Stoic Week Day Three: Mindfulness

Welcome to Day Three of Stoic Week

WednesdayWelcome to Day Three of Stoic Week.

Please read today’s chapter online or download the the handbook and read it offline.

Now take a moment to consider today’s morning text for reflection and post your thoughts or questions about this to our discussion group.

People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills; and you too are especially inclined to feel this desire. But this is altogether un-philosophical, when it is possible for you to retreat into yourself at any time you want. There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind, especially if he has within himself the kind of thoughts that let him dip into them and so at once gain complete ease of mind; and by ease of mind, I mean nothing but having one’s own mind in good order. So constantly give yourself this retreat and renew yourself. You should have to hand concise and fundamental principles, which will be enough, as soon as you encounter them, to cleanse you from all distress and send you back without resentment at the activities to which you return. – Marcus Aurelius,Meditations, 1.3.1-3

Stoic Week Day Two: Control

Welcome to Day Two of Stoic Week

TuesdayWelcome to Day Two of Stoic Week.

Please read today’s chapter online or download the the handbook and read it offline.

Now take a moment to consider today’s morning text for reflection and post your thoughts or questions about this to our discussion group.

Early in the morning, when you are finding it hard to wake up, hold this thought in your mind: ‘I am getting up to do the work of a human being. Do I still resent it, if I am going out to do what I was born for and for which I was brought into the world? Or was I framed for this, to lie under the bedclothes and keep myself warm?’ ‘But this is more pleasant’. So were you born for pleasure: in general were you born for feeling or for affection? Don’t you see the plants, the little sparrows, the ants, the spiders, the bees doing their own work, and playing their part in making up an ordered world. And then are you unwilling to do the work of a human being? Won’t you run to do what is in line with your nature? – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.1

Interview: Thomas Jarrett LTC

Interview with Thomas Jarrett, author of Warrior Resilience Training, for Stoic Week.

Thomas JarrettQ: How would you introduce yourself and your work to our readers?

I am a senior Military Behavioral Health Officer, former Green Beret and Albert Ellis Institute Fellow.  I utilized Stoicism, cognitive science and POW insights with U.S. Combat Soldiers in the first combat resiliency program, initially titled “Stoic Resilience Training,” later “Warrior Resilience & Thriving”, in the Iraq War in 2005-6, and 2008-2009. We trained thousands of Warriors in a standardized educational class, and cross-training Medics, therapists and interested chaplains. This pioneer pilot resiliency program contributed to current standardized programs.

Q: What does Stoicism means to you?

Stoicism is a historically proven, philosophical resiliency system, developed in the crucible of suffering. It is a premier method of stress-inoculation training and world approach. For me it was similar to finding the “right” key, to a crippling cipher. The inculcation and application of basic Stoic insights allows the cultivation of military-grade software or “mental armor”, which allows us (only when applied, not just having the insight) to navigate bravely this beautiful, yet potentially painful world. Not dissimilar to a Western Zen but much more virtue-focused.

Thomas JarrettQ: How do you currently makes use of Stoicism in your work?

As a senior Cognitive and Rational Emotive Behavior Fellow, I continually educate service members that our operating philosophies and appraisals directly determine our emotions and subsequent behavioral choices. Stoicism helps independent Soldiers, manage their own emotions and expectations, vs. being overly-controlling and or hyper-responsible.

Q: When and how did you first become interested in Stoicism?

My aunt had a small Random House Volume on Aurelius’ Meditations, and my mother had given me James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh as a child. Additionally, my father, an Airborne Ranger, often spoke in terms of virtue, sacrifice and character. My influences included Viktor Frankl, Admiral James Stockdale and Spartacus.

Q: What’s the most important aspect of Stoicism to you?

The idea that we are the arbiters of our reality, and that our internal compass or true north cannot be degraded by external events. The realization that we literally determine the meaning of external events is essential, and that Virtue is our loadstone. It is different than post-modern, virtue-less approaches or cultural relativism. Stoicism permits me to travel though this world, unimpeded.

Q: In what ways do you think Stoicism still matters today?

When we are long gone, some space Marine will be reviewing Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus, steeling her mind prior to combat operations. Focused on virtue, accepting the inevitability of his or her death, they will draw inspiration and resolve from those who preceded them. Stoicism taps what is excellent in humans.

Q: How has Stoicism affected the way you live your life?

