Philosophy Friday: Premeditatio Malorum
We are in trouble. Our world is still in the grip of this relentless global pandemic. Despite vaccinations, the number of infections and deaths is rising again.
It’s foreseeable that we might have to learn to live with this new disease. Being vaccinated doesn’t seem to protect against all virus variants. Many people who have recovered from the illness now suffer from the ongoing effects of debilitating Long-COVID. It’s a distinct possibility that life may not return to our previous normal.
Could it get even worse? What if a deep recession follows COVID? What if we lost our jobs and more than half our income? How bad could this get?
Exploring worst-case scenarios is not a new idea. The concept is over 2,000 years old. Back then, philosophers devised a revolutionary negative thinking technique: Premeditatio Malorum—literally, the ‘Premeditation of Evils ‘.
And it works like this: Firstly, try and think of everything that could go wrong with a situation. Then reflect on ways in which you could avoid or mitigate each adverse outcome should it occur. Even when you can do little to lessen the blow, having foreseen it as a possible outcome will reduce the sting—if it does happen.
Better still, we can almost always turn obstacles into opportunities. Have you lost your job? What a chance to spend more time with the kids—they’ll never be this young again. Or, had that dream of working for yourself? Maybe this is the golden opportunity to make it a reality.
“The world might call you a pessimist. Who cares? It’s far better to seem like a downer than to be blindsided or caught off guard.”
— Ryan Holiday, Author