'Common Pitfalls for Inexpert Stoics' by Rymke Wiersma

Common Pitfalls for Inexpert Stoics

 Rymke Wiersma

Pitfalls

Stiff upper lip

Sometimes difficult to distinguish from being Stoic, but boils down to suppressing feelings; always has comebacks (in a fit of anger or a heart condition).

Disinterestedness

Emptiness. Banishing all feelings, even pleasant ones such as joy, love, engagement and interest, which do not lead to passivity or foolish behaviour. There is nothing wrong with feeling (a consequence of thinking) as long as you do not let yourself be carried away by feelings.

Indifference

Aiming for nothing. ‘It makes no difference after all, you can always be happy.’ Devoting myself to everything that is good is, according to the Stoics, the most important thing I can do.

Rationalising

Or rather (in order to avoid making the word ‘rational’ appear bad): inventing excuses, smooth talking, explaining away feelings. None of this is belongs to Stoicism!

Apolitical attitude

The Early Stoics were very politically engaged. It is known of Zeno and Chrysippus that they both wrote a Politeia (‘Republic’). The Roman Stoics were also socially engaged; that is quite clear. They had a cosmopolitan attitude and saw all people as of equal standing, which was quite exceptional in antiquity.

Guilt-thinking

By feeling unhappy about particular words or deeds I achieve nothing, and the rest of the world does not benefit from it either. I would be better off using my energy to change my ideas (and thereby also my feelings and my behaviour). Because that is possible— that is the ‘Good News’. (See also Chapter XI)

Optimism

‘The world is beautiful, people are nice, everything turns out well.’ No, it doesn’t. A Stoic attitude does not mean that I think that everything will turn out well or be better than expected. But it does mean that I maintain the idea: whatever happens, I can make something pleasant/good out of it through thought and action.

Passivity

Being Stoic is an active attitude to life. Sensibly facing what happens is something different to letting everything happen to me and putting my own will to sleep.

Putting up with things

Saying: ‘it is OK really, the neighbour is worse off than me’ is merely resigning to ‘fate’ and has little to do with Stoicism. Leaning on someone else’s (even worse) fate is, I think, in any case rather questionable. I would consider it a genuine Stoic attitude if in this situation I actively tried to make the best of it, trying to improve my situation and that of others, and doing so without anger, pessimism or bitterness. Possibly together with the neighbour.

Stoicism as a brake

Never reacting enthusiastically to anything, never laughing enthusiastically, putting a brake on all you say: that too is a pitfall. There is nothing wrong with laughing or enthusiasm, or other positive expressions. And for something like anger it is not about avoiding saying particular things in order to swallow my anger, it is about really not thinking about those things. Not because being angry is impolite (think of Zeno, the half-Cynic), but because the ideas behind that behaviour are philosophically incorrect and because I make myself unhappy that way.

Fake Stoicism

Actually, most adults act as if they are Stoic/sensible, while that is totally not the case. And this fake Stoic attitude is precisely what causes so many problems.

Seeing beyond the horizon of ‘me’, ‘here’ and ‘now’ is something you have to learn. Many adults still react in particular situations in the way they did when they were children, at least partly (and for the clumsiest part at that). But they know that this is not sensible, or think that it is ‘not done’, and so they deeply repress their strong, nagging feelings. Children are mostly a lot less complex than adults, because they show their feelings more openly, bottling them up less or not at all. Most adults like children because of this. They have lost the knack of showing their own feelings. Most fall between two stools: endearing childish attitudes and wise, sensible attitudes.

This article is excerpted from Stoic Notes: The Stoics and Other Classical Philosophers as a Source of Inspiration for Happiness and a Better World by Rymke Wiersma. This book was first published in Dutch in 2008. The English translation by Stuart Field will be made available online later this year on the Atalanta website.

