Letters from a Stoic 11 – Key Takeaways

            In letters from a stoic 11, Seneca talks about physiological changes that we cannot fully eliminate with training whenever certain situations arise. He talked about blushes on the face but for practicality, we will use butterflies in the stomach as an example. We have been taught by the Stoics a lot of techniques we can try to deal with anxiety. Seneca said we can never completely remove butterflies in our stomach whenever we are anxious, we can only reduce it. “Training and experience can never shake off this habit; nature exerts her own power and through such a weakness makes her presence known even to the strongest.” He mentioned several people before him that despite their greatness would still experience such physiological changes under challenging situations. I think the message here is that having a mindset that since these sensations will never go away we might as well just be comfortable with them because they might only lead to secondary negative emotions. For example, we sometimes become anxious about the thought of becoming anxious. 

            In the later part of the letter, Seneca talked about the importance of finding good role models who can watch over characters. “We can get rid of most sins, if we have a witness who stands near us when we are likely to go wrong. The soul should have someone whom it can respect—one by whose authority it may make even its inner shrine more hallowed.”  When we reached adulthood most of us leave our parents wanting complete independence and learning on our feet. Regardless of where we are, we still need to find people who we can regulate our characters. As Seneca puts it, “For we must indeed have someone according to whom we may regulate our characters; you can never straighten that which is crooked unless you use a ruler”    

*****   Letters from a Stoic Key Takeaways is a collection of short key takeaways from the letters sent by Seneca to Lucilius. Read each letter’s key takeways here .

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