JyriAnd Blog

Stoic Personality Disorder

Let me ask you this: Are the people who are enthusiastic about Stoic philosophy (including me) already stoics?

I mean, are they stoics before they have read a single line from Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus — or even Ryan Holiday?

Is it possible to be a stoic without actually learning about Stoicism, and are some people attracted to Stoics precisely because they have a Stoic personality?

I remember reading Marcus Aurelius for the first time.

I was standing in the cold living room of my grandmother’s house, browsing books on the bookshelf. It was a happy accident, really, picking up a small random book from the shelf, opening the covers, and discovering a strange author’s name and a seemingly new-age title. The book was Marcus Aurelius Meditations. I started to read, turning pages one after another, mouth growing more open with every sentence, reading here and there with a increasing sense of recognition, not believing what my eyes were seeing. It was as if I had found my soulmate in that book.

How could it be that Marcus Aurelius, a Roman Emperor, was so precisely articulating the thoughts and feelings that I had had?

On the same day, I converted myself into a Stoic.

You see, the philosophy of the stoics matched my personality almost perfectly. I went on a quest to read everything I could by Stoics and about stoics.

Would I have found the Stoic philosophy so attractive having a different personality?

I doubt it.

A lot of my friends with a more extraverted personality didn’t get it, no matter how much I tried to explain the genius of Stoics to them.

I’m not the first one who has pondered about this.

Friedrich Nietzsche:

They all act as if they had discovered and arrived at their genuine convictions through the self-development of a cold, pure, divinely insouciant dialectic (in contrast to the mystics of every rank, who are more honest than the philosophers and also sillier – they talk about “inspiration”): while what essentially happens is that they take a conjecture, a whim, an “inspiration” or, more typically, they take some fervent wish that they have sifted through and made properly abstract – and they defend it with rationalizations after the fact. — Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Ch. 5

Alfred Korzybski seems to agree:

‘Philosophers’, ‘psychologists’, ’logicians’, mathematicians, etc., are somehow unable to comprehend that their work is the product of the working of their own nervous systems. For most of them it is only detached verbalism such as we often find in hospitals for ‘mentally’ ill.

A few years ago I was diagnosed with a “Schizoid personality disorder”, in other words, I am a schizoid. Nothing serious, really.

A definition from Wikipedia:

Schizoid personality disorder is a personality disorder characterized by a lack of interest in social relationships, a tendency toward a solitary or sheltered life style, secretiveness, emotional coldness, detachment, and apathy. Affected individuals may be unable to form intimate attachments to others and simultaneously possess a rich and elaborate but exclusively internal fantasy world. Other associated features include stilted speech, a lack of deriving enjoyment from most activities, feeling as though one is an “observer” rather than a participant in life, an inability to tolerate emotional expectations of others, apparent indifference when praised or criticized, a degree of asexuality, and idiosyncratic moral or political beliefs.1

Let’s look at some points from this definition:

1. lack of interest in social relationships
2. a solitary or sheltered lifestyle
3. emotional coldness, detachment, and apathy
4. possess a rich and elaborate but exclusively internal fantasy world.
5. a lack of deriving enjoyment from most activities
6. feeling as though one is an "observer" rather than a participant in life
7. apparent indifference when praised or criticized

I don’t know how about you, but to me it looks like a definition of a stoic person.

What I actually want to say is this: Every personality type will find a suitable life philosophy for themselves.

For example, as was with me, schizoid people are drawn to stoicism because that’s what they are, stoics.

Gravitating towards things that match your personality can be a curse and a blessing.

On the one hand, it’s a nice feeling when a philosophy, a book, can explain your feelings and ideas, give labels and define the terms to the things we were wondering about for years. On the other hand, we might not realise that we are not growing. We are just cementing the same old personality traits and beliefs that we already possess. We are adapting to a single mode of life — the one we are living right now —, and when the inevitable change comes, we are already too adapted to be adaptable.