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    You Can’t Keep It From Happening

    Daily Stoic Emails

    When he was starting out in Hollywood, Judd Apatow began to have panic attacks. The stress of rewriting a script. Getting a film in on time. Managing all the moving pieces on a project. He felt the enormity of the pressure and like a lot of us, he took that to an irrational extreme.

    If this movie is bad, he would think, it’s all my fault. He would look around at the actors on set and think to himself, I can take them all down if I don’t make this scene historically great. As he thought those kinds of thoughts, his temperature would begin to rise, his heart would start pounding, and his surroundings would begin to feel like they were closing in on him.

    As Apatow experienced more and more panic attacks, he learned the right way and the wrong way to deal with them. As he says in the book Sicker in the Head,

    “The secret was you don’t try not to have a panic attack, because that makes it worse. You don’t run away from it. You allow yourself to feel it, and you remind yourself that everything will be fine, that nothing’s going to happen. When you try to stop it, it’s like taking a mirror and smashing it on the ground and stamping on the bits and creating a thousand mirrors.”

    The Stoics would say panic, stress, and anxiety are feelings, and you can’t prevent them from happening. And if you try to suppress these emotions, like stuffing junk in your closet, it eventually comes exploding out. The bill inevitably comes due…and with interest attached.

    Stoicism, as we’ve said, is not about suppressing your emotions. That’s not what a Stoic does. A Stoic learns to feel and deal with their emotions. As we’ve talked about, a Stoic seeks out help (here’s our popular video on the topic). As Apatow did, they go speak to a therapist. They notice patterns and understand how they go–and where the offramps are. As Marcus Aurelius did, process things in your journal. Whether it’s panic attacks, stress, anxiety, or some other destructive emotion—you can’t keep it from happening from sheer will or discipline.

    But you can get better at responding when it happens. You can become a better friend to yourself, as Seneca told us to. You can pick yourself back up off the floor and keep going, a little wiser, with a little more perspective than last time.