The opposite of stoicism is the belief that feeling emotions are a natural, healthy, and important part of life. Stoicism emphasizes emotional control with the goal to eliminate negative emotions such as anger or fear. It is an unemotional state of mind.
In contrast to stoicism, positive psychology’s approach to emotions is based on the idea that a healthy and balanced emotional life is central to well-being.
“Emotions give us pleasure; they connect us with other people; they provide the energy to live life fully” (Seligman, 2002). In addition, there are specific emotions that have demonstrated adaptive value. For example, when someone is in distress, others feel compassion and empathy.
Most stoics would not argue that feeling emotions is not natural or healthy. They would have simply stated that the way they handle their emotions in a rational manner is the best approach for a well-lived life.
Is hedonism the opposite of stoicism?
As for hedonism, the word is derived from the Greek word hedone, which means pleasure. Hedonism emphasizes the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain. Unlike stoicism, hedonism “views pleasure as the ultimate good and pain as an unmitigated evil” (Seligman, 2002).
Hedonism is not a philosophy and does not offer a view of life or an attempt to understand or interpret reality. Hedonists are only concerned with self-gratification. Hedonism advocates hedonism as a way of life.
Stoicism and hedonism are polar opposites in views of the pursuit of pleasure and pain.
Stoics would argue that pleasure is not an ultimate good. Pleasure, such as material wealth or sexual activity does not lead to lasting happiness, only temporary gratification. It is to be avoided and replaced with moderation in all things. There must be self-discipline in order for pleasure to be achieved, which is rarely done by hedonists.
Why would you choose to live a stoic life?
The ancient Greeks believed that “duty” is more important than “pleasure”. This was a belief in the supremacy of virtue over vice and an understanding that living a virtuous life is more important than private pleasure or satisfaction. Consequently, stoics always strive to fulfil their duty to something greater than themselves; their duty to other people, minds, or God.
Stoics believe that pain and suffering are inevitable within life. There is no way to completely escape pain or suffering. However, stoics believe that learning to endure pain and suffering in the present moment is a skill that can be learned over time. Stoics believe that the good life consists of developing fortitude.
Fortitude is defined as “endurance in adversity“. It is the ability to endure hardships and difficulties while maintaining your inner integrity. Stoicism teaches you how to avoid becoming a victim of a situation or an emotion rather than giving in or saying “too bad”. It teaches you how to avoid being a slave to circumstances.
How does hedonism relate to stoicism?
Stoics would note that hedonism does not provide a way of life. Hedonists pursue pleasure and use pain as their motivation for living. They lack the discipline needed to achieve lasting happiness. They fail to understand that the ultimate good is a virtue, which is not attainable by temporary gratification but by developing a healthy lifestyle and outlook on life.
Hedonists also lack the ability to endure hardship and difficulty, another important aspect of a stoical way of life. The Stoics believe that it is not what happens to you that determines your happiness but how you respond to situations. This means that you don’t have any control over some situations, such as what happens at work or school, but you can control your reactions and feelings about these situations.
The benefits of practising stoicism
Stoicism recognizes that emotions are not to be avoided but acknowledged and used in a positive manner. The goal is to master the emotions and control them by focusing on the present and not worrying about the future. Stoicism also emphasizes self-discipline.
Stoics understand that there are certain emotions we should have, such as pride, self-respect, or a sense of achievement. Stoics believe that it is not good to suppress these emotions; they are part of human nature.
The goal of stoicism is to find the middle ground, to experience the emotions yet not be controlled by them. This is accomplished by suppressing emotional reactions that result in destructive behavior. It also means responding to anger or grief productively in order to cope with life’s hardships and add meaning and richness to life.
The practice of stoicism
Stoics would argue that there are two sides to dealing with emotions. The first is what you are doing or thinking when emotion takes hold and the second is how you feel about it. The opposite of Stoicism is the idea that emotions are to be avoided and controlled. Therefore, the goal of stoicism is to recognize and use negative emotions yet not allow them to control you.
Stoics recognize the basic laws of cause and effect that govern life. Cause and effect mean that every action has a reaction, and vice versa. This means we have the power to change our reactions, to redefine and rewrite our own destinies. Stoics believe that this is possible through wisdom and knowledge.
Stoicism believes that we have control of our feelings, thoughts, and actions. If you want to feel a certain way, then you must make that choice. Stoicism believes that it is important to understand what your emotions are telling you about yourself or the situation around you.