Premeditatio Malorum: Preparing for the Worst to Thrive in the Present
Premeditatio Malorum, or the premeditation of evils, is a technique used by the Stoics, a school of philosophy founded in ancient Greece, to help manage their emotions and reactions to negative events. The idea behind this technique is to anticipate and prepare for potential negative events or situations before they happen, so that when they do occur, one is better able to handle them.
Tim Ferriss, author and podcaster, uses a technique he calls “Fear setting” where he considers the worst-case scenario, and how long it would take him to get back to his current place if the worst-case scenario did actually happen. The worst usually does not happen, but having a plan in place minimises the headspace you give it and frees up the energy you would have spent on worry. Read about it here.
As the Stoic philosopher Seneca said, “He who has anticipated the coming of troubles takes away their power when they arrive.” By preparing for potential challenges and setbacks, we can reduce our emotional reactions and minimize their impact on our lives.
One way to practice premeditatio malorum is to regularly reflect on potential negative events or situations that may occur in the future, such as job loss, illness, or the death of a loved one. By visualizing these scenarios and contemplating how we would handle them, we can reduce our fear and anxiety when they do happen, and be better equipped to deal with them. You can use the Negative Visualisation Cards in the Stoic app.
When you are going to perform an act, remind yourself what kind of things the act may involve. When going to the swimming pool, reflect on what may happen at the pool: some will splash the water, some will push against one another, others will abuse one another, and others will steal. Thusly you have mentally prepared yourself to undertake the act, and you can say to yourself: I now intend to bathe, and am prepared to maintain my will in a virtuous manner, having warned myself of what may occur.Epictetus
Another way to practice premeditatio malorum is to remind ourselves that negative events and situations are a natural part of life. As the Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “It is not things themselves that disturb people, but their judgments about these things.” By accepting that negative events are a natural part of life, we can reduce our emotional reactions and focus on finding solutions rather than dwelling on the problem.
“He who has anticipated the coming of troubles takes away their power when they arrive.” – Seneca
So, premeditatio malorum is a powerful technique to manage emotions and reactions to negative events. By anticipating and preparing for potential negative events or situations before they happen, we can reduce our emotional reactions and minimize their impact on our lives. By practising premeditatio malorum, we can reduce our fear and anxiety, and be better equipped to deal with negative events when they do happen.
How absurd – and a complete stranger to the world – is the man surprised at any aspect of his experience in life.Marcus Aurelius
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