Lust / Jealousy
It is in accordance with this plan of action above all that one should train oneself. As soon as you leave the house at break of day, examine everyone whom you see, everyone whom you hear, and answer as if under questioning. What did you see? A handsome man or beautiful woman? Apply the rule. Does this lie within the sphere of choice, or outside it? Outside. Throw it away; it is nothing to you.If we acted in such a way and practised this exercise from morning until night, we would then have achieved something, by the gods. But as things are, we’re caught gazing open-mouthed at every impression that comes along, and it is only in the schoolroom that we wake up a little, if indeed we ever do.
When you see another person living in wealth, look to what you have instead of that. For if you have nothing in place of it, you’re wretched indeed; but if you’re capable of not having need of wealth, know that you have more than he does, and something of much greater value.
Another man has a beautiful wife; you have the power not to wish for a beautiful wife. Do you think these are small matters? And yet how much would those very men who are rich and powerful, and have beautiful wives, give to be able to despise riches and power, and those women whom they love and win? Don’t you know what kind of thirst one feels when one has a fever? It bears no resemblance to that of a healthy person. A healthy person takes a drink and his thirst is quenched, but the other, after some short relief, feels sick, turns the water into bile, vomits, suffers from colic, and feels much thirstier than before.
It is much the same to have wealth and yet feel a strong desire for that very thing, or have power and yet desire it, or pass one’s nights with a beautiful woman and yet lust for her. To which may be added jealousy, and the fear of losing what one has, and shameful words, shameful thoughts, and improper deeds.
Fight against yourself; restore yourself to decency, to self-respect, to freedom. There is no need for you to kill someone, or chain him up, or assault him, nor do you have to go to the marketplace; you have only to talk to yourself, the man most likely to be persuaded, and whom no one could more easily persuade than you can.
First of all, condemn your own actions, and then, after having condemned them, don’t give up on yourself, and don’t be like those mean-spirited people who, when they’ve given in on one occasion, surrender themselves completely, to be swept off, as it were, by the flood. You should learn instead from what the wrestling masters do. The boy has taken a fall: ‘Get up,’ he says, ‘and resume the fight until you grow strong.’You too should think in some such way as that: you should know that there is nothing more tractable than the human mind. You only have to exert your will, and the thing comes about, and all is put right; whereas on the other hand, you only have to doze off, and all is lost. For ruin and deliverance alike come from within.