We were raised with the idea that our emotions are what define who we are. Let me explain. We are conditioned to believe, that if we constantly feel scared, for example, you’re a ‘coward’. You feel overwhelmed by any challenge you may face, and you are ‘weak’. This is a great mistake and one of the biggest realizations I’ve ever had. What you FEEL in the moment when living any situation is something is based on emotion. If you have acted cowardly, or strong, or any other way based on the first emotions that came to you, it doesn’t mean that these emotions are ‘who you are’.
The first emotions you feel when in a new situation cannot be controlled. Whatever you feel in that moment is not you. How you react and the actions you take whilst feeling these emotions are what define who you are. Someone who claims to not be afraid of, let’s say, a ghost for example, is not braver then the man who is, but controls this emotion and shows himself strong in its face. A man doesn’t control whether he fears the ghost. He controls not showing letting this emotion manifest and otherwise paralyze his actions.
So why do we let emotions define who we are?
We as people change all the time, but the more we feed ourselves this preconceived notion of ‘self’ based on our current emotions and limitations, the more we delude ourselves and become stagnant in our previous way. For, as the stoics say, the human maxim and the truth of the universe is rationality, and if we listen to our emotions and listen to our visceral, emotional response to problems, people or situations, we stray from nature and our logical nature. What I mean by this is that man is the rational animal, and should exercise rationale in all his endeavors. To live based on emotion is the way of women, and should not be pursued by any man. For emotion is a deceiver, it is not our rational state, it clouds our judgement. The passion of youth (especially young bachelors) when it comes to depending on emotions to tell us right from wrong and what decisions to make is a mistake.
When should you leave your passions and emotions unchecked?
There is, like anything in the world, a time and a place for emotion. Visceral, raw emotion should be expressed only in combat, a fight, in sex (which in some ways is the same) and in poetry and art. So sex, art, and combat are the three activities that passion and emotions can and should be left unhinged and unchecked, but apart from these, seldom does a man do well to let go of his rationale. While he reads, he writes, he interacts with enemies or friends, a man must always exercise rationality. Emotions are fleeting, which is why listening to them and believing they define your character is such a fallacy. If you feel greater for for the future it doesn’t mean you’re a coward! You don’t control what you feel, you only control how you react to said feeling. It’s easy to just let these passions tell us who we are (no I don’t do those things, I’m scared of them) but this isn’t conducive to anything productive for you.
‘What should we do with these emotions? I don’t want to be a robot!’
Emotions can be controlled and subdued, a main principle of the stoics. For if man pursues peace with god, which in itself is the pursuit of reason, virtue, and self improvement, then how is following blind emotions achieving anything productive for a man’s life? it doesn’t. And this may sound harsh, but it’s a truth young men must learn. To dominate others, one must first dominate himself, and this self mastery is the most difficult of the bunch, because emotions hit us in our deepest, darkest and most vulnerable places. So how do you control your emotions in such a way? it’s not simple. First one must come to peace with god, realize our futility in the face of nature, and cultivate what we can with what we have to build and create a better world focused on the maxim of reason. This sounds like really deep stuff, but bear with me.
To do this, one must also follow a personal code of conduct that leads to virtue: They’re a moral set of rules he considers sacred and that serve as a beacon and definition of his character. He must have tremendous faith in god and/or nature (god and nature being the unchangeable and powerful elements that compose the universe),and that god has already bestowed upon him the tools to face any trauma, loss, or adversity he may be facing at the time (‘I have the tools necessary to continue to live a happy and full life, so this I accept and will move forward’) and a deeply calculating and discriminatory mind. For if a man controls his thoughts, and aligns them with his beliefs and his desires, he will achieve a mental fortitude capable of subduing negative emotions.
By subduing emotions, your calculating and purposeful mind is called to action, so as to avoid stagnation and to move towards the goal which serves you best at the time. Failure, rejection, loss, all these are paralyzing and difficult things that awake a mass array of emotions within a man’s heart. But only through introspection, philosophy, arduous cultivation of the masculine can man truly find the answer to these hardships and develop a mindset which will help him defeat the rise of useless emotions. For only the purposeful thought is virtuous, and this is what we as men must pursue. This doesn’t mean be devoid of passion; that’s a boring man that I wouldn’t want to get to know. But he must know how to keep them in check, else he’ll be defined by them and his negative feelings will lead him to a self fulfilling prophecy of stagnation and limitation. Don’t let that happen to you.