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  • Writer's pictureJoshua U.

Stoicism -- What Is It?

Stoicism is a philosophy birthed by the Greek philosopher Zeno in Athens, sometime around 300 BC.

A bust of Zeno, the founder of Stoicism.

IMAGE: A bust of the famed Greek philosopher, Zeno. Zeno is the father of Stoicism.

Zeno was described as socially anxious, but wildly intelligent. As so many of us search for happiness in our lives, as different as that goal may look from person-to-person, Zeno defined the word as being "a good flow of life", adding that happiness comes with a good piece of mind that comes from living a life of virtue (good moral standards) in accordance with reason and nature.

Zeno's philosophy of Stoicism has stood the test of time for nearly 25 centuries, and has gained popularity in the modern day due to its very helpful & reasonable ideals towards working through trauma and managing stress.

  • stoicism (n): the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint

Enduring pain without displaying feelings and complaining? Is that even possible?

It actually is, in fact. Stoicism maintains that consistently bemoaning our trials & tribulations is the most self-restrictive behavior & thought process that us as human beings can engage in.

Hardship is guaranteed in life. Life doesn't carry many guarantees with the exception of death & taxes, but hardship is unequivocally one. Go ahead and try to name somebody that's lived a pain-free life. It's impossible.

Stoicism carries many ideas, but if I had to name its main idea, I'd say this:

It is NOT external circumstances that define your world, nor your existence, nor your destiny. It is solely your thoughts & beliefs that create the world you inhabit, nothing else. Thus, you must take responsibility for your mind.

External circumstances will always change. Sometimes, they'll change wildly. That is simply another of life's constants. Those don't go away. They're out of our control, ultimately. So -- there's zero point in worrying about them. That's not saying to completely ignore them & compartmentalize, which is a common misconception of what being a Stoic actually entails. We should acknowledge and unpack all of our pain, for sure. But ONLY deal and worry about what is in your control. If it's out of your control, it doesn't and shouldn't concern you.

I call going through life with this thought process as "clean living". Stoicism doesn't leave much room for assumptions.

  • assumption (n): a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof

Assumptions slow us down. Just think about how often we waste time worrying about things that might be happening or that may have happened. Think about how much time we spend stressing about things that aren't fact-based. And, if you really want the book on assumptions; the vast majority of them are made up by us in moments of doubt and negative thoughts.

I wrote previously in the mental-ity Journal about gossip and how toxic it can be. Stoics have a way of not even being remotely phased by gossip, though. By worrying solely about what we control and nothing more, all assumptions about what others may think about us or say about us are non-existent.

You see, Stoicism strives to get people to a point where it is simply irrelevant to care about what people think of us, our actions, and our beliefs, because Stoics only move on account of their own carefully crafted moral compass. Internal over external, always.

And, just to reiterate -- Stoicism is not about burying your hardship and negative thoughts and traits deep inside of ourselves. Stoics still go to therapy, seek out forms of healthy emotional expression, and develop good coping mechanisms. But, it's still always about controlling the controllables.

After Zeno came many great Stoics over the course of time -- all of whom I'll cover in future entries. But, I'm personally a huge fan of the Stoic philosophy for many reasons. A major one being that Stoics are not talking about it, they ARE about it, consistently.

Everything isn't for everybody. Everyone's view on happiness and what that looks like is going to be different, naturally. There are many different philosophies (and religions!) that will provide a sense of stability and happiness for different people.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the purpose of this post -- and the mental-ity project as a whole -- is to provide tools that may help us achieve that ultimate goal of simply being happy & mentally healthy on a consistent basis.

Stoicism is just one of those tools.


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