Stoic Thought10 Oct 2016
About a year go now I discovered Stoicism.
After spending some time on the r/stoicism subreddit I found myself intrigued.
Stoicism as described by the first google result is…
an ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno of Citium. The school taught that virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge; the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason (also identified with Fate and Providence) that governs nature, and are indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.
The part that intrigued me was that last bit… indifferent to change in fortune, pleasure or pain. I had recently been through a rough patch and was not at all content with how I was feeling.
A great deal of people think that the idea of stoicism is to be tough, to not have feelings and to essentially be emotionless. But really stoicism teaches you to better understand your feelings by applying logical reasoning to your emotions. You know that feeling you get when someone does a dodgy overtaking maneuver and cuts you off. I am not saying that person isn’t an f***wit, because they definitely are. But that isn’t what’s important, here you are all riled up and would quite happily rear end him if you could afford to pay for it. You let this asshole get to you, you let him do this to you, you let him change your state of being. Why let this ignorant butthead do this to you?
When you take the time to think about how you feel and why you feel that way, your mind does not get stuck on these feelings. In fact it gives your mind something else to focus on and allows you to reflect on why you felt a certain way.
If a person gave your body to any stranger he met on his way, you would certainly be angry. And do you feel no shame in handing over your own mind to be confused and mystified by anyone who happens to verbally attack you?
It may not seem like it, but we have a lot of control over our emotions and more importantly our reactions.
When I first started learning about stoicism, each day I would read a passage from the Enchiridion of Epictetus and rewrite it in my own words. This truely helped me grasp the concepts a lot better, especially because all of the free translations are quite old (I don’t know about you but I much prefer modern english). I also found it important to absorb the context of the stoic content as well, Epictetus started as a slave in early AD. Not everything that applied to Epictetus in early Greek times applies to you in your modern life.
If you kiss your child, or your wife, say that you only kiss things which are human, and thus you will not be disturbed if either of them dies.
Back then you wouldn’t won’t to show any signs of weakness, making yourself vulnerable was a terrible mistake and I imagine crying in public was not something that was seen as acceptable (zero proof to back up these assumptions).
In fact you can see how a lot of the same principles have been modernized and are not only still used today, but have been built upon. This is seen in types of cognitive therapy such as REBT (rational emotive behaviour therapy).
REBT employs the ABC framework which provides a handy visualisation of the whole thing. An A, Activating event is the trigger and depending on your B, beliefs (be them rational or irrational evaluations) will lead to C, consequences based on those beliefs. This shows that the possible outcomes are independent of the activating event and are instead predominantly based on how the event is interpreted.
I didn’t mean to go on this much of a rant. But Stoicism helped me through a difficult part of my life and this morning I had the idea to put it into a video game. Maybe some of the principles that I got from stoicism can help others too.
So yeah, everything down from here are my own notes for game dev.
- Choice based dialog and decision mechanics that allow for both stoic and non-stoic allowing the user the opportunity to see the outcomes of each. (Not sure if relying on outcome bias is the best way to teach)
- Slowing down and visualising the process of reacting to new information. Letting a player explore the information and rationalise it before they accept it and make an emotional response.
Ah… another productive Tuesday