Against being unemotional and the case for a “Passionate Stoicism”
I do not withdraw the wise man from the category of man, nor do I deny to him the sense of pain as though he were a rock that has no feelings at all. — Seneca, Letters, 71
Stoicism has become a quite trendy over the past couple of decades. When I first began writing about it, roughly 25 years ago now, things were very different.
Until recently, there were very few popular books about the subject and they weren’t very widely-read. There were not many articles on websites. Now, though, new books and articles appear every day. That’s a good thing because Stoicism has a great deal to offer people. It’s the original philosophical inspiration for cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), the leading form of modern evidence-based psychotherapy. Perhaps more importantly, it offers a way of building emotional resilience, which may reduce the risk of developing anxiety or depression in the future.
Put bluntly, Stoicism is not the same thing as stoicism. Virtually all modern academics capitalize the name of the Greek philosophy to highlight the difference…
However, the downside is that when as idea becomes more and more popular it can become oversimplified and distorted. Often a good idea can become a victim of its own success. The glaring example of that with Stoicism, the Greek philosophy, is the widespread tendency for people to confuse it with stoicism (lowercase) the unemotional coping style. When people talk about lowercase stoicism they mean things like “have a stiff upper-lip”, “suck it up”, “boys don’t cry”, etc.
The Stoic Handbook
Sign up today for our free email course on the Stoic Handbook. You'll receive weekly emails with my commentary on passages from Epictetus.