I’m now reading the chapter Applying Stoic Methods from Derren’s book Happy. From the applications so far I resonated the most with ‘Don’t add to first impressions’. Derren busts our “clear-sightedness” and calls it for what it really is. We decide what truth is from a place of insecurity and then we find evidence for that truth everywhere. With our interpretations and embellishments we make matters so much worse for ourselves.
I told earlier how I have been invited to visit the beautiful ladies in my new home village. I have so far visited three of them, and a couple of weeks ago there was a meeting where all the other ones, who I haven’t had the change to visit yet, were present. One lady who had invited me in over a month ago, asked when I would pay that visit. I answered that probably during the following week.
I didn’t take that question just as a question “When are you coming to visit me?”, but as her reproach of my impoliteness. My additions to that question were feelings of hurt and disappointment from her part and the feelings of guilt and pressure from mine. I felt that I had hurt her feelings by not making more of an effort to visit her during those weeks. I also had my premonitions of what I would hear when I finally would meet her.
I was adding to that question my own inner judgements that I had been making against myself. I was blaming myself for being selfish for not taking the time to visit everybody who had said that I could pop in. The more time passed the more pressure I felt to pay those visits. The fact that I had been sick with a flu and really hadn’t felt like I had the energy to be socially active was totally ignored by my inner critics.
Later I had the opportunity to express to this lady the fact that I had been sick and that I wouldn’t have been the best company if I would have visited her. I noticed her facial expression changing and I took it as a sign that I had been right, that she had thought negatively about me before my explanation of the situation. But it made me also think about the fact that SHE had been adding to the story of my absence.
It’s difficult not to add to first impressions. Derren recognizes that it’s hard “to sit back quietly if something is playing on our minds.” But now that I have this piece of advice, when I notice that I am making interpretations or embellishing stories, I have the choice to accept that the things aren’t within my control and decide that they are fine. Her feelings may or may not be hurt, but they aren’t under my control, and therefore I can choose to see the situation being fine.