As one falling headlong has no control over his body… so with the mind when it plunges into anger, love or the other passions.

As one falling headlong has no control over his body… so with the mind when it plunges into anger, love or the other passions.Seneca

You know you're going to fall. What can you do differently next time to avoid it?

You know you’re going to fall. Next time, what will you do differently to avoid the fall?

What does that mean?
While the quote is from a section where he discusses anger in specific, this passage, and quote, talks about the power of strong emotions or passions.

The comparison is to someone who catches a toe on something and can’t catch their balance. There is that moment when you know you are falling down, but there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it.

The quote states that anger, and other strong emotions, are just like that. If you don’t stop it before it starts, if you stumble in even the slightest, you are quite likely to fall.

In short, the quote is reminding us to be as watchful with our emotions as we are with our feet and walking, lest you stumble and fall into anger.

Why is self-control important?
It is one thing to allow your emotions some latitude. But there are some emotions over which we have to exercise some control. Some will gather momentum and carry us over the edge if we are not careful. The quote lists a few, such as anger or love. What else would you add to the list?

Strong emotions are part of the human nature, for better or worse. The more we can hold the worst of these in check, the better things are for all of we humans. If we, as a species, can learn to better control our emotional outbursts, life on our planet could be much better for all of us.

But we cannot change the rest of humanity, only ourselves. That is why I mentioned self-control in the header for this section. We can only improve ourselves and help others to follow us on this path. Can you think of a time when you have encouraged someone, or they have encouraged you?

As always, it is our choice to do or to not do. We may need some help, but that help is usually available. What will the consequences be if we don’t show some self-control? How much better could it be if we had some? Is the difference between them worth improving your self-control? What will you do?

Where can I apply this in my life?
One of my weaknesses is chocolate. I eat a lot of it. Even though chocolate isn’t a strong emotion, it is a place where my self-control is rather lacking. I could, and have, made lists of how my life would be better if only I stopped eating so much of it, but it hasn’t helped much.

In my case, the reason is clear, I don’t see the issue as being all that important. I am not diabetic, and I have gotten the worst of the bingeing over with. I no longer go out and buy a pound of Oreos and finish them in one sitting. I have a little self-control, and for now, it’s enough for me.

On the other hand, I used to have a real issue with anger. That wasn’t too big a problem when I was young and very skinny (over 6 foot tall and less than 100 pounds). However, as I finally started filling out, and became much stronger (and doubled my weight), I was at a point where I could seriously injure someone.

I learned self-control the hard way, but have learned my lessons well. I realized that I have control over myself, my attitudes, my emotions, and my actions. Yes, I am human and therefore weak, but I have learned to find help and to vent the excess emotion before it takes over and I fall down.

What is something in your life where you have little self-control? Think about all the different parts of your life. Which are significant to you, something on which you really need to get a better hold? Pick something from that category and consider what tends to trip you, and start you falling.

Start by considering what the consequences of falling are. In the case of my anger, it could have been massive bodily injury to myself or others. What is it in your case? How bad is that? How strong is your decision to avoid falling? The stronger a case you can make for not falling, the easier it will be to remain strong.

Now think of the triggers, the tripping points which lead up to your actions. What usually happens? Do you start breathing hard? That was one of my triggers, and allowed me to detect the start while I could still catch my balance. What can help you spot an issue while it is still small enough for you to stop?

We are all human. We all make mistakes. But we can all get back up again, even after falling down. The only question is will you learn to stumble, not fall? Do you have a strong enough reason? Do you have enough resolve? Will you find people and resources to help you?

It is your life, and only you can make these decisions. But know that you are not alone. Among the 7+ Billion people on the planet, there are many with your exact same issue. Gain strength from them, or lend yours to them. You are not alone.

From: Twitter, @quotesofseneca
confirmed at : , in the middle of 10th ‘page’ of the section “On Anger” I.vii-I.viii . 1
Photo by Josh Ardle also at

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2 Responses to As one falling headlong has no control over his body… so with the mind when it plunges into anger, love or the other passions.

  1. doug 27 June 2014 at 12:39 pm #

    some weakness must be permitted, or we cease to be human

    • philosiblog 27 June 2014 at 7:32 pm #

      Absolutely. However, to me, that is no excuse for doing dumb things over and over again. Learn, try a new way, see how that works, but always strive to do better next time. Learning from our mistakes is something humans are supposed to be good at. Yes other creatures here on Earth do it, but it is one of the distinguishing features of our advanced brains.

      As you say, zero tolerance is intolerable. Some allowance must be made for failure, as we humans have an intimate relationship with failure. 8)

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