I've been reading up on the ancient Greek philosophical work of Stoicism. Although it is a very welcomed and insightful perspective, I don't think they had trauma in mind when trying to attain that level of acceptance, but I will share my findings and thoughts.

Stoicism comes from the Greek word "stoa," which is a name for a particular structure that the original discussions of this philosophy occurred under. It is credited with being founded by Zeno of Citium during the Hellenistic period around roughly 300ce. It focuses on key virtues that were later adopted by Christianity and hold similarities with Confucianism, Buddhism, some sects of Hinduism, and Taoism. The correlations to the eastern schools of thought make sense because the Hellenistic period was punctuated by the increased trading routes with eastern countries and a growth of cultural diversity around the Mediterranean, particularly in Greece and Rome as the cultural and mercantile hubs.

(The following lists of philosophical virtues were obtained through Wikipedia. It's a good source for basic information like this, but don't tell my old college professors I'm citing Wikipedia. They'll hunt me down. lol)

The four virtues of Stoicism are as follows:

  1. wisdom (sophia)

  2. courage (andreia)

  3. justice (Dikaiosyne)

  4. temperance (Sophrosyne)

The three virtues of Taoism are as follows:

  1. Compassion or love

  2. Frugality or simplicity

  3. Humility or honesty

The five virtues of Confucianism are as follows:

  1. Rén (, benevolence, humaneness)

  2. Yì (/, righteousness or justice)

  3. Lǐ (/, proper rite)

  4. Zhì (, knowledge)

  5. Xìn (, integrity).

The ten virtues of Hinduism are as follows:

  1. dhriti (courage)

  2. kshama (forgiveness)

  3. Dama (temperance)

  4. asteya (Non-covetousness/Non-stealing)

  5. saucha (inner purity)

  6. indriyani-graha (control of senses)

  7. dhi (reflective prudence)

  8. vidya (wisdom)

  9. satyam (truthfulness)

  10. akrodha (freedom from anger)

The ten virtues of Buddhism are as follows:

  1. Dāna (generosity)

  2. Sīla (proper conduct)

  3. Nekkhamma (renunciation)

  4. Paññā (wisdom)

  5. Viriya (energy)

  6. Khanti (patience)

  7. Sacca (honesty)

  8. Adhiṭṭhāna (determination)

  9. Mettā (Good-Will)

  10. Upekkhā (equanimity)

It's easy to see an overlap with Hinduism, Buddhism, and the rest because Hinduism and Buddhism have quite the lists of virtues. Many of the virtues of Hinduism and Buddhism can arguably be placed into Stoicism's fields of justice and temperance, which is odd because temperance is also a virtue of Hinduism, but, you know those Greek philosophers, they think things all the way down to simple lists with many footnotes. lol

  • Justice

    • truthfulness

    • honesty

    • Non-covetousness/non-stealing

    • forgiveness

  • Temperance

    • good will

    • patience

    • energy

    • proper conduct

There is definite room for further overlap and compiled sub-fields that can tighten all of this up, which is exactly what I think the Greeks were attempting to do, but there is always something to be said about oversimplifying.

Stoicism took up the reigns that were left by Socrates regarding social justices and fought against a hierarchical class system. Much to the liking of Socrates, who came centuries before, Stoicism argued that there was no human experience that was of greater or lesser importance, which meant that the experience of the slaves was just as valuable as that of the nobility. Stoicism stood firmly in justice and that meant justice for everyone. Beggars, slaves, thieves, etc. were just as deserving of the four virtues as anyone else and it was through attaining these virtues that one could find acceptance and trust in the natural order of the universe.

Much like Buddhism and Taoism, although they had their pantheons, Stoicism didn't believe in a separate god or deity, but an all encompassing, all present oneness that permeated and connected the total of existence. This "existence" was made of complete rational organization, so, as Stoicism teaches, only a rational mind can perceive this state of being and find peace. The desired end result is the same in all: threw various means, to reduce earthly attachment and to find complete freedom from emotional peril. 

Doesn't that sound nice, "complete freedom from emotional peril"? Stoicism's approach is much easier said than done, just like any school of thought that states such a lofty goal. Unfortunately, much of what we know about Stoicism is from scattered accounts, pieced together over generations of scholars working to understand this almost completely lost philosophy, so we don't have any direct practices suggested by the philosophers that might help us along. For the most part, it really was a philosophy based on the perception that "we suffer more through imagination than from reality." The overall practice was to remove the imagination from the emotional equation. Like I've heard Yogi's explain, "You hold on to the past because of an emotional attachment. You hold on to the future because of an emotional attachment. Neither are based in reality. The past is only in your mind and our memories are imperfect, so you are holding on to something that is not real. The future hasn't even happened, so it is completely based on imagination, so you are, again, holding on to something that is not real. Both attachments only do one thing, which is distract you from now. The only thing that is real."

I gather since Stoicism places emphasis on rational thought, the practice would be in much of how it originated: through philosophical inquiry and Socratic Method (also known as maieutics, method of elenchus, elenctic method, or Socratic debate, is a form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presumptions [can be found on Wikipedia]). Maybe that's a good place to start and, wold you look at that, we're doing it right here. Lol. Blogs are a great place to start the Socratic Method and challenge each other to think critically about that which is holding us back. Granted, many of us suffer from depression, anxiety, and PTSD, so we must act first with what the great minds have suggested for millennium: compassion, temperance, wisdom, patience, humility, and courage.

All of the schools of thought I've referenced here place emphasis on first showing ourselves these virtues. As Shakespeare wrote, “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” When we learn to treat ourselves certain ways, it is inevitable that this is how we will treat others. As I mentioned in the beginning, this is very difficult to bring into practice, especially in the pits of depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc., but the more difficult it is to achieve this, the more necessary it is for one to strive for it. Our emotional attachments become our actions, which become our behaviors, which become our character, which becomes our culture. “Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.”

What I'm doing with this is trying during my calmest points and holding on to it for as long as possible. I'm working on projects like this paper to strengthen my rational mind while distracting myself from the emotional attachments that have been invasive and pervasive. I know I must sound like a broken record, and I hope to break some records in my life, but it's all practice. Every day, I must practice. Practice falling, practice getting up, practice stillness during the fall. It's going to happen. Fortune favors the prepared.

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