4 Ways Greek Philosophy Can Help Your Recovery

Although ancient ideals, Greek philosophy may have the answers to successful addiction recovery.

With all the advances in treatment and recovery, it might seem strange to look back to ancient philosophy in order to face today’s challenges. But that is just what one of the early developers of modern psychotherapy, Dr. Albert Ellis, did when he developed the predecessor of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Ellis called his approach Rational Emotive Therapy, and while it has now been eclipsed in popularity by CBT, it set the foundation for cognitive approaches to psychotherapy.

Ellis broke with Freudian traditions by drawing heavily upon Greek philosophy. The particular focus of Ellis’ inspiration was Stoicism, a practical, down-to-earth philosophy that focuses on facing life’s challenges head on and maintaining contact with harmony in life. While the name “Stoic” can seem esoteric or cold, the philosophy produced simple and effective techniques for keeping cool under pressure, which is a key skill for maintaining sobriety.

In this blog we consider some recommendations from the Stoics about how to stay grounded, live a meaningful life, and stay sober.

Morning and Evening Reflection

Stoic philosophy aims to help people live an ethical life. Reflecting on your life in relation to your morals or values is essential to living an ethical life. First, naturally, you must clarify your morals with value statements such as “I value______” or “______ is important to me.” Some ideas for an addict to try:

  • Sobriety
  • Healthy Relationships
  • Physical Health
  • Self-Control

Next, make a daily habit about reflecting on the day ahead and how you wish to embody your values. And, in the evening, you reflect upon how well you did that day whilst planning for the coming day.

Big Picture/View from Above

It can seem at times that recovery is an unbearable weight, or at least more important than anything else in the world. And for many in recovery, remaining sober is the single most important factor affecting their happiness. Nevertheless, excessive focus on staying clean can actually become an uncomfortable preoccupation, diminishing enjoyment of life and even keeping the addiction fresh in the mind.

In order to break this focus, you can create a new focus by putting things in perspective. This involves visualising yourself from afar or from the sky. By doing so, you will be able to approach any challenges you face feeling refreshed and more capable to handle them.

Emulating Inspirational People

Most of us are fortunate to have encountered one or more people who have inspired us with their story of recovery. You can create change in your own life by focusing on the qualities about this person that inspire you. Spend some time making a list of the people who inspire you and the qualities they possess which you particularly admire.

Negative Visualisation

Counter-intuitive. That is one word to describe the technique of deliberately focusing on what can go wrong. But it is precisely by focusing on what you fear that you can let go of it.

Let’s be clear. This technique is not about dwelling on negative outcomes for the sake of it. This technique is designed to face your fears, and to show you that you can withstand even the worst your mind can bring up.

Oftentimes, what drives addiction is some sort of fear. It can be painful to face life sober or to make major changes, and as a result, we have fear about these things. By imagining these fears and acknowledging that life will still go on even if they come to pass, you can strengthen your ability to stay sober. Indeed, you will be better able to stay calm and focused on your sobriety should some fearful situation occur.

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