About the author:

Rymke Wiersma (Middelburg 1954) studied philosophy in Utrecht for a few years after having trained as a social worker. Together with a small collective she established a printing house, which later became the publishing house Atalanta. Its target audience are ‘thinkers’ as well as ‘doers’. Rymke writes: “A lot of people who want to change the world go about it rather impulsively, while the people who delve into philosohpy often forget the we are not solely spectators, but also actors on the world’s stage. Atalanta tries to reach both these groups of people with it publications.”

 

'An Unexpected Friendship: A Novice's Journey With Anxiety' by James Gill

An unexpected friendship: A novice’s journey with anxiety

James Gill

Calm[1]

I have suffered with fear, nervousness, anxiety and panic most of my life. The memories of my childhood are vivid recollections of throwing up at school due to the separation anxiety I felt over being separated from my mother, the inability to eat out at restaurants or keep food down because of my nervous stomach, the panic attacks and sleepless nights I suffered after the death of my grandparents and an overall hypersensitivity that made me feel alone and out of place in my own skin and in social situations. My anxieties grew, strengthened and took on new forms as I grew. For over 20 years my nighttime routine has been plagued with panic attacks brought on by obsessively fearing the death of my parents. For over 20 years the few romantic relationships I had been involved in were dysfunctional and toxic and a source of gut-wrenching heartache. My overwhelming nervousness paralyzed me from taking the initiative I needed to work and enjoy meaningful employment. I existed in a sad hypersensitive state, walking through life a loner obsessively thinking and absently living. I was suffering and the worse part about the entire situation was that until recently I was unaware of the reality of my situation or that anything could be done about it.

As fate would have it I noticed two books calling out to me one day at my favorite used bookstore. The two books were “The Joy of Wisdom” by Yongey Mingyur Rincpoche and “The Art of Happiness” by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I went back to the bookstore alone one night three weeks later and bought both books for 2 dollars.

As I read through the books a couple of strange things began to take place. First, a sense of relief soothed and comforted me and secondly, out of nowhere new books and resources started jumping into my life at every turn. These resources included Stoic philosophers Seneca, Epictetus and the Philosopher King Marcus Aurelius. I began collecting quotes, keeping a happiness journal, meditating, and practicing the wisdom that has been brought to me. I have discovered beneficial similarities between these two ancient traditions that have helped ease my mental suffering and I want to share a couple with you in hopes that the suffering you experience can be alleviated and you can experience more joy.

The awareness of your suffering can be a joyful experience.

One of the first things Buddhism and Stoicism taught me was that happiness lies in the middle way and unhappiness lies in extremes. I noticed that when I encountered situations, circumstances or external events I reacted in one of two extreme ways. On some occasions I attempted to avoid the troubling thoughts, anxieties, fears, and irrational mental chatter that constantly disrupted my mind. I thought if I acted as though it wasn’t there it would go away but what I found was that my mind, my reactions, my fears, anxieties and the constant loop of mental affliction was always waiting and wanting my attention. The more I avoided my thoughts the more momentum they seemed to gain and the more happiness I forfeited. The second extreme reaction was indulgence. On other occasions I believed my thoughts, my feelings, and wallowed in the endless and irrational chatter that obsessively swirled around my head. A painful thought would become a suffering situation because I choose to obsess and mentally fixate on the voice in my head. The Buddhist Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche provided me with a very helpful illustration that has helped shift the way I approach my anxiety. He said we tend to either make anxiety our boss or our enemy. If we fight against anxiety it becomes our enemy and anxiety doesn’t go away. If we listen to anxiety and believe its story we get carried away in the mental thoughts and it becomes our boss and does not go away. He offers a third option. We can become friends with our anxiety. This has been the middle way that has brought me much relief from my suffering. I have stopped fighting against, and stopped joining in my mental afflictions. I have become friends with them by non-judgmentally noticing them, becoming aware of them, and watching them come and go. I have noticed that If I become aware and watch my thoughts and do not judge them but simply see them for what they are; thoughts, then they come and go like a cloud or friend. This shift to consciously choose awareness over avoidance or indulgence has allowed anxiety to become my teacher and friend and an unexpected source of joy.

The awareness that the problem and solution is mental can be liberating.

