Daily Touch of Inspirations

February 15th: Only bad dreams

Ryan Holiday, The 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living

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, Meditations, 6.31

The author Raymond Chandler was describing most of us when he wrote in letter to his publisher, "I never looked back, although I had many uneasy periods looking forward." Thomas Jefferson once joked in a letter to John Adams, "How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened!" And Seneca would put it best: "There is nothing so certain in our fears that not yet more certain in the fact that most of what we dread comes to nothing."

Many of the things that upsets us, the Stoics believed, are a product of the imagination, not reality. Like dreams, they are vivid and realistic at the time but preposterous once we come out of it. In a dream, we never stop to think and say: "Does this make any sense?" No, we go along with it. The same goes with our flights of anger or fear or other extreme emotions.

Getting upset is like continuing the dream while you're awake. The thing provoked you wasn't real- but your reaction was. And so from the fake comes real consequences. Which is why you need to wake up right now instead of creating a nightmare.

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The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom Perseverance and Art of Living

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