Using negative visualization like imaging yourself with a stroke where you cannot move the left half of your body, imaging yourself cold and homeless and eating out of a garbage can, imaging and picturing yourself with cancer of the esophagus where you can only eat and drink out of a G-Tube installed on the side of your stomach, can bring a sense of peace, contentment, and gratitude for the life that you have.
Imagine for example that you will die tomorrow in a terrible car accident. Now picture the precious time you experienced with your children. You will cherish every moment with them, every hug and every kiss. Your present moments will be filled with gratitude knowing that at any moment, you could be gone suddenly.
Picture then yourself NOT doing this mental exercise. If you always assume that you will be healthy and live a long life and even outlive your children, you may not appreciate the present times that you spend with them. You will say to yourself, “There will always be a tomorrow”, which is never promised, guaranteed, or even exists, and countless people DO in fact perish in car accidents every single minute of every day. It this scenario, you will take your children for granted, and not place enough value on the present moments you can spend with them.
As a Ven Robin Cortin once wrote, “We don’t get angry because the glass is broken, we get angry because we thought the glass would never break.” But you must be aware that being a Stoic or embracing such a philosophy does not mean you become the proverbial “doormat”, have no boundaries, and should continue working in a toxic environment or living within abusive relationships. Stoicism would argue that you would stay aware of the facts and not bring your ego into the situation with intense emotions.
As an example, if a coworker asks you angrily to complete a project in the morning that is not your responsibility, then Stoicism would argue that you simply stick to the facts and respond, without emotion. You would tell the co-worker straight and tell him or her that it is not your responsibility and ask if they would keep their voice down because it hurts your ears. By sticking to the facts, your ego will not be tripped up or provoked, and your inner being will stay in a lake of calmness. Living in the present moment will allow you to set boundaries that you deem necessary, but it will prevent you from becoming immersed in a negative situation with emotion.
For example, if you are at a restaurant and you receive a steak that is rare when you asked for it well done, you need not “Stoically” accept this. That is not the right way to view this. You can calmly tell the waiter that you would like this steak cook a little longer. Telling him “The Steak is Cold” is a fact. Becoming aroused and shouting to the waiter to bring it back to the kitchen or becoming angry would be instigating emotion inside yourself. Being a stoic doesn’t mean that you allow yourself to be exploited. Rather, it advises you on how detach your emotions to a given situation.