What is in Our Power, Part Three: An Exploratory Course, by Keith Seddon

In part three of our series from Keith Seddon’s book Stoic Serenity, exploring the core theme in Stoicism of ‘what is in our power and what is not’, you can further reflect on the theme in further exercises as to how this applies to your life.

So click below to read more! If you can, take 15 minutes to go through the exercises and please post below your reflections on this key Stoic maxim!

What is in Our Power, Part Three

Part four will be uploaded on Thursday.

 

More about Keith Seddon & Stoic Serenity: Keith Seddon is director of the MA and PhD programmes in Ancient Philosophy at Warnborough College, Ireland. He is a freelance academic and writer, who started the ‘Stoic Foundation’ in 2000, an educational trust, offering advice, support and a correspondence course (on which his book Stoic Serenity, from which our extract is taken, is based) in practical Stoic philosophy to anyone interested in taking up Stoicism as a philosophy to live by. Our thanks go to Keith for allowing his work to be reproduced on this blog.

What is in our Power and What is Not, Part One: An Exploratory Course, by Keith Seddon

In our first excerpt, Keith Seddon discusses the background to the core Stoic idea of the importance of understanding what is in our power and what is notwhich was at the heart, in particular, of Epictetus’ whole teaching programme. Within the maxim, there is considerable depth, much more than a first glance might suggest….

So click here to read part one! Tomorrow, part two will be uploaded, which will explore key passages that discuss the theme in depth, as well as an exercise to try.

Please post below your reflections on this key Stoic maxim!

What is in Our Power: Part One

Epictetus

More about Keith Seddon & Stoic Serenity: Keith Seddon is director of the MA and PhD programmes in Ancient Philosophy at Warnborough College, Ireland. He is a freelance academic and writer, who started the ‘Stoic Foundation’ in 2000, an educational trust, offering advice, support and a correspondence course (on which his book Stoic Serenity, from which our extract is taken, is based) in practical Stoic philosophy to anyone interested in taking up Stoicism as a philosophy to live by. Our thanks go to Keith for allowing his work to be reproduced on this blog.

 

What is in Our Power and What is Not: A Short Exploratory Course of the Key Stoic Idea, by Keith Seddon

From tomorrow, we’ll be posting a series of five excerpts over the next week from Keith Seddon’s Stoic Serenity: A Practical Course on Finding Inner Peace, focussing on the theme of ‘what is in our power and what is not’, which was a core part of Epictetus’ approach to understanding Stoic philosophy. Indeed, for Epictetus, it was arguably the best  ‘gateway’ into Stoic philosophy for his students.

These excerpts will include recommended passages from Stoic authors to read on the theme, and exercises you can do to implement Stoic advice. The idea is that readers of the Stoicism Today blog might like to take 10 or 15 minutes to do the exercises from each excerpt. And please do write in the comments below how the exercises are going, and any reflections on the effectiveness of approaching philosophy as a way of life from Epictetus’ angle of ‘knowing what is in your power and what is not’!

With thanks to Keith Seddon for allowing this chapter to be reproduced on the blog.

Stoic Serenity

More about Keith Seddon & Stoic Serenity: Keith Seddon is director of the MA and PhD programmes in Ancient Philosophy at Warnborough College, Ireland. He is a freelance academic and writer, who started the ‘Stoic Foundation’ in 2000, an educational trust, offering advice, support and a correspondence course (on which his book Stoic Serenity, from which our extract is taken, is based) in practical Stoic philosophy to anyone interested in taking up Stoicism as a philosophy to live by. Our thanks go to Keith for allowing his work to be reproduced on this blog.

Podcast: The Roman Stoics with John Sellars and Peter Adamson

John Sellars and Peter Adamson discuss the Roman Stoics in the History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps

Our best evidence for Stoic practices comes from the later, or so-called ‘Roman Stoics’, such as Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. It is these three authors who provide our most substantial evidence for Stoicism. But who were these Stoics, and what did they write? And how were these authors different from earlier Stoics? And what is it that differentiates ‘philosophy as a way of life’ from ‘philosophy’? 

To find out more, click here for a podcast with John Sellars, lecturer of philosophy at Birkbeck College London, in a discussion with Peter Adamson, Professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at UCL London, who organises the wonderful History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps podcast series.

 

Live Like A Stoic Week 2013 (Nov 25 – Dec 1)

Live Like A Stoic Week is happening for the second year. It will be taking place from November 25 to December 1. Everyone who is interested in Stoicism, or who practices it today, is encouraged to take part, get involved in an event or activity, and help spread the word.

Last year, Stoic Week attracted participants in schools, universities and philosophy clubs around the world, and generated articles in the Guardian, Independent, The Philosopher’s Magazine and the Huffington Post. We want to make this year’s Stoic Week even bigger.

How you can get involved:

We’d love it if, once again, Stoic Week events take place all over the world. This could be as simple as organizing a discussion on Stoicism in your local cafe or pub. It could mean local clubs, schools or philosophy departments organizing a debate on a Stoic question or theme, such as ‘can philosophy be a form of therapy?’ or ‘is virtue sufficient for happiness?’ If you’re a teacher or a lecturer, you might get your class to discuss Stoicism and to consider some of the Stoics’ practical techniques for changing our emotions.