Being fairly passionate, Stoicism has allowed me to validate what is useful in cognitive and existential therapies, without becoming intoxicated with diagnoses and disorders. Stoicism freed me from Eastern psychologies steeped in reincarnation and reiterated why I am proud to still be a child of Greece and Rome, and that my mind and rationality are essential to my well-being, vs. nuisances or to be stopped.

Q: What’s one of your favourite Stoic quotations and why?

If we know why, we can endure any how.  – Nietzsche


It is not the thing itself, but view men take of it which disturbs them. -Epictetus


Some things are far worse than death. – My father

Q: What advice would you give someone wanted to learn more about Stoicism?

Actually read the classics, including the best translations with commentaries. Join a reputable Stoic discussion Group like Stoic Forum, but avoid those that are egg-headed or contentious (Philosophy disease). Begin with Seneca’s Moral Essays and other sources who had access to original Stoic works. Consider A.A. Long and Hadot’s commentaries. Examine who else call themselves Stoics, you will be impressed.

Q: Do you have anything else that you wanted to mention while we have the chance?

Unlike scripture, or revealed religions, real Stoics ask you to manage your own opinions and evaluate the efficacy of the system in THIS life. You will never find a Stoic expert, who castigates you for not agreeing with their doctrine. Avoid those of strong opinion who have never practiced Stoicism.

You can watch a video about the Warrior Resilience Training on YouTube:


Stoic Week Day One: Life

Welcome to Day One of Stoic Week.

MondayWelcome to Day One of Stoic Week.

By now, you should already have completed the online questionnaire, introduced yourself to either our Facebook or Google community, and read the introductory chapters, in preparation for the week ahead.

Please read today’s chapter online or download the the handbook and read it offline.

Now take a moment to consider today’s morning text for reflection and post your thoughts or questions about this to our discussion group.

From Maximus [I have learnt the importance of these things]: to be master of oneself and not carried this way and that; to be cheerful under all circumstances, including illness; a character with a harmonious blend of gentleness and dignity; readiness to tackle the task in hand without complaint; the confidence everyone had that whatever he said he meant and whatever he did was not done with bad intent; never to be astonished or panic-stricken, and never to be hurried or to hang back or be at a loss or downcast or cringing or on the other hand angry or suspicious; to be ready to help or forgive, and to be truthful; to give the impression of someone whose character is naturally upright rather than having undergone correction; the fact that no-one could have thought that Maximus looked down on him, or could have presumed to suppose that he was better than Maximus; and to have great personal charm. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 1.14

Stoic Week Starts Tomorrow!

Stoic Week starts tomorrow, on Monday 17th October.

Stoic Week HandbookStoic Week 2016 begins tomorrow: Monday 17th October.

Please enrol now, if you haven’t done so already and read the introductory chapters, in preparation.

Start by introducing yourself to our Facebook or Google discussion groups.  Remember to complete the initial online questionnaires.

The handbook is already available to read on the web.  The downloadable versions will become available at 00:00 GMT.  These include a PDF version for printing, MOBI and AZW3 versions for Kindle, and EPUB for other e-readers.

There are also French and German translations available on the download page this year.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • What is Stoicism?
  • Stoic Week: Your Daily Routine
  • The Stoic Self-Monitoring Record
  • Monday: Life
  • Tuesday: Control
  • Wednesday: Mindfulness
  • Thursday: Virtue
  • Friday: Relationships
  • Saturday: Resilience
  • Sunday: Nature
  • After Stoic Week
  • Appendix: Further Reading

Conclusion: The Philosophy of CBT

The concluding chapter from The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (2010)

Excerpt from The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (2010), copyright © Donald Robertson. All rights reserved.

Lead me, Zeus, and thou, O Destiny,
Lead me wherever your laws assign me.
I follow fearless, for even if I should become reluctant,
Wretched though I may be, I shall follow still.
Fate guides the willing, but drags the unwilling with it.

– The Hymn to Zeus, Cleanthes of Assos.

The Philosophy of CBTI hope to have shown that the origins of psychotherapy and self-help, especially of a cognitive orientation, can quite reasonably be traced to classical philosophical schools such as Stoicism. I think the reader will also perceive that the philosophical tradition contains a number of concepts, strategies, and techniques, which might expand the clinical armamentarium of modern psychotherapy, providing new means of facilitating cognitive, behavioural, and emotional improvement in today’s clients.

