The Daily Stoic for September 13th, “Protecting Our Inner Fortress From Fear”.
“No, it is events that give rise to fear—when another has power over them or can prevent them, that person becomes able to inspire fear. How is the fortress destroyed? Not by iron or fire, but by judgments . . . here is where we must begin, and it is from this front that we must seize the fortress and throw out the tyrants.”
—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.1.85–86; 87a
Stoics coined this concept of our *Inner Fortress* to refer to this impenetrable place inside of us that protects who we are from anything attacking us from the outside.
The English saying “Sticks and stones can break my bones…” emphasizes the same concept. This citadel will stand strong unless we let words, fear, anger, or the opinions of others penetrate it.
Protecting Our Inner Fortress From Fear
I think this idea is really cool and all, but does it work in real life?
Some days ago I found myself in this hospital in Riga. I was feeling confused and disoriented under a fever of 40 ºC. Most people didn’t speak proper English… And at a certain point, a doctor came and told me that if I wasn’t hospitalized immediately, I could face severe consequences.
My fortress was wiiiiide open.
When you are under a lot of stress, or in a very dangerous or scary situation, all these quotes fall short. No matter how hard I tried to rationalize or use stoic arguments. No matter how deeply I breathed trying to at least practice some relaxation techniques. Nothing worked.
I was scared, and I spent there the following 5 days in that state.
So maybe I’m not strong enough to apply stoicism in a practical way. Maybe all of us has a limit past which we all feel frightened or lose control.
Obviously, I will try to keep on applying stoicism to these situations. But right now, in my experience, I have failed miserably in the most extreme situations.
How about you?
Today’s Daily Stoic, “Protecting Our Inner Fortress From Fear”, discusses the Stoic concept of “Inner fortress”. A strong citadel inside of us where nothing bad can happen… unless we let it happen. Does that citadel exist within me? I’m afraid not yet…