ADHD & Stoicism

Hi everyone? i was wondering if anyone else has tried using the philosophy of Stoicism to help with your ADHD? To use the example given in the video, we have a powerful car with weak breaks. I have found that stoicism allows me to use my mind to apply the breaks after the fact. I can decide how I am going to react as well as several ideas about how to organize my time and decide what my
purpose in life is. I’m not going to write a book here, because i know all of us here have ADHD, and probably don’t have the mental stamina to read a crap ton.

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I’d say that the Stoics are pretty useful for anyone in any situation, in fact. I haven’t thought in terms of how their philosophy would apply in specific to an ADHD situation, but I know that I often find value in re-reading snippets from Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and, to a lesser extent, Seneca.

An aside, that Seneca’s kind of a bitter pill about a lot of stuff. His default suggestion for release from problems, after only a few other solutions have been adequately explored, is to remember (gasp!) that one noble (according to the Romans) and readily available option would be bath-tub suicide! I don’t think I would recommend that outlet of Seneca’s, as good advice for people who regularly struggle with depression or a sense of rejection by society at large. He also suggests that, once in a while, you should sleep on the floor with the dogs, and drink dirty water from the dogs’ bowl, because that will remind yourself of how good you have it right now, and because if your whole business empire comes crashing down tomorrow you’ll know that you have already succeeded in tolerating the ignominy and misery that would come with that change of fortunes. Kind of good advice? But also kind of masochistic, no?

But as to all the Stoics, in general, Seneca among them but not paramount, I do see their philosophy found useful by many. I know of a lot of people, famous thinkers among them, who, when they summarize a series of life-lessons and try to come down to an essential set of governing principles, end up saying something basically rather Stoic at its core. Google claims that Stoicism “teaches the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions.” (Personally, I wouldn’t summarize it that way ONLY, but if we’re going to talk about it we need to summarize somehow … .)

As philosophy, I think Stoicism works pretty good. Pretty good yes; but, for me, not ideal. And in the strictly-ADHD context, I honestly don’t see why it would be any better or worse than any other philosophy, or why Stoicism applies well (or poorly) to an ADHD situation. Are the two, Stoicism and ADHD, tailor-made for each other? I don’t see the link. Or, more accurately, I do see a bit of a link, but only as much of a link as would exist between ADHD and any of a number of other philosophical schools. In fact, meditative forms of Buddhism may be (just dashing off a quick suggestion from the top of my head, don’t ask me to defend it!) the most ADHD-applicable of all the available philosophies currently out there, come to think of it.

The Stoics are usually my own Go-To philosophical guide, though I am not 100% big boosters of them. It is indeed nice that their works of philosophy tend to come in bite-sized chunks – heh, now THAT is something ADHD-ish, isn’t it?! – but sometimes I just get a bit bugged by how privileged they were. M. Aurelius and Seneca both were wealthy male leaders of the Roman ruling class, so we are hearing mostly from the rich white guys. Whereas, zero people who were either slaves, or indentured land-serfs, or secondary female members of the household, or otherwise among the lower orders, have ever been reported as writing (or benefiting from) similar Stoic ideas during classical antiquity. Epictetus was born a slave, so maybe he knows a bit of what I’m talking about, but even he soon was liberated by a wealthy man in order to set him free to further study philosophy. And Marcus Aurelius was Roman Emperor for heaven’s sakes! Like, in charge of the ENTIRE KNOWN WORLD for heaven’s sakes! So, although Stoicism tends for me to be useful (and may even be my “best philosophy” chosen from among all the current available options – though I like “The School of Life” and “Kurzgesagt” style, too, which one of them calls “Optimistic Nihilism”) yet I still wonder whether Aurelius’s content can apply accurately to my own life circumstances.

