By which handle

It’s easy to think negative thoughts and to get stuck into a pattern with them. But forcing myself to take the time not only to think about something good, but write that thought down longhand was a kind of rewiring of my own opinions. It became easier to see that while there certainly was plenty to be upset about, there was also plenty to be thankful for. Epictetus said that every situation has two handles; which was I going to decide to hold onto? The anger, or the appreciation?

~ Ryan Holiday from,

The idea that there are two handles to every impression is a blazing reminder that impressions are neither inherently good nor bad. It is our own reasoned choice which adds that evaluation.


Everything has two handles

Everything has two handles, by one of which it may be carried, and by the other not. If your brother wrongs you, do not take it by this handle, that he is wronging you (for this is the handle that it cannot be carried by), but by the other, that he is your brother, that he was brought up with you, and then you will be taking it by the handle by which it ought to be carried.

~ Epictetus from Handbook, #43


Fruit of these teachings

What is the fruit of these teachings? Only the most beautiful and proper harvest of the truly educated—tranquility, fearlessness, and freedom. We should not trust the masses who say that only the free can be educated, but rather the lovers of wisdom who say that only the educated are free.

~ Epictetus


The time for action

Books? How, or to what end? For is not reading a kind of preparation for living, but living itself made up of things other than books? It is as if an athlete, when he enters the stadium, should break down and weep because he is not exercising outside. This is what you were exercising for; this is what the jumping-weights, and the sand, and your young partners were all for. So are you now seeking for these, when it is the time for action?

~ Epictetus


Subservient to others

Remember that it is not oly a desire for riches and power that makes you abject and subservient to others, but also a desire for quiet and leisure, and travel and learning. For the value you place on an external object, whatever it may be, makes you subservient to another.

~ Epictetus


Facing two ways

Choose, then, which you prefer, to be loved as you used to be by those who loved you formerly by remaining like your former self, or to be better and not meet with that same affection. For if this latter course is preferable, direct yourself at once to that, and do not let the other considerations draw you away from it; for no one can make progress while facing two ways.

~ Epictetus


Not in our power

And who can never be hindered? The man who sets his desire on nothing that is not his own. And what are those things that are not our own? Those that are not in our power, either to have or not to have, or to have them of a particular nature, or under specific conditions. Our body, therefore, is not our own, its parts are not our own, and our property is not our own. So if you become attached to any of these as your own, you will be punished, as he deserves to be who sets his desire on what is not his own.

~ Epictetus


True freedom

And say while you are training yourself day after day, as you do here, not that you are pursuing philosophy (to claim that title would surely be pretentious), but that you are providing for your emancipation. For this is true freedom.

~ Epictetus


When thus prepared

And when you are thus prepared and thus trained to distinguish what is not your own from your own, what is subject to hindrance from what is not, to regard the latter as your concern and the form as not, and carefully keep your desire directed toward the latter, and your aversion directed towards the former, will there any longer be anyone for you to fear?

~ Epictetus


Great and noble and valuable

Further, then, answer me this: Do you think freedom to be something great and noble and valuable? — “How should I not?” Is it possible, then, that he who acquires anything so great and valuable and noble should be mean-spirited?

~ Epictetus