Pain-2-Power and the Stoics

Stoicism is an incredibly powerful philosophy advocated by great thinkers like Seneca and Epictetus and embraced by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.  Its core belief is that everything relies on “virtue”—that no turn of events is inherently good or inherently bad, but that all events are the raw material upon which a person should act with strength, decency and the intention to turn them into fuel for internal growth.   

As Ryan Holiday wrote in his book, The Obstacle is the Way, “Great individuals, like great companies, find a way to transform weakness into strength.  It’s a rather amazing and even touching feat.  They took what should have held them back . . . and used it to move forward.”

Sound familiar?  It will if you’ve been reading about the Pain-to-Power philosophy.  That’s because one of the pillars of Pain-2-Power is Stoicism.  That’s why I have said that the comeback story is the iconic story that defines every human.  We’re constantly coming back—from illness, from loss, from detours that take us far from our best intentions, from destructive habits, from bullies, from broken trust.  You name it.  The point is that being willing to go through the tough stuff—the really, really challenging stuff—and use it as fuel to improve oneSELF makes a person essentially invulnerable.  Bulletproof.

Here’s a stark, extreme example:  No one wants cancer. Cancer can kill you.  But it can’t make you a coward, unless you forget that it offers the chance to show extraordinary courage.  Face cancer with a warrior’s mentality, even to the end, and you actually cheat death, in a way—because everyone who dies heroically facing the abyss can fail to be reborn.

Pain-to-power combines stoicism with the insights of psychology.  Because some of what we must greet with strength and not cower from is our own life histories.  We have to collect the truth about what we have lived through and about those with whom we have lived, in order to turn that into the raw material for transformation and strength, too.  Any child of an alcoholic who never touches alcohol is doing that.  Any child who was not the recipient of unconditional love, but resolves to bestow it upon his or her own child is doing that.  Anyone who lost a loved one and decides to turn that suffering into an enhanced appreciation for and commitment to loving relationships is doing that.

Said another way:

Run from nothing, including yourSELF.  Become everything you can be by using everything that has ever unfolded in your life, anything unfolding right now and anything that ever will as raw material to purify and strengthen your soul.

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