Epictetus Is My Therapist

by Tanner Campbell

epictetusis

This is therapy, it’s for me – but you can be part of it

Posted on July 15, 2014

Thirty-one brief years ago, I was born. Thirty-one very long years later, I am a very unhappy 31-year-old man; lost and without aim. After more than three decades I’ve finally gotten to the hard questions in life – not questions about God or about purpose, but ones about the nature of happiness and how best to live my one and only life.

Everything before this was easy but now it’s all internal, now it’s all about me. Up to now I have made an identity out of going against the grain, of being difficult and hard to deal with. I have been the most temperamental, intelligent, and arrogant ass I have been able to be – and this strategy, as it were, has had its advantages. I have become a hard man. Not of strength or might, but of spine and mind. I am not afraid, I am not weak in the knees, I am not forgiving, I am not kind, and I am 99% certain that I am better than you. Do you see how that list of advantages went very quickly from good things to bad things? This is something I want to change.

Thirty-one very long years later… I have come not to regret my past actions or present self, but to realize that I am incomplete and that the softer parts of what make me human need a lot of attention and even more work.

The person I have cultivated has lead itself, through a strange sort of inevitable necessity, to a philosophy seemingly tailor-made for the sort of intelligent, yet incredibly foolish and stupid person I have become. Stoicism has snared my reins and ignited an internal conflict that I must, by virtue of my desires to never submit to authority and to never admit defeat to authority, confront. Stoicism is, for me, the most perfectly crafted spider web within which I have become entangled and I believe this to be for the best.

This blog is therapy for me. Epictetus, the father of Stoicism, is my therapist on this journey, along with Marcus Aurelius, George Long, Sharon Lebell, and others. This blog isn’t for you, it is for me – my decision to write it online, under my own name for all the world to see, was inspired by the following:

Now is the time to get serious about living your ideals. Once you have determined the spiritual principles you wish to exemplify, abide by these rules as if they were laws, as if it were indeed sinful to compromise them. Don’t mind if others don’t share your convictions. How long can you afford to put off who you really want to be? Your nobler self cannot wait any longer.

- Epictetus, as interpreted by Sharon Lebell in The Art of Living

Living my ideals means attaching my name to them and letting people know they are mine – taking responsibility for using them to manifest change in my mind and life. I want you to know I’m doing this because I want you to know why I changed who I was, why I am who I am, and why I will be who I will become.

Happiness

Attaining Happiness

Posted on August 31, 2014

For those of you who don’t know, which may be the lot of you as I don’t advertise it on this blog, I’m on twitter @TannerTheStoic. Early Saturday morning (I’m an early riser most days) a long-time twitter acquaintance tweeted me an interesting question in response to something I had written a couple hours earlier. The beginning of the conversation, embedded below, as well as the entire conversation, prompted a 24-hour period of passive, in and out meditation on the original question. I was left with a bit of clarity which I wanted to share, here, with my readers.

Two New Precepts - Learning Not To Be Mean

Learning Not To Be Mean

Posted on August 27, 2014

This project is becoming more and more rewarding as I stay the course and continue to actively work on it. That fulfillment seems to come from the speed at which I am now realizing things. It’s difficult to put into words – I’ll capture it properly at some point and explain it. In any event, it’s a wonderful feeling. I think it has something to do with “connecting the dots” or some such crappy (yet accurate) metaphor… but I digress: Tonight (it’s 8pm by the way) I’m writing about not being a meanie. Which, given the fact that I only recently realized what a big meanie I am, is surprisingly quick process.

LetGo

Letting Go Feels Good

Posted on August 17, 2014

I’m a long way from letting go of all the things I should let go of, but today was a victory for moving on. Today I officially retired some projects that I had felt very passionately about but grew to feel differently about the longer they went on. The path I took to this point was important because it allowed me to realize that I never wanted what I had convinced myself I did. Letting go of these projects, for me, today, was the end result of a realization about myself and my desires in life.

Williams

In Memory of Robin Williams

Posted on August 12, 2014

My initial response to Williams death was a joke. Comedians want us to laugh at the dark and inappropriate and I suspect that in death they desire no differently. The joke wasn’t important, it was what I wrote immediately after (on Facebook) that I hope people will take into consideration. Depression is a real monster. I’ll post below what I wrote earlier and I will add some additional thoughts to it.

meanie

My First Harsh Realization

Posted on July 29, 2014

I am addicted to belittling other people. I’m also immensely affected by the actions and decisions of others.

I drop Brittany off at work on the weekends and as I was doing that this past weekend I noticed – it was hard not to – that throughout the two mile return drive home I had something mean spirited to say about every person I saw walking along the sidewalks. Every single individual, without exception. As if that were not bad enough I was actually getting angry about it. Example: One fellow was wearing a Mickey Mouse t-shirt with jean shorts. I thought to myself, “What a loser. What sort of a loser dresses like that?” That was the judgement. Then, “It pisses me off that there are people out there that are so stupid they would wear something like that.” That was the anger. This cycle repeated with every innocent sidewalk-bystander I so much as glanced at during the drive.

rocks

Changing Who You Spent Years Becoming, Isn’t Easy

Posted on July 17, 2014

This morning I re-read my words from last night so that I could have them fresh in my mind for the day ahead – I wanted those words in the forefront of my mind so that I could be conscious of them throughout the day. I found out that even when you’re paying attention to how you’re acting and what you’re saying, it’s difficult to control some of the things you do and say. Old habits die hard I suppose and habits newly designated “old” probably even harder.

become

The Things I Want to Change, The Person I Want to Become

Posted on July 15, 2014

Epictetus said, among other things, and you’ll find that I might say that a lot – “Epictetus says” or “Aurelius wrote” or “so and so opined” – I am, after all, following the teachings of others:

It’s time to stop being vague. If you wish to be an extraordinary person, if you wish to be wise, then you should explicitly identify the kind of person you aspire to become. Precisely describe the demeanor you want to adopt so that you may preserve it when you are by yourself or with other people.

To me that means, “Make a list of things you want to change and of ways you want to behave. Then work to become the person those changes would create by acting in ways you think honor those wants.” I gave this thought throughout the day and as I found myself doing things that I did not like, or things I wanted to do differently, I made a note of them. I don’t think this is a complete list, perhaps I need to work on certain things to discover other things I’d like to change or improve upon, but it’s a good starting point.