As discussed in the introduction to this book, the Socratic tradition may also offer a broader and, unsurprisingly, more philosophical perspective on the practice of psychotherapy, unconstrained by modern presuppositions about the nature of psychotherapy as a profession. Considering the bigger picture, the place of modern cognitive therapy within a philosophical tradition stretching back roughly 2,500 years, allows us to see modern therapeutic concepts, strategies, and techniques, as part of a philosophical “art of living”, rather than merely the tools of a “job.”

The enormous literary and philosophical value of classical texts, such as the writings of Seneca or Marcus Aurelius, add another dimension to the study of psychotherapy for those drawn to the beauty of thought and expression in ancient literature. These works have survived many centuries, and certain individuals in one generation after another have been drawn to them for both consolation and inspiration. The life stories of these philosophers too are often remarkable. Seneca? Epictetus? Marcus Aurelius? Our knowledge of their character and circumstances, and times in which they lived, undoubtedly adds something to our appreciation of their wisdom when it comes to coping with adversity in all its hues. These were intellectual heroes, veritable warriors of the psyche, who knew bereavement, torture, exile, infirmity, warfare, political intrigue, and betrayal, and who were responsible for the care of others facing similar circumstances. Vice Admiral Stockdale, the Vietnam veteran, is perhaps our closest modern equivalent. He described the ancient world of Epictetus as a dangerous “buzz saw” of adversity and misfortune, and he found himself against a similar metaphorical buzz saw in the dungeons of the Hanoi Hilton prison, where he almost gave his life to avoid betraying the incarcerated soldiers under his command.

I make no pretence to be a classical scholar myself, just one who happens to be well-positioned to comment on the overlap between the two disciplines of classical scholarship and modern psychotherapy. However, I hope to have been able to provide a little more scaffolding within which others may erect a more comprehensive and refined account of modern psychotherapy within the Socratic tradition, inspired by Stoicism and other ancient therapeutic approaches. My grasp of ancient languages is quite limited but where necessary I have modified the existing translations, or produced hybrids of them, which seemed to me to better convey their technical meaning to modern readers, especially psychotherapists. Where possible, I’ve tried to check my translations with others more adept in these matters. Undoubtedly, one of the greatest obstacles to the reception of ancient texts among modern professionals engaged in similar work is due to the language used in common translations, which are often quite anachronistic themselves. I would like to think that one day translations could be made of key texts, such as the Enchiridion, using the same terminology used by modern psychotherapists, where appropriate. Perhaps most crucially, I would suggest that the term “emotional disturbance” better and more accurately conveys the meaning of pathĂ© to modern practitioners of psychotherapy than the conventional translation as “passion.” The false notion of the Stoic as a “cold fish”, someone “intellectualising” or “rationalising” things defensively, at the expense of feeling, has done more to deter modern readers than any other misconception. This could be redressed, perhaps, by emphasising the opposite view and formulating an explicit account of Stoicism, as previously discussed, which centres upon its theory of the ideal Sage as being animated by a philosophical love of existence; free from passion, in the sense of emotional disturbance, but nevertheless full of love, as Marcus Aurelius put it. The analogy with Spinoza’s “intellectual love of God”, or Nature, might perhaps act as a guide in this respect. Spinoza himself presents a system of philosophical therapeutics so similar to Stoicism that it is tempting to see him as their true modern heir in this respect.

To further assist the reader, I have provided the script of an exercise called the “View from Above” which can easily be read to groups of students, and which I hope provides some taste of the kind of mental exercise that Socrates or Epictetus might have approved of. We have used this script with hundreds of people over the years, and consistently found that they enjoyed the experience and appeared to obtain some benefit from it. We have also experimented with audio recordings of the same script, on CD or MP3, which clients appeared to find helpful. Some people find these exercises so appealing that they repeat them on a daily basis. Indeed, I have also attempted to provide a schematic reconstruction of the daily regime or routine of a Stoic philosopher, to try to help modern readers better envisage their use of the various exercises discussed. This cannot be a perfect reconstruction, but clear support for it can be found in the preceding chapters, and I hope that it will make the overall “art of living” clearer, as well as highlighting the kind of self-discipline apparently required to follow the Stoic path.

In conclusion, I hope that this work can be extended to form the basis of a more coherent appraisal and assimilation of classical philosophy within the field of modern psychotherapy. I intend –fate willing as the Stoics might say– to continue to publish my own research in this area. However, this initial effort will have served its purpose if it draws others to the subject and brings forth further contributions from other psychotherapists who see something of value in the philosophical literature. I have found the literature of classical philosophy to be of tremendous personal value, and have also drawn inspiration from it in teaching, supervision, and clinical psychotherapy. I am certain that others will benefit from it in similar ways and if this book inspires them to read Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, or other ancient philosophers, then I will be satisfied that it has achieved something indisputably worthwhile.

