Is it good to be stoic?

Often stoicism is thought to mean repressing or hiding emotions, putting on a brave face, grinning and bearing it, keeping a stiff upper lip – none of which sounds psychologically healthy except perhaps in the short term.

However, ideas from those Greek thinkers have found their way into many aspects of life. In sport you will have heard coaches speak about focusing on the things that are within the player’s control and not bothering with the rest.

In psychology, various movements recognise that the way we think about things is highly influential on our emotions and consequent behaviour. Stoic philosophy asks us to question our automatic thinking.

Epictetus says that it’s not what happens to us that matters but how we react to it. The view we take of things will often disturb us needlessly. More challengingly he says: It is not he who reviles or strikes you who insults you, but your opinion that these things are insulting.

But what if someone calls you fat??!!!

“He does not know my other faults, else he would not have mentioned only these.” Now that’s another way of looking at it!

Another implication is that you might be upset about being called fat if it’s a negative judgment you already hold about yourself, or even worse, that being fat represents a lot more than a statement of medical fact (or fiction) – to you it means that as a person you are inadequate, unacceptable, weak-willed, unattractive and detested.

What about anger? No one else can make you angry – you anger yourself! You are responsible for your own feelings and reactions, and you can’t blame anyone or anything else for them. As Marcus Aurelius says, “How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”

Against the rising tide of anxiety, Seneca advises us: We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.

You might think the stoics are dismissing emotions, but they really ask us to take responsibility for them. The stoics were not fatalists or uncaring; on the contrary, they believed in the importance of virtue and of ethical obligations to others, so they were by no means indifferent to others and the world.

Some stoic practices:
See adversity as training – the obstacle is the way
Take perspective on small annoyances by viewing them from the vastness of space
The ephemeral does not matter – focus on what does matter

Reference: 8 Ancient Rules for Life We Should Still Follow

On the school website there is advice on finding information and support for a range of needs (Current families > Counselling).