By Sarah Rodgers
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I’ve taken quite a few philosophies classes in college, and I still am taking them. I enjoy the subject, and I’m minoring in that along with my psychology degree because, in a way, I think the two subjects go hand-in-hand when applied to the real world and humans as a whole. Follow a positive philosophy, and you’ll see how well your mentality and psychology will improve. So today, I decided to highlight some schools of philosophy that I think can help better your psyche and outlook on life.
The first one I want to talk about is Hedonism. Hedonism gets a bad reputation because of how it is portrayed in the media and by people who don’t use it in moderation. In its basic sense, Hedonism is the idea and belief that pleasure is a worthwhile pursuit and that humans are controlled by pain and pleasure. In reality, we are. If we like something, we continue with it, and if it hurts, we tend to avoid it. It brings us back to our most primal instincts. Think of it like a cake. The cake is pleasurable, so we eat cake but touching the hot pan is painful, so we avoid it. That is an extremely simplified version of the teaching but shows the basic thought processes behind it.
However, if not practiced with self-discipline, Hedonism can be a very destructive and dangerous mindset. The idea of only pursuing pleasures can lead to addiction to alcohol, drugs, sex, and other destructive behaviors. That is where Hedonism tends to get its bad reputation from. Moderation is the most crucial part of Hedonism, and if you do not have self-control, I recommend you stay away from this school of philosophy.
Taoism, or Daoism, is the next on the list and is a Chinese philosophy created by Lao Tzu (there are multiple spellings of his name due to translations and different dialects in Chinese, but this is the most popular one). Taoism is the focus on health, vitality, and genuineness. It encourages people to be in touch with nature and to connect with the natural world around them. One od the man focuses is Wu Wei which is natural action and not being forced into the structures of society. It was created in response to Confucianism which is all about the structures of society (on a basic level, where we could one day get into the complex nature of it). Taoist acknowledge that nothing in the universe is static or fixed and that everything is constantly transforming over time. This philosophy allows us to roll with the punches of life by connecting to mother earth and the people of our past to gain peace and equilibrium. Wu Wei and its significance lend to the idea that we can not force our way onto people and things and that we must allow them to be what they are and not disturb them.
The last school of philosophy that I want to talk about today is Stoicism. Popular in ancient Greece and Rome, stoicism is often practiced by people in high-stress and demanding environments. You might have heard of famous stoics like Zeno, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius, who are influfenial in Western philosophy and history. In essence, stoicism is the practice of our understanding that you can not control what you can’t control and focus on what you can control. Your mind, body, and actions are all within your control, and that is what stoics focus on. They focus on taking charge of their emotions and how they perceive life. It involves self-control and reflections that many people are uncomfortable with. It causes us to look inward and give up the reins of life when we cannot control what is happening around us. The four virtues of stoicism are wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation. Focusing on these four things allows you to become a well-rounded person and will enable you to look inward at yourself and your psyche.
Why do you feel those emotions? What can you control about yourself? How can you respond to this citation? How can you better yourself in these four virtues? These are some of the many questions stoics often reflect on. This is a fascinating philosophy and one I’ve seen many people try, but not many are able to master it. It takes time and patience. Stoicism is not something someone gets instantly, but rather, it is reconstructing your entire lifestyle and mentality. It is not for everyone, but it can be beneficial to everyone.
These are just three philosophies that will help better your life. It is a constant process of trial and error to find which works for you, but I encourage you to try them. You will be surprised how much you learn about yourself.