In this series of blog posts I attempt to translate the Moral letters to Lucilius by Seneca into modern English.
Letter 11. Accept involuntary responses
Is it possible to have complete control of your emotions, at all times? To look and act as though nothing is bothering you? I don’t believe that it is.
No matter how hard you try to regulate your emotions, some are outside of your control. Take embarrassment, for example. It leads to blushing which is a normal response which you can’t suppress. Blushing is usually caused by an unexpected event but sometimes just the thought of being in a certain situation sparks a reaction. Take speaking to a crowd: if this idea pops into your brain you may shake or sweat because you’re nervous of a future event. No amount of training, discipline or experience can stop it. Or, come to think of it, create it. What do I mean? Well, actors can’t switch blushing on at will; they have to copy the physicality of the emotion itself, which is just a façade.
Even if you could manage control your emotions most people would perceive this to be unnatural and inhuman. They would feel uncomfortable in your company. You would be trying to stop something which instinctively everyone has to do.
In signing off I have a piece of advice. Who are your role models? When know who these people are, consider how would you act and what would you do if they were always next to you? I’m guessing you’d act differently, and maybe even better? Try this idea out and perhaps others will admire you? Who knows, over time they may even decide that you are a role model yourself.
Read the original text here.
I recommend you read all of the most influential Letters in this new Penguin Classic book. It is the best translation, in my opinion, because it captures Seneca’s humour and style. It is also the easiest to read. My copy is full of highlighted lines, margin notes and tabs. A treasure chest of profound, practical advice which you can apply immediately.
Warning: this is not an academic text; it describes a hands-on philosophy of life. Discover powerful, instantly helpful wisdom. The complete guide to a improving your day-to-day activities, thoughts and actions.