Here’s a line from Seneca: “We suffer more in imagination than in reality.” Meaning, we spend so much time worried about how bad things are going to be, that we actually torture ourselves more than the thing we’re worried about ever could (that is, if it happens at all).
This is an interesting tension in Stoicism. After all, isn’t Seneca the guy who also said:
We should project our thoughts ahead of us at every turn and have in mind every possible eventuality instead of only the usual course of events... Rehearse them in your mind: exile, torture, war, shipwreck. All the terms of our human lot should be before our eyes.
Isn’t that a contradiction? No, not exactly. Notice that Seneca does not say that we should suffer unnecessarily in advance. He says we should rehearse and prepare--he does not say that we should torture ourselves with worry or fear.
That’s what most people miss about premeditatio malorum (which you can get in medallion form from DailyStoic.com). It’s about being realistic. It’s not about borrowing worry or pain in advance. It’s not supposed to make you paranoid or pessimistic. It’s supposed to make you prepared.
Bad stuff can happen. Bad stuff can happen to us. We need to be aware of that. We shouldn’t be surprised by it. But we also shouldn’t work ourselves into a state and confuse that worry with prevention or preparation. A Stoic is aware of the possibilities of life and, at the same time, has their head down and focuses on what’s in front of them and what’s inside the circle of their control.
Is that complicated and a bit of a balance? Sure. But welcome to life. You can handle it.