Seneca’s Counter Intuitive Advice for Anxiety

Some time ago a woman contacted me for online sessions. Her challenge was her loss of joy in life due to a series of health problems and anxiety.

In her own words, often her day would start well but someone would ruin it for her. She would get angry and then sad for not being able to respond to them in a serene fashion. She would feel frustrated because she would start the day with a positive mental attitude but someone would annoy her. She felt vulnerable and didn’t know what to do.

I told her to follow Seneca’s advice. According to this stoic philosopher “We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.” And the solution, according to Seneca, resides in the imagination. For this reason he recommends to start the day imagining the worse case scenarios. We can visualize that several people such as the neighbor, boss driver, colleagues, partner, and others or unexpected events ruin our day. Once we fantasize in our imagination our activities that could go wrong, our mind gets ready for in case it does happen in real life. It’s like vaccinating yourself against unexpected negative events.

Seneca called this exercise premeditatio malorum, which means the premonition of evil.

She decided to give it a try. After few weeks she wrote me this message:

“I write to you to tell you something exceptional! Today after almost four years I went to swim. And I did it! The feeling of immersing my head in the water was like a baptism.

It has been a long time that I wasn’t feeling so good!

I’m applying your advice on a daily basis. I begin to see results. I feel hopeful as well as thrilled. During a long time I had lost both of them.

I wanted to share it with you and thank you again.”

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