Stoic Podcast Notes #2 – Speak, Think, and Focus Like a Stoic

If we want to live calm and happy lives, we need to work on ourselves continually. It’s not just enough to create healthy habits; we also need to know how we should talk to ourselves and others. Thoughts are powerful determinants in what we do.

What if you talk to yourself like crap every day? You will notice it in how you feel and how you act toward others. But once you’re in a negative thought-spiral, it’s challenging to get out.

We need to remind ourselves daily what is rational to think. Without this understanding, we’re led astray by random impressions that present themselves. We go with our initial reactions and then wonder why we feel like shit. Awareness of one’s own thoughts and beliefs is a virtue that few have.

Luckily, as Stoics, we know we can train our mind. We can stop negative and repetitive thoughts if we are aware of them. By being aware and having the right mental tools, we can become emotionally healthy and balanced individuals.

The following three podcast episodes helped me to understand better my automatic thought patterns and how they affect my behavior. They range from the theoretical (but easy to follow) parts to everyday interactions with others.

The Stoic Psychology Podcast #7 – Worry, Rumination, and Attention

20 minutes | Audio

Studying and practicing Stoicism has motivated me to go back to college to study psychology. Not only have modern psychotherapies shows that Stoics were right in many ways, current therapies still benefit from Stoic insights. But, scientific ideas keep progressing, so we should make an effort to understand modern psychological research. Once we know the basic scientific framework, we can expand our practice.

Alex MacLellan is a therapist interested in Stoicism, and he does an excellent job linking psychological theory and Stoic practice.

My takeaways

  • Knowing the basis of psychology is important for a philosopher. Without knowing what to expect, we cannot aim to change properly.
  • What are worry and rumination?
    • Worry and rumination are essentially the same. They’re negative, repetitive thoughts.
    • Rumination = negative and repetitive thoughts about the past.
    • Worry = negative and repetitive thoughts about the future.
  • Why is it important to know about worry and rumination?
    • Worry and rumination predict future anxiety and depression. If you can lower the level of worry and rumination, you can often reduce depression.
    • In recent years more research has been done about worry and rumination. Ed Watkins is a researcher who has done a lot in the field of negative repetitive thought.
  • How do worry and rumination cause us problems?
    • Attentional Control Theory: How well we do something is modulated by our executive functions.
    • Worry and rumination are distracting internal stimuli. If you have poor executive functions, you will have difficulty keeping stimuli from catching your attention.
    • Emotional Stroop test shows that anxious and depressed people perform poorer (slower) on tasks. Why? Because negative emotions take up mental capacity and are distracting.
  • Can Stoicism help us improve our attentional control and stop us from getting distracted by negative repetitive thoughts? Possibly. First, by tackling biases that promote anxiety. Second, training ourselves to focus on the present moment.

Stoicism On Fire #8 – Stoic Logic: The Theory of Assent

18 minutes | Audio | Article

How we reason with ourselves determines for large part how we feel. But we’re not always rational with ourselves. When an impression presents itself, we tend to go with the first label we can find. But, if we took the time to question our impression to check if they’re real, we would have less mental bullshit to work through. 

My takeaways

  • Three fundamental assumptions about reality in Stoicism:
    • There is a real world beyond our consciousness. Stoics are philosophical realists.
    • The real world is intelligible.
    • Humans, as rational beings, are capable of understanding the real world. At least to develop virtue and experience well-being.
  • Many things happen to us, and they give us an impression. We automatically label these good or bad, but we can make a conscious choice in how we label them, and if we label them.
  • The inner citadel: external events do not harm us, but the inner citadel can be destroyed from within by our thoughts about external events.
  • The discipline of assent is to help us defend the inner citadel.
    • Assent = to agree with something. The value judgment we give to an external event.
    • Impression = sense perceptions from outside or that relate to something in the outside world. Impressions are not up to us, and not all impressions are external.
    • Adequate impression = An impression that gives enough information to make a correct judgment. It comes from reality and correctly represents reality. It cannot be false. Examples: when you walk outside and feel the heat of the sun, you know it’s day, and this is an adequate impression.
    • Inadequate impression = Something that’s not coming from reality. It comes from our imagination or a dream. It does not give enough information to see if it’s real or not.

The Sunday Stoic #150 – Speak Like a Stoic

22 minutes | Audio | Website

I can’t count the times I’ve gotten myself in trouble because I couldn’t stop talking. Sometimes I insult people, other times I’m not making myself clear by talking more. Saying only what is necessary is a virtue in itself, and we can look at Stoics and Spartans (who were admired by the Stoics) for an example in minimalist speech.

My takeaways

  • Laconic phrase = Concise, direct, blunt statement. Named after Laconia, a region that included Sparta.
    • Spartans were minimalists in speech.
  • Epictetus’ Enchiridion 33:
    • Ask yourself: “How do I want to be?” Then, be that person always. Be consistent in your character, whether you’re with people or when you’re alone, whether you’re talking online or in person.
    • Don’t talk about trivial things. Be silent whenever possible, or use words sparingly.
  • Seneca’s Letters to Lucilius 40:
    • Don’t talk about other people; their actions are outside your control.
    • Have truthful speech.
  • If you want to speak like a Stoic, you need to be mindful. You need to be aware of your speech in the here and now. Think about what you want to say before you say it.
  • Ambrose Bierce: Steve likes his writing, and the Stoics inspired Bierce.
    • The Devil’s Dictionary; pithy definitions of words.
  • Thought Experiment: Imagine you had to pay one dollar for every word you use, how would you speak?

What Are YOUR Favorite Stoic Podcast Episodes?

What do you think of podcasts, and do you use them to learn more about Stoicism? I’m eager to hear what you think of my notes and to hear about your learning process with podcasts.

For example, do you take notes, do you read transcripts, do you use the exercises you hear in episodes? Share your wisdom!

Please share your favorite Stoic podcast episodes and insights in the comment section.

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An educator by training, I turned to philosophy and coaching after a period of personal transformation. I'm interested in ancient European and Eastern philosophy. Having studied Zen Buddhism for years, I combine other wisdom philosophies with Stoicism.