Home Mental Health & Well-Being Emotional Control Isn’t Just a Stoic Virtue. It’s a Psychological Necessity

Emotional Control Isn’t Just a Stoic Virtue. It’s a Psychological Necessity

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Emotional control has been a topic of interest for centuries, dating back to the Stoic philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome. These thinkers, such as Epictetus and Seneca, believed that mastering one’s emotions was the key to a fulfilling life. Fast forward to the 21st century, and modern psychology seems to agree. Emotional regulation, as it’s now called, has been shown to have a profound impact on our mental well-being.

The Stoic perspective on emotional control

The Stoics believed that the key to happiness was to live in accordance with nature, which included mastering one’s emotional responses. They argued that while we can’t control external events, we can control our reactions to them. Epictetus famously said, “We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.” This Stoic principle is not just a philosophical stance but a practical guide to living a balanced life.

What modern psychology says

Modern psychology has a term for this: emotional regulation. It refers to the ability to manage and respond to emotional experiences in a way that is socially acceptable and beneficial to our overall well-being. A study published in Clinical Psychology Review found that poor emotional regulation is linked to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. The research suggests that learning to control your emotions can have a significant impact on your mental health.

The benefits of emotional control

So, what are the tangible benefits of emotional control? For starters, it can improve your relationships. When you can manage your emotions, you’re better equipped to communicate effectively, resolve conflicts, and understand others. Emotional control can also enhance your professional life. In a high-stress environment, keeping a level head can make all the difference between success and failure.

Moreover, emotional control can lead to better decision-making. A study in the  the journal Frontiers of Psychology showed that people who are better at regulating their emotions tend to make more rational decisions. This makes sense when you consider that impulsive decisions are often driven by uncontrolled emotions.

How to develop emotional control

Developing emotional control is not something that happens overnight. It’s a skill that requires practice and dedication. One effective method is mindfulness, which involves paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without judgment. By becoming aware of your emotional triggers, you can learn to control your reactions.

Another approach is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy that teaches you to identify and challenge negative thought patterns. CBT has been shown to be effective in improving emotional regulation and is often recommended for treating various mental health conditions.

Emotional control is a lifelong journey

While the Stoics may have been among the first to advocate for emotional control, they certainly won’t be the last. As our understanding of psychology continues to evolve, the importance of mastering our emotions becomes ever clearer. Whether you’re looking to improve your relationships, advance in your career, or simply find more peace in your life, emotional control is a skill worth cultivating.

So, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed by emotion, remember the words of the Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius: “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength.”


Denzel Smith is a freelance writer specialising in psychology and philosophy, with a keen interest in the intersection of ancient wisdom and modern science.

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