Tag: Stoicism

I was able to watch three talks live at yesterday’s [Stoicon](https://modernstoicism.com/event/stoicon-2021/) plus some other bits as well.Kai Whiting and Leonidas Konstantakos presented the first talk on The Equality of Moral Errors(sounds esoteric but was anything but), from which I learned about their book [Being Better: Stoicism for a World Worth Living in](https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57251513-being-better?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=TAvVFapulV&rank=1). I’ve added this to my reading list as it goes into Stoicism and its relevance to social justice, climate breakdown and global capitalism – some of the issues that have prompted me to look to philosophy for answers.

I’ve bought my ticket for [Stoicon 2021](https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/stoicon-2021-tickets-166851077063?keep_tld=1). All to be enjoyed from the comfort of my home! Tickets available from the above link.

Last autumn, I started [fiddling around with Tiddlywiki](https://strandlines.blog/975-2/) but for some reason which escapes me now, I didn’t get that far with it. Teaching myself about Stoicism, I am rapidly collecting a vast list of links to articles, books to read, concepts to research. To help get this information into a more useful structure I’ve set up a new Tiddlywiki and started adding to it. I’ll be interested to see how far I get this time.

Coming at Stoicism from the CBT and mental health angle, I quickly came up against some pretty startling ideas. Visualising negative outcomes [(*premeditatio malorum*)](https://medium.com/stoicism-philosophy-as-a-way-of-life/lets-talk-about-the-premeditation-of-adversity-2f7d40fbb7d0) and considering ones own death or that of a loved one. Ideas that, on the face of it, could send anyone prone to catastrophizing into the very existential crisis they would like to avoid. However, dig a little deeper and I find that these ideas have a much more positive basis. In the context of the philosophy as a whole they make more sense and differ from the negative thoughts the anxious mind is prone to. For me, catastrophizing is ‘all these bad things could happen, probably will happen, are happening, oh shit, I am going to die or, at the very least, publicly make a complete arse of myself’. I came across this in Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations;> it is folly to ruminate on evils to come, or such as, perhaps, never may come: every evil is disagreeable enough when it does come; but he who is constantly considering that some evil may befall him is loading himself with a perpetual evil; and even should such evil never light on him, he voluntarily takes upon himself unnecessary misery, so that he is under constant uneasiness, whether he actually suffers any evil, or only thinks of it.I think that sums up catastrophizing perfectly, ‘ruminate’ and ‘constantly considering’ being the key to what makes it a destructive process. On the other hand, my understanding of negative visualisation is that it is the rational process of considering the possible adverse outcomes, with the emphasis firmly on rational, so that we can be mentally prepared *should* a bad thing happen. The idea then is one of ‘how do I respond should that scenario happen?’This is in direct opposition to the avoidant behaviour of those of us with anxiety. The anxious habit of running over and over terrible scenarios is all about avoiding them, a negative feedback loop that you can never escape, that always ends in ‘but what if…?’ Negative visualisation is about facing reality head on, accepting possibilities and considering what the rational and [‘virtuous’](https://donaldrobertson.name/2018/01/18/what-do-the-stoic-virtues-mean/) response is. It is about learning to value what we have in the here and now. I still have questions about the apparent bias towards the negative. It is very easy to see it as pessimism. But this might be as much about how the idea is portrayed as the concept itself, given it is antithetic to modern positive thinking. To my mind, a life philosophy cannot be reduced to a quotable axiom or two, otherwise it is not worth the paper it’s written on; it is only within its context that I think a principal can be fully understood. I will continue to read and learn more, particularly around how *premeditatio malorum* fits within the wider Stoic philosophy.

Finished reading Donald J Robertson’s [Stoicism and the Art of Happiness](https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17841317-stoicism-and-the-art-of-happiness). A pretty easy read and good introduction to modern Stoicism. If I had to give it one criticism I’d say it is a tad repetitive, I would imagine partly because it’s part of a Teach Yourself series. I will probably read it through again in a bit more detail in due course.Delving into Stoicism, I’d not realised at all that it has experienced a resurgence in the last few years. Which I’m glad about because given I have a pretty contrary nature, I will often shy away from something if it’s currently a ‘thing’. The impression I get is, like anything that gets into the public imagination, it has attracted the genuinely inquisitive, but also bandwagoners. It also has its critics and I’m very happy to read well-reasoned arguments pointing out its flaws as I wouldn’t want to accept an idea without looking at it from all angles. And I’d rather read something of that nature than articles of the cringe-inducing [‘mind hack’](https://thriveglobal.com/stories/stoicism-ancient-mind-hack/) variety. Stoicism has a lot going for it but also many questions. Which is fine.

I’ve learnt that the underlying principles of CBT come from Stoicism. I can’t recall where I read that now, but I’ve spent the last few days down the Stoic rabbit hole. I’ve binge-listened to a number of podcasts on the topic. I’ve made a list of books both contemporary and classical to read. To start me off I’ve bought Donald J Robertson’s [Stoicism and the Art of Happiness](https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17841317-stoicism-and-the-art-of-happiness?from_search=true). It’s at the self-help end of the spectrum but because the author is a psychotherapist it goes into how CBT and Stoicism relate to each other. Although I don’t think CBT and I [got along too well](https://strandlines.blog/998-2/) when I had my course of therapy last year, the applied rationality appealed to me. In addition, I’ve been dipping my toes into the world of philosophy. So to discover that the two areas of thinking intersect has really piqued my interest.