Marcus Aurelius had a very practical way of looking at the world, and his pragmatism stands out in his book Meditations when he is taking about the ways in which we become frustrated. Rather than allowing himself to be driven by emotions he was able to slow himself down and think about his thoughts and what should be done. This aspect of stoicism helped him see the world in a more wholesome manner, and it can help one reduce stress and overcome points of frustration.
Aurelius wrote, “It is not right to vex ourselves at things, For they care nought about it,” to remind himself that he should not give anything outside of his mind the power to control his mind. In our world of technology I think this idea fits perfectly into our lives. It is not uncommon for a piece of technology (our computers, TVs, wireless routers, headphones, etc…) to frustrate us. When we expect our technology to operate seamlessly, we become very disappointed and sometimes irate when things fail. Allowing ourselves to be overcome with emotion in these situations will not help our devices, and will often lead to worse situations. What Aurelius would argue is that we should never allow an inanimate object to control our life to the point where it can challenge our emotional wellbeing.
When looking at how we should perceive the world around us, Aurelius wrote, “the things which are external to my mind have no relation at all to my mind.” What he is explaining in this quote is that his mind is its own entity and that it cannot be directly affected by anything outside of our heads. We choose how we want to allow our mind to react to the world around us because our mind is in control of itself. When we allow our technology to be the singular thing that brings us joy then we are giving an item control over our brain. When an external event demolishes our emotional state, we are choosing to abandon control of our mind, and we are letting things that do not directly touch our brain to have power over the one thing we absolutely control.
Divorcing ourselves from reliance on things outside ourselves (technology, relationships, activities) helps us to regain control of our faculties of mind. Aurelius would not argue that we should not enjoy the world around us and the point of stoicism is not to avoid any emotional feeling, but we should be able to recognize our thoughts and emotions and adjust our mental framing to be more productive and helpful. We should accept our feelings and understand them, but we should also have the mental control to shape the actions, decisions, and perspectives of our life. When we give things external to the mind the power to direct the mind, we give up our independence and become subordinate to things.