You Will Continue To Suffer If You Have an Emotional Reaction To Everything

Warren Buffett? Bruce Lee? Cindy Flores? Sylvester McNutt III? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A paragraph of advice about maintaining equanimity is popular on social media. Here is the first sentence:

You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you.

These words have been attributed to the influential martial artist Bruce Lee and the famous investor Warren Buffett. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that this passage has been spoken or written by Bruce Lee or Warren Buffett. It is very difficult to trace because it has been shared via several social media platforms. The search engines for social media platforms are typically defective or non-existent. In addition, messages are sometimes undated.

The earliest match (with a solid date) located by QI appeared in two tweets from Cindy Flores:

Twitter handle: @cfloorrrr link
Timestamp: 12:56 AM · Mar 24, 2016
You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you, true power is observing everything w logic

Twitter handle: @cfloorrrr link
Timestamp: 12:57 AM · Mar 24, 2016
@cfloorrrr true power is restraint. If words control you that means everyone else can control you, breathe and allow things to pass.

The tweets did not attribute the remark to anyone; hence, Cindy Flores might be the creator. Yet, it is possible that the words were relayed from an earlier message on social media. Based on current evidence QI would label the text anonymous.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

It is possible that the quotation evolved over time via the assembly of fragments. Here are partial matches beginning in 2009:

Twitter handle: @jatovia link
Timestamp: 1:16 PM · Nov 28, 2009
RT @areefuhstanklin: You seriously do not have to have an emotional reaction to everything that happens to you.

Twitter handle: @12BarAcidBlues link
Timestamp: 9:14 AM · Jul 13, 2010
Me too RT @mynamesnotjosh Also, I need to stop having an emotional reaction to everything.

Twitter handle: @ElizabethRenter link
Timestamp: 3:36 PM · Oct 5, 2010
Yes there is a difference between being cold and not having an emotional reaction to everything—it’s called #peace thru detachment

Twitter handle: @Lotay link
Timestamp: 7:53 PM · Mar 5, 2011
True power is restraint.

Twitter handle: @KidVista link
Timestamp: 1:03 AM · Jan 30, 2014
Sometimes I just need to breathe and allow things to happen.

The full message was tweeted by Cindy Flores on March 24, 2016, and during the following days parts of the message were tweeted by others.

Twitter handle: @Khalidbintory link
Timestamp: 2:56 AM · Mar 26, 2016
You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you.

Twitter handle: @Khalidbintory link
Timestamp: 2:56 AM · Mar 26, 2016
True power is sitting back and observing everything with logic; true power is restraint.

Twitter handle: @Khalidbintory link
Timestamp: 2:57 AM · Mar 26, 2016
If words control you, that means everyone else can control you; breathe and allow things to pass.

In November 2016 the quotation was included in an article titled “19 Anonymous Quotes You NEED To Read” on a website called Odyssey: 1

“You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing everything with logic; true power is restraint. If words control you that means everyone else can control you; breathe and allow things to pass.” -Anonymous

The words are sometimes credited to Sylvester McNutt III, and a twitter account with that name did tweet the message in January 2018, but that is a late date.

Twitter handle: @SylvesterMcNutt link
Timestamp: 11:11 PM · Jan 14, 2018

You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything.

True power is sitting back and observing everything with logic; true power is restraint.

If words control you that means everyone else can control you; breathe and allow things to pass.

Warren Buffet was linked to the saying via a tweet in August 2018. The tweet below mentioned @WarrenBuffettHQ, but that is not the official twitter account of Warren Buffett, and it has been suspended.

Twitter handle: @3PointPlayer link
Timestamp: 12:21 PM · Aug 29, 2018
You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is observing things with logic. True power is restraint. If words control you that means everyone else can control you. Breathe and allow things to pass. –
@WarrenBuffettHQ

Bruce Lee who died in 1973 received credit for the saying by October 2018.

Twitter handle: @ItsTerrBear link
Timestamp: 5:02 PM · Oct 13, 2018
“You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing everything with logic. If words control you that means everyone else can control you. Breathe and allow things to pass” – Bruce Lee

In conclusion, this article presents a snapshot of current research. The origin of the quotation remains uncertain. It was circulating by March 2016 when it was tweeted without attribution by Cindy Flores. Fragments of the quotation were in circulation long before 2016. Attributions to Warren Buffett and Bruce Lee are unconvincing.

Image Notes: Illustration of meditation from Activedia at Pixabay. Image has been cropped and resized.

(Great thanks to Laloofah and Marisha Goldhamer whose inquiries led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

Notes:

  1. Website: The Odyssey Online, Article title: 19 Anonymous Quotes You NEED To Read, Article author: Kendall Magill (Iona College), Date on website: November 8, 2016, Website description: Odyssey’s mission is to affect positive social change by inviting people to share their perspectives, sharpen their opinions. (Accessed theodysseyonline.com on July 26, 2019) link