The Philosopher Epictetus on Loss

Epictetus was a Neoplatonist, a philosophy that was basically Stoic but made more palatable to those who shunned the label.  He was highly influential on the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius.  He is often called the New Socrates, and many of his references to the pagan philosopher in his Handbook are replaced with references to Saint Paul.  His works went quiescent for several centuries until Friedrich Nietzche revived him, demonstrating Christian Slave morality was better than Christian nobility.

Men are disturbed, not by things, but by the notions that they form concerning things.

Socrates-1- (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Death, for instance, is not terrible, else it would have appeared so to Socrates who had to drink his own poison. The terror instead, consists in our notion of death, that is bad and terrible.

Therefore when we are hindered, disturbed, or grieved, let us never attribute it to others, instead place blame neither on others nor on himself but acknowledge that this happens, and that is it. Troubles are part of life and must be accepted as that without anger, vehemence or cursing. All of these things are detrimental to one’s own soul,  and not to the thing that is hurting us.¹

So it is important not to demand like a child that things happen as you wish, but instead, accept that they happen as they do happen, and you will go on well. Never let it disturb you otherwise you are giving it more power than it deserves.


  1.  This I first heard from all people, President Richard M. Nixon, was said that was one of the main tenets of his Quaker upbringing.  I have found that pearl of wisdom helpful throughout the years.  Viktor Frankl in his magnificent book  “Man’s Search for Meaning” on his years Auschwitz.  Download it here.

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