Rediscovering Stoicism

I’ve recently rediscovered Stoicism. Way back when in high school – Gynamsium in my case – I wrote a term paper on Seneca. I found his ideas attractive but somehow that all got lost in life again. Now, a couple of decades later, I stumbled on it again and I am seeing its potential to help me heal more from PTSD. Or at least live with it better, depending on how you define healing…

Many have pointed out that Stoicism has influenced REBT and CBT, so it probably is no surprise that I am devoting my current learning and practice to it. I ventured out into CBT only to find a therapist who charged and triggered me a lot. Frustrated, I decided to go back to the somatic-based therapist. After all, I noticed how our work continued to blossom – and that one of the most important things for me to work on is somatic awareness. Currently, my body reminds me of my anxiety – through heart palpitations, diarrhea, and general bodily quivering. Somehow my mind tells me that I am not anxious – and the rest of my body disagrees. Something is clearly off here…

On top of that, my mind has a tendency to also talk me into all sorts of other things, as I was reminded during my recent adventure into performing. Probably most of that anxiety is magnified by the catastrophes my mind conjures up – and that’s where Stoicism comes in, possibly a more fitting tool than therapy.

Since I tend to digest what I learn through writing about it, I decided to start sharing now while I am still learning, instead of waiting until my knowledge is at a fuller understanding. So, if you disagree with what I am sharing, see this as an invitation to teach me and to learn together…

What then is Stoicism? I will focus on the ethics here because that is the part that I have read about so far. Stoicism is a virtue ethic, which means that it emphasizes the development of a virtuous character. Being virtuous in this context is the same as living the good life. To sharpen our virtue is to move towards our happiness, towards flourishing. To be virtuous to Stoics means to be the best human being possible. What makes us uniquely human is that we are rational and social. To be rational is to be able to differentiate what is under our control and what is not. What is under our control can be perfected; what isn’t under our control obviously cannot, at least not by us. We can use the impact of what we cannot control on us to grow, though, because we can learn to react virtuously, that is, consistent with our rational nature. Exactly how that pans out is what I am learning and start sharing on this blog.

Let me end this post by sharing the resources I am finding most useful right now, especially because I am convinced that I would’ve pursued Stoicism sooner if it weren’t for the overwhelming amount of resources…

Stoic Week. I found the theoretical introduction a bit too light but the exercises are tremendously helpful. What got me convinced to study further was the evening meditation, which basically consists of asking ourselves: What have I done right? What could I have done differently? How could I have done this differently? That last question is where the learning happens – and it’s a question I have not found elsewhere, in Buddhism or Nonviolent Communication in particular, and yet it is so helpful.

Stoicism 101. This lecture by Massimo Pigliucci gave me the theoretical framework I missed in Stoic Week. There’s a lot of great material on his blog, too, but again it gets overwhelming quite quickly. So, start with the video for some grounding…

Stoicism and The Art of Happiness. Although I’ve only just begun reading this book by Donald Robertson, I am finding it very helpful (most of the summary in this post stems from this book). My only quibble so far is his use of “man” and “mankind” – and not just in the translations…

Finally, the Good Fortune podcast is very helpful in bringing Stoicism to live and into my life. I suspect that much of what I’ll share here will be grappling with something I learned on that podcast.



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  1. Pingback: Cutting through Suffering | Rachel's Musings

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