Protect Your Mind As Much As You Protect Your Body

Welcome back to Mid-Week Meditations, Lifehacker's weekly dip into the pool of stoic wisdom, and a guide to using its waters to reflect on and improve your life.

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Welcome back to Mid-Week Meditations, Lifehacker's weekly dip into the pool of stoic wisdom, and a guide to using its waters to reflect on and improve your life.

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This week's selection comes from Epictetus in Enchiridion (28). He asks why we don't value our mind's protection the same as our body's:

"If a person gave your body to any stranger he met on his way, you would certainly be angry. And do you feel no shame in handing over your own mind to be confused and mystified by anyone who happens to verbally attack you?"

Here's another version:

"If a person gave away your body to some passerby, you'd be furious. Yet you hand over your mind to anyone who comes along, so they may abuse you, leaving it disturbed and troubled - have you no shame in that?"

What It Means

This question that Epictetus asks is in the form of a mini thought experiment. If you were walking along and somebody took your body and did whatever they liked with it, you'd be angry, right? So you do your best to keep people from touching, grabbing or moving your body unless you authorise it.

But for some reason we don't usually exercise such stalwart defences when it comes to our minds. We hand our minds over to anyone and anything that comes along, be it an advertisement, a politician, a social media post, the news, or just a stranger who wants to put us down and disrupt our day. Doesn't that bother you?

What to Take From It

There are so many things out there that distract us, confuse us, make us doubt ourselves, get us angry, and push us in directions we never intended to go. This is because we let it happen. We choose to let those things in and affect us, and this is the unshakeable basis of stoicism itself.

Granted, it isn't easy to just block everything out. We have to battle against our own instincts and biology to do that. Still, we can all stand to defend our minds a bit more. Every day, think about ways you can guard your inner self from the never-ending onslaught of persuasion. Learn to recognise what an attack on your mind looks like - from something as small as a superfluous distraction to something bigger such as a villainous acquaintance - and, once a day, say to yourself, "No, I'm not letting this in." The same way you'd slap away an unwanted hand trying to grab your body, slap away an incursion on your mind.

Your body and mind are the only two things you'll always own as long as your alive and coherent. No matter what, you always need them both as they are you two most valuable possessions. Why not defend them equally?

You can read all of Enchiridion for free here.


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