Donald Robertson, author and psychotherapist, and John Sellars, professor of philosophy at the university of London, will be discussing how ancient Stoic philosophy, which originated in Athens, can help you live a more fulfilling life today.
Everyone is welcome to attend free of charge, to learn more about Stoicism in modern life. The talks will be in English. No need to register, just come along.
Donald Robertson will also be hosting a free “coffee and Stoicism” meeting on Friday 27th September at 1pm in the Vascobelo coffee shop, inside the Scheltema book store, in Amsterdam. Everyone is welcome…
I’ve just arrived in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, where I’ll be staying from 23rd to 28th September to promote the Dutch translation of my latest book on Stoicism, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius or, as it’s known in Dutch, Leer Denken als een Romeinse Keizer. Afterwards, I’m travelling to Athens where I’ll be organizing Stoicon, the Modern Stoicism conference. However, I’ll also be in Belgium for a few days in November, where I’m speaking at the Night of the Freethinker festival in Ghent, on Saturday 9th November.
With the help of my Dutch publisher, Ten Have, I’ll be organizing some talks and interviews, etc. On Friday 27th Sep, I’m planning a free talk about Stoicism in the evening, venue details to be confirmed shortly. However, there will definitely be an informal coffee and Stoicism meetup at the Vascobelo coffee shop in the Scheltema book store in Amsterdam, at 1pm on Friday 27th — everyone is welcome. (See our Facebook event page and click “going” to help us track numbers.)
There’s already been an article with seven tips from Marcus Aurelius, based on the book, in the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper. I recently also did an interview about Stoicism with Stefanie Van den Broeck for the Belgian news magazine Knack. While in Amsterdam, I’ll also be doing interviews with the newspaper NRC and the Belgian management magazine MT. I’m also booked as a guest on the Living without Stress with Patrick Kicken.
I recently republished an article I wrote about the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, comparing the therapeutic aspect of his philosophy to modern cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). Although Spinoza didn’t acknowledge his own debt to Stoicism, Leibniz described him as pioneering “the sect of the new Stoics”, and the similarities between Spinozism and Stoicism are obvious to most readers. Indeed, I opened How to Think Like a Roman Emperor with the following quote:
I thus perceived that I was in a state of great peril, and I compelled myself to seek with all my strength for a remedy, however uncertain it might be; as a sick man struggling with a deadly disease, when he sees that death will surely be upon him […] is compelled to seek such a remedy with all his strength, inasmuch as his whole hope lies therein. (Spinoza, De Intellectus Emendatione, 4–5)
Aaron T. Beck, quoted Spinoza, alongside the Stoics, in Cognitive Therapy & the Emotional Disorders (1976), the very first book on his cognitive therapy approach:
I saw that all the things I feared, and which feared me had nothing good or bad in them save insofar as the mind was affected by them. (Spinoza, quoted in Beck, 1976:156)
I’m therefore looking forward to visiting the monument to Spinoza in Amsterdam, and also taking a trip to the house where he lived, in Rijnsburg, which is now a museum dedicated to his life and philosophy.
Please feel free to get in touch if you’re based in or near Amsterdam. I know there are quite a variety of people interested in Stoicism in the Netherlands already. For example, a few years ago a group of students at Hermann Wesselink College in Amstelveen participated in Stoic Week, and wrote about the experience. There’s also an Amsterdam Stoics Meetup group, if you’re interested.
Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Just be one! — Meditations, 10.16
There’s been a resurgence of interest in Stoicism over the past few decades. The emerging community of modern Stoics naturally divides into several distinct groups, although there’s presumably some overlap between them. One of those consists of guys who are interested in masculinity and often, but not always, the Men’s Movement.
People often confuse stoicism (lower-case), a coping style that involves suppressing or concealing emotions (having a “stiff upper-lip”) with Stoicism (capitalized), the ancient Graeco-Roman school of philosophy. Some crudely equate manliness with being tough and unemotional (lower-case “stoicism”) but I think many others do have a more nuanced understanding of how Stoic philosophy might inform a modern man’s conception of his role in society.
By D. Robertson and T. Codd, originally published in The Behavior Therapist, vol. 42, no. 2, Feb 2019
Abstract: Stoicism provides the clearest example of a system of psychotherapy in ancient Greek or Roman philosophy. Albert Ellis acknowledged that some of the central principles of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy were “originally discovered and stated” by the Stoics and Beck that “the philosophical origins of cognitive therapy can be traced back to the Stoic philosophers.” However, the emphasis on mindfulness and living in accord with values in Stoicism was largely ignored by them and unknown to the third-wave psychotherapists who followed them. This article highlights Stoicism’s similarities to modern mindfulness and acceptance-based CBT and its potential as an approach to building emotional resilience.
It will be available in both hardback (ISBN 9780367219871) and paperback (ISBN 9780367219147) formats. The content has been thoroughly revised, with hundreds of small changes, and a whole new chapter, discussing the comparison between Stoicism and modern third-wave cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). You can order it online from Routledge, The Book Depository, Amazon, and all other good bookstores. See also Google Books and Goodreads for reviews and other information.
Table of Contents
Foreword to First Edition by Prof. Stephen Palmer
Introduction: Philosophy & Psychotherapy
Part I: Philosophy & Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
I’ll be doing my third free talk on Marcus Aurelius and Stoicism tomorrow, Wednesday 11th September, 6.30-8pm, at the Lillian H. Smith public library, 239 College Street, Toronto, M5T 1R5 (Google maps).
It’s a free drop-in presentation. You don’t need to register but it helps us to track the numbers if you do so via the EventBrite listing. You can also find details on the Toronto Public Libraries events website.
I’ll be providing a structured presentation about the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, covering the practical applications of Stoicism to different problems in life.
Everyone is welcome to attend. I’ll also be signing copies of my books, if you want to bring one along.
The introduction explains how I came to write the book, drawing on my background in academic philosophy and training as a cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist, after nearly twenty years of writing and teaching Stoicism. It discusses the modern growth of interest in Stoicism, including the activities of the Modern Stoicism organization. It also explains how the idea for the book came from my experience of telling my young daughter, Poppy, stories about ancient philosophy.
1. The Dead Emperor
The first chapter opens with the death of Marcus Aurelius. I wanted to start the book with something dramatic. Each chapter begins with a story about some major event in Marcus’ life, based on the information we have from the various Roman histories of his reign.
In most of the chapters that leads into a discussion of Stoic philosophy and psychology and the concepts and techniques he used to cope with various problems such as anger, anxiety, pain, and so on. Then there’s a detailed discussion of how Stoic techniques can actually be applied today, drawing on my experience as a cognitive-behavioural therapist and the relevant scientific research. However, the first chapter is slightly different because after describing the events surrounding Marcus’ death in some detail, it proceeds to give the reader a short introduction to Stoic philosophy.
The story of Stoicism begins with Zeno of Citium, the founder of the school, and so you’ll be introduced to various anecdotes about him and other famous Stoics. Then we focus on what the Stoics actually believed: the core doctrines of the philosophy followed by Marcus throughout his entire adult life. And we’ll address some common misconceptions about Stoicism, such as the idea that Stoics were unemotional or joyless, which is false. I tried to keep the explanation of Stoicism in this chapter as simple as possible but after reading it you should have a pretty clear idea of who the Stoics were and what they believed. Then you’ll be well prepared to begin delving into the application of Stoicism to different areas of life. For example, in the next chapter we’ll be looking at how Stoics used language and in subsequent chapters you’ll learn how they overcame unhealthy desires and bad habits, conquered anxiety, managed anger, coped with pain and illness, came to terms with loss, and even faced their own mortality.