Desire And Aversion

2 January 2024

Understanding Desire and Aversion

In Stoic philosophy, desire and aversion are central themes. The Stoics believed that desire and aversion are at the root of human suffering and that true freedom comes from understanding and controlling these impulses. By examining our desires and aversions, we can gain insight into the causes of our emotional turmoil and work towards a more tranquil state of mind.

The Dichotomy of Control

One of the key concepts related to desire and aversion in Stoicism is the dichotomy of control. This idea teaches us to focus on what is within our control and let go of what is not. By applying this principle to our desires and aversions, we can learn to distinguish between the things we can influence and those we cannot, leading to a greater sense of inner peace and resilience in the face of life's challenges.

We are attracted by such things as riches, pleasures, beauty, ambition, and other such coaxing and pleasing objects; we are repelled by toil, death, pain, disgrace, or lives of greater frugality.

  • Seneca

Practical Exercises

Stoicism offers practical exercises to help individuals navigate their desires and aversions. These may include negative visualization, where one imagines the loss of what they desire, and voluntary discomfort, which involves intentionally exposing oneself to aversive experiences. Through these exercises, individuals can develop greater emotional resilience and reduce the grip of external circumstances on their inner state.

The Modern Relevance

Despite originating in ancient times, the Stoic philosophy of desire and aversion remains highly relevant today. In a world filled with constant stimuli and instant gratification, understanding how to manage our desires and aversions can provide valuable tools for coping with stress, making decisions, and cultivating a more meaningful and contented life.

Cultivating Inner Freedom

By delving into the Stoic perspective on desire and aversion, individuals can cultivate a sense of inner freedom that is not contingent on external circumstances. This can lead to a more resilient and fulfilling life, as individuals become less buffeted by the winds of fate and more anchored in their own values and virtues.

Applying Stoic Principles

In applying Stoic principles to desire and aversion, individuals can learn to approach life with greater equanimity, develop a deeper understanding of their own emotional responses, and build the resilience needed to navigate life's challenges. By incorporating these principles into their daily lives, individuals can experience a profound shift in their relationship with desire and aversion.

Written by


Max Thiell

Max writes is a online stoicism content writer. He is passionate about making stoicism accessible for everyone.