Sunday, 17 June 2012

Good Old Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was a Roman philosopher and emperor who said:

 "If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it: and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.’

Easier said than done you say especially when we are told that we are not responsible for how we feel on a daily basis. Listen to the news and it isn’t uncommon for an interviewer to ask an interviewee ‘how did this or that make you feel?’ Listen to the student at school who declares on leaving the classroom ‘I hate this subject it makes me so angry!’ or indeed the teacher who says ‘that kid makes me angry!’ This would reinforce the philosophy that distress is caused by things and events external to us i.e. you, it or events make our distress! We remain unenlightened by the wisdom of the stoic philosophers it would appear though we have had the educational tools and the opportunity to challenge the prevailing ‘not my fault’ modern day philosophy.

Rational Emotive Behaviour Education (REBE) helps students examine whether someone or something can indeed make them feel anything! After all maths is maths and whether it makes you mad, angry or otherwise is up for debate. REBE provides the opportunity for students to explore why they feel and act as they do on a school wide basis (see previous posts).

Recently at school a student excluded herself from the classroom because she didn’t want to work with a particular peer and declared:

‘I felt really angry because I didn’t get my way and it’s just not fair!

After some discussion she acknowledged that her distress was due to her estimate of the situation, which was that it was not fair that she didn’t get what she wanted (it was making her mad). She understood that her anger was precipitated by her expectation that IT should not happen! This is progress in the ‘whose fault is it’ debate in the school context.
We talked about cultivating a better way to estimate a situation, to think that it isn’t a catastrophe when you don’t get what you want and that you can stand it! She chose to revoke her belief that life must be fair and that sometimes you don’t get what you want. She changed her estimate of the situation and changed her distress.
Marcus Antoninus would be heartened to know that Rational Emotive Behaviour Education is promoting his philosophy in schools.

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