These are strange times. We all have entrenched political beliefs, for which the stakes seem dreadfully high. There are trolls everywhere. There are stupid people everywhere. Both the trolls and the ignorant seem to revel in saying things designed to piss us off. And if that weren’t enough, most of us are spending extended and unprecedented amounts of time trapped inside with people whom we may love but still have the ability to make us upset.
Or actually, is that true? Can they make us upset? Not according to the Stoics.
“If someone succeeds in provoking you,” Epictetus said, “realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation.”
He meant that whatever the other person did is on them. Whatever your reaction is to their remark or action, that’s on you. No one can make you angry, only you have that power. Someone can certainly say something offensive or stupid or mean, but no one can make you upset—that’s a choice.
This is worth remembering always (it’s also a theme we talked about in our recent podcast with Robert Greene where he discussed why people—on the left and right—are so easily triggered when they hear things they disagree with). You shouldn’t give away your power over yourself. You shouldn’t let others bait you. You shouldn’t allow yourself to be provoked. But most of all, you can’t blame them if that happens.