Sofia A Koutlaki

Being Greek, I grew up with philosophy, mainly Socrates: I was deeply influenced by his belief in the innate knowledge of good in humans, and his unshakeable respect for the rule of law.

I had a vague idea of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, dipping into them occasionally, but not really applying their wisdom in my life.

After following a winding path through other spheres of knowledge, I studied two of Seneca’s letters for a belated A level in Latin: I remember applying his mediatio mortis concept to a shortness of breath attack in the Tehran Grand Bazaar.

Then I went off again on other paths, but I am glad that I was re-introduced to Stoic thought by Kathryn Koromilas, fellow Greek and fellow Classicist. At her suggestion I attended Stoic Week last October, and have since delved into Stoicism in more detail.

I found the concept of oikeiosis very close to my heart; reading about it felt like a homecoming. I have lived away from my native country, in England and in Iran, almost all of my adult life, an experience that has shown me the similarity of human needs, irrespective of culture.

Over the difficult year of 2020, as I faced several health challenges in addition to the pandemic, I found great comfort in the idea of the desirable indifferents (in my case, health) and in these Stoic teachings:

  • Acknowledge emotions
  • Reflect on their causes
  • Redirect them for your own good
  • Keep in mind what is under your control
  • Keep in mind what isn’t under your control

I have written them out and keep them pinned on the noticeboard over my desk, together with Marcus Aurelius’ contemplation of how time is limited, and will soon run out, because this is what the world is like (Book 2:4).

I have written out the Stoic teachings out and keep them pinned on the noticeboard over my desk, together with Marcus Aurelius’ contemplation of how time is limited, and will soon run out, because this is what the world is like (Book 2:4).

Over a year of therapy during which I learned to speak my own truth without worrying about the reactions of others, Stoicism has helped me remember that the decision to speak out is mine, but others’ reactions to my words lie beyond my control. This doesn’t mean that I should not speak out, but rather that I should be prepared for the aftermath.

As I continue to work on applying Stoic wisdom in my everyday life, I also try to help my loved ones. I also look forward to working through my Stoic reading list in an ongoing effort to keep Stoic wisdom at the forefront of my mind.

I’m Sofia A Koutlaki and this is my #PathsToFlourishing story.

Subscribe to Sofia’s monthly newsletter, Some Little Language, where she writes about cross-cultural communication, language, rituals, books, films, and the ideas that connect them. Connect with her on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Visit her website.

This is a #PathsToFlourishing story published as part of a series of stories inspired by the Stoicon-x Women 2021 theme: Practical Paths to Flourishing.

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