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.

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.