Premeditation Of Evils
January 28, 2023
I am struggling with some issues at work, and I am trying to think positively, telling myself that everything will ok. But whatever I do, there is a voice in my head telling me things will go wrong, and I feel stressed. What must I do?
This is what a mentee of mine asked me once.
What my mentee asked me was not something new or unique. I had also faced this same issue many times.
There is some challenge I am going through, and my mind struggles with a fear of things going wrong. At some deep level, my mind knows that the challenge I am going through cannot be wished away by positive thinking. Therefore, even though there is a conscious part of me that wants to be and tries to be positive, somewhere, unconsciously, there is a gnawing sense of anxiety that takes CenterStage, refusing to go away.
Reading up on stoic philosophy, I found an answer to this predicament. It is an idea the famed Stoic philosopher Seneca called “Premeditation of evils.”
Premeditation of evils is the complete antithesis of the idea of Positive thinking.
Positive thinking is the effort to convince yourself that things will turn out ok. But unfortunately, sometimes, when you are facing a challenging situation where there is high uncertainty about whether you can overcome the challenge, the more you try to convince yourself that everything will be ok, the more likelihood there is that you are subconsciously building a belief that it will be absolutely terrible if things didn’t go well. This is the root cause of why you feel anxious and fearful despite trying to consciously think positively.
Premeditation Of Evils
Premeditation of evils, in contrast, is the conscious process of thinking in great detail about the worst that can go wrong. It is the process of taking your fear to a logical extreme. What is the worst-case scenario? Facing up to the reality of the worst saps your mind of its anxiety-producing power. The anxiety we experience stems from the imagination of something going wrong. The moment we face up to the sober details of what can go wrong and accept the worst, the very thing gnawing at our subconscious is rendered powerless.
So, the guidance I gave my mentee was simple. You can’t cheat your mind. The challenge you seem to be going through is real. What is the worst that will happen if what you are fearing happens? Figure that out and tune your mind to be ok with the worst instead of resisting it. The more you imagine the worst and decide to be ok with it, the less anxious you will feel.
This is the philosophy of the Premeditation of evils.