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Psychotherapy Resilience Stoicism Stoicism

How Stoicism Could Help You Build Resilience

Combining stoic philosophy and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

  • Stoicism is an ancient Greek school of philosophy that inspired modern cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
  • Stoics like Epictetus taught that it’s not things that upset us but rather our opinions (cognitions) about them.
  • People identify with Stoicism as a philosophy of life, which may be more permanent than skills learned in CBT or resilience training.

Read the rest of this article on Psychology Today…

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Stoicism Stoicism

Stoicism and Tattoos

How to ink what it is Stoic to think

One of the most common questions I’m asked (honestly!) is what would make a good Stoic tattoo. If that surprises some people, it makes perfect sense to others, myself included — yes, I’m in the pro-tattoo camp! In this article, I’ll talk about the concept of Stoic tattoos, give some example phrases, and then talk about a Stoic tattoo I had done recently in Athens.

First off, Stoicism tattoos are definitely a thing. I’ve seen countless photos of people with Marcus Aurelius tattoos and the occasional quote from Seneca. There are Pinterest boards of Stoicism tattoo ideas, a blog article listing examples, and it’s a recurring question on the Stoicism Subreddit. We were paid the ultimate compliment recently when someone, out of the blue, sent us a photo of a tattoo based on artwork by Zé Nuno Fraga, the award-winning illustrator of our Stoicism graphic novel, Verissimus: the Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius.

There is, however, a logical reason for getting a Stoic tattoo. Not out of vanity, because it looks cool, but as a mnemonic or reminder.

Read the rest of this article on Medium

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Books Comic Comics Marcus Aurelius Stoicism Stoicism Verissimus

Out Now – Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

We’re delighted to announce that our graphic novel, Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, is now available from all good bookstores! You can read the advance reviews on Goodreads.

Comments from Other Authors

  • “Donald Robertson is one of my favorite writers about Stoicism.” – Ryan Holiday, #1 New York Times bestselling author and founder of The Daily Stoic
  • “A superb graphic novel that provides stunning insights into one of the most interesting figures of antiquity, as well as into the philosophy that guided him throughout his life.” — Massimo Pigliucci, author of How to Be a Stoic
  • “Whether you’re new to Marcus Aurelius or already know him as a friend and guide, this graphic novel will open your eyes… Author and artist have found… a brilliant combination of entertainment and education.” – Robin Waterfield, translator of Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus
  • “Verissimus represents the vanguard of the next phase of the ongoing Stoic renaissance.” – William B. Irvine, author of A Guide to the Good Life
  • “A remarkable work that is awesome in its conception and execution.” – Karen Duffy, author of Backbone and Wise Up
  • “This is a wonderful and engaging introduction to the life and thought of Marcus Aurelius… It’s the perfect book for anyone who wants to learn more about the man behind the Meditations.” – John Sellars, author of Lessons in Stoicism
  • “Donald Robertson continues to be my teacher when it comes to the depth of Stoicism… Invaluable!”– Mo Gawdat, author of Solve for Happy
Verissimus Front Cover
Categories
Books Comic Comics Marcus Aurelius Stoicism Stoicism Verissimus

Out Now: Verissimus the Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

We are delighted to announce that our graphic novel, Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, is now available from all good bookstores! It was published on 12th July by Macmillan. You can read lots of advance reviews on Goodreads. You’ll so other reviewers posting their thoughts on social media.

Verissimus was Amazon Editors pick for Best History book in July 2022, and #1 in new releases for Greek and Roman Philosophy. It’s available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, and most other online booksellers.

Verissimus Front Cover

Some comments from other authors…

  • “Donald Robertson is one of my favorite writers about Stoicism.” – Ryan Holiday, #1 New York Times bestselling author and founder of The Daily Stoic
  • “A superb graphic novel that provides stunning insights into one of the most interesting figures of antiquity, as well as into the philosophy that guided him throughout his life.” — Massimo Pigliucci, author of How to Be a Stoic
  • “Whether you’re new to Marcus Aurelius or already know him as a friend and guide, this graphic novel will open your eyes… Author and artist have found… a brilliant combination of entertainment and education.” – Robin Waterfield, translator of Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus
  • “Verissimus represents the vanguard of the next phase of the ongoing Stoic renaissance.” – William B. Irvine, author of A Guide to the Good Life
  • “A remarkable work that is awesome in its conception and execution.” – Karen Duffy, author of Backbone: Living with Chronic Pain without Turning into One [and forthcoming book on Epictetus]
  • “This is a wonderful and engaging introduction to the life and thought of Marcus Aurelius… It’s the perfect book for anyone who wants to learn more about the man behind the Meditations.” – John Sellars, author of Lessons in Stoicism
  • “Donald Robertson continues to be my teacher when it comes to the depth of Stoicism… Invaluable!”– Mo Gawdat, author of Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy.
Verissimus Cover
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Marcus Aurelius Stoicism Stoicism Verissimus

Stoicism and Anger

Ten Practical Tips from Marcus Aurelius

Artwork from Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius (2022), copyright Donald J. Robertson

What does Stoic philosophy tell us about how to control our tempers? When we began working on our graphic novel, Verissimus, the illustrator, Zé Nuno Fraga, and I decided to show how colourful and action-packed Marcus Aurelius’ life really was. We also liked the idea, however, of leaving our readers with a good amount of practical advice from Stoicism, which they could take away and use to help themselves and others.

