How To Keep Your Cool (De Ira) by Seneca. Book blog part 1



“Once shaken and overthrown, the mind becomes a slave to that which drives it.” 


We like to think of mind as a safe home base that we can rely on. The only thing that’s truly ours. An unbiased starting point from which we experience the world. But Seneca doesn’t think so. The mind can be interfered with by external forces, it can be shaped and molded or “shaken and overthrown.” This is most certainly true. Everyone has a worldview, a certain perspective by which they filter experiences. This worldview is shaped by our environment and everyone has an environment. No matter how our worldview was obtained, it’s there and it’s real. 

Here Seneca is saying that our mind can become a “slave to that which drives it.” This signifies a loss of control. Not only is our mind shaped and molded but it can be pulled and prodded into different directions. This is done most obviously by our emotions or feelings. Our mind is reacting to our feelings and if it’s not fortified against it, anger can make it a slave. Anger is the biggest slave-master of our mind. Earlier in the book, Seneca says, “Some wise men have called anger a brief madness.” In common language today, to be angry is to be mad. That word is used for a reason. We truly do lose control and forget friendships, forget grace and forgiveness. Someone has crossed us and it will not stand. Passions take over and reason is tossed out.

G. K. Chesterton said, “The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” The only way to secure our mind against the enslaving grip of anger is to enslave it to something else first. As a Christian, of course I’d say that enslavement of the mind should be to Christ and His Word. Which is another way of saying that our minds should be enslaved to the only truth and purpose of all reality that exists. Not a bad safe haven. 

2 Corinthians 10:5 “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” 

Philippians 4:8-9 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

These verses illustrate that our mind is always going in a certain direction. If it’s occupied with what is pure and lovely and commendable, it will have no room for anger. Or at least, the slave master that is Anger will have to wade through the fortifying moat that is a mind set on God’s virtues.

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