“… When you are given love, it is not yours. The love that is given to you in the present, does not mean that it is given to you all the time. So, when it is given to you, it doesn’t mean it can’t be taken away from you. ”
“The main lesson in love is controlling emotional involvement in every action.”
“Treat love independently so that when it goes away, it will not feel like it loses where it belongs.”
Heartbreak is hard for most people. The prompt to “move on” was like a sprinkling of salt on a wet wound. How long does it take for a person to finally get used to the pain? Here, the philosophy of stoicism provides treatment options for those whose wounds never dry out.
Love in Stoicism
Stoicism is a philosophical view which aims to achieve a peaceful life. Peace or happiness, by stoicism, is seen as a state of calm and detached from anxieties, worries, or other feelings that build burdens and problems in life. Stoicism teaches us to distinguish what is “up to us” (what depends on me) such as life goals, perceptions, or considerations, and “not up to us” (what is not dependent on me) such as other people’s opinions, self-image, or natural disasters. By understanding both, humans are taught to realize that there are things beyond human control that can cause disappointment, and humans are taught not to depend on things beyond their control (!). Then what should humans do to deal with “conditions” beyond that control? The answer is to apply wisdom.
“It is not things that disturb us, but our opinion of them” –Epictetus
The emotional situation that humans feel does not come from their external situation but from representations, opinions, and/or human misjudgment of a condition. To negate reality only makes it difficult for people to accept their condition.
Likewise, when you are given love, it is not yours. The love that is given to you in the present, does not mean that it is given to you all the time. So, when it is given to you, it doesn’t mean it can’t be taken away from you. As stoicism suggests as to be reasonable, in love, a man should not lose his rationality. Realize that other people are not in our control. Regarding your partner, everything they feel and did is their control, not us.
When facing love, a good stoic can clear the boundaries between what happens and what affective response needs to be given. A person’s tendency to choose a response in relationship problems is usually based on the outburst of emotions they feel at that time. They ignore the review of the cause-and-effect. A stoic will withdraw from unnecessary emotional involvement so that they do not get caught up in unwanted representations. The main lesson in love is to control emotional involvement in every action.
“… Future love does not exist. Love is a present activity only. The man who does not manifest love in the present has not love. ” –Leo Tolstoy
We are often socialized about true love which ends in eternity, but unfortunately this is only exist in fairy tales of princesses and princes. Like a teacup or a pot, when it breaks, we will realize the loss, and this is actually a normal thing. Epictetus advises us to be ready to face the loss and to replace the broken teacup. This is the basic human life cycle, meeting, loving, and separating. The attachments created by love are fine, but keep in mind that excess attachments lead to feelings of disappointment. Treat love independently so that when it goes away, it will not feel like it loses where it belongs.
Stoicism trains us to be used to terms with temporality, even, those we love the most may disappear from eternity, and when that happens, we will be left with the “irrevocable joy” that previously entered our lives along with their former self.