How can we control our anger in the modern
world? Perhaps Seneca’s wisdom can help us.
Seneca was a stoic philosopher who acted as a tutor and advisor to the Roman Emperor Nero.
Back in Seneca’s day anger was seen as a great problem and he even wrote a book called
“On Anger” that offered his advice on controlling the emotion.
Many of us are still prone to losing our tempers today. One of the most common outbursts of
anger these days occur when people interact on social media. I’ve seen many arguments
and angry interactions break out on Facebook, often nearly every time I visit the site.
There are many different types of Facebook statuses that can cause anger – inconsiderate,
rude, discriminatory or simply a differing of opinion being some examples.
So how can Seneca’s teachings help us control our anger when interacting on social media?
You may think there’s not much you can do about controlling your temper, Seneca would
have disagreed. He believed that anger was not irrational and consequently could be solved
by philosophical argument. He said that anger occurs from certain rationally held ideas
about the world. In this case it would be an expectation that everybody behaved politely
and pleasantly when on Facebook. The problem with this idea is that it’s far too optimistic.
Being this optimistic would expect people to behave in a better way. Seneca evaluated
that people get too angry because they’re too hopeful and therefore would advise us
to be more pessimistic in order to be calmer. Whenever a person gets angry they go through
an element of surprise that involves a sense of injustice and self-pity. Seneca would say
that people behaving badly on social media is neither surprising nor unfair and is merely
a predictable feature of modern life. Someone who gets angry about interactions on Facebook
just has the wrong expectations of the world. For that reason, Seneca’s piece of advice
on how to control anger is to be more pessimistic, to adjust our view of the world so as to be
less surprised when problems occur. If we expect that there’s nothing we can do about
certain things, we would be less likely to lose control to anger.