Monday, July 20, 2009


"What disturbs a person is not the situation, but the view the person takes of the situation."

This is not my conclusion, but my take of a conclusion drawn by the Greek, stoic philosopher, Epictetus, who lived nearly 2,000 years ago. Despite the millenia have passed, his wisdom appears to apply aptly to the decisions that people make in their everyday lives. Yet, many individuals have convinced themselves that they are indeed disturbed by situations and that they have few, if any choices, in how they deal with situations.

I have found through the years that many people believe that they have little to no choice in many matters of life. However, in reality, we almost always have more choices than we believe and oftentimes we have choices available that we have never considered.

One common situation is that we sometimes tell ourselves that we have no choice in a decision or situation because we have no options, or perhaps only one, which which we like or feel comfortable. However, the truth is we almost always have other options available, but have discounted them because of their undesirable consequences.

So what's the big deal about feeling we have no choice in a situation? When we view situations or circumstances as forced, we oftentimes will feel trapped, frightened, angry, resentful, or out of control of our life situation. By simply realizing that we have choices in every circumstance, we can oftentimes feel much less anxious, sad, angry, or frustrated. This is accomplished not by changing the situation, but by only changing our perspective of the situation.

The simply stated, though not always as simply executed idea, first proposed by Epictetus, is the foundation for many approaches psychologists use in helping people who get stuck in uncomfortable or troubling life situations. Understanding and applying this idea can provide realization of the choices and an improved sense of control and freedom.

Please feel free to send me comments or questions on this or any of my other blog postings.

---R. Timbrook, Ph.D.