When anything, from the meanest thing upwards, is attractive or serviceable or an object of affection, remember always to say to yourself, ‘What is its nature?’ If you are fond of a jug, say you are fond of a jug; then you will not be disturbed if it be broken. If you kiss your child or your wife, say to yourself that you are kissing a human being, for then if death strikes it you will not be disturbed.
When you are about to take something in hand, remind yourself what manner of thing it is. If you are going to bathe put before your mind what happens in the bath – water pouring over some, others being jostled, some reviling, other stealing; and you will set to work more securely if you say to yourself at once: ‘I want to bathe, and I want to keep my will in harmony with nature,’ and so in each thing you do; for in this way, if anything turns up to hinder you in your bathing, you will be ready to say, ‘I did not want only to bathe, but to keep my will in harmony with nature, and I shall not so keep it, if I lose my temper at what happens’.
What disturbs men’s minds is not events but their judgements on events. For instance, death is nothing dreadful, or else Socrates would have thought it so. No, the only dreadful thing about it is men’s judgement that it is dreadful. And so when we are hindered, or disturbed, or distressed, let us never lay the blame on others, but on ourselves, that is on our own judgments. To accuse others for one’s own misfortunes is a sign of want of education; to accuse one self shows that one’s education has begun; to accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete.
Epictetus. The Discourses and Manual. Trans. P.E. Matheson. Oxford University Press 1916. 215-16.