I chose to focus on Stoic advice about anger — the royal road to self-improvement.

I chose to focus on Stoic advice about anger — the royal road to self-improvement. We know that this was a problem for Marcus because he tells us in the Meditations that he struggled, at first, to master his own temper. Later in life, Marcus had a reputation for remaining completely level-headed, even in the face of extreme provocation. So it appears that he succeeded in using Stoicism to master his natural quick temper. He did this by employing Stoic psychological practices, over and over again, on a daily basis. I can see parallels between many of these strategies and those employed in modern cognitive therapy. So I think that, with practice, they may help the rest of us cope with our feelings of anger too.

It was one of the men who provoked Marcus’ temper the most, ironically, who also taught him how to restore calm and rebuild friendships after an argument — his Stoic mentor, Junius Rusticus. We therefore speculated, in our illustrations, that it could have been Rusticus who taught Marcus the ten anger-management strategies he describes using in the Meditations (11.18). Marcus, curiously, refers to these as ten “gifts” from the god Apollo, and his nine Muses. Apollo, Lord of the Muses, was the god of the arts, including the arts of medicine and, in a sense, also philosophy. It’s perhaps fitting, therefore, that Marcus would call these therapeutic strategies, or self-help tips, gifts from the god of healing.

Draft for Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius (2022), copyright Donald J. Robertson.

Marcus describes things he should tell himself whenever he noticed he was growing annoyed with someone. I would call these cognitive (thinking) strategies for anger-management. In this article, I’ll discuss each of his ten strategies in turn, adding a few comments, here and there, from my perspective as a cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist.

Read the rest of this article on Medium…

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Marcus Aurelius Podcast Stoicism Stoicism Video

Video: Chris Williamson’s Modern Wisdom Show

Video of a recent interview I did about Stoicism for Chris Williamson’s Modern Wisdom podcast.

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Books Comic Comics Stoicism Stoicism Verissimus

Chatting with Troy Baker about Verissimus

Had a great Instagram Live conversation with actor Troy Baker about my new graphic novel, Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius. You can watch the video here…

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Books Stoicism Stoicism

What are the five best novels about Stoicism?

Books where the characters discuss Stoic Philosophy

We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the neverending contest in ourselves of good and evil.

Steinbeck, East of Eden

One of the most commonly asked questions about Stoicism is whether there are any novels dealing with this philosophy. The question often get quite varied responses, including many references to poker-faced or unemotional characters. There’s a big difference between Batman, let’s say, or Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name”, one the one hand, and Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius, on the other. All over the Internet, people tend to confuse “stoicism” (lowercase), the unemotional personality trait or coping style, with “Stoicism” (capitalized), the ancient Greek philosophy — two quite different things.

This can be very misleading if you’re looking not merely for cold-blooded stoic characters but for stories featuring some of the wisdom from genuine Stoic philosophy. Fortunately, there are a handful of interesting novels, in which characters explicitly discuss the ancient philosophy, or which at least help us to understand the lives of genuine Stoics. These books vary enormously in style and content and will probably appeal to different types of readers. However, they can all contribute something of value to our appreciation of ancient Stoicism.

Read the rest of this article on Medium…

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Books Courses Marcus Aurelius Stoicism Stoicism

Now Enrolling: Marcus Aurelius Online Course

Learn how to build emotional resilience and develop a more meaningful life, from Marcus Aurelius, with my 4 week intro to Stoic philosophy and psychology.

It’s been a couple of years since I last ran my online course, Marcus Aurelius: Life and Stoicism. I used to run it several times a year but can’t do it as frequently now because of other commitments. We just opened up enrollment, though, for the course starting 10th July – this may be the only time we run the course this year so come and join us if you’re looking for a deep dive into Marcus Aurelius’ life and philosophy.

I’ve actually been busy working on more books about Marcus! I’ve now written three (and a half!) books about him in a row. Many years of research went into these books and I’ll be drawing on them in delivering the online course.

  1. How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, my self-help book about his use of Stoicism
  2. Verissimus, our graphic novel about Marcus’ life and philosophy is available to order now!
  3. Ancient Lives: Marcus Aurelius, my prose biography for Yale University Press, is finished and due out next year
  4. Meditations: The Philosophy Classic, I wrote a biographical introduction and edited this edition

I also contributed a chapter on Marcus Aurelius and psychotherapy to the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations edited by John Sellars.