Another shift in my journey with anxiety came from reading these words of the Dalai Lama, “Happiness is determined by our state of mind not by external events. The disciplined mind produces happiness and the undisciplined mind produces unhappiness.” The words of the Dalai Lama seemed to echo the meditation of Marcus Aurelius “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.” Again I felt a shift in my awareness taking place. I gradually began to notice that my unhappiness or happiness was not caused by external events but by my thoughts, perceptions, and judgments about those events. The anxiety I experienced was being produced by my undisciplined mind therefore I could begin to take responsibility and shift my actions and attitude from one of blame to action and from playing the victim to taking responsibility. It was liberating to realize that other people, events, or external factors did not have to hold my happiness and well being hostage. I had willingly made myself a prisoner by the quality of my thoughts and I could release myself from my mental prison by developing new mental habits.

Rewiring the Brain from anxiety to happiness is possible

Both Buddhist and Stoic traditions encourage the adherent to cultivate positive mental habits and overcome negative mental habits in order to alleviate unhealthy and unhappy mental conditions like anxiety. Here are a few healthy mental habits I have found beneficial to cultivate:

1. The habit of asking “is this under my control or not?” Epictetus and the Stoic practitioners understood that some things are under our control and some things are not. External events, other people’s reactions, emotions, and actions are outside of my control but my own thoughts, reactions, and actions are under my control. Things outside of my control should be met with respectful indifference instead of unhealthy anger, anxiety or panic.

2. The habit of meditation. Marcus Aurelius observed we are dyed in the color of our thoughts. The Buddhist tradition compares our thoughts to a crazy monkey jumping around trying to create chaos and interrupt mental tranquility. Meditation has proved a way for me to calm the monkey and help my thoughts to slow down. It is important for the mind to be calm and tranquil if we desire happiness and health and breathing, auditory, and visual meditation has proved a tremendous tool to help rewire my brain.

3. The habit of negative visualizing. My old mental habit of nervousness, anxiety and fear were the result of casting my hopes in things working out perfectly to bring me happiness and disappointment and a loss of happiness when they inedible did not. The habit of negative visualization focuses on the worst case scenario of a situation and helps you to mentally prepare for the worst and when the worst does not happen instead of feeling disappointed you feel relieved. This practice has helped me have more positive experiences in social situations.

4. The habit of compassion. The greatest tool to rewire the brain is compassion. There is no room for unhealthy and unhappy mental chatter when the mind is filled with compassion. Compassionate thinking and compassionate actions rob mental afflictions of their power. Both the ancient traditions of Buddhism and Stoicism view compassionate living as the key to happiness. It is our nature to cooperate with each other, to be kind toward one another, and to help one another. We are happiest when we live according to our nature. I have experienced this first hand. A year ago I started a happiness journal. I wrote one quote about happiness each day. I wrote down and meditated on one good thing that happened to me that day and I did one act of kindness and showed compassion to one person a day and kept a record of it. It has been an amazing experience to see the difference these habits have made in my journey. I hope these mental shifts will aid you in your journey and that you will find each step of compassion a happy one.

About the author:

James Gill holds two degrees in religion and leads a small church plant in East Tennessee where he encourages others in compassionate and simple living. James works with children and enjoys hiking, gardening, and reading and old time Americana music.

Stoicism Today: The Book – Kindle Version Available for Free During Stoic Week

As part of Stoic Week, Stoicism Today: Selected Writings can be downloaded for free from the Amazon Kindle store Monday to Friday of Stoic Week.

Click here for UK store and here for US.

Stoicism Today Cover

About the book: From Stoic ethics to emotions, from Stoic mayors and mindfulness to practical philosophy, parenting, psychotherapy and prisons, from Star Trek and Socrates to Stoic lawyers, literature and living in general, this book brings together a wide-ranging collection of reflections on living the Stoic life today. You’ll read advice on coping with adversity, reflections on happiness and the good life and powerful personal testimonies of putting Stoicism into practise. But you’ll also read about the links between Stoicism and psychotherapy, Stoicism and mindfulness meditation and the unexpected places Stoicism can pop up in modern culture. This book will be of interest to both academics and non-academics alike and is about the varied ways in which the 2,300 year old philosophy as a way of life remains relevant to the concerns and needs of the present day.

