The Stoics weren’t robots.
It wasn’t that they stuffed things down, or that they didn’t feel anything. How could that have been true? They were husbands and fathers, wives and daughters. They wrote beautiful works of art. They took principled stands. They told jokes. They worked hard and they sacrificed.
None of these achievements would have been possible for an unfeeling person. Yet, it’s undeniable that the Stoics talked extensively about the management of one’s emotions. They talked about conquering their temper. They talked about overcoming grief. They talked about quenching lust and dispelling fear.
It’s a paradox, but quite a wonderful one. At least, it is in Marcus Aurelius’s expression. He explains at the opening of Meditations that he learned from his teacher Sextus “Not to display anger or other emotions. To be free of passion and yet full of love.”
So there it is! It’s not that the Stoics had no temper or had no fear. It’s that they controlled those emotions and replaced them with love. They loved their fate (amor fati), they loved other people, they loved every minute they were alive.
Indeed the Stoics were not unfeeling, it’s just that they felt this love so profoundly that it overwhelmed the other, pettier emotions—the rage, the fear, the pain, the desire.
Love. Love. Love. That’s the key. That’s what you replace anger with. That’s what you replace it all with.
For a physical reminder to help you replace anger with love, get your own Amor Fati medallion to carry in your pocket everywhere you go.. And for more Stoicism-based guidance that will teach you to control your emotions and not let your anger get the best of you, sign up for Daily Stoic’s Taming Your Temper challenge. It’s 11 days of exercises that will help you cope with your anger, create new habits to break out of the anger cycle, and more. Sign up now.