The course has a satisfaction guarantee so there’s no risk – try it out and see what you think. The feedback from previous students has been extremely positive, though, and we’ve revised it many times based on their suggestions. So we’re confident you’ll be getting access to an impressive and very extensive collection of resources.

Donald Robertson Signature

Nobody exemplifies Stoicism as does Marcus Aurelius. Because of the extremely difficult and unpredictable events that came into his life when he became Emperor, his embodiment of Stoic ideas burned in his blood and he saw that life is not worth it’s living unless you recognize how critical it is for wisdom to be your primary guide to lead you on your way… moment by moment inch by inch. A year ago i would not have imagined about how to think like a Roman Emperor. Nowadays it is the only game in town worth playing.

Melville Richard Alexander

Week One: Overcoming Anger and Developing Empathy

The Education of a Stoic Emperor. This section focuses on the Stoic practice called “Contemplation of the Sage” and the role of empathy in Stoicism, particularly as a remedy for feelings of anger. It uses illustrations from the life of Marcus, such as his difficulty coping with feelings of anger toward his Stoic tutor, Junius Rusticus. Includes: Videos, reading, discussion, knowledge-check quiz. Also, for students on standard or premium plan, a webinar on Stoicism, Virtue, and Empathy.

Week Two: Conquering Worry and Anxiety

Marcus’ Early Reign and the Parthian War. This section focuses on the Stoic practice called “Premeditation of Adversity” (praemeditatio malorum, sometimes called “negative visualization”) and the role of acceptance in Stoicism, toward indifferent things, such as in coping with pain. It uses illustrations from the life of Marcus, such as his worry about matters of state, coping with chronic pain and illness, and his correspondence with his Latin tutor Fronto. Includes: Videos, reading, discussion, knowledge-check quiz. Also, for students on standard or premium plan, a webinar on Stoicism, Indifference, and Acceptance.

Week Three: Managing Pain and Illness

The First Marcomannic War and The Meditations. This section focuses on the Stoic practice called “The View from Above” and the role of metaphysics in Stoicism, with reference to the famous Dream of Scipio. It uses illustrations from the life of Marcus, such as the challenges of his assuming the role of military commander during the lengthy northern campaign against a huge coalition of enemy tribes led by King Ballomar of the Marcomanni. It is widely believed that Marcus wrote The Meditations during this period, and we also consider its role as a spiritual journal in relation to other Stoic writing practices. Includes: Videos, reading, discussion, knowledge-check quiz. Also, for students on standard or premium plan, a webinar on Stoicism, Nature, and the Cosmos.

Week Four: Coming to Terms with Mortality and Loss

The Civil War, and Marcus’ Final Years and Legacy. This section focuses on the Stoic practice called “Contemplation of Death” and the concept of impermanence in Stoicism, and also on the practice of Stoic mindfulness (prosoche) and attention to the present moment. It uses illustrations from the life of Marcus, such as the Antonine Plague, the civil war against his general Avidius Cassius, and his own illness and eventual death. Includes: Videos, reading, discussion, knowledge-check quiz. Also, for students on standard or premium plan, a webinar on Stoicism, Mindfulness, and Death.

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Books Children Comic Comics Stoicism Stoicism

Stoicism for Kids

How can we teach our kids some Stoic philosophy?

Stoicism has exploded in popularity over the past couple of decades. One of the questions I’m now asked most frequently, by teachers and parents, is whether there are any good resources available to help kids learn about Stoic philosophy. The answer is YES, although you may need helping finding them.

Basic Lessons

There are many aspects of Stoicism that you could discuss with children but it makes sense to start by focusing on some basic principles. You can demonstrate Stoic philosophy in action quite easily by using what psychologists call the “thinking aloud” technique. This is a form of “cognitive modelling” which lets you show your children how you, the parent, might use simple Stoic ideas to guide your own decisions. For example:

  • Some things are up to us and others are not, which you can demonstrate simply by asking of some challenging event “What aspects are up to me?” or “What can and can’t I control about this situation?”
  • It’s not things that upset us but rather our opinions about them, which you can model by asking “How might other people view this situation differently?” or “What would be a better way of looking at this whole thing?”


The Stoics taught that it’s better to lead by example than through books and lectures, although there’s a place for both. Kids can’t read your mind, though, so the “thinking aloud” technique can be a useful way to provide a window on your thought processes. That lets you model a healthy way of tackling a problem, which you’d like your kids to gradually learn. This should be done as naturally as possible, of course, so demonstrating a little bit at a time, over a long period, perhaps works best if you’re a parent or teacher.

Read the rest of this article on Medium…