One person is not master of another, but it is rather life and death, pleasure and pain, that are his masters. Bring Ceaser to me without those, and you will see how calm I am; but when he arrives with all of that, to the accompaniment of thunder and lightning, and I allow myself to be intimidated by that, what else am I doing than recognizing my master, like a runaway slave?
As long as I have, as it were, some relief from those things, I too am like a runaway slave who is watching in the theatre; I take a bath, I drink, I sing, yet do so in fear and misery.Epectitus: Discourse 1.29
This discourse strips away all the social constructions into what matters to us, as individuals. You can be a slave, but not to any human master, but to the pain and threat of death that comes with it. Stoicism brings up the topic of slavery frequently, and Epictetus was a slave for many years. In his writings, slavery is meant in the context as both the literal institution of slavery, and as a metaphor for how humans can be enslaved by their unmitigated desires and passions (as in anger or other unbalanced emotion).
I find the excerpt above quite interesting, and shows how people “escape” from their pain with distractions. Such escapes are illusions, when just below the surface you remain enslaved by fear, anxiety, pain. To be free, we first must accept that suffering is a fact of life, and remember to only concern ourselves with what’s in our control.