If the Emperor says “put up with it,” I wonder, if I’m NOT Emperor, then should I or should I not still put up with it? The Emperor says we should “Just sit down to do the work that is allotted to you, and know that you are a part of a larger …” blah blah! … . But that sentiment is only well and good for someone living like the Emperor. He probably already feels pretty secure in the facts that he will get plenty of dinner, have access to six or eight compliant concubines to service his every sexual predilection, and doesn’t need to worry about tomorrow’s rent payment. For me, well, Stoicism doesn’t always promise a materially abundant, or even a materially minimally sufficient, future. Maybe that anti-materialism is, in fact, one of their main points (especially in the mind of Epictetus, though less so when you’re reading Aurelius). However, I’d find the anti-materialism of Stoicism a bit more persuasive, if the philosophy had come to me via someone who was in fact lacking in material well-being. For example, how much more compelling would Stoicism sound if written by some Sclavus Servus Impotentius the club-footed one-eyed misery-dwelling serf who has to clean the latrines with his fingernails? (Cf. Book of Job.) Boy Howdy! For, if HE could suffer this world’s tortures but still remain aloof and Stoic and successfully choose only happiness as his one response to whatever life threw at him, well then, I would also certainly feel that I should endeavor strongly to do the same. But, coming as it does not from the thoughts of a latrine cleaner, but from the gold-gilded custom-clipped exotic-bird-feathered myrrh-scented plume of the Emperor himself, Stoicism doesn’t always convince me. I have to take it with a grain of salt.

Nevertheless, salty though it may be for me, it’s probably still one of the best of them out there. I am personally “metabolically” more Stoic than any other department or class of philosophy, I think. I prefer the parts of it that go beyond Google’s summary (above). The further lessons from Stoicism appeal to me, that, for example, you shouldn’t sweat the small things, that your failures and your successes are all just quests for worldly vanity and in fact you should really learn to look at a bigger picture, maybe stop trying to be so danged superior to everyone and recognize your own weakness, frailty, evil – and everyone else’s! (“why would you expect otherwise?”) – all these ideas are very applicable in proper measure. Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve relied upon lately, is a simple quote from Aurelius which I used to repeat to myself whenever I had to go to a job I hated, day after day, morning after morning dragging myself out of the house and down to the parking space wishing instead to be enjoying the sun, petting a dog in the rain, or just walking through the flowers: “You are a part of nature, and no matter what anyone does, nobody can take that away from you.” Solace in stressful or unhappy times, sure. Didn’t get me a job that I WANTED to do, though … in fact, if anything, Stoicism succeeded in convincing me to leave a bad job despite having no means of income to replace it. “To heck with material things! Do without food! You’ll attract no wife, so learn to live lonely! And you’ll lose your home, but think about how NATURAL you’ll be!” And yet I am glad I heeded Stoicism’s call, however crazy any practical implications. I’d do it again.

What is it you think of Stoicism’s contributions, Jay? I suspect you were thinking more in terms of the initial Stoic lesson, that we should develop fortitude (as in Google’s summary), and less in terms of any other lessons which I subsequently raised. Fortitude is indeed a good bulwark against ADHD’s ridiculous distraction-induced schizophrenic scatterbrain responses, I do agree; but not enough for me, because I would prefer, not merely, to develop the fortitude to withstand and better weather those responses, but rather, to eliminate those negative responses in the first place. And, do you feel Stoicism is directly more applicable to ADHD situations, than any other philosophy? Or, applicable for some certain reason? Can you address my suggestion that another school of philosophy applies better, or just as well, to the ADHD-er?

What about Buddhism? As I understand it, Buddhism generally offers the notion we should “abandon all attachment, for life is suffering”; therefore, if one can meditate away one’s every need for worldly attachment (including material wellbeing?), one can lose all frustrations, short-circuit hyper-focus, re-wire the brain. The act of sitting still and deliberately thinking about nothing will re-regulate the brain’s chemistry or electronics to cause ADHD to cease, supposedly. But then you have to re-regulate by meditating again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next … Personally, I find Buddhism lacks the sort of moral core that I’d like to be a part of any life philosophy. If “it all doesn’t matter” then what part of “it all” would you value, devalue, like or dislike, work toward or work away from? If “all life is suffering” then why bother to alleviate the suffering of the starving little children in Latin America or the Horn of Africa? Buddhism starts to sound like way too much of a cop-out, for me. But maybe I misunderstand Buddhism! I already said, “don’t ask me to defend it.”

Well, you didn’t write a book here, but I got us started on one … :slight_smile:

Yes, used it to control my anger - now it seems to everyone that I’m the calmest person alive, even when I’m burning with rage on the inside. BUT for me it works both ways… Sadly I have to remind myself to feel happy about things which, as you can imagine, takes away some joys in life.
It’s still better this way but it does take a lot of mental work and reminding myself to be happy from time to time.