Cutting through Suffering

Delusional. That’s what she called me. A total stranger, in a comment on Facebook. As an admin, I was able to delete her comment (and others similarly hostile directed toward others). That helped a bit. Still her comment stung somehow.

I finally got myself off the procrastination wagon and out the door to the farmers market. That’s when I noticed how I was ruminating about that comment. Delusional. Just like the many other things I have been falsely accused of. Child abuse even. Was that why that hurt so much? It was as if she had inadvertently pulled off a scab. I noticed that I was close to tears. Curling up in bed and crying seemed very attractive – except that I was on my way to the farmers market.

I’ve recently become interested again in Stoicism, so I wondered what a Stoic approach would be here. All that talk about proto-passions and passions seemed somehow relevant but very elusive. What I really wanted was someone to hold me, comfort me, and tell me that I wasn’t delusional. And there was no one. Cue loneliness thoughts…

Then I was at the farmers market and focused on what to buy. Oh! Kiwis! Yes! Ach, more chard… Why can’t I find sugar snap peas?!? Okay, I’ll just get more chard.

On my way back, I had somehow gotten more distance from the other thoughts to remember that what the Stoics suggest is to sit down and take things apart, break down the incident into its components and try to do that as objectively as possible. So what had happened? Someone had used the word delusional in a comment in response to one of my comments. My mind then added all the other stuff: The interpretation that she was calling me delusional (which, having stepped back, I had to admit wasn’t completely clear, she might’ve called someone else’s reaction that), conjuring up memories of all those past hurts, equating being by myself with not deserving love, etc etc etc. All the sudden it became clear that I had created most of the suffering. Yes, there had been a pinprick but my mind added all the other arrows.

That totally shifted everything! I also noticed how some other mind plays had made me more vulnerable: Thoughts that I hadn’t made fully conscious were subtly shaming me. Including the accusation that I am stupid because I can’t remember what I’ve learned in the past (“Why do you have to get into Stoicism?!? You already know what to do!” – funny how mind turns its own obstruction into an accusation). As I was bringing them out into the light, I was able to see them for what they were: Just thoughts, not The Truth.

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