For those of you unfamiliar with the dignified and harsh doctrine of the Stoics, here is an excerpt from the ENCHIRIDION of Epictetus. I also recommend the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Epictetus was a manumitted slave; Marcus Aurelius was an emperor. Both employed philosophy in its correct use, not in mere verbal disputes about metaphysics, but to learn the consolation of how best to live in adversity and pain.

1    Of things, some are in our power, and others are not in our power.  In our power are thought, impulse, will to get and will to avoid, and, in a word, everything which is our own doing.  Things not in our power include the body, property, reputation, office, and, in a word, everything which is not our own doing.  Things in our power are by nature free, unhindered, untrammeled; things not in our power are weak, servile, subject to hindrance, dependent on others.  Remember then that if you imagine that what is naturally slavish is free, and what is naturally another’s is your own, you will be hampered, you will mourn, you will be put to confusion, you will blame gods and men; but if you think that only your own belongs to you, and that what is another’s is indeed another’s, no one will ever put compulsion on you, no one will hinder you, you will blame none, you will accuse none, you will do nothing against your will, no one will harm you, you will have no enemy, for no harm can touch you.

2    Aiming then at these high matters, you must remember that to attain them requires more than ordinary effort; you will have to give up some things entirely, and put off others for the moment.  And, if you would also have office and wealth, it may be that you will fail to get them, just because your desire is set on higher matters, and you will certainly fail to attain those things which alone bring freedom and happiness.

  3     Make it your study then to confront every harsh impression with the words, “You are but an impression, and not at all what you seem to be.” Then test it by those rules that you possess; and first by this—the chief test of all—“Is it concerned with what is in our power or with what is not in our power?” And if it is concerned withwhat is not in our power, be ready with the answer that it is nothing to you.

  4     Remember that the will-to-get promises attainment of what you will, and the will-to-avoid promises escape from what you avoid; and he who fails to get what he wills is unfortunate, and he who does not escape what he wills to avoid is miserable.  If then you try to avoid only what is unnatural in the region within your control, you will escape from all that you avoid; but if you try to avoid disease or death or poverty you will be miserable.

       Therefore let your will-to-avoid have no concern with what is not in man’s power; direct it only to things in man’s power that are contrary to nature.  But for the moment you must utterly remove the will-to-get; for if you will to get something not in man’s power you  are bound to be unfortunate; while none of the things in man’s power that you could honorably will to get is yet within your reach.  Impulse to act and not to act, these are your concern; yet exercise them gently and without strain, and provisionally.

    5    When anything, from the meanest thing upwards, is attractive or serviceable or an object of affection, remember always to say to yourself, “What is its nature?” If you are fond of a jug, say you are fond of a jug; then you will not be disturbed if it be broken.  If you kiss your child or your wife, say to yourself that you are kissing a human being, for then if death strikes it you will not be disturbed.

  6    What disturbs men’s minds is not events but their judgments on events.  For instance, death is nothing dreadful, or else Socrates would have thought it so. No, the only dreadful thing about it is men’s judgment that it is dreadful. And so when we are hindered, or disturbed, or distressed, let us never lay the blame on others, but on ourselves, that is, on our own judgments.  To accuse others for one’s own misfortunes is a sign of want of education; to accuse one­self shows that one’s education has begun; to accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete.

  7    Be not elated at an excellence which is not your own.  If the horse in his pride were to say, “I am handsome,” we could bear with it.  But when you say with pride, “I have a handsome horse,” know that the good horse is the ground of your pride.  You ask then what you can call your own. The answer is—the way you deal with your impressions. Therefore when you deal with your impressions in accord with nature, then you may be proud indeed, for your pride will be in a good which is your own.

  8    Ask not that events should happen as you will, but let your will be that events should happen as they do, and you shall have peace.