Ep. 51: Dr. William Ferraiolo — How to Train Your Mind Like the Stoics

My guest this week is Dr. William (Bill) Ferraiolo. We’ll be going all the way back to the roots of cognitive behavioral therapy in this episode—back to the Stoics of ancient Greece and Rome—as we discuss Bill’s book, Meditations on Self-Discipline and Failure: Stoic Exercise for Mental Fitness. The big idea of Stoicism is that we don’t have to let external events and our unruly minds determine our well-being. Instead, we can save our energy for training our thoughts and actions to serve us well (sounds like CBT!).

Bill is passionate about these ideas and explains how they can make a major difference in our lives when we put them into practice—just as he discovered for himself. Topics we explore together include:

  • The main tenets of Greco-Roman Stoicism
  • The concept of eudaemonia as flourishing and leading a well-lived life
  • The distinctions between Stoicism and common self-help philosophies
  • The value at times of receiving a “kick in the butt” to return to our intentions
  • The relations between Cynic and Stoic philosophy
  • The overlap between CBT and Stoicism
  • The imperative of self-knowledge and self-honesty
  • The amazing durability of the Stoic ideas and ideals
  • The futility of obsessing over things we can’t control
  • The power of the limbic system to override our reason and our efforts toward equanimity
  • The importance of frequent reminders of our best intentions
  • The possibility of taking others’ opinions of us less seriously
  • Why we place so much value on the thoughts in others’ heads
  • The power of focusing our attention and energy on what is in our direct control
  • Times when Stoicism seems to gain greater popularity and traction
  • What it takes to move from insight to transformation
  • The place of physical training, courage, and toughness in Stoicism
  • How Stoicism has helped my guest through anxiety and depression
  • The cultural resurgence of Stoicism

Check out this link for more information on Marcus Aurelius, and this one for Epictetus

I asked Bill for recommendation for modern-day Stoics; he recommended these writers (purchases made through these affiliate links will help to support the podcast, at no additional cost to you):

We also discussed Jordan Peterson and his book 12 Rules for Life (though Bill noted that Peterson is not a Stoic in the strict sense). Bill recommended watching Peterson’s interview with David Prager.

Here are links to Bill’s books:

Dr. William Ferraiolo completed his undergraduate degree in philosophy at Rutgers University, and received a PhD in philosophy from the University of Oklahoma.

Since then he’s been teaching philosophy at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, California. He has two additional forthcoming books entitled You Die at the End and God Bless the Broken Bones.

Find and connect with Bill online at LinkedIn and Facebook.

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