I have a few pieces of jewellery that I have bought which are meaningful to me – not for nostalgic or sentimental reasons, but as reminders of the mindset I want to encompass throughout the day. I don’t know about you, but Mindset is something I have to be constantly reminded of because as we know, the mind will wander.
Part one features my Amor Fati ring. I first heard of Amor Fati when I seriously started to engage with Stoicism as a way to improve and maintain my well-being. In fact, Stoicism, so far, has had the biggest impact on my well-being than anything else I have read or studied. It has had a major impact on my life and is one of the first ‘self-help’ philosophies that made complete sense to me.
So, what does Amor Fati mean? It means A Love of fate….and here’s the twist – this wasn’t an original Stoicism concept even though most Stoics adopted it wholeheartedly. The original phrase is from Friedrich Nietzsche.
'My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not in the future, not in the past, not for all eternity. Not only to endure what is necessary, still less to conceal it - all idealism is falseness in the face of necessity-, but to love it..." (Ecce Homo)
Epictetus is my favourite Stoic Philosopher and his definition of Amor Fati in Enchiridion is: “Seek not for events to happen as you wish but wish events to happen as they do and your life will go smoothly and serenely.”
Epictetus is saying that we need to embrace life and be happy with what happens, however it may unfold. And if it unfolds less favourably than we would like, accept it and never wish for a different outcome than the one that happened. I take this to mean making the best out of every single situation and choosing to respond to events in a positive way instead of dwelling on them. It means letting go of what isn’t in our control.
This is quite closely linked to most likely one of the most quoted sentences ever by Victor Frankl which says: “between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” (As an aside – Man’s Search for Meaning is one of the best books ever written).
So how does this help me and benefit my well-being?
It helps me not waste time and it helps me to stop catastrophising. If an event has already happened, my negative emotion or catastrophising isn’t going to change the event. But it doesn’t mean I can’t feel it. A common misconception of stoicism is that you can’t feel anything, but that’s completely wrong, Stoics believe you should feel everything, we just shouldn’t let it interfere with our judgements or actions. So Amor Fati reminds me to feel something but not to get carried away by it, not to obsess over it. Feel it all, process it, and let go. It’s easier said than done, I know, but the balance is now tipping for me where it’s easier.
Amor Fati also motivates me. It’s important for me to remember that just because I can’t control the outcomes of events and situations, it doesn’t mean I have to be passive. This is important so I’ll repeat it: I don’t have to be passive. I can control processes and the journey I’m on; the choices I make and how I respond to people and situations. Knowing this doesn’t mean I just completely resign myself to fate, it means I still put effort into the things I love, it still means I try hard to achieve my goals and it still means I put everything into the relationships I have, despite how any of it turns out.
Epictetus also says that it’s not things that upset us, but our judgement about things. This is closely linked to Amor Fati, and by remembering this quote, I remember that there is good in everything if I choose to look for it and perceive it in that way. Working in the Mental Health service, I learned very quickly that Post Traumatic Growth is incredibly powerful. Many people go through hard mental health challenges and through recovery, they realise that they wouldn’t change their diagnosis or their breakdown, because it has led to good things…a better life, more understanding, and different opportunities. To think of Amor Fati is to think, what can be learned by something happening? And who is to say that the potentially negative result hasn’t saved us from something worse?
What are your thoughts on Amor Fati?