NB. On the Amazon store, there will be two options ‘Buy now’ and ‘Read for 0.00 (with Kindle Unlimited). The latter is a special offer from Amazon which involves taking out a monthly subscription to read unlimited Kindle books. This has nothing to do with the Stoicism Today book offer! To get the book for free, click ‘Buy now’. As the book is currently listed at 0.00, it will cost nothing.

Stoic Week: Plan B

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If you are experiencing problems with downtime on the modern stoicism.com website, due to high volume of traffic, or if you would like to take part in Stoic Week without registering, you can still take part by following the steps below – all of the resources you need are available freely on the web.

1. Before you Begin

It’s really important that we collect data from participants in Stoic Week.  Please help by filling out these online forms before you read the Handbook.  It will only take a few minutes.  Previous participants have told us they find it very interesting and useful to fill out the questionnaires and monitor their own progress.

Click on each link below in turn to open the form in a new browser window.  Please remember to use exactly the same name and email address for all questionnaires and to click “submit” when you’ve entered your responses.  You should receive an email confirming your responses for each form, within the next week.  This will also include some interesting notes on your scores and comparisons with previous student averages for the SABS.

  1. Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours Scale (SABS)
    This scale was developed by our research team and has gone through various revisions.  The items have been checked with academics for their relevance to Stoicism and revised based on feedback from hundreds of previous participants.
  2. The Flourishing Scale (FS)
    This brief scale provides a measure of general psychological wellbeing, such as your sense of having a meaningful life.
  3. Scale of Positive and Negative Experiences (SPANE)
    This brief scale measure a range of different emotions, like joy, contentment, anger, sadness, etc.
  4. Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS)
    This is another brief scale, designed to measure your overall level of contentment with life.

Thanks very much for taking the time to do this!

2. The Handbook and Resources

Here it is: The one and only Stoic Week 2014 Handbook, in its PDF format.  You can upload PDF files to Kindle and most EPUB readers, incidentally, and they’re easy to share and read on mobile devices, although on a phone, you may find it more readable in landscape mode.  There’s also the Stoic Self-Monitoring Record Sheet, which is optional.

Stoic Week 2014 Handbook (PDF)

Stoic Self-Monitoring Record Sheet (PDF)

The MP3 audio files are also available from this page on the Stoicism Today website.  Some people have told us they find it tricky to play MP3 files on iPhones or other Apple devices.  As we understand it, though, if you just import these files to your iTunes library you should be able to play them on iPhones, etc.

'Stoicism is for Life not Just One Week' by Ryan Holiday

Stoicism is for Life, not just One Week

Ryan Holiday

Ryan-Holiday

Here we are, with Stoic Week upon us once again.

This is exciting to me because thousands of new people will be exposed to philosophy for the very first time. I say that half-jokingly, knowing that many people including some who majored in it, think they studied philosophy in school. They didn’t–what they read about and did was an interesting intellectual stimulation but it was not philosophy.

Philosophy, as the Stoics saw it, was not abstraction. It was not theoretical. It was designed to help with the problems of life. And in Ancient Greece and Rome, the problems of life were quite real: murderous tyrants, war, plague, civil strife and banishments existed as very real and daily threats–alongside all the other things we deal with today like jealousy, injuries, greed, sickness, envy, and fear.

The Stoics developed a practical philosophy to make sense of this world, one designed to help its adherents thrive, succeed and live good lives. In my eyes, stoicism posits a very simple premise: We do not control the world around us; we control only how we respond. And so we may as well respond well–respond virtuously.

Stoicism, as passed down to us by Zeno, Epictetus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius and a host of other ancients, is a tool for that response. Epictetus’s “handbook” was picked up by everyone from James Stockdale to George Washington. Seneca was widely admired by the Christians, Thomas Jefferson and the thinkers of the Enlightenment. Marcus Aurelius proved to be equally inspirational to writers like Ambrose Bierce and Robert Louis Stevenson as he has been for statesmen like Theodore Roosevelt, Wen Jiabao and Bill Clinton.

