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Cognitive psychotherapist, author of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor (2019), featured in Forge, The Guardian.

The need to return to a philosophy of love and kindness

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

Stoicism is for tough guys, right? It’s about looking out for number one and not giving a fig about other people. It means going around telling everyone else to “suck it up”, right? At least that’s what a lot of people tell me. One of the main reasons they believe this nonsense is because the word “stoicism” (lowercase s) long ago came to refer simply to an unemotional style of coping. It means having a stiff upper-lip or, more specifically, a way of coping that emphasizes suppressing or concealing painful, embarrassing, or unpleasant emotions.

Although many people on the Internet…

Six of the Best Practices for Emotional Resilience

Photo of the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounio. Copyright the author, Donald Robertson, 2021.

Stoicism is experiencing a renaissance in popularity. This arguably started because it provided the philosophical inspiration for the pioneers of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) in the 1950s and 1960s. By the 1980s, CBT had become the leading evidence-based form of modern psychotherapy. However, around the start of the 21st century more and more self-help books influenced by Stoic philosophy began to hit the shelves.

My background is in both academic philosophy and CBT. I was among the first wave of authors to begin writing popular books on Stoicism. I focused on self-help techniques that combined ancient Stoic philosophy with modern research-based…

How the Stoic Roman Emperor got his nickname

Early poster design for my graphic novel, Verissimus. Copyright D. Robertson.

You’ve probably heard of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher. He’s the author of The Meditations, one of the most popular self-improvement classics of all time. Even if you’ve not read that book, maybe you saw Richard Harris playing him in the first act of the Russell Crowe movie Gladiator (2000).

Did you know that Marcus was also called Verissimus, though? This name means “most true” in Latin. It’s confirmed by at least three or four ancient sources. …

For many years, it’s been on my mind that people confuse Stoicism with having a stiff upper-lip and being not only unemotional but uncaring toward others. That’s wrong. It’s a misconception. Ancient Stoic philosophers would have been amazed because they made love and kindness central to their philosophy of life.

Finally, today, I sat down and worked all day long. (It’s now nearly 5am! Don’t worry, I keep strange hours because I move between time zones.) …

How a Philosophy of Life Came From a Snack

Photo by Deon Black on Unsplash

To look for the fig in winter is the act of a madman… — Marcus Aurelius

Figs are in season again here in Athens. When they’re spotted in the local groceries it’s a cause for excitement. Who would have thought we’d miss them so much when they weren’t available? Of course dried figs are available year round but, trust me, that’s definitely not the same!

Learning philosophy, or the love of wisdom, requires patience, says Epictetus, because “the fruit of a man’s mind” does not ripen overnight.

“Nothing great”, said the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, is produced immediately, not even figs…

Hello everyone,

Thanks for subscribing to Stoicism — Philosophy as a Way of Life on Medium. If you want to follow my Medium profile for even more articles it’s Donald J. Robertson. Oh, and scroll down to the end for a sneak peek of our current cover design proposal for Verissimus my forthcoming graphic novel on Marcus Aurelius.

I want to let you all know that you’re invited to a free Facebook Live Event that’s taking place on Wednesday 11th August, called A Guide to Stoic Exercises.

People keep asking me for a practical guide to using Stoic exercises in daily life. So I went ahead and created one for you. It’s a free email course consisting of six lessons — each one describes how to use a different psychological technique from ancient Stoicism. The goal is to help you build your emotional resilience and cope better with stress.

My latest Medium article provides an overview of the six practical exercises we chose to focus on.

Read “A Guide to Stoic Exercises” on Medium

The new email course goes into these in more depth. It will officially…

How Marcus Aurelius was Initiated into the Cult of Demeter

For I made a vow, when the war began to blaze highest, that I too would be initiated... —Marcus Aurelius, quoted in Cassius Dio

Photo taken by the author, Donald Robertson, showing the bust of Marcus Aurelius at Elefsina.

The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121–180 AD) is best-known today as the author of The Meditations, a collection of personal reflections on ethics and self-improvement inspired by Stoic philosophy. While researching my recent book How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, I visited several locations associated with key events in his life. One was Carnuntum, in Austria, the legionary fortress where he stationed himself while fighting the Marcomannic War, and…

Special Offer for Optimize Coach Program

I first started training therapists and life coaches about 25 years ago. People often ask me if there are any online courses for life coaching or self-improvement that would be good for someone interested in Stoicism. I don’t usually recommend courses unless I know quite a bit about the content and the people running them. So I’m pleased to be able to say that there’s a really good online training coming up soon by Brian Johnson, author of the book A Philosopher’s Notes, which draws heavily on Stoic philosophy — a subject he’s as enthusiastic about as I am!


Retelling the Story of Diogenes the Cynic

Diogenes of Sinope. Copyright free, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This is a story about a filthy dog… Over two thousand years ago, in ancient Greece, there lived a very controversial philosopher, who upset a lot of people. At first everyone hated him, sneered at him, and called him The Dog. But by the time he died, the people loved and admired him so much that they built a beautiful pillar, in his honour, made from white marble, with a statue of a little dog on top. His real name was Diogenes of Sinope and for over five hundred years he and his followers were known as the Cynics or…

Donald J. Robertson

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