Stoicism Combines Philosophy With Practical Psychology — This Is How

The reason it survived two millennia.

Where does Stoicism come from?

Stoicism earned its name from stoa, or porch — upon which its followers met and debated in public. As we would expect of any Ancient Greek intellectual gift, it came out of Athens.

Surprise, another beard! via Paolo Monti

"If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this that disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out this judgment now.” — Marcus Aurelius, VIII

Marcus Aurelius, emperor-therapist!

How does Stoicism link to psychology?

“Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view they take of them.” -Epictetus, 135 AD

Albert Ellis, in the 1950s, was a psychologist with a vision. His vision was simple: make therapy tackle the present, not the past. He suggested that mental illness emerges from distortions in your thoughts, and disruption to your behaviour. How we feel is due to the way we think and act.

“People don’t just get upset. They contribute to their upsetness.” -Albert Ellis, 1975 AD

Ellis created the first form of cognitive-behavioural therapy — rational emotive behaviour therapy — based on the central tenet that thoughts influence feelings.

Image courtesy of the author
  1. The model most successfully used in therapy.
  2. The model closest to Stoicism.

Stoicism → REBT→ CBT

Stoicism is the grandpa of your therapy session.

Turning problem into insight

Both Zino of Citium and Albert Ellis were no-nonsense types who used tough love and practical wisdom to help people. Both first invented their methods to overcome a personal problem they were facing.

“The problem with most therapy is that it makes you feel better, but you don’t get better. You have to back it up with action, action, action.” — Albert Ellis

If you hear ghostly clapping, that’s Zino.


We often think of philosophy as an airy-fairy discipline these days.

  • You can’t control what your president says — you can vote.
  • You can’t control the global economy — you can set up your own side-hustle.
  • You can’t make people buy your product — you can create and market to the very best of your ability.

“Don’t wish for figs in winter.” — Epictetus

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