Stoicism: The Dangers

I asked the stoicism subreddit what were the downsides of Stoicism and this is what I found out:

Stoicism is not rejecting emotions or being emotionless.

I’ll be honest. My kids thought that I don’t show emotions, or don’t have them. I had to explain to them that I simply do not let them control me, and that I prefer to examine them before letting them out when possible. I had I had teach them what stoicism is so they could understand.


I get it, we see seemingly emotional people do amazing things and seem calm in the face of every obstacle, and want to be like them. It is only natural that we want to be like them, but denying emotion is not what those people are likely to be doing.

Think of it this way: your emotions are there are signals. They are messengers that deeply care about you and want to tell you something. Turn them off at your own peril.

What the practice of Stoicism teaches us, is how to reinterpret those signals, and their causes, in a more useful way.

It is not that Stoicism shies away from emotion but rather uses emotional signals more purposefully and not at face value. This takes time and practice.

Don’t run on broken legs!

Downsides? Revisiting trauma. Part of Stoicism that few people talk about is the importance of evaluating impressions. Among those are past impressions. If you don’t fix the past impressions and correct your interpretation of those you are basically building on top of sand and that is always dangerous. DO NOT TRY TO REVISIT MAJOR TRAUMA WITHOUT A THERAPIST THOUGH… Stoicism is not a replacement for therapy or professional help. It is a framework for changing the way you approach the world. Premature impression of mastery. Reading Meditations, Letters and Discourses once or twice will not make you an expert at Stoicism. This is not gatekeeping this is reality. One has to sit and think and digest the philosophy. I have been at this for two years now reading everything I can get my hands on and I feel just as lost as the first day I cracked open the Discourses.


If you misunderstand it you will definitely hurt yourself, possibly physically, probably emotionally. If something is putting you through pain or not working, you probably need to read more or different works or different authors.


Stoicism might not be what you think it is

I suppose the biggest problem is you putting aside the primary sources and creating an image of Stoicism based on what other people tell you. It’s important to listen to specialists, but that must be followed by the hard work of reading actual Stoic texts. Similar to that but in the opposite direction, another issue is us becoming arrogant and believing we understood something while that in fact is just lack of knowledge from our part. Stoics were very precise in their terminology and the words they use don’t always mean what we think. Many ethical concepts also have implicit and complex meanings due to them being based on foundational premises. They are dangerous because in both cases you will be creating a “fantasy Stoicism” based on personal biases. This kind of thing may lead to fake forms of Stoicism such as “the goal is becoming an emotionless stone”, “violence is natural”, “it’s all about money and success”, “I know better than the ancients”, and so on, which are harmful both according to actual Stoicism as well as for current psychology.


Not everyone will understand you, but why should that be other people’s responsibility?

The high road is a lonely road.


But, it is your responsibility to maintain the relationships you want.

Sometimes your spouse gets irritated when you ask why they are worrying about X when they can’t control X.


Don’t miss the forest for the trees. Just because you have decided to be more stoic does not mean everyone else has. Sometimes people are in their “feelings” stage, where they do not necessarily want help, but empathy – validation that things are hard and that they are not alone in it. After all, a large part of Stoicism has to do with finding the advantage/value in any situation and isn’t connecting with a partner at a deep level a worthy outcome?

Let me know if I missed any. 🙂

You can read the full thread here.

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