What does this all mean? It means that whatever problem you’re dealing with this week–or in this life–stoicism can be of help.

A few favorites:

On Ambition:

“Ambition means tying your well being to what other people say or do.

Self-indulgence means tying it to the things that happen to you.

Sanity means tying it to your own actions.” – Marcus Aurelius

On Temptations:

“No matter what anyone says or does, my task is to be good. Like the gold or emerald or purple repeating to itself, “No matter what anyone says or does, my task is to be emerald, my color undiminished.” – Marcus Aurelius

On Self-Criticism

“What progress have I made? I am beginning to be my own friend.’ That is progress indeed. Such a people will never be alone and you may be sure he is a friend to all.” – Seneca

On Other People:

“It’s silly to try to escape other people’s faults. They are inescapable. Just try to escape your own.” – Marcus Aurelius

On Distractions:

“Stick to what’s in front of you—idea, action, utterance.” – Marcus Aurelius

On Objectivity

“Don’t let the force of an impressions when it first hit you knock you off your feet; just say to it: Hold on a moment; let me see who you are and what you represent. Let me put you to the test.” – Epictetus

On Success or Failure:

“To accept it without arrogance, to let it go with indifference.” – Marcus Aurelius

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” – Epictetus

On Fortune

“The wise man looks to the purpose of all actions, not their consequences; beginnings are in our power, but Fortune judges the outcome, and I do not grant her a verdict upon me.” – Seneca

On Endurance

“Life’s no soft affair. It’s a long road you’ve started on: you can’t but expect to have slips and knocks and falls, and get tired and openly wish–a lie–for death.” – Seneca

**

I was fortunate enough to be introduced to stoicism when I was 18 or 19 years old. Not during a week of practice and contemplation, but a week where I nonetheless needed it very badly. I was going through a terrible break up. I was stuck in this apartment with some roommates who I absolutely detested. I was in my second year of college, not sure in which direction to take my life.

A chance encounter led to me picking up Marcus Aurelius and his wonderful Meditations. The wisdom in this book not only helped me with my immediate problems–helped me see some perspective about my romantic woes and helped me realize there was no reason to resent these people I was living with. But more importantly, it set me on an intellectual journey (going “directly to the seat of knowledge” as Marcus put it) that changed my life and set me on a course I never would have expected.

In the years since, stoicism has something that strengthened me in failure, comforted me in pain, gave meaning to events and cautioned humility and conservatism in moments of success. It helped me publish three books–one of which, I can proudly say, is about stoicism. How this all would have played out otherwise, I really have no idea. But what stoicism teaches is that it doesn’t matter. What matters is what happened and that we must be grateful for it–the good and bad alike.

I am. I am so grateful for the windows and doors that stoicism opened. And I hope for everyone participating in 2014’s Stoic Week that you feel the same. And don’t let it stop after 7 days either.

About the author:

Ryan Holiday is a media strategist and prominent writer on strategy and business. After dropping out of college at nineteen to apprentice under Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, he went on to advise many bestselling authors and multiplatinum musicians. He served as director of marketing at American Apparel for many years, where his campaigns have been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube, and Google and written about in AdAge, theNew York Times, and Fast Company.

His first book, Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator—which the Financial Times called an “astonishing, disturbing book”—was a debut bestseller and is now taught in colleges around the world. He currently lives in Austin, Texas, and writes at RyanHoliday.net.

He has written a bestselling book on Stoicism, The Obstacle is The Way.

'Understanding leads to Acceptance leads to Healing', – Helen Rudd

Just before I went to bed at 10pm the other day I had to go into the conservatory to get something. I’d had quite a long and eventful but enjoyable day. I was just walking back towards the conservatory door in front of the sofa thinking about things and not really concentrating on my walking. I don’t use my stick indoors, I get by without it. I looked ahead and saw where I wanted to be, about four footsteps straight ahead, but the signals weren’t reaching my right leg in particular. I so very nearly fell forwards as my right leg just wouldn’t move. It took a while before I could gather myself together and get into the study. I was very shaken for a while. I woke up in the night with it going round in my mind so I thought I’d use some Stoic thinking to try to feel better.

