* 4 min read
You see an email from your manager with something like, “we need to talk tomorrow!” Your girlfriend pulls the same line, “we need to talk!” You missed a promotion. Or about to lose your job and waiting for the official email to inform you. There are endless examples that trigger your brain to race. And, some negative words have powerful effects on your emotions. They trigger negative responses in your body immediately. These words could be said verbally, as in a phone call or written on email, a text message, or on a Facebook post. Your brain will not stop thinking. I know this feeling.
Situations like these are common in everyday life. Our mind attaches to them. We cannot stop thinking about them. Thinking puts our mind on a never-ending mental treadmill. It raises our blood pressure. It increases our stress level. Eventually, it gets us frustrated and upset. Worst of all, we are forming a habit, an automatic response, and it will be so difficult to break this habit.
The mind is a superb instrument. It programs itself constantly and continuously. It has the capability of destroying us. It takes us over. It uses us. In the words of Erik Tolle: “It’s almost as if you are possessed without knowing it.”
External events, words, or circumstances affect our brain. They assault our brain. We will never be able to stop external attacks on our brain. But, minimizing the impact of external attacks on our brain is main reason of this blog.
I learned two ancient techniques. One technique is from Epictetus – a slave, and the other from Marcus Aurelius – a Roman Emperor. These two techniques have stood the test of time, and they work for me, and help me get stronger. I am exercising their techniques in everyday situations and events. When I say, “I exercise them”, I do mean it like lifting weight. I mean it like I am training my body at the gym. I take advantage of every mental discomfort: negative words spoken to me, undesirable events, or adverse circumstances, and I use them to train my brain to resist negatively thinking and reacting to it.
First technique is from Epictetus (AD 55 – 135). He is a Stoic philosopher, born in Greece, and lived in Rome. Epictetus used a negative example to generate a negative imagination. Here is what he said:
“Don’t surrender your mind. If someone were to casually give your body away to any old passerby, you would naturally be furious. Why then do you feel no shame in giving your precious mind over any person who might wish to influence you?”
Read it few times, and think about it. It poses a question: Will you surrender your body for someone to abuse it? No, allow me to take it further, will you surrender your body to be raped?
NO! Absolutely not!
Then, why do you let people rape your brain with their words, events, emails, text, Facebook messages…
If any words tend to upset you, try not to get upset. Remember Epictetus in this example, you are giving your brain away to be raped. Would you want that? I will not allow anyone to rape my brain. I know it is difficult. I’ve failed many times, but I am triumphing more often now.
The second technique is from Marcus Aurelius (AD 121 – 180). He was a Roman Emperor, and a practitioner of Stoic philosophy. He said:
“Choose not to be harmed – you won’t be harmed.
Don’t feel harmed – and you haven’t been.”
It is my choice to allow an email, word, or circumstance to affect me or not.
Some emails…words…circumstances do!
But I put forth my greatest effort to press on the “mental brakes” of my mind and remember two things: Will I allow this email to rape my brain? I will exercise my will power to choose not to be hurt.
As I build my physical strength with every repetition using weight lifting, I am building my mental strength with every situation. I will not allow anyone to rape my brain with words. I will choose to not be harmed by words!
Remember, the brain rewires itself and breaks the old habits, and emotions. We can train our brain to rewire itself to a new reaction – a reaction that gives us more tranquility.
Finally, please don’t simply use these quotes in your dialogue, or post them on Facebook. It is not about a “game”, making others read your posts on social media. It is about memorizing them and implementing them in our lives. It is about remembering them when we encounter a situation that triggers our brain to go into hypersensitivity drive!
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