When I first came across stoicism, it felt a lot like advice that asks you to be a rock and not feel anything at all. To be unperturbed by all things life and just exist. It seemed so very unreasonable to me and I have ever since dismissed all things stoicism. Not only because it didn’t make sense to me, but because it also presented advice that felt harsh and unacceptable to me.
A very similar experience was with Robert Greene’s work on power and laws of human nature. It seemed rather absurd to me and some guidance, certainly immoral and unethical.
Recently though, I have been exploring emotions with much more curiosity. I’ve started looking at authenticity and acceptance with a more open mind and I’ve realised that somewhere, we ourselves dismiss large parts of ourselves and refuse to feel certain emotions. As is known popularly, as “our shadow”, I’ve realised how much of ourselves we self-reject. We do not even allow a lot of our emotions and thoughts to come to the surface and hence live in constant denial and rejection of ourselves.
It is almost as if we accept only the one half of us which seems acceptable to us. That is such a miserable and skewed way of living life! In this mad pursuit of “perfection”, we view ourselves with a filter, judge ourselves and are extremely harsh on ourselves for simply being human.
I’ve come to acknowledge the many sides and shades of me that I had suppressed deep down because of conditioning, judgements (both of myself and the world around), and the fear of acceptance. I’ve realised that what Robert Greene, Nicholas Taleb and Seneca talk about is not to be cold-hearted, mean human beings, but only to accept ourselves for who we really are and incorporate that into our being. It is not about expunging, dismissing or suppressing emotions but domesticating them within us and embracing them as a part of us.
If you’re curious, check out more about “shadow work”, Read Robert Greene’s “Laws of human nature” and Taleb’s “Antifragile”.