How would the ancient Stoics have dealt with hate speech?

By William Irvine.  Reproduced with permission from the original article on OUPblog.

Insults have lately been making headline news. Last year, the world witnessed an attack on the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Eleven people were killed, and another eleven were injured. The attackers felt that some of the cartoons the newspaper had published had insulted the prophet Mohammed, and they were willing to sacrifice their own lives to right that wrong.

In America, political pundits were astonished by the rise of Donald Trump. The rise was fueled in large part by his willingness to insult other Republican candidates, along with a wide array of ordinary citizens. Trump insulted women. He insulted war heroes. He insulted journalists. And this was just the beginning. The New York Times recently published a list of 258 people, places, and things he had insulted—on Twitter alone. There were also many verbal insults.

On America’s college campuses, insults made headlines of a different sort. Students complained that they were being bombarded by insults. As a result, they felt humiliated and even downtrodden.

I was initially puzzled by these last reports. Had college campuses—including places like Yale University—been invaded by louts, bullies, and bigots? Further investigation revealed that what instead had happened is that students—in many cases, with the encouragement of the university faculty and administration—had defined down what counted as an insult. They had, as a result, become hypersensitive to insults, meaning that just about anything could count as one. On one campus, for example, students were cautioned against referring to a mixed group of male and female students as “you guys.” The females in the group might feel left out, and as a result, their feelings might be hurt.

This last “insult” is an example of what have become known as microaggressions. They are such will-o’-the-wisp things that it takes training to spot them, and at many universities, there are people who are quite happy to provide that training. Once you start looking for microaggressions, though, you will find them everywhere, and as a result, you will end up feeling very insulted, which is what had happened on American college campuses.

At the same time as students were learning to spot microaggressions, they were being told that as individuals, there was very little they could do to defend themselves. What they had to do, when insulted, is to turn to the university administration for protection—or maybe even the campus police.

Double Herma of SenecaIf we could travel back in time and transport an ancient Stoic philosopher—someone like Epictetus or Seneca—back to the future, he would likely be astonished by efforts to sensitize students to insults. What these students need, he would assert, is to be desensitized! More precisely, they need to learn how to shrug off insults. Furthermore, telling students that they are helpless to deal with insults on their own only makes matters worse. Start thinking of yourself as a helpless victim, and you are likely to have a miserable existence.

The Stoics, after devoting considerable thought to how best to respond to insults, concluded that we would do well to become insult pacifists. When insulted, we should not insult back in return; we should instead carry on as if nothing had happened. It is, I have found, a very effective way to deal with many insults. On failing to provoke a rise in his target, an insulter is likely to feel foolish.

And if we feel that we simply must say something in response to an insult, the Stoics recommend that we engage in self-deprecating humor—that we insult ourselves even worse than the insulter did. I have experimented with this technique. A few years back, a colleague told me that as part of his research for a book he was writing, he was reading some articles I had written. I felt flattered. Then he lowered the boom: he explained that he was trying to decide whether he should characterize me as being evil or merely misguided.

There were many things I could have said at that moment, but I suspect that none of them would have been as effective as what I did say: “Why can’t you characterize me as being both evil and misguided?” It turned out to be a singularly effective reply. If I remember correctly, his only response was to complain that I need to take things more seriously—meaning, I guess, that when insulted, I need to let my feelings be hurt. By turning an insult into a joke, we prevent the insult from taking root in our psyche, where it will cause us to experience needless anguish.

What about hate speech, though? Should we remain silent in the face of a racist insult? It depends on the situation. But the one thing we should not do is take the insult personally. We should instead dismiss hate speech, in much the same way as we should dismiss the barking of an angry dog. We should keep in mind that the dog, not being fully rational, cannot help itself. The Stoics would add that if we let ourselves get angered or upset by a barking dog, we have only ourselves to blame.

The Stoics lived long ago and in a very different world than the one we inhabit. But because human nature has changed little in the last two millennia, their advice regarding insults remains as useful as ever. Has someone insulted you? If you can bring yourself to shrug it off, you will simultaneously reduce the harm it does you and deprive the insulter of the pleasure he might have taken in hurting your feelings. It is a win-win strategy.