Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was one of the last Stoic philosophers and today is arguably the best known. Thanks to his personal writings that eventually became Meditations, Marcus left us with concrete exercises to put Stoicism into action.
My guest today explores this Stoic tradition and connects it with modern psychotherapy in his book How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius. His name is Donald Robertson, and he’s a Scottish philosopher and cognitive psychotherapist. We begin our conversation discussing the history of Stoicism and the overlooked beliefs the Stoics had. We then discuss the end goal of Stoicism and how it differed from other ancient philosophies like Aristotelian virtue ethics. Donald then explains the Stoic approach to emotions and the common misconceptions people have about Stoicism in that regard. We then dig into Stoic practices taken from Marcus Aurelius and discuss how modern cognitive psychology backs them up. Donald shares how the Stoics used language and daily meditations to manage their emotional life, and how they went about the psychology of goal-setting and dealing with success and failure.
- The origins of Stoicism — Where did it start? Who were the founders?
- Comparing Stoicism to Aristotelian ethics
- How did the Stoic way differentiate between good and bad actions?
- The connection between Stoicism and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- The Stoic approach to emotions (and misconceptions about it)
- How our language can help us manage our emotions
- How Stoics view anger and why they use so much space talking about it
- Marcus Aurelius’ story, including his circuitous route to becoming emperor
- On catastrophizing
- What does Stoic meditation look like?
- Was the Apostle Paul a Stoic?
- What do Stoics say about changing or moderating our desires?
- What about worry and anxiety?
- Balancing successful outcomes with successful tactics (and dealing with setbacks)
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- Meditations on a First Reading of Meditations
- The Albert Ellis Institute
- 5 Ancient Stoic Tactics for Modern Life
- Zeno of Citium
- Scipio Africanus the Younger
- Cato the Younger
- An Introduction to Stoicism
- Aristotle’s Wisdom on Living the Good Life
- Meditations on the Wisdom of Action
- You May Be Strong, But Are You Tough?
- On Anger by Seneca
- Quit Catastrophizing
- How to Deal With Anxiety?
- My interview with Ryan Holiday about obstacles
Connect With Donald
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
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