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Stoicism

How to Fall Out of Love

Ancient Philosophy and the Cure of Lovesickness

Freud was not the first psychotherapist. Thousands of years ago, in Greece and Rome, a great many books and poems were written about techniques of psychological therapy. Among the most explicitly therapeutic philosophies were the two great rival Hellenistic schools of Stoicism and Epicureanism.

It is curious to note both the differences and similarities between ancient and modern psychotherapy. One striking difference is that the ancients tended to focus their therapeutic endeavours on different maladies than the ones with which therapists are nowadays are concerned. One cannot read the Stoics, e.g., without noticing that they think of anger as being a much more significant problem than anxiety or depression. However, it is to another, far graver, preoccupation of the ancient philosopher-therapists that we now turn: the treatment of pathological love.

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