Stoic advice: what do Stoics think of forgiveness?

[To submit a question to the Stoic advice column send an email to massimo at howtobeastoic dot org. Please consider that the column has become very popular and there now is a backlog of submitted questions, it may take me some time to get to yours. Also, I am simply in no position to answer every email. Apologies.]

K. writes: “My question has to do with the concept of forgiveness as it pertains to Stoicism. My husband and I were married for over 20 years, but during the final few years, his behavior became abusive. This behavior coincided with his inheritance of a hefty trust fund. I filed for divorce after an incident that resulted in his arrest and my hospitalization. I immediately began seeing a psychologist for both myself and my children to deal with the trauma and move forward in the healthiest way possible. Little did I know I was receiving an introductory course in Stoicism. From the psychologist, I came to understand I had no control over my husband’s behavior (I was not to blame and didn’t ‘ask for it,’ he was responsible for his own actions), to value my self-respect over money or material possessions (my divorce settlement was peanuts, his inheritance was considered non-marital), and to focus on my own relationship with the children and the example I set for them.” Continue reading

Stoic advice: I have cancer, people tell me to be positive

[To submit a question to the Stoic advice column send an email to massimo at howtobeastoic dot org. Please consider that the column has become very popular and there now is a backlog of submitted questions, it may take me some time to get to yours. Also, I am simply in no position to answer every email. Apologies.]

P. writes: “I am 46 occupational therapist (and Masters student) with a 15 and 13 yo and husband. My parents are Dutch and I’d say I was raised as a Stoic, from what little I know so far. Interestingly my husband appears to be also — he’s an adopted Canadian Aboriginal. I have been living with metastatic (or stage 4) breast cancer for 6 years now. Having stoic tendencies, my husband and I have run with the idea of expect the worst, hope for the best. However, there is pressure in cancerland to be positive all the time and believe your experience has been a blessing. It ain’t btw. I sometimes catch myself wondering if thinking about my death will hasten it. And people get angry and defensive with me when I speak of having a terminal illness ‘you’re going to get old and grey, don’t say that!’ But it is — I’m 3 yrs past median life expectancy. Don’t bring up the hit by a bus thing — in 2010, 4100 Americans died as pedestrians hit by vehicles and over 40,000 died of mbc. I’d hedge my bets on the bus. To date I’m an outlier but I deal with tremendous anxiety and depression. Please could you suggest how to communicate authentically with people putting this pressure on me and remind me that thinking about death will not make it happen sooner. And how to deal with the anxiety and grief living terminally brings. I try to keep living — studying, running, volunteering, advocating.”

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Stoic advice: I can’t get over my breakup, now what?

[To submit a question to the Stoic advice column send an email to massimo at howtobeastoic dot org. Please consider that the column has become very popular and there now is a backlog of submitted questions, it may take me some time to get to yours. Apologies.]

A. writes: “It’s been almost a year since my girlfriend broke up with me, We were not together for long (about two months), but we had a special connection, one I was not able to find with another woman since. So although I know that there is nothing really to do about it — the past is gone and out of my control — I still often find myself missing her and feeling sadness. The thought that maybe there were things I could have done otherwise and therefore she wouldn’t have broken up with me only adds to that. I tried to move on and find another partner, but I can tell you it’s not that easy for me. I often find myself making comparisons between a woman I intend to date and this past girlfriend. So, is there any relevant Stoic advice for me?”

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Stoic advice: my parents are elderly and losing their autonomy

[To submit a question to the Stoic advice column send an email to massimo at howtobeastoic dot org. Please consider that the column has become very popular and there now is a backlog of submitted questions, it may take me some time to get to yours. Apologies.]

J. writes: “I’m nearing fifty and my parents are around eighty (Mom is 78, Dad is 81) and they are starting to fall apart. My mom is seeing neuro-doctors for a sudden onset of memory loss. Not sure it’s Alzheimer’s but it’s not good and it’s getting worse. My dad is a Type II diabetic and as careful as he tries to be he periodically has highly fluctuating sugar numbers and while my wife, daughter and I were there visiting them this past weekend he crashed and we had to call paramedics to work on him and revive him in the middle of the night. It’s happened before but in the past if he ended up needing help or even had to go to the hospital for a while my mom could help him out or drive to visit him. Now it is impossible for her to drive and I believe if we hadn’t been there and the paramedics had taken him to the hospital it wouldn’t have been safe for her to stay home alone.”

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Stoic advice: I have ADD, can I still practice Stoicism?

[To submit a question to the Stoic advice column send an email to massimo at howtobeastoic dot org.]

E. writes: “I’ve had a few close friends who are counselors tell me recently that I exhibit all the signs of adult ADD (I lack the hyperactivity). I’m not sure if it’s true as I haven’t been officially diagnosed yet, but after doing some reading I do seem to exhibit a lot of the traits. Difficulty focusing and working on something unless it’s of great interest, procrastination, forgetfulness, easily overwhelmed emotionally, addiction problems, etc. These often are compounded by frustration with myself and the resultant depression. In my attempts at Stoic practice I had to put it aside, as I was becoming so angry and distraught with myself at my abject failure to practice Stoicism successfully. I couldn’t seem to develop equanimity or moderation. Then I became even worse off as I engaged in self loathing at my failures. It wasn’t until after that experience that I found out about the possibility of ADD being present.”

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Stoic advice: I want a child, but I can’t conceive

[To submit a question to the Stoic advice column send an email to massimo at howtobeastoic dot org.]

N. writes: “I am a 35 year old woman and I would love to start a family. However, despite months of trying I have not conceived and continue to hope that this will happen either naturally or with fertility interventions. Like many women there is a feeling of longing to have a baby and nurture, and many of my friends now have families and I enjoy spending time with their children. I am aware of my biological clock and the fact that I have a condition which could effect my ability to conceive. I wonder what Stoicism would say about fulfillment of desires and coping with life not going as one would so desperately like it to. I would love a baby but want to manage my expectations as fate may have a different plan, and at present I feel very sad about the thought that my yearning for a baby may not be satisfied. This question could relate to any goal someone wants and feels would help make their life complete.”

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Stoic advice: gender identity

[To submit a question to the Stoic advice column send an email to massimo at howtobeastoic dot org.]

M. writes: “I am sending you a long email describing in considerable detail the complications in my life as they relate to my gender identity and, more broadly, how fact or truth can be determined by Stoics as well as some ethical issues. Hopefully, you will find it raises sufficiently meaningful questions to address at your wonderful website. Born on the cutting edge of the baby boomers as a biological male, I grew up in the Fifties and early Sixties, became a physician and continue to work full time. I have been married 49 years and have two adult daughters and two grandchildren. I am also transgender.”

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