Depression, loneliness, and suicidal tendencies are serious issues that can affect anyone at any point in their lives. These conditions can make it difficult for people to see a way out and find happiness. However, by embracing Stoic wisdom and other Greek philosophy approaches, it is possible to overcome these challenges and find a sense of purpose and fulfillment in life.
Life coaches, and public figures are often in the business of trying to tell us how to cope with how to make life better. Somehow the improvement of life is the way in which most problems are viewed: They offer us advice on how can we make things go better…But what if things going bad sometimes, is actually good for us?
I want to direct your thoughts to a school of philosophy that was born in ancient Greece and later flourished in Rome.. I'm talking about stoicism and the stoic school of philosophy… When we speak of someone being ‘stoic’ in the face of a disaster, we are referring to the Stoics of ancient Greece…A school of practical philosophy who taught mental and emotional resilience.
Stoics like Seneca very much believed that philosophy was a discipline to keep you sane in troubled times and that one of the best ways to be sane was precisely to master pessimism to make yourself at home in pessimism to become a master of this melancholy… but its not actually depressing philosophy at all.
Stoicism is a philosophy that emphasizes the importance of living in accordance with nature, accepting what is outside of our control, and cultivating a sense of inner peace and contentment. At its core, Stoicism teaches us that we have the power to control our thoughts, emotions, and reactions to the world around us. This philosophy can be a powerful tool for those struggling with depression, loneliness, and suicidal tendencies, as it offers a way to find meaning and purpose in even the most difficult of circumstances.
The first step to overcoming depression, loneliness, and suicidal tendencies is to recognize that these feelings are not permanent. While it may feel like things will never get better, it is important to remember that everything is impermanent, and this too shall pass. By focusing on the present moment and accepting what is happening right now, we can begin to shift our perspective and find a sense of peace and contentment.
One of the most important principles of Stoicism is the idea of living in accordance with Nature. This means embracing the natural order of things and accepting that there are certain things that are outside of our control. While we cannot control the actions of others or the circumstances of our lives, we can control how we respond to them. By focusing on our own thoughts, emotions, and actions, we can find a sense of empowerment and control in even the most difficult situations.
2 Another key principle of Stoicism and Greek philosophy in general is the importance of cultivating a sense of inner peace and contentment or Eudaimonia. This can be done through practices such as meditation, journaling, and mindfulness. By taking time to reflect on our thoughts and emotions, we can begin to understand the root causes of our struggles and work towards finding solutions that will help us overcome them.
3. Another important concept in Greek philosophy is the idea of philautia, or self-love. This is the idea that we must first love and care for ourselves before we can love and care for others. By taking time to care for our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, we can begin to cultivate a sense of self-love and acceptance that will help us overcome feelings of depression, loneliness, and hopelessness
But don’t get too optimistic say the Greek philosophers….
Optimism makes us angry. What do I mean?…Have you ever stopped to think why people don't get angry when it rains particularly in Northern Europe. The reason why people don't get angry when it rains is that people who live there, expect it to rain. In England it's amazing if it doesn't rain, so it would not occur to anybody to get angry at the fact it is raining.
Now the interesting thing is we don't adopt this very wise approach in all areas of life. You know we start shouting when we lose our house keys or how we behave when we‘re stuck in traffic. You know we insult people, and shout at them..We think, "Why am I in traffic?" That’s because we believe implicitly in a world in which keys never get lost and the roads are always magically traffic-free. It's our expectations that defines what will anger us. That's not to say we won't ever feel sad but there's a difference between sadness and anger. A lot of the times, what we think is depression is actually repressed anger…We get very surprised when people suddenly die or when things suddenly go wrong…Because we had false expectations.
Seneca urges us to to see that our fate is really in the hands of the Goddess of Fortune…
In Greek, “Ti-he” (Tyche). Now the goddess of fortune was held to be a woman who commanded all of our destinies and the thing about her is that she's entirely fickle, she's cruel vain and may at any point decide that we will die and somebody else will succeed. Essentially she's an uncontrollable entity in our lives and in ancient Greece and Rome the goddess of fortune was everywhere. There was her statue at nearly every street crossing. She was on the back of coins and her message was most of our life is in the hands of somebody else and however much we try and achieve rational control she'll probably at some point get us!
