It's for the best

2019-08-09

I’m plagued by occasional bouts of regret. A scenario that happened 25 years ago pops into my head and stings. When this happens I literally jump in the air like I’ve been stung by an actual insect. I inhale sharply and sometimes even whimper. I glance around to see if anyone saw it happen, and if they now realize that I’m not as together as I try to pretend.

It hurts.

Recently I’m trying a new technique to deal with this. There’s a concept in stoic philosophy - amor fati - love your fate. No matter what’s happened, be grateful, because it’s all necessary in order to experience the moments of your life which are wonderful.

When a painful memory rushes out of my subconscious to attack me, I’m now trying to deal with it by quickly saying “It was for the best.” That resonates with me more than amor fati.

It’s not always obvious how it was for the best, but your brain is a wonderful problem solving machine. Faced with the suggestion that some painful experience was actually a good thing that you can be grateful for, my brain immediately starts supplying reasons that that’s actually true.

These reasons are just as valid as the reasons that it was a terrible thing worth feeling pain over all these years later. You can choose to believe whichever version of events you want. I find believing that it was all for the best much more empowering.

You can even use it in the moment. Can’t find your keys? Well, taking an extra few minutes before leaving is for the best anyway. Broke a dish? It’s for the best. Thank goodness, really.

You can use it to cool down your anxieties about the future. “Whatever happens, it will be for the best” has been helping me a lot.

None of this means you have to be a passive observer in your own life. You should do your best, prepare for things, try to avoid disaster. But things will go wrong anyway. They always do, because the world is not in your control. When they do, it will help to believe that it’s all for the best.