The Flourishing Stoic: Inspiring Food For Thought That Helps You With Your Stoic Practice. Send it to me!

The founder of Stoicism: Zeno of Citium

Zeno of Citium, Founder of Stoicism; Image: Paolo Monti creator QS:P170,Q18169099, „Paolo Monti - Servizio fotografico (Napoli, 1969) - BEIC 6353768

Have you ever wanted to be more in control of your life and emotions? Have you ever wondered how to become happier and calmer and handle life's adversities without getting upset or thrown off course? Do you want to live your life with less worry and fear? If so, Stoicism might be right for you.

Let's dive into what exactly Stoicism is, its history, and why it is still helpful today.



What Is Stoicism?

Stoicism is a practical philosophy aiming to help practitioners live happier lives by managing their emotions. When you practice Stoicism, you learn how to handle the challenges of your lifecalmly and with reason. It's by far not about being emotionless (as critics often accuse it). What you'll learn instead is to take control of your emotions, your value judgments, and your reactions. By reframing your initial judgments about a situation, you can adjust your feelings with reasoned thinking. Thus, you are better prepared for life's adversities.

Founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the 3rd century BCE, Stoicism is about developing self-control and fortitude to overcome intense emotional and irrational responses and instead have a morebalanced, objective approach to life's challenges.

When you're calm, clear-headed, and with an even temper, it's easier to stay open-minded to all kinds of situations. It becomes easier to analyze your circumstances with reason and wisdom. Strong emotions like rage or sadness don't cloud your mind. As those arousals can lead us astray from living a happy life, Stoics try to conquer them with rationality.

In short: Stoicism is not purely theoretical but something you do actively - it's a way of life. It's an experience-based philosophy that guides you on the long and rocky path to a happy and fulfilling life, not something you simply believe in, and everything becomes magically good.

Whether happy or unhappy, Stoics claim that it's all within your control and responsibility. The only true requirement of a happy life is a virtuous character; therefore, it is possible to live in harmony with yourself even in adverse circumstances.

Remember that it is not he who gives abuse or blows who affronts; but the view we take of these things as insulting. When, therefore, any one provokes you, be assured that it is your own opinion which provokes you. Try, therefore, in the first place, not to be bewildered by appearances. For if you once gain time and respite, you will more easily command yourself.

Epictetus, Enchiridion, 20

The four virtues of Stoicism

One of the main principles of Stoicism is that we should strive for virtue over pleasure. For Stoics, practicing the cardinal virtues is the only way to find happiness and flourish as a human being. Virtue consists of the ability to correctly assess the value of all things and, therefore, to deal with them appropriately.

These virtues are wisdom, justice, temperance, and courage.


A brief history of Stoicism

Zeno of Citium, a wealthy merchant, survived a shipwreck on a voyage where he lost everything. After this experience, he visited a bookseller in Athens. Zeno was pleased with what he read about Socrates and asked the bookseller where men like Socrates could be found. Then, just as planned, Crates of Thebes, a very famous Cynic, happened to walk by. The bookseller pointed him out to the man.

Zeno began teaching in Athens around 301 BCE. Initially, his disciples were called "Zenonians", but due to his humility, they soon became Stoics. The name comes from the Stoa Poikile, or painted porch, an open market where Zeno and his followers gathered and discussed their philosophy.

The history of Stoicism is divided into three phases:

  1. Early Stoa during the 3rd century BCE (Zeno of Citium, Cleanthes, Chrysippus, Diogenes, Antipater)
  2. Middle Stoa during the 1st and 2nd century BCE (Panaetius, Posidonius)
  3. Late Stoa during the 1st and 2nd century CE (Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus, Musonius Rufus)

How Stoicism can help you

Today, in an increasingly complex world, many people are returning to this ancient philosophy as they seek more meaningful ways of living.

Stoicism's teachings can help you find inner peace in times of turmoil and learn how to handle difficult situations without becoming overwhelmed or stressed out. Practicing Stoicism helps build resilience and guides you in trying to control what you can while accepting everything outside your control.

First, Stoicism offers help in finding and keeping inner peace in times of turmoil. Second, you strengthen your capacity to endure difficult situations without becoming overwhelmed or stressed by learning how to handle them. You get all the tools needed for this. Third, practicing Stoic philosophy helps build your resilience "muscle" and guides you in attempting to control what you can while accepting everything else.

Additionally, Stoic practices help you gain new and other perspectives on your current circumstances. This enables you to make better and well-informed decisions. You shift your focus from externals to your inner life and begin to focus on living with virtue which is the only thing you can ultimately control. By that, you develop strong character traits that will serve you well no matter what situation you have to deal with.

Stoicism and emotions

Have you ever noticed how some people handle rude encounters with grace? They don't seem to get angry or frustrated when something doesn't go their way. Stoics believe that only our consent (in Stoicism, "assent") to a situation leads to our emotions, not the situation itself. When we believe an event is bad, we assent to this belief and judge the event as bad. But when we prove and analyze the situation and assent only to facts, it puts us in a better position to make decisions.

So when you encounter a situation that could make you angry or disappointed, ask yourself: Is this really bad? How can I view this situation as neutral? What are the actual facts? This can help put your emotions into perspective and allow you to respond with reason.

For Stoics, assent is ours alone, so we are responsible for the feelings we experience and are capable of changing them. This gives us tremendous power! Please take a moment and think it through. Imagine not letting your negative emotions like anger, sadness, disappointment, or grief take control over your reactions for a while. That's indeed possible; you just need to practice this skill. You are not the victim of your emotions. Give it a chance and experience it yourself. Start to work with your feelings and then make them work for you. You have so much power and the freedom to choose how to react to every single situation. Set it free. Stoicism teaches you how to that and leave the victim's role and put yourself back into the driver's seat of your life.

Once you've internalized this fact, it becomes a real game-changer on your journey to happiness and living a meaningful life.

So, what are you waiting for? Start with Stoicism today. You've nothing to lose but an attempt to live a good and happy life.



Who is the founder of Stoicism?
When was Stoicism founded?
What are the four cardinal virtues in Stoicism?
Can Stoicism make you happy?

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