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> I own everything, everything that happens to me

Really? Everything that happens to you? What if you were mugged?

I think you can (and should) take responsibility for what you do (or don't do), but I don't think you can (or should) take responsibility for what you feel because you don't have control over that.




> Really? Everything that happens to you? What if you were mugged?

You take ownership of how you respond to every situation. Things happen to you beyond your control, but you can be in control of how you handle and internalize it if you practice.

Not being able to control your feelings is false for the most part.

Giving up the sense of control over self and one's circumstances is well known to have depressive and demotivational psychological side-effects. Recognize that some things are outside your control, but something in every situation is under your control: your own mind. If you're interested in more, read up on Stoicism.


But your own mind is not completely within your own control, I would argue.


Maybe. But in all cases, it can be very very hard to control indeed. Which does not mean you should not try, because it will help you if you do. And the original point is that if you fail at it, better take it in stride than feel extremely bad about it, since it will make things worse.


The more you think like that, the less control you have.


Control might be an illusion - we are getting into the realms of philosophy here, but some argue there is no such thing as free will.


If control were an illusion, then my desire to raise my arm would not result in me raising my arm. The fact is, desires, wishes and so on, have direct causal influence on actual physiological and psychological states.

Free Will doesn't really enter into this, so we don't have to enter that rabbit hole.


Your action might feel self willed but may in fact follow inevitably from all prior events. Individual agency could just be a creation of the mind. Personally I try not to dwell on these thoughts, but the philosophical discussions around free will cannot be dismissed simply with a wave of the hand, as you seem to be doing.


Whether outcomes and desires follow from prior events isn't relevant. The fact is that outcomes follow from my desire that it be so, regardless of the source of that desire. So if you can muster the desire, there are good causal reasons to believe you can achieve that desire.

The true nature of free will and its connection to determinism simply isn't relevant to whether desires are causally connected to outcomes, and so whether this belief is well founded.

Edit: the only way out of this is to be a fatalist, whereby outcomes will always happen no matter how hard you struggle against them, that they are independent of our desires. Few people subscribe to such a view though, and if you happen to, then I can only say I'm sorry.


> What if you were mugged?

Walking down a dark alley, alone, at night and not having a sense of situational awareness. I was nearly mugged because of that, and now have a much greater sense of situational awareness.

I know, I know, blaming the victim is bad, but sometimes clearly assessing what led you to be in a certain type of situation can help you avoid those types of situations in the future.


This actually happened to me in 1991: I was a few months from defending my Ph.D. so I was already under a lot of stress. I came home from work after dark to an empty house and saw that the light we kept on a timer wasn't on (it turned out later that the bulb had burned out). I entered the house and caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. I shouted, and the burglar who was on his way out the window took a pot shot at me with a 038. The bullet missed me by about a foot. I had nightmares about strangers in the house for years. None of that was my fault.

There is an epilogue to the story: after the incident I crawled to the phone and called 911. The police arrived a few minutes later, and a few minutes after that told me that they had caught the perpetrator. The put me in the back of a police car and drove me out to where they had a hispanic kid, maybe 15 years old, sitting on the curb in handcuffs. They asked me if I could identify him and I said no, it was dark, I couldn't see anything but a muzzle flash. So they let him go. I have no idea if I let an armed robber back out on to the street, but I've never lost a minute of sleep over that decision.

You own your actions, not your feelings.


Well not really in this case. This is still trying to align sense and structure to an otherwise random event. Suppose you got mugged with your partner on a lightly populated main Street in the evening by a stranger with a gun, as happened to my partner and I; what is the takeaway there? Muggings, like many other situations we imagine, tend not to happen as we've seen it in movies and tv but more so when we least expect it.

A lot about owning a situation is allowing yourself to do what feels right, not creating a plan for every contingency and situation. Muggings happen and they're very unfortunate and bad. But owning it well isn't as much about future prevention as it is trying to make sure that you still can have control over yourself afterwards. Sometimes things happen; why did some guy key my beat up old 95 Accord and not the dozens of other cars? Probably alcohol, but the point is less about the specific reason and more what you do in response and how you are able to gain control and feel comfortable.


cancer ?