It’s a reminder for me that I still have mobility problems and that each time I do some walking I have to concentrate. So I don’t feel a ‘fraud’ (making out there’s something wrong when there isn’t). That day I’d written down something that occurred to me, Understanding leads to Acceptance leads to Healing. I realised that this incident verified that. I understood what was happening so I can accept it, and I know that I’m on the road to recovery because I was able to carry on, walk into the study and then get into bed to go to sleep (even though I woke up in the night)

I’m writing this the next day and I still feel ok about it, I’ve been able to tell someone what happened without getting upset and it’s just something that’s a result of my accident. I’ve been down to the post box this morning (with my stick) and I’ve done some physical bits, including my everyday straightforward walk in my back garden without my stick. I’ve even realised that it’s my first week without having my SSRI tablets so this incident is proof that my doctor did the right thing in weaning me off them because it was quite a bad end to the day, and I coped. I’ve fully accepted the negative emotion I first felt when this incident happened, I realise that will always be there, but I’ve been able to understand it and cope.

About the author: After Helen Rudd’s traumatic brain injury in 2006 she was in a coma for three weeks and was severely depressed when she realised how much her life had changed, mainly because she was no longer able-bodied.  Through stoicism her life has opened up and she now makes the most of every day.

You can read more of Helen’s reflections on living the Stoic Life:

Reflection One; Reflection Two.

If Marcus Aurelius did stand-up comedy….

Michael Connell is an Australian comedian, and one of the only known comedians to use Stoicism in his stand-up material. The above video has been made specially for Stoic Week.

More about Michael Connell:

Michael began getting laughs at the age of three in his back yard with the Hills Hoist acting as stage and curtain, and he hasn’t stopped performing since.

At the age of thirteen Michael added juggling to his already extensive talents and spent several years busking and touring with various small circuses. Then, in January 2000, Michael entered the Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s Class Clowns Competition and launched his comedy career.

Winning competitions such as the Class Clowns Competition (a search to find Australia’s funniest high school student), and the TREV Campus Comedy Competition (a similar search for the funniest university student), helped Michael become an established performer on Melbourne’s comedy scene.

Over the years Michael has performed everywhere from the set of Rove [live] and Her Majesty’s Theatre, to the main stage of the Melbourne Town Hall and the Telstra Dome during half time. Michael has produced hit shows at festivals such as the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the New Zealand International Comedy Festival, The Melbourne Fringe Festival, and more. He is regularly in demand as a corporate entertainer, a speaker at high schools and universities, and as a performer at comedy venues across Australia.

Michael’s sensitive, intelligent and hilarious routines are beautifully developed to make everyone laugh, and are clean enough not to offend anyone.

Stoic Week on ABC radio's The Philosopher's Zone with Joe Gelonesi

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Listen to a half-hour discussion with John Sellars, from the Stoicism Today project, and Kerry Sanders, from the University of Sydney, about Stoicism and its role in the modern world.

The discussion took placed on Australia’s ABC programme, The Philosopher’s Zone, with Joe Gelonesi.

Chat with Philosophers on the Steps of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, on World Philosophy Day (November 20th)

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On THURSDAY 20 November, to mark UNESCO’s World Philosophy Day, the Idler Academy will be running free philosophy lessons on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral, and online.

The Idler has has gathered together a group of the UK’s finest thinkers and communicators, and we’ll be recreating Raphael’s painting, The School of Athens. So whether you want to learn about Pythagoras or Plato, or decide whether you are an Epicurean or a Stoic, this will be the day to find out. The final list is not ready, but John Lloyd of QI,  Mark Vernon, Angie Hobbs, John Mitchinson of QI, Gavin Pretor-Pinney, Alex Bellos and many other notable authors and teachers will be there. Wearing colourful togas and sporting beards. From the Stoicism Today project, Jules Evans and Patrick Ussher will be there.

