Epictetus (55 – 135 AD) was a Greek-born slave of Rome in the first century. He became a great philosopher and teacher, and was eventually granted his freedom. Although he didn’t write his teachings, which are based in Stoic philosophy, thankfully, others did. These quotes appeared (in Greek, then Latin) in “The Enchiridion” which was written by Arrian, a student of Epictetus. The quotes are translations from the original and can therefore vary slightly.
Here are some quotes, which suggest that Epictetus had a good handle on what we might today call Cognitive Therapy.
It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.
Try not to react merely in the moment. Pull back from the situation. Take a wider view. Compose yourself.
Consider the bigger picture…..think things through and fully commit!
When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it; you can either accept it or resent it.
Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.
Ask yourself: Does this appearance (of events) concern the things that are within my own control or those that are not? If it concerns anything outside your control, train yourself not to worry about it.
What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them. It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance.
Don’t demand or expect that events happen as you would wish them do. Accept events as they actually happen. That way, peace is possible.
As you think, so you become…..Our busy minds are forever jumping to conclusions, manufacturing and interpreting signs that aren’t there.
No matter where you find yourself, comport yourself as if you were a distinguished person.
Regardless of what is going on around you, make the best of what is in your power, and take the rest as it occurs.
Ask yourself, “How are my thoughts, words and deeds affecting my friends, my spouse, my neighbour, my child, my employer, my subordinates, my fellow citizens?”
Do not seek to bring things to pass in accordance with your wishes, but wish for them as they are, and you will find them.
First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.
If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it be a lie, laugh at it.
Imagine for yourself a character, a model personality, whose example you determine to follow, in private as well as in public.
It is not he who reviles or strikes you who insults you, but your opinion that these things are insulting.
We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.
Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.
What concerns me is not the way things are, but rather the way people think things are.
He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.
Learn to distinguish what you can and can’t control. Within our control are our own opinions, aspirations, desires and the things that repel us. They are directly subject to our influence.
Keep your attention focused entirely on what is truly your own concern and be clear that what belongs to others is their business, and not yours.
Survey and test a prospective action before undertaking it. Before you proceed, step back and look at the big picture, lest you act rashly on raw impulse.
It is not external events themselves that cause us distress, but the way in which we think about them, our interpretation of their significance. It is our attitudes and reactions that give us trouble. We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.
What is a good person? One who achieves tranquillity by having formed the habit of asking on every occasion, “what is the right thing to do now?”
Freedom and happiness are won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control.
When we name things correctly, we comprehend them correctly, without adding information or judgements that aren’t there. Does someone bathe quickly? Don’t say be bathes poorly, but quickly. Name the situation as it is, don’t filter it through your judgments. Give your assent only to that which is actually true.