Emotional dis-regulation might be the opposite term one could use for Stoicism. I’ve lived most of my life without acknowledgement to my dis-regulated emotional state. In my teen years, emotional dis-regulation could be seen on most days. This dis-regulation often misinterpreted as just being a teenager. As teens are often moody, impulsive, and emotional. It was a convenient front being a teenager, as everyone assumed I was behaving normally. As a child I can remember being so upset at times that I required a paper bag to breathe into just to help with hyperventilating. This happened many times. Again, the excuses were she just needs to calm down, she is just sensitive. Being a shy little girl, I was unable to communicate properly about the things I was feeling. This made it easy for others to believe I was fine. I still at times get almost to the point of hyperventilating when I experience an event that I have perceived as negatively emotionally-charged, or I perceive I am being blamed. I have moments where I feel my entire person has been hijacked and is now under someone else’s control. This is the danger of being highly emotional and highly reactive to your situation/s. You become subject to reacting without logic, thus leaving the person feeling like a puppet being manipulated by someone else. If I am not in control, then who is?
The stoic philosophy says that one shouldn’t react but rather look at the situation as something that you can not control. The only thing that you do control is your thoughts and your reaction in that moment. The stoic philosophy reminds one to stay mindful, in the present moment. Not to worry about the future, but educate yourself that tragedies and challenges are sure to be expected. That one shouldn’t take this personally as each of us are being challenged.
Understanding this philosophy has helped create some control for myself. I have been able to halt an impulse, as I consider the way in which I can be better received. It is my way of having some control in every situation. It alleviates the constant push and pull that we often feel when dealing with difficult situations. It’s understanding that you do hold some power, but that this power is limited to just your own actions and responses. Once you try to push your power onto something or someone else it is no longer a power, but a wasted effort or wasted breath. You then push everything out of balance and something may fall apart. In my experience the thing left falling apart would be me.
If you think about yourself as a lightbulb, it might help explain my understanding of this philosophy a little better. A lightbulb’s main function and purpose is to produce light, to lift darkness. Some may say that your light isn’t bright enough, others may say it’s too bright. Stoicism says, it doesn’t matter what others say, as long as YOU are shining as brightly as YOU can. That is all you can control. You don’t control where you are placed. You don’t control when your power is cut off, or how long you should last before your light burns out, but you can do your best knowing that you did your best at what you could control, and be happy that you were able to shine your light. This thought is so soothing to me, I honestly feel it has helped my anxiety more than my anti-anxiety meds.
I have several roles I fulfill on the daily, who doesn’t? My life is not so different from most. I am a daughter, I am a sister, I am a wife, I am a mother of two, I am a teacher, I am a friend, etc. we could list the roles for a little bit longer I am sure of this. The beauty with stoicism isn’t to compare your role to that of another, it’s to ask yourself while on a said task, fulfilling specific roles, are you genuinely focused and completing the task to the best of your ability? This has changed my daily life in a huge way. When I find myself doing something I don’t particularly care to do, the complaints cease and I am left repeating the question, is this the best I can do? Which leaves me doing a much better job and feeling the intrinsic reward of completing something at my best.
I am just starting this journey, practicing and learning stoicism. Hopefully the question is answered in my progress. I do hope someone with BPD can become a stoic. Have an empowered day, knowing that you can only do your best and that is more than enough.
* if you are on a similar journey please share your thoughts/feedback on stoicism in the comment section. Have a mindful day!
**Wanted to include a huge thanks to @dailystoic and @stoiccoffeebreak for wonderful podcasts! Thanks for stirring good thoughts and inspiring and motivating me to change the things I can control. Check out their podcasts if you are learning on the stoic philosophy.