“Very Little Is Needed To Make A Happy Life; It Is All Within Yourself, In Your Way Of Thinking.” – Marcos Aurelius
Stoicism is a type of philosophy that was developed in ancient Greece around 300 BC by Zeno of Citium. It teaches the methods for developing self-control and resilience so as to be able to conquer negative emotions. Stoicism was subsequently developed further, made famous, and propagated by the likes of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epicurus.
Stoicism cannot be defined as just a set of ethical assertions or beliefs, but instead as a way of life that involves continuous training and practice, the incorporation of practicing and using logic in everyday life situations, contemplation of one’s mortality, of self-dialogue and dialogue with others, and different meditation like exercises that train the mind to remain focused on the current moment.
Stoicism does not imply creating a path of resistance to emotions.
Instead, it works towards enhancement of one’s judgments about different external factors so as to rearrange one’s emotional scale, de-accentuate abnormal emotions, and cultivate and nurture healthy emotions.
The tenets of stoicism come closest to the branch of psychology that is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT is one of the best therapies to alleviate anxiety. One of the teachings of Marcus Aurelius is “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” This can be applied to eliminate any kind of anxiety.
For example, people with stage fright or social anxiety can regard stage fright as the impediment to action. They can use the impediment, which stands in the way, to become the way and advance action (many of the teachings on the anxiety guy YouTube channel are tried and tested practices from stoicism as well).
As is done via CBT, social anxiety sufferers can take their fear of public speaking/socializing (the impediment) and use the fear to keep trying to talk to others, eventually leading to a realization that talking to others does not result in any kind of problems as initially feared.
Here are some of the practices of stoicism that can be used by anxiety sufferers for relief from anxiety starting today:
Do not waste time: Seneca taught that ‘We’re tight-fisted with money and property, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.’ Anxiety sufferers need to use this teaching and recognize the idea that time is their supreme asset. Once time is lost, unlike material things, it can never be recovered. It is therefore essential to keep striving towards wasting as little time as possible on fear of situations and use it to achieve desirable results.
Create a focus of control that is internal: Epictetus taught that ‘Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them.’ People with anxiety need to realize that a lot of the things that occur in life are not in our control. Realizing this irrefutable truth can help focus on what can be done to avoid negative outcomes and thus ease anxiety.
Your happiness is not dependent on others: Marcus Aurelius quoted ‘I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinions of himself than on the opinions of others.’ A lot of our fears and anxieties have their basis in our inherent need to be accepted and liked by others.
We work very hard for money we don’t want, to be able to able to buy things we don’t truly desire or want, just to be able to impress other people who we really don’t care about!
Lead a life that is independent of the opinion of others. Do not outsource the reasons for your own happiness. Once you begin doing what makes you happy and stop seeking the approval of others, then anxiety will subsequently ease and get eliminated completely.
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