We’re organizing a public event in London on Saturday November 30. Details, programme and registration is here: www.stoicismforlife.com

It would be great if any bloggers interested in Stoicism used the week as an opportunity to share their own experience of Stoicism. Has it helped you? Do you think it has relevance in modern life? Which ideas or exercises have you found particularly helpful? Write a blog post or make a YouTube video, and be sure to mention Stoic Week and to help spread the word. Send Patrick Ussher or another project member the link, and we’ll share it with our followers.

You can also get involved in our annual study of the practical effects of Stoic techniques. Pick a technique or spiritual exercise from the Stoic Handbook, and then try it out every day, keeping note of the impact on your beliefs, emotions and actions. Then fill in the Stoic questionnaire we provide, and send it back to us. You might also want to share your experience more informally via a blog or YouTube video. We’re working on the Stoic Handbook now and will have it finished by early November.

If you’re a teacher and are interested in doing a class or workshop on Stoicism, here are some practical ideas and exercises you might find useful.

The week is organized by the Stoicism and Therapy project, which is run out of Exeter University. The project brings together classicists, philosophers, psychotherapists and journalists, who share an interest in the practical and therapeutic use of Stoicism today. Project members include Professor Christopher Gill and Patrick Ussher from Exeter University, Dr John Sellars from Birkbeck University, psychotherapists Tim LeBon and Donald Robertson, CBT psychotherapist and author Gill Garrett, and Jules Evans from Queen Mary, University of London. You can watch a video featuring the project members here.

We hope Stoic Week will increase public interest in Stoicism, and bring its therapeutic power into people’s lives.

Podcast: Adapting Stoicism Today

A discussion between John Sellars, lecturer of philosophy at Birkbeck College London, Antonia Macaro, author of Reason, Virtue and Psychotherapy,  and Julian Baggini, co-founder of The Philosopher’s Magazine,  on adapting Stoicism for the modern-day. What areas of Stoic philosophy are easily adaptable for the modern-day? And what are the ‘problem-areas’ of ancient Stoic philosophy which require a more careful, discerning approaching? Is ‘virtue as the only good’ too extreme a position? Should a modern Stoic adapt this, or should he or she see some external things as having inherent value? Is the Stoic psychological model of beliefs leading to emotions an accurate model? And do we have as much control over our attitudes as the Stoics claimed? And how much control do we have in life anyway? These and other questions are probed in this fascinating discussion.

What do you think on the challenges of adapting Stoicism to the modern-day?

Antonia Macaro and Julian Baggini, authors of the book The Shrink and The Sage, and of the FT column of the same name. Julian Baggini runs the website microphilosophy, on which the above discussion is hosted.

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On a different note, there will be a two-week break for posts on Stoicism Today. Our weekly posts will resume on September 7th. 

'The Philosophical Methods of CBT' by Tim LeBon

This week, Tim LeBon, philosophical counsellor and one of the Stoicism Today team, maps  seven typical errors of thinking, as recognised within CBT, with possible philosophical remedies for each error. The following piece is extracted from Tim’s book, Wise Therapy (2001), and is reproduced with kind permission of the author. The extract is prefaced by a short introduction, written by Tim for this blog, about the overall aims of the book.

Tim Le Bon, Psychotherapist, Philosophical Counsellor and Author of ‘Wise Therapy’
Introduction

In Wise Therapy (Sage,  2001) I aimed to examine some of the main practical topics in philosophy and explore their implications for psychotherapy and counselling.  The philosophy of well-being, right and wrong,  reason and the emotions and the meaning of life are all surveyed, what I hope to be acceptable conclusions reached, and then, in the final chapter, a counsellor’s philosophical toolbox is created.  Alongside a focus on philosophy,  I also examine the existing philosophically-inspired techniques from a variety of approaches, including logotherapy,  philosophical counselling, existential-phenomenological counselling, Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

CBT and REBT often quote the Stoic Epictetus’s dictum that “Men are disturbed not by things, but the views which they take of them” (Epictetus, Enchiridion, 5). They have taken this idea and turned it into a technique, variously called thought records, mood logs or cognitive restructuring. The idea is that you notice when you are feeling upset (sad, angry, anxious etc) and try to determine the judgement or thought that lies behind the emotions. I usually recommend clients to imagine themselves in a cartoon with a speech bubble coming out of their head. The trick is to imagine what thoughts or images are in the speech bubble. Once you’ve worked out which thoughts are disturbing you, the next step is to untwist your thinking by looking typical thinking errors that cause emotional problems.  After that, you can come up with alternative (“rational”) responses to help you feel less upset.

In the following extract from Wise Therapy  I first describe some of the existing thinking errors described by leading CBT therapists, and then refine these to include philosophical insights.

Continue reading “'The Philosophical Methods of CBT' by Tim LeBon”