive lol Yes, I actually get that a lot when I hear people complaining. At least you're still alive and your family is still alive.

It actually reminds me of the danish worldview, except in a different scenario. The danes are considered one of the happiest people on Earth. Why? Because they have low expectations regarding life. They dont expect much from life and get pleasently surprised when things do work out. Brazillians are similar except that here things tend not to work out lol. So I believe the secret to not get stressed out about things in general, from my experience and from my cultural education, is to expect very little of people and groups. If someone is late for a meeting, you only get angry about that because you expect them to be on time. Next time, try beforehand thinking that they'll probably be late and that they probably dont really care that much about your meeting. Believe me, that makes the occasion a lot less stressful. Instead of a disappointment it becomes "business as usual".
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Re: As a Stoic are you able to manage your anger?

Postby Gaia Cassia Longina » Fri May 06, 2016 10:34 am

Salvete,

Arriving on time in Italy is unheard of and my doctors usually make me wait for an hour in the room before even saying hello - then they are usually in and out of the room every 5 minutes. I could be giving birth and they would take a coffee break.
Now, being raised in the United States provided me with a much more efficient system, so when I first came to Italy (moving, not visiting), I was shocked.
But coming from an Italian and Greek family, we are known for being...well, fiery. Strangely enough, through Stoic exercises, I have been able to control my anger and temper and find life much more pleasing when I do not let myself be carried away by negative emotions. Of course, there are situations that arise - such as when my car blew a tire in the middle of Tuscany on the Via Cassia and I had to stay for 3 days until the towing truck eventually came - when I cannot help but a little angry. This is all natural. We are hard-wired to experience all emotions. But what I think Stoicism teaches is just to take a moment when these moments arise and calm yourself before you get "carried away" by this emotion. It is difficult at first, but I have gotten better at it and maybe one day, I will be able to do better - but I do not think anyone will be able to get rid of these negative emotions totally - just our outer reactions to it, not the feeling itself.
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Re: As a Stoic are you able to manage your anger?

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Fri May 06, 2016 11:23 am

I would like to give two examples of the irrationality of anger. Since Atius Victor mentioned robbery as an example of maintaining a Brazilian Stoic attitude, these examples also deal with it.

Example 1: A family had a picknick in a national park and left their car unattended. When they returned, the car was forcefully opened and the interior devastated. They got angry, because they thought it was a thief.
Later it turned out that it was a hungry bear that searched for some sandwiches left in the car. Their anger went away.
So there is obviously a difference in our reaction to an incident depending on its cause. The bear is perceivd as part of nature. Therefore he is not blamed. It is seen as accidental circumstances that led to the damage. A thief is not perceived as such. This triggers anger.
A Stoic should maintain that everything is nature. Even the thief acts according to his nature of being a thief. (Something that at least Brazilians may have understood.) Therefore it should not make any difference whether the damage as caused by a person or by accidental circumstances.

Example 2:
Imagine you have ten dollars with you. Then you suddenly get robbed at gunpoint. The ten dollars are stolen from you.
Imagine now that you carry ten dollars with you and see a hungry streetboy. You have petty with him and give the money to him, so he can eat.
In both cases the result for you is the same: You lose ten dollars. Anyway the first incident would usually cause negative passions in you, while the second incident causes a good feeling, since you believe that you have helped a suffering boy.
It is quite irrational that the identical result should trigger opposite reactions by you, still it does. It is due to our attitude to the incidents, not the actual effect it has on us.

The same is true for the example of coming late to an appointment. We get angry, when it is due to forgetfulness of the other person, but it is excused, when we hear that it was for a reason that we consider as justified (e.g. the baby got sick and had to be taken to a hospital). But in either case the result is the same for us and apparently we can manage it somehow.

So a Stoic attitude should come by itself, if we change our attitude towards our surroundings. We have to understand that things happen, because it is their nature to happen. Bad people act in negative ways, because it is their nature of acting. All of it is beyond our control. (Stoic theory of determinism)
If we learn to accept the nature of things and if we live accordingly, then we should be able to maintain this Stoic attitude. We do not need to judge events or people, if we have no control over them and cannot change them.
Non-judgement is essential to maintain serenity in difficult circumstances, which is part of the Roman virtue of gravitas.

It is interesting to notice that our judgement or non-judgement solely depends on whether we consider events to be predetermined (Stoic theory) or subject to the free will of somebody (Epicurean theory).
However it does not matter, since both is beyond our control.
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Re: As a Stoic are you able to manage your anger?

Postby Lucius Aurelius Curio » Fri May 06, 2016 3:47 pm

Curio Sal.

To a certain degree I will agree with you about the circumstances being out of our control. However, speaking to the irrationality of anger I think depends on the circumstances of your raising. Now to get upset over late appointments, that is more out of your control than a situation of being robbed. People are going to be late, and I believe many times it comes down to a matter of whether you perceive it as a normality or a sign of disrespect. After all, if you were raised for an individual to be true to their word, then you are more likely to be angered by tardiness. However, this can be controlled easier by realizing that there was no harm in the matter, just a slight loss in time throughout your day.

On the subject of being robbed, that is another matter entirely. That comes down to a matter of circumstance. If you are choosing to give your money to a starving child, then you are doing a good deed, seeking to help your fellows who are less fortunate in life. But if you are being robbed, I believe anger is a justifiable emotion in this case. After all, to just chalk it up to their nature I believe isn't exactly correct. It is a conscious decision they made to rob from you, not a matter of fate or unchangeable nature. They chose to rob from you many times because it was the easier decision than to go out and earn that money legitimately. To just accept it as a fact of nature is going against a very important social virtue of Roman culture, and that is Iustitia. So to just say that it is nature in my opinion is to go against that principle virtue in the end. So whether or not your are angered by such a situation comes down to a matter of choice. You can either accept it as a normality (nature) or choose to know that it is not right at all.

