As I said in my last post I am re-reading The Antidote. It starts with the modern, popular approach to happiness. The simple technique of picturing the positive, seeing thing going right, and the by doing this you can magically make what you want to happen, happen. The problem with this is that when things don’t turn out you end up feeling even worse than when you started.
Stoicism on the other hand has you picture all the things that could possible go wrong. It prepares you for the worst case, ever if the worst case doesn’t happen. In fact, most of the time it doesn’t. But it also doesn’t have you floating along on this rosy cloud of positive thinking where everything is going to be ok, only to have that cloud disappear and you find yourself plummeting to earth with nothing to stop you, because you were not prepared.
I’ll use an example of what I am going though right now. I fell a couple of months back and really damaged my left leg, foot, and ankle. I have been to an Orthopedic Doctor, a Podiatrist, and a Neurologist. I’ve had X-Rays, Blood Work, MRI, EMG (electromyogram), and Nerve conduction studies.
Now I could have gone the “Positive Thinking” Route – which means that before each of these doctor’s visits or tests I’d be saying to myself “Everything is going to be just fine.” and “The tests are going to show nothing is wrong” or “The doctor is going to say I’m going to be better in no time”. As just standing on my left leg feels like someone running it over with a truck this was a little hard to do.
So I choose the Stoicism Route. After the fall first came the X-Rays and Orthopedic Doctor, so worst case broken bones, cast and maybe surgery which also meant hospital. 😦 You can image my happiness went I was told no broken bones, no case, no surgery, no hospital. Next came the Podiatrist and the MRI – worse case – torn tendons, surgery, hospital. This time I didn’t get as much happiness but I was prepare and relieved when it turned out that I had 5 pulled tendons, 1 partial torn tendon, and a bone bruise. Still no surgery or hospital but I have to stay off my leg as much as possible, keep it elevated, wear a brace and use a cane. I did get some happiness out of getting a Handicap Parking Permit so I can park in Handicap spots. Next came the Neurologist, EMG, Nerve conduction studies and next week a MRI of my spine. Since the fall I have lost feeling in my toes and skin, no Diabetes. But the EMG required them to stick me with needles – which brought up thoughts of blood and passing out – I didn’t. I went in to the EMG and the Nerve study prepare for nerve damage. While it wasn’t as bad as I was prepared for it to be – I have Neuropathy and damage to my sensory nerves in my feet and hands (I burnt my fingers with hot water and didn’t even feel it, it was scary). That is why I’m getting a Spinal MRI next week. Scary worse case there is more nerve damage in my spine, surgery and hospital, there is no fix and it keeps getting worse, or they don’t find anything but I’m still in constant pain. What ever it is I’m prepared, and I’m not coming out of all of this devastated because it was trying to think positively – basically every was going to be ok – and it isn’t.
This only one example of how if have been using Stoicism, there are more. It is amazing how much more you can cope with, deal with, do when you ask yourself “what is the worst that can happen?” and realize that you know what if that does happen you’re ok with it.