In zen there is the question, who is in control of these feelings? Where is the locus of control, and what kind of a thing is it?

Where is the boundary between things inside your mind and things outside of your mind? Where does control get inserted into the process of things arising and falling away?

One way of thinking about this produces a realisation that nobody is in control, but nobody has been denied or robbed of control either. Instead, the idea of control appears to be a kind of misapplied concept.

I think this is a realistic interpretation of the evidence which does not lead to a depressive fugue, but only when it's absorbed beyond a textual description (a bit like how reading a program is different to running one, in HN-friendly terms).


I think this is exactly right. Even the conscious part of you, the part you perceive as being "in control" isn't really. Free will is an illusion (but a very compelling one!) This realization, too, can help you make better decisions. For example: I've found it helpful in reducing my consumption of sugar. I didn't decide to love the taste of sugar. That's something that just happened to me, like depression. So it's easier for me to resist the urge to snack if I think of the cravings as an attempt by an "external" agent to control my actions, even though that agent is physically located inside my own brain.

This idea even comes with a catchy slogan: sometimes your brain has a mind of its own :-)


> In zen there is the question, who is in control of these feelings? Where is the locus of control, and what kind of a thing is it?

> The exterior things touch the soul in no way. They have no access to it and neither can change the mood of the soul nor move it. Rather it gives itself its mood and movement, and according to its judgements that it makes about its own dignity, it also values the exterior objects higher or lower.

-- Marcus Aurelius


I think it would be remarkably weird if the state inside me were entirely uncoupled from 'exterior things'.

In the zen view, the 'trick' is that there are no exterior things because the distinction between the exterior and interior is artificial. Processes of change may reach across that boundary just as they cross any other boundary we care to draw, so there is no absolutely self-governed component.

Assuming (perhaps wrongly, let me know if I'm overreaching) that you see your self as a stoic or happy to interpret them, what do you think the Aurelius quote above means? What is the soul which it's talking about?

We can identify patterns that remain stable for a bit, so you might say that my soul is whatever essential features or patterns remain unchanged, but on the long span I find it hard to imagine such features. After all I will be eaten by worms or incinerated sooner or later.


>What if you were mugged?

In general, any time you point to others and say "they did this to me" you remove your own power to change the situation. You may have to be creative, but personally I never want to give others that power.

> but I don't think you can (or should) take responsibility for what you feel because you don't have control over that.

I disagree with this. I consider the mind a muscle like any other. It can be trained and taught more productive ways of thinking [1].

[1] https://web.ics.purdue.edu/~drkelly/DFWKenyonAddress2005.pdf (please ignore that the author of this speech later shot himself in the head)


> I never want to give others that power.

Of course you don't. But sometimes the laws of physics leave you no choice, in which case accepting that fact can save you a lot of heartache and frustration.

> I consider the mind a muscle like any other. It can be trained and taught more productive ways of thinking [1].

Of course it can. And I submit that one of those "more productive ways of thinking" is to understand the laws of physics and the constraints they impose on your agency, because if you don't do that you will be frustrated when reality doesn't live up to your expectations.

> please ignore that the author of this speech later shot himself in the head

And why should I ignore that? It seems like a pretty salient fact in the context of this conversation.


>But sometimes the laws of physics leave you no choice, in which case accepting that fact can save you a lot of heartache and frustration.

Different views of the world, I guess. If the laws of physics "leave me no choice" I'm personally going to still consider that my responsibility and look for ways to prevent that situation in future, if possible. Sometimes there really is nothing you could have done (e.g. fired by a scumbag boss who didn't reveal their nature until it was too late to do anything about it) but there is nearly always something you can do to respond.

>And why should I ignore that? It seems like a pretty salient fact in the context of this conversation.

I was half joking with the comment, but the non-joking part was more to say that just because this guy wasn't able to take his own advice and contain his "horrible master" doesn't mean everything he said is invalid. It's still something to strive for.


> I'm personally going to still consider that my responsibility and look for ways to prevent that situation in future, if possible.

I hope nothing I said gave you the impression that I would in any way disagree with that.

> It's still something to strive for.

Of course. All I'm saying is that you should not despair if you don't always achieve it.




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