It’s no longer just a negative visualisation - Donald Trump really is going to be the next President of the United States. How exactly can Stoicism help Derek and others who finds the result hard to stomach?
Let’s start with a quick mindfulness exercise. Derek mentions anxiety, anger and downright fear. What are you experiencing? Feeling down, sad, upset or shocked are amongst some other possibilities …
Have you ever noticed that when you - and others - feel “negative” emotions, we sometimes (not always) behave in rather unhelpful ways? What has the election result made you feel like doing? Would all those things be smart and wise things to do?
I recently facilitated workshops in New York and London where we imagined our responses to a Trump victory precisely in order to develop more helpful Stoic responses. I’m wondering whether sharing those responses might help now.
This is how some people imagined they would feel the day a Trump victory was announced …
Reaction 1: “Feeling anxious, frozen like a deer in headlights. I feel like drinking, taking tranquillizers or finding some way to distract myself”
Reaction 2: “Feeling angry, arguing with everyone and going on a tirade”
In order to change how you feel, you can change how you think (a smart tip from CBT 101!). So what were people thinking that made them feel so upset?
Reaction 1: Anxious thoughts
Chris Gill has provided us with a nice summary of what the Stoics mean by the other virtues.
Last but by no means least comes practical wisdom. Having reflected on the situation through the lens of the specific Stoic virtues of Serenity Prayer wisdom, courage, self-control and justice, we need to think about how to best satisfy these in practice. We have already alluded to one part of practical wisdom when discussing the CBT approach and coming up with more balanced and realistic thoughts. We are now a position to apply the specifically Stoic take on practical wisdom -taking the original thoughts that led to anxiety, fear, anger, depression and their ilk and reflecting on the Stoic virtues and how they can lead to a different perspective.
This is what happened when the New York workshop participants tried this.
Pre-Stoic Reaction 1: Anxious thoughts
"Do not ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for you humanity."