The power of the mind and our ability to control our mind as rational human beings is a central focus of the philosophy of Stoicism. Being able to look at the world from multiple perspectives and seeing events beyond our singular point of view combine with self-awareness to give us the ability to choose how we will react to the world, as opposed to putting us in a place where we are pushed around by the world. Marcus Aurelius dives into aspects of this philosophy throughout his book Meditations, leaving us with bits of knowledge that we can use to overcome obstacles and challenges that spring up in our daily lives.
Aurelius’ writes, “that not one of them produces in us an opinion about itself, nor comes to us; but these things remain immovable, and it is we ourselves who produce the judgements about them.” In this quote what the emperor says is that things and events on their own have no impact over our lives and do not somehow force themselves on our brain in a way that changes our thought. It is our observation of things and events and our interpretation that creates an impact on the way we think, and we have the power to change our perspective, change our opinion, and determine whether or not something makes a difference in our lives. Stoicism takes power away from things, other people, and events, and places it back on the rational faculties of our mind.
Failing to recognize this power, Aurelius would argue, is abandoning our own power and giving it to forces beyond us. It is the act of sacrificing the faculties of our mind and deciding that we do not want to be the ones who are ultimately in charge of our reason and our lives. When another driver does something that you find annoying or frustrating, allowing yourself to become so angry is a choice, allowing another human being to control your conscious mind. Becoming overcome with desire for a certain item can take away the power of your mind to control your desires and wishes, and place the control firmly with an inanimate object that does not know or care that you have great desires for it. Instead, Aurelius’ quote encourages us to recognize the emotions, desires, and impulses of our brain and to work to manage the faculties of our mind so that we are in charge of our thought processes. By knowing our thoughts and accepting our reactions we can learn about ourselves and begin to decide how we will act and react, and we will become true stewards of our lives.