Cognitive Work via Seneca

There are more things, Lucilius, that frighten us than injure us, and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.” – Seneca

When it comes to transforming challenges in life to the fertilizer for growth, the Stoics are one of the finest groups of people to learn from. It is within reason to say that they’re one of the best examples of framing hardship not only as “not bad” but literally necessary to growth. Essentially, in order to grow, we need the challenges to give us enough resistance to prove ourselves as the heroes of our own stories.

Seneca (the Younger) is a powerhouse of not just philosophy to read and feel good about, but very practical life advice that is applicable to our everyday lives. It’s also well worth mentioning, this is not the story of some guy who’s writing from the comforts of a cushy life. He was exiled from Rome, later being brought back to become the tutor of Nero (yes, THAT Nero).

Where we see significant overlap in CBT and Stoicism is where we decide to act upon our feelings, or not, as it serves us best. While easy to simply say “I can’t help it, I felt like ______,” this is not really helpful in most cases. Certainly when we’re talking about anxity or depression, our feelings are working directly against what we most likely ‘want.’

What we do, then is see how these things can overlap. CBT -may- explore the root causes and methods to circumvent our troublesome thinking and behavior, Stoicism embraces that without us eventually running into issues, we probably aren’t improving ourselves at all. Then, we must decide if we really do wish to improve ourselves. If we do, then we must decide if our thoughts are helpful or not. What motivates us to want something different gives us a destination, and according to Seneca, that destination is vital.

If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.

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