The Ultimate Stoicism Training With Epictetus – Part 1

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LAW #1

Things in our control: opinion, attitude, desire, pursuit, aversion – our own actions. Things not in our control are body (genetics), reputation, other’s opinion – not your own actions. If you use what belongs to others as your own, then you’ll be disturbed and hindered.

But if you accept what belongs to others as theirs, no one will ever compel you or restrain you. Further, you’ll find fault with no one or restrain no one. No one will hurt you –  you will have no enemies.

If you both try to attain this mentality along with power and riches, then you will not gain even the latter, because you aim at the former too: but you’ll absolutely fail at the former, by which alone happiness and freedom are achieved.

Say to all appearances, “You are but an appearance, and not absolutely the thing you appear to be.” and if it concerns anything not in your control, be prepared to say it is nothing to you.

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My Analysis

I believe, Epictetus wrote the most profound and “hard to achieve” law of the book as the first one: separating yourself from externals.

There is no complete man in this regard. However, when you clearly understand what is up to you and what is not up to you in life, you end your emotional sufferings in life.

Living a life, free from destructive emotions (anger, depression, jealousy) gives you a peaceful and stable life which we all actually yearn for.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.


– Serenity Prayer

Epictetus also mentions money and the stoic mentality doesn’t go hand in hand. I do believe this statement is biased since he was a slave most of his life. If managed well, a life of riches can be a life of happiness as well (Seneca was a famous stoic who was very rich.)

At the end, It comes down to something I always say

“It is not the gun that kills the man, but the murderer himself.” 

As to the appearances, from what I’ve gathered and experienced – the most innocent looking is the most dangerous of all.

While it is true that we all wear masks in the social realm – whether on our faces or over our hearts – the mask is generally contrast to what is actually deep within.

If one is shy, they puff up their chest. If one is insecure, they act arrogant. If one is silent, they yearn to speak. Never completely trust appearances – they always deceive the naive.


LAW #2

He who fails to obtain the object of his desire is disappointed, and he who incurs the object of his aversion, wretched. Therefore, you confine your aversion to those objects which you have in your control, but if you are averse to sickness, death, poverty, you will be wretched.

Remove aversion from all the things that are not in your control. For the present, totally suppress desire; for if you desire any of the things which are not in your control, you must necessarily be disappointed.

My Analysis

The key takeaway is not to desire feverishly and averse the inevitabilities of life.  Some philosophers argue that desire is what makes humans – well humans.

However, when we are intensely absorbed in an activity, we seldom think about the desired object, right?

The desire for future object or person, in its purest form, comes from an intense boredom and discontent of present moment which manifests itself often in our society.

Nowadays, most people have the means to live but have no meaning to live for. As for the aversion of death and sickness, it is like getting upset because of rain and thunder. It is supposed to happen.

You’ll occasionally get sick and at the end, we’ll all die. The faster we come to terms with our mortality, the more “discontent employees” will quit their jobs.

Pause and take a look at the things you desire and fear. You act like immortals in all that you desire and mortals in all that you fear.



With regard to whatever objects give you delight, are useful, or are deeply loved, remember to tell yourself of what general nature they are.

If you kiss your child, or your wife, say that you only kiss which are human, and thus you’ll not be disturbed if either of them dies.

My Analysis

The wine is only grape juice. The sauced red meat is only animal flesh. A king is only a man with a crown. See the person, not the myth.

You lost your wife and kids, worry not – you’ll endure the tragedy for they are only mortal humans. Through the experience, remember your mortality.

 When finished grieving, you can always try again.

Life gives you more than one lemon, but you only have to make one glass of lemonade. Even if you miss every time, have the courage to start everything all over again – because you only need to succeed once.


LAW #4

When you are going about any action, remind yourself of what nature the action is.

If you are going to bathe, picture to yourself the things which usually happen in the bath. Thus you’ll safely go about this action.