In order to try and cope with the ups and downs of fortune Seneca counseled us to undertake what in Latin is called “Premeditatio Mallorum” a curious exercise. He advised that every morning in bed before getting up you should essentially run through in your mind the whole day ahead of you and imagine every single disaster that could occur to you. Not because it would necessarily occur but in order to protect you psychologically.
Here in Greece or in California for example, we have earthquakes…On any given day, a big earthquake can come and destroy our home… In other words it’s a metaphor for life; we live on unstable ground and we must accept this as a fundamental starting point.
We must not be surprised or react in a bad way when bad things happen…These bad things are written into the contract of life. No one should have a child, wrote Seneca without the ability to tolerate the thought that that child may be dead by evening.
Another thing which can be abit depressing is the wide-spread myth that everybody can succeed, that opportunity is not just for the few, it's for the many…
This is the message we hear from every single politician. Everyone can do it ! No one should hold you back, you can do it… It's a beautiful idea, except it's got some serious drawbacks. One of the most serious drawbacks is it constantly leaves us feeling envious…
The interesting thing about envy is you don't envy everybody. For example, it's very unusual for anyone to envy a Hollywood Star, or the Sultan of Brunei..and the reason we don't envy them is because they are too remote, too foreign, too distant… So remote from us, we can't really relate to them living in their mansions and palaces.. And ride around on their private jets…
However who among us has not envied someone at a school reunion?
Or by reading something in the paper or social media about someone you were once at school with… We usually envy people who we consider on the same level or very close to our level. We resent them for their success….When those people who are related to us, or somehow near us…As soon as you feel equal to somebody, as soon as you feel I'm basically more or less like this person and I could do this too… but you haven't yet…
You will start to get envious and depressed… So in a society that preaches that everybody can make it , this is strangely really, really depressing.It constantly leaves us in a feeling that we haven't achieved enough.
In a society that tells people that they can achieve anything will also be a society that very swiftly develops a problem of self-esteem because if everybody expects to achieve everything, you're going to get an awful lot of people who are feeling that something's gone dramatically wrong with their lives. It’s a well-know statistic, that 90% of all startups fail.
We don't hear those stories… we’ re focused on a very very small minority of ‘success stoies’.
Another thing that you always hear in our optimistic Society…Is the idea of meritocracy ('Axio-kratia' in Greek) Now what is meritocracy? Meritocracy is the idea that if we all work hard enough at making society fair we will be able to build a world where anybody can make it.. And you hear politicians on all sides of the political spectrum praising meritocracy… About how the school system should be working well enough that it can make a meritocratic world come true. Others speak of the importance of “equity” in opportunities for the youth… Now the interesting thing about a meritocracy is that it's got some very evil side-effects; If you really believe that we can build a world where everybody is going to end up where they merit , to be where they deserve to be, you'll also end up with a society in which anybody who doesn't become successful, deserves their own failure, they are fully responsible for it…
If you believe that those people who get to the top merit their success, you're implicitly also supporting a society where people deserve to fail …So, the more people who believe that we do live in a meritocracy, the more people will be very hard on themselves if they fail…
In such a world, those who are successful believe that those who fail are there because it’s their own damn fault. I’ve heard a lot of successful people talk trash about poor people, saying that they deserve it…But they fail to look at the fact that they got where they are because of Daddy and Mummy’s money, and other privileges or strokes of luck that they fail to see.
I think it's absolutely impossible to have a meritocracy. it's completely crazy to imagine that we will ever reach a society where people will really deserve their success and totally deserve their failure.. there are simply too many factors in anybody's life… and to expect that you can simply take a glance of somebody's life and determine from that whether they deserve to be there or not is simply unbelievable.
