I read this on an image posted in the Stoicism group page on Facebook with the caption ”The most elusive truth, and core of stoicism”. This is exactly what it is. However, I found that there was one person who commented on it that didn’t quite understand the concept or the purpose of stoicism and tried to somehow make it seem as if stoic practice isn’t attributable to even the absolut worst case scenarios. In fact, that is the whole point! His comment read as below, with my response right beneath it:
”Sounds nice and dandy until you end up persecuted, in a concentration camp with your kids murdered and doing slave labour. That is for me the ultimate test of such ’life wisdoms’. If anything these quotes reek of a life of comparative safety and luxury. Moreover they put tremendous guilt on the one suffering for now his or her suffering is his own fault. Of course, even among survivors of said concentration camps there were some who could manage such stoic attitudes. But most cracked and shattered as did their families. So I read these ’lines of wisdom’ with a smirk. They might apply to regular life events, but that’s where they end. Neither Epictetus or Aurelius could envision what tests were in store for mankind.”– Random Facebook user.
”These quotes isn’t made to make your life ”all fine and dandy”. They’re to make sure you don’t make an already miserable situation into an even worse hell. Putting the responsibility on you to make your life slightly less worse than it can be, doesn’t negate the fact that others are at fault. However, this is about what you CAN control, and not what you want or need to control. And as soon as we realize we always have control over our own souls and attitudes, a hell can be turned into a slightly less miserable hell, maybe enough that you can endure, survive and eventually thrive where the alternative would be enough despair to give up and lose your life.
Viktor Frankl himself was thrown into not one but several nazi concentration camps, and he both used and learned about the stoic response in the face of absolute adversity. He chronicles this in his best-selling autobiography ”Man’s Search For Meaning.” Highly recommended.
Stoicism isn’t a magical fix-all cure. It’s a philosophy meant to strengthen your attitude in the face of adversity, regardless of who is to blame. Control what you can, endure, and come out a victor! That’s the very core of stoicism.”
UPDATE: He later replied with the following, which made me realize that I may have misinterpreted the meaning behind his critique:
”I understand your point and am familiar with the work of Victor Frankel (and others who have gone through similar experiences) but I believe they are the exception. My point is that stoicism can only exists if there is a space between external reality and the inner realm of thought. The whole idea behind terror, especially in the camps, was to tear down the boundaries between the external and internal realm. To fill a person with horror and continual imminant fear of death. Compare it to room 101 in orwells 1984.In that sense stoic self control can exist by virtue of an absence of terror. Perhaps for some, like Frankl, the defense of the inner realm is more solid than for others, but for most people it will break. That is what the system of torture is designed for. The same goes for people ravaged by sickness and imminant extreme pain. I’ve witnessed it. And since then I came to realize, stoicism exist by virtue of an absence of true immediate horror. That doesn’t diminish its worth and virtue. But it does limits it applicability. ”
Where I replied:
”Absolutely, no one has ever stated that it’s absolute or that it always works for everyone, especially in the most extreme of circumstances. That’s why it’s a philosophy to strive towards, and not a guaranteed fix-all <3 But I get your point 🙂 ”
That being said, I still do not agree with him that those extreme cases are an exception. Everyone can do it. I would consider the exception those who are less able, such as people with C-PTSD or other forms of disadvantages that hinders the level of control or regulation of emotional responses that is needed to put stoic principles into practice.
Do you practice stoicism? Has it helped you in any way? And if so, how?
Also, I would like to take the opportunity to inform everyone reading this blog that I will be writing my posts in english from here onward. Despite being a well-versed swede, I somehow find it easier to express myself formally in english than my own native language. In addition to that, I would like to make my blog a bit more universally reachable. I hope my swedish readers don’t mind! I will be posting a bit more about the current state of affairs in my life and how I’m handling everything that’s been going on this past miserable week. But that will have to wait for now. Till then, I just want to say thank you to everyone who has reached out to me. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so lonely anymore. I’m still somewhat lonely, but not at all in the same magnitude as before.
So from the bottom of my heart – Thank you!
”I am a mother fucking dandelion!! I thrive everywhere and even if you cut me down, I spring forth in 14 other places. I’m not that easy to get rid off!”