A divorce can be one of the biggest personal challenges we've ever faced. It can be painful, messy, humiliating, and tragic. But the wound doesn't have to remain raw and bruised; you can work to put the pain of 2022 behind you and have a transformative 2023. Easier said than done, right? But in these modern times, we can look to the ancient philosophy of Stoicism to see a possible path to happier times.
What is Stoicism?
Stoicism is a philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athen around 300 B.C. Stoicism sprang from the Socratic belief that "the unexamined life is not worth living," valuing wisdom, courage, justice, and moderation to live the best possible life. Stoics are highly pragmatic, believing that practical philosophy can replace negative emotions with positive ones, leading to tranquility and healing for the soul.
While Stoicism is an ancient philosophy, we can still translate its tenants into modern principles to improve our lives in the new year and to heal from a divorce.
- Memento mori: Latin for "remember that you have to die," memento morri reminds us of the inevitability of death for all of us. While it may be a cliché to tell someone to live each day like it's your last, this tenant of Stoicism reminds us that we shouldn't put off everything for another day, or we might lose our chance. Memento mori is a good reminder to embrace our goals, hopes, and dreams rather than waiting for everything to be perfect before moving on. After a divorce, sometimes embracing life can help you leave the pain behind you.
- Amor fati: "Love your fate" reminds us to welcome things that happen to us. Bad things happen, but the stoics believed that we should accept what happens and enjoy it. While enjoying the bad things in life, like divorce or separation, can be a bitter pill, "amor fati" is a good reminder that we can see "fate" or change as an opportunity for good things to happen in the future.
- Premeditatio malorum: The stoic "premeditation of the evils" is simply the act of thinking about all the things that can go wrong. For the anxious among us, this can be an easy task! While you should prepare to have a good day, a good month, and a good year, examining the things that can go wrong can help you emotionally prepare yourself if things go sideways. During a divorce, picturing the worst possible outcome may seem depressing, but according to the stoics, it can help us get through the bad times when they inevitably happen.
- Sympatheia: Smypatheia is simply Latin for "sympathy," but the Stoic tenant holds that "all things are mutually woven together and therefore have an affinity for each other." We can embrace this today by remembering how all of us are connected in this world. The Stoics believed that "sympatheia" could prompt us to do good things for others and to be the best people we can be, a concept we can all embrace even today. After a divorce, embracing the Stoic "sympatheia" can help us become better people and gain some needed perspective.
- Summum bonum: "Summum bonum" means" the supreme good or the ultimate end, what our goal should be in life. For the Stoics, this "ultimate goal" was virtue. They believed we should let being good or doing the right thing lead us in life, drawing us to happiness. Even today, this is a wonderful goal, being the best people we can be and leaving the world a better place. After the pain of a divorce, striving to become better people can help us leave emotional baggage behind and lead us to a happier, healthier path in life.
- The obstacle is the way: Although an English phrase, this tenant of Stoicism reminds us that the world is constantly testing us. But the Stoics believed that if we can learn to overcome obstacles in life, control how we respond, and react with patience, courage, and humility, we'll become better people with each challenge we defeat. Divorce is a challenge. But in overcoming the pain and heartbreak, we'll become stronger.
- The ego is the enemy: We all know our egos can get us into trouble. But the Stoics believed that our ego could be the chief obstacle to our ability to learn and grow. This is true even today. If we can set aside our pride and ego, we can learn to be better people and overcome challenges. Divorce can certainly be a humbling experience, hopefully allowing us to leave our egos behind and grow emotionally.
How Can Stoicism Help Me?
Some of the tenants of Stoicism may seem simplistic to our complicated lives. But the simplicity of Stoicism can help us embrace change and move forward. Focusing on what we can control, refusing to let our emotions and impulses control us, and striving to do good and be good can help us lead richer, more fulfilling lives. The challenges we face and how we overcome them help shape who we are. By embracing some of the basics of Stoicism, we may be able to consciously make our lives, and the lives of those we love, better.
The Miller Law Group
Divorce doesn't have to be adversarial and hateful. There is a better way, and at the Miller Law Group, we can help guide you down a gentler path. Our experienced mediators and family lawyers can help you and your partner work through your divorce and custody issues collaboratively and cooperatively.