Master looked at me last night and commented that I'd seemed very stoic during the last couple of spankings. It was mostly an observation with a tinge of curiosity to it -- He wondered if that were something I was doing consciously. I'm not sure exactly how I answered His question. I didn't really have much language to describe what and how I've been feeling lately. I explained that I was just trying to stay in the headspace where I was able to be clear that none of it really mattered so there was no reason to get all emotionally cranked up over things. That was not, judging from the confusion I saw on His face, an answer that did much to clear things up.
I have been wondering though, as I've gone through the day, what if anything there might be within that descriptor to explain and describe my current mental and emotional state. So, I did a bit of research to help me understand exactly what is meant by the term "stoic." Definitionally, I found this:
1.of or pertaining to the school of philosophy founded by Zeno, who taught that people should be free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submit without complaint to unavoidable necessity.
I find that definition interesting. It wasn't quite what I imagine He meant in using the term. I really believe that Master was simply referring to my very calm and detached response to the last couple of spankings. I have, in fact, been working consciously to dial down the level of emotional turmoil that I'm subject to both in the midst of a session, but also in just the day-to-day realities of my life with Him. I wouldn't say that I am anywhere close to the place where I am free from passion or unmoved by joy or grief, and no one ever said that I ever manage to submit without complaint (or at least a bit of a pout) to those things that are unavoidable necessities. I am, however, working to notice the internal monologue that gets me going when things don't go as I'd like them to go -- and then, having noticed, I am talking to myself in an effort to derail the emotional storms that I've been prone to for a very long time.
A little further research gave me some basic information about this philosophical viewpoint/practice, and helped me learn a bit about how it applies in life. I found that those who practice stoicism hold that a life of virtue is lived in accordance with nature. For the stoic, nature is viewed as rational and perfect, and an ethical life is a life lived in accordance with the rational order of things. A stoic would advise, "Do not seek to have events happen as you want them to, but instead want them to happen as they do happen, and your life will go well."
The essential practice of stoicism is to recognize the difference between those things that are within our power and those not within our power. That seems, to me, to be an important facet of the practice of volitional slavery. There is, for those of us who commit to live this life, very little that remains within our power. I find that even the things that might appear to be mine and within my control are only that way because He chooses to have it be that way. If or when He would choose to remove those things from my realm of influence, there is nothing that I will be able to do or say about that.
With that said, the internal life of the mind and the emotions remains within our power to direct. Our opinions are up to us, as are our impulses, desires, aversions, fears. These things are our doing, and we retain control of them even when we are living within the most deliberately stringent power exchange relationships. On the other hand, what is outside of us does not belong to us, and we do not control those things. Our bodies are not up to us, nor our possessions, our reputations, or our public presentation or activities. Whatever is not our doing is also not ours to direct. When I forget all that and begin to think that things that are not mine belong to me; when I lose track of the fact that I am His slave -- I can get to feeling thwarted, miserable, and upset. Under those circumstances, and caught in that thought pattern, I will blame Him and just about everyone else on the planet for my internal pain.
Stoicism teaches that the only thing over which we have control is our capacity for judgment. Since everything external to our own thoughts and reactions, including all external affairs and acts of others, are outside of our power, the rational (and therefore ethical) attitude toward them is indifference. Toward all that is not within our power we should be apathetic. What upsets people is not things themselves but their judgments about those things. At least, that is true for me. If I allow myself to care about the things that are outside of my control, then inevitably, some of what happens causes me pain and frustration and anxiety. That comes from my judgements about those things and events. It isn't those things themselves that cause me hurt -- it is my own judgement about them.
I've spent a lot of time feeling angry and unhappy and afraid over the last few years. I don't like it. It wastes my energy and saps my ability to live with joy and focus. So, I think that this business of stoicism has something to recommend it. It makes sense to me, and I find that when I can manage to practice it even a little bit, I go through my life more calmly remembering that to avoid unhappiness, frustration, and disappointment, I need to control those things that are within my power and remain indifferent or apathetic to those things which are not.
I've wondered, in these last few weeks, as I've sunk into what has felt like a quiet and calm place within myself, if there was something wrong with me. I've felt as if I'd sent my heart away to someplace that was "safer" feeling -- detached from the too-close-for-comfort passions that He can raise up in me by the very nature of who He is and who I am. I've wondered if I was becoming depressed, although I've not experienced this as particularly sad. It has just been different and odd. On the other hand, I've found that I am entirely present and available for those moments where He and I connect over something that feels mutual and true between us. In those moments, I feel myself filling up with gratitude and joy and a deep sense of peace for the privilege of being right where I am.
So, perhaps I really am consciously choosing the stoic path.