Recently saw a quote shared on Instagram: “If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation. “ -Epictetus
The original poster suggests “the next time you feel terribly offended or outraged about something, think about this quote by Epictetus,” and “don’t let them bate you or make you upset.”
There are over 30k likes and 100 comments. In the comments people quote additional quotes like: “A lion doesn’t concern itself with the opinion of sheet.” – George R. R. Martin.
These are all people who likely want to be unprovoked but do not know how. And the quotes on top of quotes will not help them.
This is just one example of a sad trend that gets people stuck. Because while quotes can help remind us of important things, if we do not have the skills or tools to do those things, we will get stuck.
So let’s talk about actually doing the work. Let’s talk about how to not let someone provoke you.
First Things First…
No one can provoke you.
This can be a very difficult understanding to integrate into your thought process.
Which is understandable considering you live in a world where people say, “you made me [insert action or feeling here].” And since birth, a toxic society has trained you to think that other people make you feel or make you react.
But it is definitely not impossible! And I tell you it is difficult, not to deter you, but to let you know it will take some worthwhile work.
And the work begins with not taking things personally.
So instead of thinking: “I can’t believe they said that about me.”
Think: “I can’t believe they said that.” HARD STOP
Related: Why Thought Shifting Is the Game Changer You Need for Success…and How to Get Started
When you take yourself out of the equation, you help yourself control your response.
Instead of taking it personally, you focus on the person and what they said. So instead of focusing on the insult, you focus on the person who said it and why.
“I can’t believe they said that. What they said was really mean. Why would they say that? Are they a nasty person? Are they miserable and want company? Are they trying to provoke me?”
It’s Okay if You’re Provoked
After depersonalizing it, you then need to focus on if you were provoked or not.
Sometimes what people say triggers a deep emotion you didn’t know was there. And it can be an amazing opportunity to work through those emotions so they no longer affect you in the future.
What gets people stuck is denying their feelings in order to not to seem weak. Which is very ironic since denying their feelings actually makes them weak.
So after depersonalizing the comment, focus on if you are provoked or not.
Sometimes it is clear.
Say someone you love uses something you told them in confidence against you. That is a breach of trust and a dirty move. It’s upsetting. You obviously will be somewhat provoked or hurt.
But if a stranger on the internet says something that provokes, then it is likely a deeper set issue.
Are you nervous a political candidate will strip the rights of millions of people so their supports provoke you because you are scared?
Does the empowered and independent woman provoke the man because she reminds him he cannot support his family the way he wants to?
Does the man calling the woman a “cat lady” provoke her because she is afraid she is unlovable or unsuccessful in dating?
What Would the Stoics Say?
Since the quote that influenced this article was written by a stoic, let’s consider what the stoics would say.
No one can be sure what dead men would say. But I am pretty sure they would say social media is bullshit and that we need to move on from circulating unrelatable quotes written hundreds of years ago.
From an overall stoic perspective, you would focus on what you can control. You cannot control what people say, but you can control how you respond and if you are around those people. Somewhat control if you are around them if you live with them.
Related: Stoicism and the Trichotomy of Control: Why You Need to Know What It Is and How It Changed My Life!
Example of When I Was Provoked
After working on emotional intelligence and personal development for the past decade, if something provokes me, I approach it with curiosity.
In the moment I may not act favorably. But after my emotions calm I think “damn, that provoked me, why?”
And in asking why I get to a deeper root of why I was provoked. To me, this is gold and really helps me grow. Like when a man in a writing group told me he thinks no one will ever read my writing.
This provoked me on several levels. On the surface level because his comment was mean spirited and not constructive. But it also hit me deeper than that. I could tell when I was still thinking about it a few days later.
Then I noticed I wasn’t writing as much as before he made the comment. I explored. And it made me realize that the words he said, even though they were a projection of his own thoughts towards his writing, triggered a fear in me. I was nervous his words had truth to them. And it kept me from pursuing my goal.
After giving myself a break, I went back to writing. And I cried the first time I wrote after hearing his nasty comments.
But I forced myself to power through. And writing while crying helped me faced my fear. I decided I am going to write no matter what.
Now, if someone said they think no one will read my writing, I’d tell them to watch out for that toxic all-or-nothing thinking and that if they don’t like my writing to stop reading it because life is just too damn short!
BTW, you proved dude wrong by reading this so thanks :o)
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