- December 31, 2021

What is Stoicism?

Stoicism is a philosophical movement which originated in Athens during the Hellenistic period. Stoicism was founded by Zeno of Citium and further flourished under Greek and Roman civilisations and reached a decline during the age of Christianity. It saw a revival during the Renaissance and has also seen some degree of popularity in the modern world as a philosophical practice and moral guidance. It is characterised by strong ethical principles and a logical view of the world, with emphasis on control over one’s emotions and actions. One of the core principles is the belief that we do not react to events around us, but rather our judgements about these events, which can be controlled by us. Therefore, it follows that we should not worry about things that are beyond our control as ultimately, all events can be categorised as those we can control and those we cannot. Stoicism encourages virtuous living and living in accordance with nature while avoiding emotional attachment and illogical reactions to events.

The primary source of stoic teachings is the Enchiridion of Epictetus, the translations of which are used today by modern day stoics in their studies. Many modern behavioural therapies today use principles of stoicism, and it is often cited in various programmes which help with overcoming addictions. Various guided programmes such as Brisbane life coach may also borrow teachings from stoicism or encourage studies in similar philosophies to assist their clients in enriching their lives.

Stoicism has been compared to many other philosophies but holds a unique position among them. Nietzsche, notably, was critical of stoicism as he viewed it denied suffering as opposed to affirming life and love. Stoicism is also quite similar to Buddhist philosophies, especially their focus on detachment from emotional responses. Of the various sects of Buddhism, Tibetan (Theravada) Buddhism specifically highlights those emotions such as anger and resentment are always detrimental to the mental health of an individual, which coincides with the stoic belief of avoiding unnecessary emotional responses. Stoicism has also been compared to Nihilism which are quite similar in certain ways. Nihilism generally posits that life, and therefore everything else, is devoid of meaning and it is up to us to find meaning for ourselves. Nihilism is basically a principle of moral indifference and is comparable to stoicism which states that since all things are destined to end. Therefore, both philosophies promote the focus on individual happiness with the time that is given to each instead of worrying about things that cannot be controlled.

There are several misconceptions about Stoicism, the most prominent of which is that Stoics are unemotional or repress their emotions (akin to sociopathy). This is not the case, but it may appear this way as stoics often temper their emotional reactions to various events which may cause them to appear unemotional. Stoicism is also not reserved for elites or promote elitism and not solely an individualistic philosophy based on self-discipline but also focuses on helping others, social responsibilities, and the formation of wholesome relationships.

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