The Dichotomy of Control

I’m in a better emotional state than I was from my last post: An Analysis of My Recent Situation  written a couple of months ago. I feel very proud of myself for allowing the insight of two special individuals concerning my confirmed metamorphosis. Noticing my struggle one of my life mentors (that sounds about right. That’s what I’ll call my two go-to people), referred me to William B. Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy which is based on a branch of Hellenistic Philosophy particularly Stoicism as taught by Epictetus. Whew! That was a mouthful.

In recent years I have been unconsciously, and most recently consciously working on myself in regards to increasing my quality of life. I’ve been removing myself of material pleasures and separating from the feelings of insatiability due to constant desires of things that I’m either not ready for or that are not in my control. I probably wouldn’t have worded that in that specific way before reading this book, but I’m happy that I am able to point to something tangible in a sense.

Before I dive into my reflection on the Dichotomy of Control chapter and the techniques to becoming invincible I will, in my best terms, describe Epictetus. Epictetus is a Roman Stoic Philosopher from like over a thousand years ago. His philosophy was this: analyze the why of life. He was an early Cynic or had Cynic principles/lifestyle before being described as a Stoic. He had two requirements for his students: 1 – wanting to benefit from philosophy (meaning he didn’t want no half-assed efforts from them because this was a lifestyle to be taken seriously) and 2 – understanding what a commitment to philosophy entails (meaning the student had to be aware that philosophy was not a joke, that he/she needed to take this seriously in order to make life worth living and to find purpose). His ideal pupil is someone who will be satisfied if he can live untrammeled and untroubled. I had to look up untrammeled; it means not deprived by freedom of action or expression; seeks to be tranquil and free from turmoil. His belief was that students of his should be leaving his school feeling bad about themselves because treatment likely to cure a patient is also likely to cause discomfort. Here it is again: treatment likely to cure a patient is also likely to cause discomfort. He taught dialectical lessons (e.g. examining yourself) and the art of living, what your cosmic scheme role is, and to live out the functions of being a human.

Here is what the dichotomy of control is: it is to ask ourselves if we concern ourselves with things external to us or things internal? A Stoic reflects and looks for the benefit and harm that comes from within himself. A Stoic gives up the rewards the external world has to offer in order to gain tranquility, freedom, and calm. Part of working to become a Stoic is to change our desires – to not be frustrated by what we cannot attain in order to decrease anxiety about whether or not we will get what we want. Some things are up to us and some are not up to us. For Epictetus it’s foolish to spend time thinking on things that are not up to us because they’re not up to us and worrying about them is futile.

So, what IS up to us? According to Epictetus opinions, impulses, desires, aversions, and our goals are up to us. What is NOT up to us? Possessions and reputation. Internal versus external controls. Internal goals affect our external performance. Our goals have an impact on our emotional state. Internalizing goals leads to preserving our tranquility. We have control of our values and having such control we choose the genuine value of things and be indifferent to things that lack value.

How does this all apply to me and what I’m going through? Oh, it applies perfectly- in my personal life as much as it does in my work life. All of this goes back to what is in my circle of influence. What are the things over which I have complete or some control? I have control over how well and efficient I do my job by doing the proper research, applying the knowledge I’ve gained so far, and to always have and ask questions. I have control over my career goals and the focus I place on achieving those goals. I don’t have control over the perceptions people around me have, but I have the satisfaction of knowing I worked hard and did my best.  I have complete control of my character and how I carry myself. Knowing that much leads me to tranquility and a life free of anxiety, anger, and sadness. So, what about my personal life? I don’t have control over whether people will love me the way I want them to, specifically my s/o. I do have control over treating him well, and loving him the best way that I can. I also have the control over ending something I no longer want. I don’t have control over his feelings or actions, but knowing that I did my best for him and by him that should lead me to tranquility. I have control in maintaining relationships by paying attention to them and continuing to appreciate them by using the Negative Visualization technique of a Stoic. I have some control of my financial situation. I can save and manage my spending, but I don’t have complete control because there is the unexpected rainy day. I have control over the things I place value in and that has shifted from the material to intangible experiences. I want to be at peace and not have to stress over what I don’t have. Remember this post? I Have A New Favorite Quote  One of my quotes is: Happiness is Wanting What You Have Not Having What You Want. Wow! I’ve been a Stoic without even knowing it.

The thing that for a while I wanted to make people listen to me. To listen to my ideas and make them change. Pretty much I was forcing my ways onto people and then I was angry and frustrated because no one was buying into it. Then I re-focused on just “doing me”. Putting my ideas into action for me. The results started to speak for themselves. I had questions on how am I able to manage my time so well? How is it that I know the exact status of every action? How is it that I can reply with the right references and resources in a timely manner? How is it that I’m able to live so far away from my familiar friends and family and explore new things and places without needing to be with those familiar to me? How have I not lost myself by living on my own so far away? All of these things come naturally when the focus is re-centered to things that you can control. It’s not easy, it’s something that takes time, but I’m glad that unconsciously the new me was going through that process. Maybe it was the books I was reading. Maybe it was my Main Mommy, Christina P. Maybe it’s the universe aligning itself for me. Maybe it was my awareness of self. I just wonder and hope that those struggling to find tranquility find it soon. I’m still working on it and still reading The Guide to the Good Life and looking forward to the other techniques.

Below are some episodes from one of my favorite Podcasts: That’s Deep Bro with Christina Pazsitzky. Listening to her has been an awesome experience so far and she never fails to make me laugh on each of her episodes. The below relate to the above and the philosophy of what it all means to be Me (i.e. You).

  • Episode 43 What do you really, really, really want?
  • Episode 36 Find Yourself Then Get Over Yourself
  • Episode 29 Expect the Unexpected and Whenever Possible Be The Unexpected
  • Episode 27 The Illusion of Control
  • Episode 20 Compassion, Anger, and Control with Dhaya Lakshminarayanan



I Have A New Favorite Quote

To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift. – Steve Prefontaine


That’s my new one. Here are my original three:

Perseverance is falling 19 times and rising 20.

Happiness is not having what you want; it’s wanting what you have.

Nunca dejes de sonreír, ni siquiera cuando  estés trsite, porque nunca sabes quien se puede enamorar de tu sonrisa. -Gabriel Garcia Márquez

The last one translates to: “Never stop smiling, not even when you’re sad, because you never know who can be falling in love with your smile.”

Recently I’ve been influenced greatly by someone who’s becoming dear to my heart- professionally and perhaps personally. He’s full of great advice and showing great mentorship towards me. From the bottom of my heart, it’s greatly appreciated.