How should we act when people around us are panicking?
And how can we avoid panicking ourselves?
Panic gets us nowhere,
as it is a state of emotional turmoil
during which our rationality is thrown overboard.
So when we’re faced with a wide variety of opinions,
the strong language of influencers,
and decisions based on fear and greed,
it can be difficult to find direction and maintain course.
But during times of mass hysteria,
it’s essential to use our capacity for rationality.
From a Stoic point of view,
our decisions should be based on facts and logic,
and our actions have to be in the interest of the common good.
In times of hardship,
it’s not an unnecessary exercise to fortify our minds with philosophical ideas,
So we don’t slip into the trap of panic.
Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius had some valuable insights
on how to strengthen the mind,so we don’t deviate from the right path.
Now, let’s start with the second question
as it paves the way to answering the first one:
How can we avoid panicking ourselves?
To navigate our minds back into tranquility,
it is important to become aware of the nature of what we are panicking about, and also the reasons why we panic.
In his meditations, Marcus Aurelius mentions
that no matter what happens,it’s something that has happened before.
When we are ruled by the issues of the day, we lose sight of the bigger picture.
So, what unfolds in the moment may seem totally new and alien.
所以 当下出现的事可能看似崭新 陌生
In a way, this is true,
because nothing that happens now takes place in the past.
However, when we look at historical accounts
we see that they are filled with the same old, same old.
我们会发现 它们全都是老一套 老样子
Marcus Aurelius shifts the paradigm
by pointing out that life is simply history repeating itself.
So, we could say that we experience the same archetypal storylines
over and over again,
just with different characters and in different formats.
Lost all your money?
Millions of people are going through the same thing as we speak,
and have been in the past.
Is the world ravaged by the plague?
We had the Spanish Flu, the Black Death, SARS, MERS.
我们遭受过西班牙流感 黑死病 非典 中东呼吸综合症
Humanity has gone through many different crises,
individual people have faced a lot of hardship in their lives,
there have been good times and bad times,
and we have gone through peace and war.
History taught us
that this mechanism never as long as we exist.
It is simply life manifesting the same patterns.
Everything is transient, like yin and yang.
So, why do we panic when it’s just another manifestation of the same?
那么 既然一切只是同一模式的不同表现 我们为什么会恐慌呢？
Probably because the thing we panic about
disguised itself as something unprecedented,
it triggers our fear of the unknown.
While, in reality, it has happened many times before.
What’s new and scary now, will be old and familiar tomorrow.
That’s because we are adaptable creatures
who can change along with the transient nature of the universe.
So, to keep a cool head when things around us start to change quickly,
we might want to repeat the following quote by Marcus Aurelius:
“No matter what happens, keep this in mind:
It’s the same old thing, from one end of the world to the other.
It fills the history books, ancient and modern,
and the cities, and the houses too.
Nothing new at all.
All comes down to seeing things as they are, as much as possible,
and doing the right thing, based on rationality and not based on fear.
Thus, in a crisis,
we ought to prepare but not overdo it.
Especially when it undermines the community.
Marcus Aurelius emphasizes repeatedly that we should work together,
and act conformably to our own nature, and the nature of the whole.
Or as he puts it: “to do what the community needs done.”
When we panic, we are often inclined to act unintelligently
and in ways that only make things worse,
or overlook the things that actually need to be done.
That’s why it’s essential to keep calm in the face of adversity
because if we don’t we can screw things up.
In the case of a virus outbreak, for example,
instead of trying to be the hero of the day,
it’s probably much better to simply stay at home.
Also, we may want to keep in mind
that the media are companies motivated by profit,
So they recreat and filtrate reality by constantly focusing
on certain topics that attract attetion
When we expose ourselves to the media all day,
we become deluded,
because we start to believe
that there’s nothing else going on in the world besides disaster.
And this is not true.
So instead, it’s better to focus on our direct environment
(something that we can actually influence)
and see how we can do something beneficial.
Thus, don’t try change the things you cannot change.
Instead, give your grandmother a call.
Now, when it comes to dealing with panicking people,
staying calm in the herd is much easier
when our own faculties are strong.
If we are determined
and don’t let ourselves be carried away by our irrational thoughts and emotions,
we become towers of strength that are immune to all compulsion,
like, for example, the cravings for toilet paper.
Even when world leaders act irrationally,
and the things they say don’t make any sense,
or when hostility and violence dominate the streets,
and people scream bloody murder,
Marcus Aurelius would probably advise us to not engage,
and to calmly do what the situation asks of us.
I quote: Let them scream whatever they want.
Let animals dismember this soft flesh that covers you.
How would any of that stop you from keeping your mind calm
reliably sizing up what’s around you
and ready to make good use of whatever happens?
At the end of the day, what the people around us are doing is not up to us.
If they feel that panic is the answer,
we can only change their minds
if they’re open to alternatives.
But when they aren’t, we’ll only waste time trying.
In such cases,
we are better off preventing ourselves to go along with their panic,
so we maitain our inner peace
The tranquillity that comes when you stop caring what they say. Or think, or do.
Only what you do. Not to be distracted by their darkness.
To run straight for the finish line, unswerving.
Thank you for watching and be kind to each other.
How should we act when people around us are panicking?