Today, when people use the word stoic, they often are not referring to the philosophical tradition, but to a type of person who does not show much outward emotion, someone who is strong in the face of tragedy or pain. However, in a culture in which we are encouraged to express our emotions (to an extent), people who refrain from mourning the death of a loved one or mourning the end of a relationship, are often considered emotionally stunted or frigid. Nonetheless, the stoics prized control over one's emotions. Stoics believed that in order to live a good life people needed to separate themselves from their experiences and from their emotions. They needed to put space in between what was happening to them and how they reacted to these experiences. Thus they saw emotions or at least the outward expression of emotions as injurious to becoming truly free and attaining wisdom. For the stoics, personal freedom and self-determination were prized above all else; however, these virtues came at a price, for as Epictetus says, Nothing comes for free (The Handbook, ¶12). Therefore, according to this view, in order to become a sage and to bring one's will into accord with nature's, one has to cultivate himself/herself at the expense of relationships with others.
[...] However, if a person learns that someone has made disparaging remarks about him or her, Epictetus instructs the injured party to reply, “Obviously he didn't know my other bad characteristics, since otherwise he wouldn't just have mentioned these” (The Handbook, Thus we should not bother ourselves with what others say or think of us because we have no control over their opinions, only our own. Since our emotions are up to us, the stoics suggest that we exercise control over them; they believe that we have a choice in how we respond to events in our lives, and that emotions cloud what is real. [...]
[...] Perhaps the stoics saw vulnerability as a weakness, but it does not have to be. A person who can be vulnerable to others often times knows themselves better than a person who shuts down in relationships because the vulnerable person knows how to let a person into their life without having to put up walls. A person with the capacity to be vulnerable does not have to close himself off in order to be strong; he can let other people affect him and learn from them. [...]
[...] The purpose of this philosophy is to bring one into accord with nature, and that means letting go of the aspects of our lives that tie us to our bodies and desires. However to do achieve this goal, to become a sage, what does this view ask people to give up? To me, our emotions are what make us human; our connections to other people are a very real and important part of our lives. To deny the importance of emotional intelligence is to reduce human beings to automatons. [...]
[...] However, this view is appealing to mediocrity and to a certain extent complicity with the status quo. If we are not supposed to challenge ourselves to try new experiences, then how are we supposed to learn. It is undoubtedly much easier to go through life and never face defeat or failure, but this is an unrealistic expectation. Moreover, a person's failure, not their success, is often a much better judge of a person's character because it is easy (or easier) to deal with success. [...]
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