So what practical advice do the Stoics give us about building resilience? Well, this is a philosophy that can be studied for a lifetime and more detailed accounts are available. An excellent modern guide to Stoicism already exists in the book A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by Prof. William Irvine, an academic philosopher in the USA (Irvine, 2009). My own writings, especially my book The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, have focused on describing the relationship between Stoicism and modern psychotherapy (Robertson, 2010; Robertson, 2005).
I’ve been practising aspects of Stoicism for a few years now, although I feel that for a long time I was just scraping the surface and I’m sure that in years to come I’ll look back on my current practice as a pretty “lightweight” effort. I’m a cognitive-behavioural therapist and I feel it’s important for me to try to put into practice as many of the things I use with clients as possible. However, CBT is largely designed for use with people who have specific mental health problems, clinically severe anxiety or depression, etc. It helps people with certain problems but it has no clearly-defined goal for us to pursue in relation to life in general. I felt that I needed a broader philosophical framework, therefore, in order to apply these therapeutic strategies to my own personal development. (I wrote my book on the subject partly to help me reconcile the techniques I liked from modern therapy with the kind of philosophical system I liked: Stoicism.)
I wanted to share some personal reflections, for a change. Hopefully this will encourage other students of Stoicism to talk about their experiences during Stoic Week and beyond. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the Stoic way of life but maybe some of these comments will inspire thoughts from others and help fuel a bit of discussion.
@Stoicweek #Stoicweek Do you have any questions? Are you encountering any obstacles? Do you have any thoughts or observations to share with others?
How are you getting on with @StoicWeek?
Please comment below and share your experiences with Stoic Week.
Do you have any questions?
Are you encountering any obstacles?
Do you have any thoughts or observations to share with others?
Good news! We only set up the Twitter account a few days ago and already have nearly 100 followers @Stoicweek and #Stoicweek. We’ve also had nearly 350 votes on our online poll “Who is your favourite Stoic?” Cast your vote to see the results so far.
Who then is free? The wise man who is master of himself, who remains undaunted in the face of poverty, chains and death, who stubbornly defies his passions and despises positions of power, a man complete in himself, smooth and round, who prevents extraneous elements clinging to his polished surface, who is such that when Fortune attacks him she maims only herself. Can you lay claim to a single one of these qualities? – Horace
You are all, wherever you are around the world, warmly invited to take part in our Stoic week!
Above is the link to the thirty-page booklet, a joint effort by academics and psychotherapists who have studied Stoicism, a booklet which you can use during our Stoic week [November 26th – December 3rd]. It contains all that you need for the week, including important (yet practical) background theory, specific advice (including bringing Stoicism to work), as well as a host of Stoic exercises (‘askeseis’) which you can practise. Take your time to read and reflect on the booklet this weekend, and be ready to live the Stoic life come this Monday, joining people from all over the world, in living the wisdom of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, et al.!
Copyright (c) Donald Robertson, 2012. All rights reserved.
This article attempts to summarise some of the structured elements of the early Stoic philosophical system, such as the tripartite classification of the topics of philosophy, the virtues, the passions, and their subdivisions, etc., as reputedly described by the primary sources. It’s still a work in progress, see please feel free to post comments or corrections.