In colloquial terms, the word stoic often refers to an emotionless or indifferent response to a fraught situation. That’s not what stoic thinking is. When your train pulls away from under your nose or someone else gets a job you wish you had, a primary emotional response is understandable.
Stoic thinking is especially used when that primary emotional response lingers. Trains never run on time and now suddenly they do, those who are on the train are suckers who are on a platform too early, the NS employee who walks there can’t do anything either. These kinds of thoughts magnify the primary emotion and easily set your mood. Which in turn can determine how you react to a fellow passenger who asks you for directions.
Why are you mad?
The art of stoic thinking is to ask yourself why you are angry. Is there anything to learn from that? Maybe you blame yourself for leaving home too late because you were gaming? Or that you had to find a book that was lying somewhere in your cluttered room?
The sober, analytical view helps you out of an emotion that lasts unnecessarily long. That can help you with issues that you can solve to avoid setbacks. Thus, you can even be thankful for a trial, love that one, because you came out wiser.
Of course there is setback
On an average day, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter traffic jams or delayed trains, someone’s trying to steal your money with a scam, there’s a bad apple in the pound you just bought, neighbors are putting their rubbish in the have not cleaned up the shared hall, that someone is aggressive in traffic or two passers-by chuckle at your colorful sneakers. Some days more than others but none of this is special. None of this will make the news. However?
The same goes for your new job or new project. There will be a delay. A team member will interfere. A supplier will promise something and not keep it. Support from your manager can turn into a critical attitude.
It helps to consider what can go wrong before a project. What is the worst case? What can go wrong? It is actually naive not to think about it and therefore not to be prepared for it.
This can also help concretize and rationalize a vague fear or tension. Suppose you are going to do a presentation on which a lot depends. You are very tense about that. More tension than the healthy competition tension, which can actually help you to be fit and alert. What’s the worst that could happen? What can you do about that? Very often, even the bleakest scenario is not so bad: you certainly won’t be fired or thrown out of the room with jeering laughter. This allows you to bring the emotions back to normal proportions.
Do-it-yourself cognitive therapy
One of the exercises from Tuitert’s book is the ABC’s. That’s something Albert Ellis has made known in his practice and books. Ellis extends the ABC with DE, as in the example below.
- An Action leads to a Consequence. For example, someone who is too careful and who is a perfectionist dreads a presentation to a client.
- The Action leads to that Consequence because of a Belief, a belief that is valuable but sometimes becomes too absolute. In this case, for example, this presentation has to go well, otherwise I’ll go all out and I can’t show myself anymore! Fine to have some stage Hospital Mailing Lists fright and to take a presentation seriously, but this form is paralyzing.
- You can then say: don’t worry, so choose a different Consequence, but that usually makes little sense. The link between Action and Consequence is usually a pattern. And it’s kind of thin advice to just say, “Don’t worry.” It is more interesting to enter into Discussion with that Belief:
- Is that true for everyone, that it has to go well? I’d rather do it, but it can’t always go well.
- Will everyone really be mad if things don’t go so well? No, don’t get angry.
- Will that customer really walk away if things sometimes go rough? Well, probably not, but friction.
- Have you previously given a lesser presentation with such dire consequences? Not that.
- Or heard that from others? Also not.
- If all goes well, this discussion will lead to Energy: the beliefs are valuable but not as absolute as they have become in your head. A nuanced belief leads to energy.
In other words, you put a Belief between Action and Consequence. Then the Discussion with yourself leads to Energy.
Don’t flee in positivity
In recent years there has rightly been a lot of attention for positive psychology, as a result of which psychologists study how success works, which makes employees enthusiastic in addition to the classic attention for dysfunction.