If any hindrance arises, you’ve already been there, done that.

My Analysis

When you talk with your father, speak while armed with the knowledge of his tendencies. If he tends to get mad, expect so.

If he tends to shout, expect so. If he tends to stay silent, expect so.

You are only a fool if you get angry and resentful every time your father reacts negatively. The past is there for a reason.

Identify the tendencies of others, fully expect them and see that the emotion of anger miraculously disappears.

Remember: nothing happens to a wise man against his expectations.


Men are disturbed, not by things, but by the principles and notions which form concerning things.

When we are disturbed, grieved or hindered, let us never attribute to others, but to our own principles.

An uninstructed person will lay the fault of his own bad condition upon others. Someone just starting instruction will lay the fault on himself. Someone who is perfectly instructed will place blame neither on others nor on himself (but only on his principles)

My Analysis

When we do wrong, most people usually blame other people. That’s why most say “for every finger you point towards others, there are three fingers pointing back at you”.

But how true is this? Are you to blame here or your principles that you operate on? Your thoughts about how to act and behave, what is right and wrong, shapes who you are –  your character.

What happens when you blame yourself? Nothing. Therefore, blame your bad strategies. Take a good hard look at your thought patterns. The error is not you, it is in your notions. That’s where you should focus on.


Don’t be prideful with any excellence that is not your own. The horse says “I’m handsome” – Supportable.

But when you are prideful and say “I have a handsome horse” – know that you are pride of what is in fact only the good of the horse. Always be proud with reason, take pride in something or some good of your own.

My Analysis

Most parents take pride in their children’s success and accomplishments. This may seem innocent and natural, however, it is no different from taking pride in your horse’s looks.

It is not your own good. Therefore, you gain a false sense of satisfaction – something that you do not intrinsically deserve.



Consider when on voyage, your ship is anchored; if you go on shore to get water, you may along the way amuse yourself with picking up a shellfish or an onion.

However, your continual attention ought to be bent towards the ship, waiting for the captain to call on board, you must then leave all these things.

So it is with life. If instead of an onion or shellfish, you are given a wife and a child, that is fine. But if the captain calls, you must run to the ship, leaving them and regarding none of them. But if you are old, never go far from the ship: lest when you are called, you should be unable to come.

My Analysis

This passage really touched me.

The story is spot on. In a nutshell, Epictetus outlines the life of a man. The main element must be his self-actualization – namely the ship.

All else is extra, things to amuse yourself with. Shellfish and onion are represented as wife and child.

I know, it may sound a little harsh especially since we are living in an era of matrimony and dating sites, but we seldom think about what really matters in the end.

Although Epictetus is not against marriage, he emphasizes the problem with our society.

 Most people have the illusion that marriage will bring them the peace and happiness they are looking for.

Unfortunately after ten years of marriage, you come to see that nothing has changed. On the contrary, your duties have doubled and freedoms halved.

You cannot just quit your miserable job now because you need to feed two more mouths at home. At the end of the day, you feel trapped, unhappy and dissatisfied.

What I’m saying is you don’t have to be that person.

Life deals you the cards, it is up to you to play them well.

Know your life’s purpose. Wake up every day with excitement. Do what you love. It takes a backbone to lead a life you want.

If you take on such a path, I guarantee that your relationship partner will also appreciate you more.

We still have a lot to talk about, however, we come to the end of this article – I have to refill my coffee.

You can continue reading the part 2 here.

If you want to learn more about the importance of presence and its relation to Stoicism, I have some additional resources for you.

What is Enlightenment: A Step By Step Practical Guide

How I Experienced A State of No Thought and Peace: Exactly How It Happened

Stoicism & Buddhism: Similarities and Differences

How Depression Can Induce Enlightenment

If you’ve found value in this article and want more people to learn about Stoicism, don’t forget to share it with a friend.

Consider joining my free email course. There is much exclusive content waiting for you there as well.

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