Epictetus was a Greek philosopher, but he spent much of his life as a Roman slave. We don’t know exactly when he was freed, only that he became famous. Despite being a slave, he focused on the pursuit of happiness and well-being. In this article we share some quotes from Epictetus about suffering.
They helped him and we’re sure they can help you too! Epictetus was part of Stoicism, a philosophical movement. Therefore, when he talked about happiness, he called it eudaimonia , something you achieve through actions that align with your core values, as well as a deep level of commitment.
Epictetus and his quotes on suffering
1. How you talk to yourself matters
The first quote about suffering mentions two things most of us do unconsciously. The first is the negative way we talk to ourselves and the second is the story we create from each experience.
For example, you have just had a conversation with a stranger. After the conversation, say to yourself, “I acted like an idiot and said stupid things. I really don’t know how to behave around other people.” It wasn’t the conversation that caused your suffering. It is your inner voice.
It’s important to be self-aware and pay attention to how you talk to yourself. Learn to recognize when you are distorting reality so that you can be more compassionate with yourself.
2. You can’t control everything
Often we suffer and feel bad about not being able to control everything. For example, your boyfriend is in an abusive relationship, but doesn’t see it himself. You may feel powerless and suffer because of this, after all, you love this person. However hard you try, you can’t stop him from making his own decisions.
The most important thing is to remember that some things simply cannot be controlled. You can determine your own course of action, but not that of others. Recognizing and accepting this will save you a lot of suffering.
3. What people say about you
This quote is about the importance we attach to what others say about us. You have to be reasonable about these things. If someone speaks badly of you and he is right, then you should change your behavior. Sometimes someone else’s words can help you solve problems you hadn’t noticed.
If, on the other hand, the other person is wrong, the best thing you can do is try to make things right, but you also need to know when to stop. Don’t care about things you know aren’t true.
Someone who feels hurt by these kinds of things may get comments like, “If it weren’t true, it wouldn’t bother you either.” So it’s important to see the humor in it.
4. Opinions and problems are contagious
This too is one of our favorite quotes about the suffering of Epictetus. Often you can’t choose the people you have around you, for example colleagues or classmates. This means that you need to be alert and determine whether you will allow yourself to be infected by their attitudes or thoughts.
Being surrounded by negative people can give you a very pessimistic view of the world without even realizing it. By being aware of this, you can prevent these people from infecting you with their problems and opinions.
5. Distance yourself in the face of adversity
This last of the quotes on suffering teaches us a very wise lesson. When we think about the problems of others, we often see a clear solution or do not see them as the end of the world.
Let’s go back to the example of your boyfriend who is in an abusive relationship. You’ll probably see the solution right away: “Why doesn’t he just give up?”
But if it’s you experiencing the problem, the solution is much harder to see. Often this causes you not to act at all. At such times, Epictetus suggests that we step back from the problem for a while and try to look at things as if they were happening to a good friend or sibling.
A good way to do this is to ask yourself, “If this happened to someone I love, what would I tell them to do?” Visualizing this and saying the first thing that comes to mind will give you the answer you need.
These quotes about the suffering of Epictetus act as bright spots in the dark and help you see things much more clearly. If you stop holding on to your suffering, it will eventually go away on its own.