You’ve heard of stoicism but you’re not sure what it means. In brief, it was a 3rd-century Hellenist philosophy regarding ethics. The mindset was based on simple logic (not always the best way to look at life), and natural phenomena. Altruism rarely mattered. Rising above your limitations didn’t, either.
Stoic virtue is based on cooperating with natural reality aka Divine Reason (related to Fate and to Providence) rather than resisting it. Stoics deal with what is under their control, such as behaviors, thoughts and emotions. Issues such as health, natural phenomena (earthquakes, weather, the economy, and the thought processes of other people) are, a stoic realizes, not under anyone’s control.
The strengths of stoicism are in developing fortitude when dealing with difficulties including physical and emotional pain. Stoics don’t complain. They forge onward instead of wallowing in victimhood. However, there’s a weakness to stoicism. It is not conducive to metaphors nor to other imagery.
Stoicism focuses on the self rather than on one’s relationship with the rest of the world. If your family member or other important person sickens or dies, the phenomena are part of nature and nothing for stoics to fret about. The value of the soul, the personality, the potential of life, and the value of love are irrelevant to stoics. Epictetus decided that fine stoics needn’t consider the “foolish” and “groundless pain” of a death as emotionally painful for survivors. You and your local clergy members might not agree with his quip, “Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not. It is nothing, then, either to the living or to the dead, for with the living it is not and the dead exist no longer.” Feelings and the fear of death don’t matter to stoics. Neither do souls or GOD’s moral imperatives. The Ten Commandments were old news in Hellenistic period. So what.
Stoics believe that they need not take responsibility for someone’s perception of them. That leaves lots of room for cruel and criminal behavior. Despite the inherent faults with stoicism, though, some sayings based on stoic principles are motivational. The trick is to take on stoic concepts without harming anyone in the process. The following list of stoicisms, quips about the stoic life, might help you to change perspective, to master some difficulty. Make sure that you understand them correctly, though.
Stoic Seneca the Younger taught:
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. Macrobiotic followers phrase the idea as “Everything that has a Front has a Back.” It means that backgrounds to incidents matter. Therapists agree.
There are more things, Lucilius, that frighten us than injure us, and we suffer more in imagination than in reality. In other words, don’t let your imagination trick you. Focus on facts.
“How does it help…to make troubles heavier by bemoaning them?” translates into today’s perspective-changing “Let it go,” and “Get over it” phrases.
“The man who has anticipated the coming of troubles takes away their power when they arrive.” In other words, brace for trouble by preparing coping mechanisms before you’ll need them. Therapists worldwide would endorse that empowering perspective.
“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” This idea lets some stoics improve the lives of other people though it irritates self-absorbed stoics. You can use it to become more compassionate.
Courage can grow when we think of “We should not, like sheep, follow the herd of creatures in front of us, making our way where others go, not where we ought to go.” Individuality matters. So does standing up for decency and good sense.
Read books about stoicism and select the sayings that improve your personal best without harming anyone else. Remember, males and females think differently..
Yocheved Golani is a popular writer whose byline has appeared worldwide in print and online. A certified Health Information Management professional, she is a member of Get Help Israel. Certified in Spiritual Chaplaincy (End of Life issues) and in counseling skills, her life coaching for ill people puts healthy perspective into a clients’ success plan for achieving desired goals.