Most people understand that you don’t want to be angry most of the time. Aristotle agrees but he thinks we should sometimes show show anger as long as it’s the right amount of anger at the right time at the right person in the right situation for the right reason. The Stoics disagree. But why?
The reason is largely that anger usually relies on the judgment that externals are bad, which is a misjudgment since externals are neither good nor bad. But here’s a tough question: what about people? Aren’t people either good or bad according to Stoicism? Well, we need to have the proper judgments about people as well. But wouldn’t judging someone as a bad person make us mad? No, because we know that someone who is bad is just ignorant and misguided. If the bad person knew that the virtuous life led to eudaimonia and had that wisdom to guide them, they would no longer be bad because being bad never pays. If being bad never pays, then obviously people only do bad things out of ignorance.
What about people who suffer from injustices? Well, that’s a situation that is bad but even then it doesn’t call for anger but for action. Yes, it’s understandable that people get angry at injustice but the Stoic knows that even anger as a proto-passion needn’t turn into an anger passion. The Stoic knows that anger is a temporary form of madness and that it interferes with objective thought processes. So the Stoic may feel anger at first but will let it pass. Continuing to be angry after the initial anger at injustice is no longer necessary as it’s time to develop an action plan to help put an end to injustice.
So in conclusion I’d like to say most situations that piss people off aren’t even bad. They’re just dispreferred indifferents. And the situations (like an injustice) that do piss people off because they’re bad aren’t even reasons enough to stay mad but to act and plan and to act and plan. So just remember if you start letting yourself get angry after an initial injury, just quickly let the anger blow over and carry on. Don’t feed the anger, just let it pass.
I’ve always been an anxious fellow. I’ve always had a lot of phobias. I mostly was afraid of people though (social anxiety disorder). I was always worried what they would think. When I talked to people, it was difficult for me to string sentences together because I was so worried that my speech and facial gestures would be judged harshly. As I aged these fears began to go away. But they never went completely away until I started practicing Stoicism in 2011.
Starting in 2010 I had a lot of anger problems too. Some of it was because of my right-libertarian political beliefs at the time. But as I practiced Stoicism my anger and my anxiety subsided. Premeditatio malorum (more popularly known as negative visualization) really helped alleviate most of my anger and anxiety.
Even though I had mastered my anxiety and anger by 2012, I fell into a depression that caused psychosis. No amount of Stoicism helped in this respect especially since it was a complete mental breakdown and it happened within a week. It was just rapid depression turning into a loss of touch with reality. After hospitalization, I was heavily medicated and I was able to think straight again. Sometimes I still feel down or lose interest in daily life activities but my Stoicism really helps me adapt to this attitude. I can easily get myself out of bed with Stoicism.
One of the things I’ve learned is that Stoicism can help me master some of my mental issues but not all of them. Sometimes Stoicism’s mental therapies just don’t do the trick. But they do at least help me when things are moderately severe. Stoicism also helps me with pain.
In 2013 I was hospitalized for spontaneous stomach bleeding. I lost a lot of blood but even though I did I was Stoically content. The surgery was really painful because they had to cut through my belly in order to fix my stomach. The nurses were very impressed with how I was able to cope with my pain. Stoicism really prepared me for painful things like sharp cuts through the abdomen.
Stoicism can’t fix all your issues. Don’t believe any one thing can just fix everything unless it’s like nanobots or something out of Star Trek. Stoicism can’t completely fix you, marijuana can’t cure all cancers, vegan diets can’t cure all diabetes. Don’t believe that only one thing can fix all things. But Stoicism really does help a lot when you need something else other than medication or group therapy.
Stoicism is probably the most helpful philosophy I’ve ever had. I don’t know where I’d be without it.