Ancient philosophies and classical wisdom

09/16/2020

Basic TAM principles

Ancient philosophies and classical wisdom

We've known that people can learn to be happy for thousands of years. From the ancient writings of Stoic philosophers like Epictetus, Seneca, & Marcus Aurelius to St. Paul's New Testament musings from his prison cell the same basic ideas appear over and over again.

Ancient philosophers like Aristotle and the medieval religious philosopher Thomas Aquinas knew that understanding thinking, evaluation and motivation helps us to manage our emotions, our feelings, our relationships and our entire quality of life.

Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas

Sophocles, among others studied 'cause and effect'... the idea that if we continue to do the same things (causes) we get the same results (effects). If we want things to change we must change what we do. Different causes lead to different effects.

Seneca concluded that one route to emotional management is realistic expectation - a realistic acceptance of the fact that the world just isn't perfect. He argued that while life is infinitely valuable, possessions and other 'external' concerns are of far less importance than our 'internal' (emotional and intellectual) life. He was convinced that tragedy can be tolerated or overcome by appropriate thought and attention to the inner life.

Buddhist philosophy holds that emotional distress can result from attachment either to property, to status or to ideas. The more we can 'let go' of our attachments to things, to 'stuff', the more control we can have over our emotions.

Alfred's statue at Winchester
Alfred's statue at Winchester


The Anglo-Saxon King of Wessex, Alfred the Great famously divided his day into three sections of eight hours each. He gave equal attention to work, to recreation and to rest. He understood the value of balance. Alfred also encouraged education because he realised the inherent value in knowledge and, perhaps more importantly, understanding. There is, after all, a very real difference between the two.