Top 5 Modern Day Stoics have to tell us about Stoicism
Stoicism is a branch of philosophy that originates from ancient times – from Greece and Rome. This philosophy puts emphasis and its main focus on inner virtue which consists of 4 main types – moderation, wisdom, courage and justice. Stoicism believes that man should be one with nature and that happiness and general fulfilment come from within. Nothing that is materialistic or temporary will bring us a happy life. We must live in the present moment and learn to enjoy it, as well as the skill of self-control. In addition, a will is also something that is crucial for man’s happiness, a strong will with which we must discard all passions and instincts, and turn to our reason. The 5 modern-day stoics teach us how to include all of these skills in our everyday lives and practise them constantly to achieve happiness.
1. Viktor E. Frankl
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist, psychologist and philosopher. He was born in 1905 and he survived the holocaust during World War II. Frankl is the founder of “Logotherapy” which deals with finding happiness and sense in human life. The main goal of “Logotherapy” is to find will and motivation that will help us to discover the meaning of life. In order to do so, we must abandon the thought that we will find happiness in earthly pleasures and possessions. On the road that leads to discovering happiness Frankl suggests that we must take certain actions. Those actions must be conducted through our deeds, showing moral virtues through love for our family, friends and relationships. Moreover, the negative side of life, suffering and pain, which every single person experiences sooner or later, also form us and our character. Suffering can be present in our life by itself or together with love and other positive things. However, Frankl suggests we should be able to find happiness and the meaning of life through suffering as well. He regards freedom as something that we all should strive to, but his freedom means a freedom to do something, to act in a certain way, to make some decisions which will result in finding happiness, and not freedom from something. So choose your freedom wisely and say to yourself “I am free to be the happiest person in the world!”.
2. Alfred Adler
Alfred Adler was Austrian psychologist born in 1870. He presented a theory of individual psychology. He has some really interesting point of views. In Adler’s opinion, everyone makes their own path in life and every man is responsible for his own choices and decisions. You can choose to be happy or unhappy. He strongly opposes the premise that a person is acting or feeling in a certain way because of his past and some bad experiences from the past. For Adler, you act in a way that you chose, it does not have anything to do with your hard childhood, for example. No matter how life has treated you at some point, you still have a choice to do what is right or what is wrong. So, stop putting the blame on the world – my boss is horrible, that’s why I hate my job, my teacher put all the hard questions in the exam, that’s why I failed it, and so on. No, you failed your exam because you chose not to study, and you hate your job because that’s the feeling you chose to have. And the good news is, if you made a choice once and chose to be dissatisfied and frustrated, you can make a new choice – so choose to be happy and content.
3. Paul C. Dubois
Paul Dubois was born in 1848 in Switzerland. He was a neuropathologist who presented the idea of persuasion therapy which leans on reason and rational approach in treating neurotic disorders. Dubois believed that we can use our reason and thoughts, which would be controlled by us, to be happy and healthy. To put it more simple, our thoughts affect our general state – if we are ill, whether physically or mentally, thinking negatively or complaining all the time will only make things worse. Instead, we should tell ourselves that we have to try to endure our suffering (it doesn’t have to be only about our health, any suffering in life) because it cannot last forever. We are only as miserable as we think we are. People should strive to be patient and not worried – this will help us cope with any of life’s misfortunes. Dubois wrote a genius thought in which he says that you shouldn’t build a second storey to your sorrow by being sorry for your sorrow. What an amazing sentence.
4. Charles Baudouin
Charles Baudoin was French psychoanalyst born in 1893. Along with psychoanalysis, he included the principles of stoicism in treating others. The emphasis in his psychotherapy was put on being in control of your own thoughts and letting go of the things you cannot control. We must be present in the moment and make the best of it, and stop thinking what happened in the past or what will happen in the future – those are the things that are out of our control. Moreover, he advocated the principle of being happy with what you have, instead of grieving about something you don’t have. Happiness, as well as unhappiness, is a state of mind. And if you want to achieve that state, you must practice the skills of self-control and positive thinking on a daily basis. That’s why Baudouin suggests meditating first thing in the morning, because if we start our day with practicing the control over our body and mind, it will set the course of our entire day.
5. Pierre Hadot
Pierre Hadot was born in France in 1922 and he was a philosopher who specialized in ancient philosophy. His stoic principles consist of controlling ourselves and our inner thoughts, as well as resisting passions that are not the key to fulfilment and happiness. Hadot also focused on suggesting that there are some things and situations in life that are not in our control – if someone insults you, for example, that is not your problem and you shouldn’t worry about it or feel hurt. However, if someone criticizes you, and that critique is justified and true, then you need to change whatever was criticized.
Stoicism has great principles we could all learn from. The idea of finding true happiness in life through practicing advices stoics gave us, really does sound tempting. After all, we all want to be content and less frustrated about our lives, so why not start practicing stoicism this moment!
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