Marcus Aurelius invites me today to think of my problems like bad dreams I can wake up from.
“Clear your mind and get a hold on yourself and, as when awakened from sleep and realizing it was only a bad dream upsetting you, wake up and see that what’s there is just like those dreams.”
— MARCUS AURELIUS
When something keeps me up at night, is it real? Stoics believe that our fears and worries are imaginary, and that there is no reason for them to exist. But how can that be?
In many cases of my life, I would encounter certain situations that would cause me to overthink a lot of things.
- I said something which I should not have said, now I’m worried about how people think of me.
- I did something which I should not have done, now I’m worried about the consequences.
Are those worries not real?
As I reflect upon this, I am accepting it the statement to be true. And that what we conceive as problems are merely figments of our imagination.
- When I’m worried about how people think of me, I’m imagining that people would be annoyed or feel offended, and would no longer want to associate with me. But if what I said was free from wrong, or if I mispoke and I acknowledge my wrong, do I have a reason to fear their impression of me? I can’t control how people think, so why should I be bothered, their opinions matter not as long as I live with in reason. If I transgressed, I will apologize, and if I am not given forgiveness, then it is out of my power to pull that forgiveness and I must accept that and move on to things I can change.
- When I’m worried of the consequences of my action, I will only takes steps to erase what I have done, but in most cases I can’t and I would just end up digging a deeper hole for myself. This gives the importance of thinking before I do something, so that I don’t have to deal with the consequences. And if I make a mistake, I have to live with it. I should not burden myself with the stresses of worrying about it.
My worries are not real, and I simply conjured them up with my mind just like a bad dream. So when I feel worried, I am dreaming and I need to wake up. By seeing the absurdity of being deeply affected by what is not real.