So join us and set aside a day for some serious thinking. We’ll be on the steps from 8am till 2pm.

Original Article – click here.

Stoic Week 2014: Press Release

PRESS RELEASE –  STOIC  WEEK 2014

Stoic Week 2014 is an online and international event taking place from Monday 24th to Sunday 30th November. The week is part of a multi-disciplinary project called Stoicism Today, which is helping to revive the ancient philosophy of Stoicism in modern life.

Stoicism inspired Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and modern resilience psychology, and is a powerful philosophy for helping people flourish in the face of adversity. At a time when many schools and companies are interested in teaching resilience and character, it’s never been more relevant.

Modern fans of Stoicism include Derren Brown, Adrian Edmondson, Elle MacPherson, Tom Wolfe and Jonathan Newhouse (CEO of Conde Nast International). Stoic Week will hopefully help more people discover the practical usefulness of this ancient philosophy, and while allowing us to measure its therapeutic effectiveness.

Anyone can participate in Stoic Week by following the daily instructions in the Stoic Week 2014 Handbook, which will be made freely available online. Over 60 schools have already signed up to take part, as well as philosophy groups, mental health charities and a prison philosophy club.

There is also a one-day event being held at Queen Mary, University of London, on November 29th, with places for 300 people, at which leading experts on modern Stoicism will be speaking.

More information on Stoic Week 2014: http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/stoicismtoday/2014/10/20/stoic-week-2014-everything-you-need-to-know/

More information on the London Event: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/stoicism-today-part-of-stoic-week-2014-tickets-12970112957

Background:

The team: The Stoicism Today first came together in 2012. It is composed of a voluntary group of philosophers, health professionals, therapists interested in reviving Stoicism and introducing it into different sectors, including schools, prisons, companies, the military, sports, and particularly mental health.

The team includes Christopher Gill, Emeritus Professor of Ancient Thought, University of Exeter; Jules Evans, philosopher and author of Philosophy for Life; Donald Robertson, CBT therapist and author of Teach Yourself Stoicism; Gill Garratt, CBT therapist and author of Introducing CBT for Work; John Sellars, Research Fellow at the Department of Philosophy, King’s College London; Tim LeBon, CBT Therapist and author of Teach Yourself Positive Psychology; Gabriele Galluzzo, lecturer in ancient philosophy, University of Exeter; and  Patrick Ussher, PhD student in ancient philosophy, University of Exeter.

Stoicism Today, a book made up of articles, reflections and interviews about modern Stoicism, recently published by Patrick Ussher, gives wide examples of how Stoicism is used in the modern world and the kind of work the Stoicism Today project has focussed on. It’s available in e-book format and as paperback on Amazon.

This is the third year Stoic Week has run. Last year, Stoic Week attracted significant interest, with 2,200 people taking part in the online course. The Stoicism Today blog has over 120,00 hits in and around Stoic Week. Last year, we found that life satisfaction of participants increased on average by 14%,  optimism by 18% and joy by 12%.  Negative emotions reduced by similar amounts; anger by 13% and negativity by 12%. Initial indications are also that the most potent parts of Stoicism may be Stoic rationality (challenging irrational thoughts) Stoic mindfulness (continuous awareness of the judgements we are making) and Stoic Cosmopolitanism (our close connection with others).

Possible media angles for Stoic Week 2014:

–  The revival of Stoicism – why Greek philosophy is the new mindfulness

–  Schools bring back the stiff upper lip

–  Why Stoicism is the key to resilience

–  Teaching Stoicism in prison

–  The UK commando training school teaching Stoicism to new recruits

–  How ancient philosophy inspired modern therapy

–  Taking philosophy beyond academia

The team are all available for interviews and we are happy to put journalists in touch with relevant experts and interviewees for their particular angle. We are also able to help teachers interested in getting involved, with free teaching materials available.

Contact Patrick Ussher here.