Suffering Inside Our Own Mind: Seneca, Perception, and Reality

Hi, reader! Here’s the drift:

A new study from psychologists at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, found that, on average, humans have 6.5 thoughts per minute. If we do the math, that’s around 6 000 thoughts per day.

Now whether you have 6 000 or 60 000 thoughts (turns out, the latter figure may be total BS) is not the point I am trying to make here, which is that the human brain’s bias towards the negative has misled us to make mountains out of molehills one too many times.

To echo Seneca’s words:

“There are more things…likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”

Your mind creates a loop and hyper-fixates on every worst possible thing that could happen, and you suffer up there in your head than out here in the plane of reality, which doesn’t exactly mean that it is less real. But perhaps that it is an unnecessary kind of suffering.

It is exhausting. It drains the life out of us, and since there are infinite ways to suffer in one’s head, catastrophe fatigue eventually sets in.

We forget that problems can be used as cues for creativity. Solutions sound pretty on paper, but they need you to get moving if they’re going to work. Don’t impinge on your ability to live a good life just because of a problem you’re unwilling to have or a solution you’re not prepared to execute. You can do better than that. We all can.

Visuals by Álex Maese

Take a look at the illustration by the clever Álex Maese. I’m sure most of us are looking at this and thinking, “If the stick-man would only get up! It’s really not that deep!”

Think about it, how many of us are sinking in shallow water? Maybe it’s time to get up.

P.s. If you’re looking for a hand to pull you up or a sign, use this.

Couple this article with Nietzsche’s words on choosing to carry on and Henry David Thoreau’s reflection on happiness.