Practical stoicism (+What it is and how it works)

This article will discuss what are ways to put stoicism to practice. For that, the article will explain what stoicism is, its beliefs, how it originated, and what are the benefits of having such a line of thought.

What is stoicism? 

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Counseling is Key to a Healthy Marriage

Stoicism is a line of philosophy that was founded centuries ago, around 304 BC. This line of philosophy is still greatly used as a guide to life by many known people. It was something that George Washington studied about, as well as Walt Whitman, Adam Smith, Alexander Percy, and Immanuel Kant. 

All of them read or quoted stoic thinkers at some point. All of them believed in the notions of stoicism. This philosophical line says that everything in life is momentary, even suffering. And how you can choose to put what happens to you in perspective, and realize how it is not such a big problem.

Although some have said that living stoically can be a way of turning your emotions off, what it proposes is for the person to look at their problems through a different lens. 

You should look at it not through the eyes of a victim, but in a more action-oriented way. Instead of just dealing with the matter, trying to discover how you can solve it can be the most important part. 

Stoicism is divided into four words. The first of it is courage. It says that the world may also try to discover if you are brave enough to deal with obstacles, but that you shouldn’t just take action without thinking. And from that, comes the second concept of stoicism: temperance.

And once you are thinking about what you should do, you should have in mind to follow the most important concept of stoicism, justice. One should always try to do the right thing and to know what that is, you should be wise. 

Learn to listen, take in as much learning as you can, so when you face a situation, you will know how to act in the right way. All of this is the opposite of what people may think of detaching themselves from the problem, by rather thinking it, putting it into perspective, and then deciding to take action. 

With all this said, let’s discuss what are some good practical ways for you to bring stoicism into your daily life. 

What are ways of practicing stoicism? 

If you understand that the stoic philosophy speaks to you, there are some ways you can put it into practice to evaluate your life better, be it when you are going through some troubled times, or as a way to evaluate your life. Those exercises can be done as a form of meditation as well.

A view from above

The first one is called “A view from above”. In this exercise, you will be in touch with what the emperor Marcus Aurelius said of stoicism. He claimed that in life you need to have the perspective of how vast things change, and what is your part in the universe. 

To do the exercise, you should start to imagine looking at yourself from a third person. And continue to zoom out to get a bigger and bigger perspective of how you fit in the universe. So after seeing yourself from another person’s perspective, you can zoom out and take a look from the roof of your house.

Next, you might want to see from a broader point, and take a look from your stress, than your city, your country, until you reach the point of seeing yourself from the earth. This will allow you to adjust the perspective you have on things.

What are relevant matters, and what are insignificant problems. This exercise can be useful when you are dealing with a friendship problem, for example. If your friend has done something you didn’t like, you can try and put it into perspective and realize how bad it was for real. 

Negative visualization 

The negative visualization exercise, although may sound strange, is a way for you to remember how everything in your life is temporary. It is an exercise that is inspired by the words of Seneca, who along with Marcus Aurelius thought about stoicism.

By practicing negative visualization you will not only be aware of how temporary things are, but it can improve your level of happiness, making you more grateful for what you have. To practice it, you can start to question how would you feel if your reality was different, for example:

  • How it would feel to not have so many friends
  • How it would feel to lose someone you love
  • How it would feel to live in a third world country
  • How it would feel to be homeless

Proposing yourself to think about those things is not meant to make you fixate on them, but rather take a look at how your life could be different, and how you have, even if you don’t recognize it, great things in your life. 

Voluntary discomfort

The exercise of voluntary discomfort goes along with Epictetus, another stoic thinker said. This exercise aims to make you understand that you shouldn’t always look for comfort in life and that there are positive things that can come from the discomfort. 

By being aware of that, you can find it a lot easier to stick to your goals, even if they seem a lot of work. It can make you more persistent, and resilient. There are some ways you can put yourself through voluntary discomforts, such as: taking a cold shower, not eating for a day, or even sleeping on the floor.

By practicing those exercises you might be able to get a better handle on your emotions. Understand how you feel from a greater perspective, and along with that, it will help you keep in mind that life is not always made of positive experiences, but it is always possible to take something out of them. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): What are ways of practicing stoicism? 

What are the principles of stoicism? 

Some principles guide stoicism. One is that nature is rational. Another one is that the universe is guided by a law of reason and that even though humans may try to escape it, they will follow it, deliberately or not.

It is also understood by stoics that a person that lives a life according to the rationality of nature lives a life of virtue. And that wisdom is the root of virtue, and it is from wisdom that the cardinal virtues insight, bravery, self-control, and justice come from.

Stoicism also says that living a life following a passion is an irrational way to live. So people should live with Apatheia, avoiding intense feelings. As for pleasure, it is not seen as good or bad in stoicism, it should only not interfere with the quest for virtue. 

The concept of evil is not based on poverty, evil, or death. And the duty in the life of the stoic is to seek virtue.

Do Stoics believe in love?

Yes, stoics believe in love, but they experience it differently. It is different from the romantics that see love in unrequited love, they look at love from a philosophical point of view. 

They try to set apart the free men, the one that is in control of themselves, his mind, and his action, from the person that is driven to madness because of love.

So they can experience love, but it was a matter of concern to them if this love would make them act differently than they have always acted like. That it would turn them into slaves, or make them do insane actions. 

So to get a handle on their feelings, they would practice stoic exercises to balance and mitigate the love they felt. That is because they always want to be in control, and never passive in their emotions.

Do stoics believe in God?

Yes, they believe in God. They have identified God as Zeus, which they saw as the ruler of the universe, and the upholder of it all. They have a different conception of it as people have nowadays. It is not a transcendent omniscient figure, that stands outside of nature. But it is rather immanent, the God element is in nature itself.

They believe that God orders the world for good, so everything in it inspires something positive, and divine. Because nature is divine, nothing that comes from it is considered bad, and life, death, sickness, and health are neither good nor bad. They are mostly events that contribute to life according to nature.

How do I build self-discipline according to stoicism?

For stoics having discipline is extremely important, and one should work on it. For that, the first thing that needs to be done is to find your purpose. That will give you an intentional desire to do something. And once you discover your desire, count on yourself to put it into practice.

Keep your mind centered on it, build a plan of action to help you set your goal, and be persistent. Creating something is an everyday chore, understanding how constancy is important. And practice voluntary hardship, to help you know that hard times will come, but you will be able to handle them.

Another way to keep yourself disciplined is by understanding the dichotomy of control. Know that even though you have control over your mind, and what goes on inside it, you have no control of external events. This will help you focus on things you change, and accept those you can’t.

You should also learn to not play the victim. You can’t say that you were born a determined way, or that you never learned differently. There is always space to learn and improve yourself. 

When you are practicing self-discipline it is important to practice delayed gratification. This will help you understand that things won’t come easily, or from one moment to the next. But you should distance yourself from people that are constantly having negative thoughts, or not be influenced by people’s opinions and thoughts about you.

Find people that you admire to emulate their behavior. And at the end of each day, be truthful to yourself and discover what you have done, and what still needs to be done.

What is a stoic face?

A stoic face shows calm, that almost doesn’t portray any emotion. That is because when you are stoic you don’t allow your feelings to take over, and especially you don’t show them around to people.

Conclusion 

This article explained are ways of practicing stoicism. For that, the article showed what stoicism is, its main beliefs, and the positive aspects of living life through this line of thought.

References

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