This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Daily Stoic" by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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How do your emotions affect your circumstances? How do they impact your well-being?
In The Daily Stoic, Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman argue that getting in touch with your emotions is an important aspect of living a virtuous life. For the Stoics, clear thinking leads to well-regulated emotions and is negatively affected by unregulated emotions.
Read more to understand why getting in touch with your emotions is so important.
In Touch With Your Emotions
The Stoics understood that emotions are an inescapable part of life, but they argued that they can become an obstacle on the path to virtuous living. So, it’s important to get in touch with your emotions and recognize the impact they have. The authors describe two ways emotions can be an obstacle to a virtuous life.
First, wrong thinking can lead to emotional suffering. The Stoics believed anxiety comes from desiring something outside of your control. If you bear the basic division of control in mind, you can avoid anxiety.
(Shortform note: Psychologists agree on this point, asserting that anxiety comes from mistakenly believing we can control things we can’t. To become aware of this, they suggest you try to affect the outcome of events by deliberately worrying. If you try this, you’ll soon recognize that worry has no effect on anything but your mental well-being. They caution, however, that there are some circumstances we can control—our choice to eat well, for instance. Psychologists agree with the Stoics that we need to take responsibility for the things we can influence and resist the urge to worry about the things we can’t.)
Second, emotions can cloud your thinking. Anger, for instance, can affect your attention and your judgment, causing you to fixate on the object of your anger and assume bad intentions where there are none. To the authors, Stoics view anger as an unproductive emotion that never leads to the best outcome. Such emotions undermine your clarity of mind.
(Shortform note: The Stoics saw anger as an unproductive emotion, but they didn’t view all emotions this way, as many people assume. They believed that the skilled Stoic is free from bad feelings but enjoys good feelings. Bad feelings are irrational—caused by impressions about things we mistake to be good or bad (such as sex or loss) that are actually indifferent. These feelings (broadly categorized as desire, fear, pleasure, and sorrow) cause us to misunderstand life. Good feelings, by contrast, follow from a correct view of life: From this vantage point, we experience joy, volition (intent to do what’s right), and caution (in response to legitimate evil, such as cowardice). These are the emotions Stoics aspired to experience.)
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Daily Stoic summary:
- Insights from ancient Stoic philosophers on how to live a good life
- Stoic practices you can follow on a daily basis
- Why you should think about death more often