Stoic philosophy aims to answer a simple question: how can we live our best life? In order to do so, we must first of all try to close the gap between who we are now and who we are potentially capable of becoming. We have to strive to become the best, most noble version of ourselves, who behaves appropriately even in the most challenging circumstances. This might seem an unrealistic goal, but Stoic philosophers firmly believed that it was not only feasible, but that it was also the only way to be truly happy.
This process is based on learning how to control our emotions more effectively, no matter the circumstances. The problem is that, in many everyday situations, we let our emotions govern our behaviour rather than the other way around. The Stoics maintained that strong emotions, such as anger or sadness, were our greatest weakness; they realised that many people were unable to control these reactions properly, and that this was the greatest cause of human suffering. They therefore focused their entire philosophy on human emotions and taught people how to master them, in order to live a more peaceful life.
The author uses the term ‘emotional resilience’ to describe the ability to manage our desires and drives, and to avoid becoming overwhelmed by our emotions. The Stoics were often portrayed as being apathetic people, who suppressed their feelings and emotions by remaining impassive in any situation. The Stoic philosophy, however, does not suggest that we suppress our emotions at all, largely because this would be impossible, since they are an inevitable part of human nature. Stoicism actually urges us to recognise our emotions, to identify their cause, and to redirect them towards achieving something good.
When we feel an emotion, we often want to act on it straight away, but it is important that we learn to observe ourselves from an outside perspective, and to assess whether or not that impulse will lead to something good. Only then will we be able to choose the right course of action. If we achieve this level of self-control, we will gain much more peace of mind, which the Stoics defined as the knowledge that we are doing the right thing. Being aware of why we are behaving in a certain way at any given time helps us to stay calm and to have confidence in what we are doing, no matter how complicated life may get.