Apatheia in Stoic philosophy is a calm state of mind where one’s composure is not disrupted by negative emotions. It is most assuredly not indifference or apathy but rather serenity, inner tranquility. It is the ability to stay cool, calm, centered, and collected no matter what.
Easy to say, more challenging to achieve. How do you create a space between stimulus and response? Well, counting to ten is great but even doing that requires a certain preliminary level of awareness/self-control. I have found that developing introspection and greater self-awareness through journaling has helped tremendously. The habit of regularly reviewing the day, reflecting on where I’ve stumbled and fallen short of my best self, is a powerful practice. I frequently think through alternative scripts, more compelling phrases, more diplomatic words, different, more empowering perspectives and then visualize myself responding at a higher, more effective level.
More than most anything else, I want to be effective, to not “spin my wheels” or act in a not smart way. Thus it is powerfully motivational to remind myself that angry outbursts and other negative emotions or outlooks are basically out and out self-sabotage i.e. dumb. I am many, many things but dumb is not acceptable to my self-image.
One of my ongoing mantras is “Calm is my new Superpower”. Another affirmation springs from my father being one of the steadiest, most self-possessed, patient people I’ve ever met. I tell myself to “channel” my dad, that his DNA runs through me and I can choose to be more like him. It works too; just dwelling on my dad and what a wonderful father he was instantly alters my emotional state.
“The mind is like water. When it’s turbulent, it’s difficult to see. When it’s calm, everything becomes clear.” – Prasad Mahes
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you but make allowance for their doubting too…” – Excerpt from “IF” by Rudyard Kipling
“The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom. It is the result of long and patient effort in self-control.” – James Allen. ‘As a Man Thinketh’
As always, I share what I most want and need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier