“We must give up many things to which we are addicted, considering them to be good. Otherwise, courage will vanish, which should continually test itself. Greatness of soul will be lost, which can’t stand out unless it disdains as petty what the mob regards as most desirable.” — Seneca, Moral Letters, 74.12b-13
The most important tenet of stoicism is control. We must focus on what we can control and simply disregard what we cannot control. In theory, this sounds very simple. But in reality, life gets in the way, mainly in the form of addictions. By definition, addiction is something we don’t have control over. How can we work on developing a stoic mindset if we lose control over our actions? And that is why the stoics warn us against addictions. And they don’t just mean addiction to alcohol or drugs. While these are certainly two of the most dangerous and life-destroying addictions, there are many smaller yet insidious addictions. We get addicted to junk food, TV(or various streaming services would be more apt now), social media, games, our smartphones, and so on. These seemingly innocuous things start as a “once in a while” kind of things but because they make us feel good, and we are always running toward what makes us feel good mistaking it for happiness, these soon become things we focus most of our time and energy on. As David Goggins would say, these feel-good things make us soft and we start to live our lives running away from difficult things. But Seneca reminds us that we must not let these addictions ruin us. We must seek discomfort as it would make us more courageous in life. Only by doing so, our soul can find its true greatness again.
This article is a part of my Stoic Musings challenge, inspired by the book “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman, where I take a quote from the book and reflect on it, every day.