A few days ago, I suffered sudden emotional pain. I tried to understand the sadness, and I realized that maybe, I feel betrayed.
Now, I could have called up the person, abused them, and told they are selfish and all that jazz. Instead, I wrote myself a poem on bravery.
It gave me some courage and strength. I can’t help being human, though. I still had bits of that feeling on the day, but I tried not to pay attention to it.
We all have such negative moments in our lives when a friend speaks behind our back. Else, the love of your life doesn’t turn out so lovely.
Now, you could feel bitter about it. Then, confront the person and hurl abuses at them. Else, try to make them pay for it by playing back their game.
Guess what, though?
You aren’t Popeye to have an insatiable appetite for bitterness (you know how spinach tastes like, right?)
I will tell you a more straightforward way (sans the spinach) taking help from my thick and bushy mustache friend Friedrich Nietzsche, and toga-wearing Stoic dudes from Rome.
In fact, I have been so influenced by these fellas that I wrote a song ‘Amor Fati’ on the philosophies. You can see my band performing it live at the end of the article.
Let’s begin with how I tended to judge people, and how it has led me to understand the kind of person I am.
Deal with betrayal and hurt the Epictetus way: “If only they knew”
I subconsciously judged and discounted people around me in two ways:
1. I like them and discount their flaws (while secretly abusing them for not trying to change).
2. Else, I try to discount their strengths because I hate them, anyway.
I repeatedly fall back to such irrational behavior. However, I don’t speak it aloud (because you can’t make everything evident in the real world).
Now, here comes the funny bit. I’m slowly and steadily coming to terms with myself.
It ain’t pretty.
I realize how I was full of myself. I see how my enthusiasm distracts me and comes back to bite me in the ass. I can see how I break my own trust by failing to keep the promises I make to myself. I have insecurities and fears that delay my actions.
God damn it:
Stop smiling because so are YOU.
What’s my point?
Well, you and I are human, and so is everyone else.
We have glaring biases that prevent us from clearly listening to our mothers. We act like puppies seeking validation from our friends. We try to find patterns everywhere.
Goddamnit, one of us bought a 10-year half-eaten grilled cheese sandwich for $28,000 because they saw an image of Virgin Mary on it. And even after indulging in everlasting stupidity on a daily basis, we hold our beliefs cozily in our laps and let our egos speak.
Instead of hitting back your friends with insults, you can take cues from this Epictetus dude below.
He didn’t like to take himself seriously. Here’s how he replied when his friend criticized him.
If that person really knew me and my flaws they’d have said something much, much worse.
Does that ring bells?
See nobody knows of your acts behind the closed doors. Exclusively you know about:
- your flaws and unhealthy habits,
- your unfiltered thoughts and feelings,
- the ugly secrets of your life.
It’s highly unlikely your inner life is half as bad as what people say about you – only you know how fucked up you are.
It only makes sense to let people off the hook and go easy on them using the simple exercise: ‘If only they knew.’
A couple of examples of how the exercise might look in action:
- If only they knew I hate wet bathroom floors, then they wouldn’t go easy on my contempt of vanity,
- If only they knew I like my coffee bitter, then they would have not been so bitter with their insults.
Instead of trying to minimize such opportunities to criticize you, what if you still get the feeling of ‘why me?’
See, dude, we aren’t finished with stoic philosophy yet.
Now, let’s look at how to accept misfortunes (instead of crying like a baby). We turn towards German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche for the same.
Amor Fati: The Nietzsche formula for human resilience and greatness
The world is unfair in terms of opportunities and talents.
However, you don’t need to search for quotes on bad luck to satisfice your rage.
When you are faced with adversity, then you can take help from Nietzsche’s enthusiastic idea: Amor Fati.
It’s a Latin phrase that means ‘love of fate.’ It calls for accepting everything in your life as it happens with determination and enthusiasm.
It means that you don’t use filters to view your past. You don’t highlight the happy moments and wise decisions. Instead, you hold them in equal regard to the ‘bad’ events and your terrible mistakes.
Now, you might think that the concept of Amor Fati is impractical, inhuman, and stupid.
However, hang on with me.
See, it’s inevitable that at some point in life, you will go through the unchosen experiences of betrayal, hurt, and unfairness.
When you embrace such moments as you would your happier times, then the challenging events suddenly start shaping you. You bounce back from the obstacles in your path quickly and get back in a peaceful mind state to approach everyday life with more clarity.
You can’t change the worldly events around you. Hence, doesn’t it make sense to change your mindset on handling them? I guess that’s your only option, anyway.
You are selectively choosing to invest your energy, time, and emotions where you have control.
Next, when shit hits the fan:
Either you can continue to crib about the injustice that has happened to you.
Or you can do the unnatural bit of finding peace with the challenging circumstances and try to make the best use of it. Love destiny in the way Nietzsche recommended it.
In fact, in these efforts, our memories are constructive in nature and on our side. On recalling an adverse event, you can turn it into a funny episode. The intensity of the affect associated with a negative memory fades faster than a positive memory. It’s the Fading Affect Bias (FAS).
“I hope that you will suffer betrayal…And I wish you bad luck”
Those were the words of Supreme Court Justice John Roberts. He had this rather unconventional advice in the commencement address to his son’s graduating class.
Here is an excerpt (emphasis mine).
Now the commencement speakers will typically also wish you good luck and extend good wishes to you. I will not do that, and I’ll tell you why.
From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty.
Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted.
I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either.
And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship.
I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion.
Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.
And hey, here is my song, Amor Fati (the lyrics have been modified by the vocalist).
Your feedback is welcome in the comments below.