Again if we go back to the Greeks and Romans, they did not did not think that they were entirely responsible for their own success. They believed in the the goddess of Fortune.
If something went right you went to give an offering to the goddess of fortune, to basically say “ Thank you”, and “I’m Grateful”. We've lost sight of this, we've become much more optimistic. We believe that we are in control of our destinies and with that belief in control comes serious self-esteem issues. People commit suicide a lot more nowadays and a lot more in societies which are felt to be individualistic where the individual is felt to be entirely in control of his destiny. The rates of suicide are going up and the reason for that, is that all failure is assumed to be a personal point of blame. So people assume their success and their failure is because of themself and their own actions entirely. And that's why rates of suicide are higher.
It’s all about managing our expectations…If we look at the history of work and how people view work.. you know nowadays people expect that their work will be an arena of fulfilment and happiness.. That is the sort of basic assumption that we have.. And that is constantly held before us..And it’s a completely insane idea.
In early Christianity there was a belief that that work is essentially a punishment for the sins of Adam.. that's why we toil that idea starts to disappear by the time you get to the 18th century. Various bourgeois philosophers are singing the praises of work. Work as a place to realize yourself to become yourself to become someone.
Also, by mid 18th century a lot of bourgeois philosophers come up with a new idea of love. the idea is that you should marry someone that you love completely. Historically before that, people didn’t marry someone they loved. you marry somebody who has the farm next door. you hand over the family property.
But suddenly a new idea note you should marry someone that you love. And that's how marriage should work and similarly you should get a job that you love as well. you should realize yourself. So suddenly, the two vital safety valves of having a mistress and a hobby that you love went out the window.
Of course, some people are very happily married and know some people really enjoy their jobs, but they're a real minority. I would estimate around 5% of people…The other 95% failed.
I want to talk more about the the cheerful sides of pessimism and how to embrace the sweetness of melancholia…
I propose we all put a fake skull on our desk, along side a journal . As you're doing your work you'll always look at the skull and reflect on your mortality from time to time. Plato taught that all philosophy is essentially a way of coming to terms with our inevitable death. I would encourage us all of to reflect on death…”Memento Mori”.
I’m so blessed to be living in Greece, where the beautiful ancient ruins all around, help me to see what will happen to us eventually…
Also by getting out into nature, seeing old olive trees, where we see the marks of time written into the landscape… gives us perspective… Plato called this, “The view from above”.
Pessimism is a feature of life… it's a feature of life that we often try to run away from… by running away from it too quickly… We cut ourselves off from the opportunity to embrace this darkness and to embrace the lessons that it often brings. And we often also cut ourselves off from the deepest kind of relationships which we can have with other human beings which are relationships based around a confession of suffering. I think that essentially all good friendships are about confessions of one sort or another. They're a confession of things that the rest of the world thinks of as unacceptable but are in fact, part of human life. So all of us can have a little bit of time to have a sense of shared communion around the dark things and a capacity to admit among ourselves just how hard we find life to be.
It is also important to remember that we are not alone in our struggles. There are many resources available to those who are struggling with depression, loneliness, and suicidal tendencies. Whether it is through therapy, support groups, or online communities, there are people who can offer guidance, support, and encouragement along the way.
In conclusion, depression, loneliness, and suicidal tendencies can be difficult challenges to overcome. However, by embracing Stoic wisdom and other Greek philosophy approaches, it is possible to find a sense of purpose and fulfillment in life. By focusing on the present moment, accepting what is outside of our control, and cultivating a sense of inner peace and contentment, we can begin to shift our perspective and find a path towards healing and recovery. Remember, you are not alone in your struggles, and there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow.
"The ALKISTIS Method©" (#TAM) is a unique 3-Step self-inquiry system. It is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy based on Greek Philosophy and Neuroscience. It involves questioning one's thoughts and beliefs in order to identify and challenge irrational or unhelpful thinking patterns to make better decisions. The result is Self Leadership, Self Confidence and ultimately Inner Freedom.
DOWNLOAD A FREE SUMMARY OF
MY 3-STEP METHOD: