Can you learn to be (a) Stoic?
It’s amazing to think that more than two millennia ago, Greek philosophers developed the philosophy that underpins CBT.
Epictetus, whose writings survive as a handbook of Stoicism, counsels that it is not things that upset us, but what we think about those things. I’ve completed the four-week Stoic Mindfulness and Resilience Training (SMRT) course offered by Modern Stoicism. The course covers the key principles for living a Good Life, free of worry. It teaches ways to have a different relationship with our thoughts, which can be described as “mindfulness”. When we realise that our thoughts are just thoughts, and not reality, we can start choosing to think more helpful thoughts. We are encouraged to understand what is within our direct control - and really the only things that are, are our thoughts and our actions. When we stop trying to control other things we reduce our emotional distress.
Instead, the Stoics tell us that our goal in life should be to act according to our values. This is in our direct control and we thereby lead a good life, whatever the outcome of our actions. Obviously it helps to know what our values are!
The course also leads us to look at how to maintain our wellbeing through anticipating setbacks and preparing ourselves to cope with them resiliently.
I thought that the course, and philosophy, make a lot of sense, but found it more difficult to put it all into practice. Forming new habits can be hard and maybe working with someone else could help. I’d be interested to hear what you think.
Look out for the introduction to Stoicism course coming up in October: https://learn.modernstoicism.com/ . And, hopefully, Modern Stoicism will run another SMRT course in May. You don’t need to wait until then to find out more as there is a week-long online course you can take any time: Stoic Philosophy as a Way of Life. And the best bit is that all courses are free!