My journey to Stoicism started during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like a lot of people, I was trying to cope with the stress of the pandemic, socially isolating, and transitioning to working from home. On top of that, I had just become a new father.
It was towards the end of 2020 when I started studying Stoicism. After I got word that I would have to return to working in the office. I started with reading “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday. A friend lent me a copy of the book after we were discussing our mutual interest in Stoicism. My formal understanding of Stoicism, at the time, did not go beyond an awareness that Albert Ellis was inspired by quotes of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius when he developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), an early form of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).
“Men are disturbed, not by things, but by the opinions they form concerning things.”Epictetus, The Enchiridion, Chapter 5.
I work a job where I help people find strength and meaning, cope with stress, and accept things in life that are hard to accept. I began reading quotes from ‘The Daily Stoic’ each morning as a meditation before going into the office. This expanded to listening to ‘The Daily Stoic’ Podcast, then ‘The Practical Stoic’ Podcast (now The Walled Garden), and ‘The Sunday Stoic’ with Steve Karafit. Every day on the commute to and from work I was immersed in Stoicism and I began to realize that there is more to Stoicism than dichotomy of control.
“Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.”Epictetus, Enchiridion, Chapter 1.
For me, this is the most important lesson of Stoicism. It is reflected in the serenity prayer associated with Alcoholics Anonymous and various support groups (AlAnon, ACA, CODA, etc.). It brings to mind the lesson from Viktor Frankl that finding meaning in life is something we cannot find outside of ourselves or be given by someone else. It is our responsibility to find meaning and give meaning to our lives.
In Part II I talk about Stoic principles of Virtue and eudaimonia.