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Re: As a Stoic are you able to manage your anger?

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Fri May 06, 2016 6:58 pm

For me it can go both ways and actually should. You can acccept that it happened because so is life and the likelihood of being mugged is pretty high in a long life. With that you can get inner peace and accept your fate. But you can also feel duty-bound to your fellow citizens and to yourself to do your part in preventing that from happening again or from happening that frequently. In that case you could enter politics or the police or even become a teacher and try to help change that. In both instances, anger is not a necessary reaction. Dont get me wrong, it is a perfectly understandable emotional reaction. I felt it too afterwards... but sincerely it was more anger at how they made my girl feel then anger at Them. You can use that anger to fuel your actions, of course, as an inspiration to change. But it isnt, essentially, a necessary emotion to have. You can do without it and still get your objective. And if that is so, why not try Not to have it? It could do one's soul much good. I dont really feel anger for the guys who threatened and mugged me and my girl. I have more anger at the State for not being there when we needed it. Hating them would only give me a headache, and I have better reasons to have a headache then because of two idiots with nothing to lose. Again, it is a Perfectly understandable reaction. I just dont think it is good for us or necessary, you know?
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Re: As a Stoic are you able to manage your anger?

Postby Lucius Aurelius Curio » Fri May 06, 2016 8:59 pm

Curio Victor Sal.

I can see your point in that regard. However, I don't believe it would be right to completely eliminate anger either. As you stated, anger can be a driving force. However, it is also the emotion that requires the most tempering, or else like a fire it will spiral out of control and consume you. I personally have had a long struggle with this, having a very bad temper when I was younger. As I've gotten older I've had to learn to control it, but not completely eliminate it. If you did not have that emotion, if we were to completely take it out of the equation of humanity, then we would be crippling ourselves in a regard. In a firefight, soldiers use that to save those closest to them on the battlefield, or those who have lost everything (family, friends, etc.), they use that drive that anger provides to drive them onward and not give up on life. Now, it is not a perfect nor permanent solution. Eventually that anger will subside, and you must learn to push forward without it. I am just of the mind that anger is necessary, as necessary as it is to have love or joy in your life. It is part of who we are as people. To erase that, would be to erase part of our emotional building blocks. So I would caution on the side of controlling it rather than just eliminating it entirely. As Aristotle said, "Anyone can become angry-that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way-that is not easy." So if you have anger, wield it like a scalpel, not a hammer.
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Re: As a Stoic are you able to manage your anger?

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Fri May 06, 2016 10:13 pm

I can very much identify with what you said. I have a very short temper myself (my mother has described me twice now as being "Brave, Brute and Sweet" brave in portuguese meaning angry too lol) and I actually thought of adopting the cognomen Calidus, but thought better of it and kept my first name. I agree with you in regards to situations of life and death and in situations where your sense of justice in itself is not strong enough to power your will to action. I also agree we should Not bottle up our anger and ignore it. That is unhealthy and could end up creeping up in your subconscious even if not not in your conscious self. We are humans and we must acknowledge our feelings when they come. I mean to defend that, in an actually similar meaning to what you're saying, that we should Understand the world, focus and set our priorities in a way that the feeling of anger either doesnt spark and if it does it does so in a mild and orderly way. Being an Angry Man from a long time, known for barking at people for very little, I have learned, like you, that uncontrolled anger is detrimental to my own mental peace and that of people around me. But I saw that disciplining my anger is not a case of repressing it, but seeing events by a different angle and observing it with calm distance. A soldier needs to be angy because his objective is simple (intelectually speaking, not physically) : Follow your orders. And for people like that anger is probably the most efficient fuel. But when you need to think, when you need to actually make decisions, I have found that (by personal experience and many lost debates out of pure lack of patience) other sources of willpower can be more efficient. I do not wish to convince you, of course, I actually agree to you to the most part! Just continuing to elucidate my view! :D
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Re: As a Stoic are you able to manage your anger?

Postby Lucius Aurelius Curio » Fri May 06, 2016 10:39 pm

Curio Victor Sal.

I myself was a soldier, so I can relate to that situation in a very real way, and was the reason I chose that example. And I do agree that there are more efficient means of living, and one should not rely on anger. As stated before, it can be a very damaging emotion. You unfortunately have to take the good with the bad. And good to hear I wasn't the only one with a horrible temper! :)

And I actually enjoyed hearing your view on it, Victor. I am of the mind that a spirited debate, whether you agree with the other individual or not, is the best way to expand one's knowledge and wisdom, so long as you debate with an open mind. I do appreciate you speaking your mind on the subject! I am generally new to the whole Epicureanism vs Stoicism topic (though I do tend to lean towards Epicureanism, apparently). I just generally try to follow my morals in life, which I've noticed line up very neatly with Via Romana (which was a nice surprise!)

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Re: As a Stoic are you able to manage your anger?

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Fri May 06, 2016 10:51 pm

Me too Curio! That is one thing I love about our community. We can agree, we can disagree, we can kinda-agree, and yet no one is jumping at each other's throats :lol: That's very different from most communities I've been in. And your view is also insightful to me! Especially as a soldier, something I never experienced. Hotty people like me and you tend to have to learn to deal with our anger instead of bottling it up into passive-aggressive talk like most people do :lol: Because we tend not to go to the "Oh, alright then... if you need to..." side of the specter and more to the "Hell no, m**fu**r!" side of it :lol: So it is nice to see a fellow hot-head that has learned to control his temper! I know how hard it can be sometimes.
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