What Happened to Philosophy?

by Rich Presta on November 9, 2009

Wow….what a past couple months…

As you’d expect, it’s getting cold here in Wisconsin…that seems to start around August.  Aren’t we lucky.

I went on a field trip to the pumpkin patch my daughters pre-school class, that was a blast.  God bless those teachers.  I had a migraine after fifteen minutes on the school bus.  As you can see, we found a great pumpkin which fortunately for us, was the dirtiest one.


So we got our pumpkin for carving (a bigger one than what’s in the photo), I gouged what was supposed to be a scary face on it, and got our trick or treat gear all ready to roll.  Then the day after Halloween, both me and my daughter woke up sick.  At first, I thought it was because after we got home from trick or treating we ate candy until our faces went numb.  But it got steadily worse so we went to the doc and guess what?

Swine flu.  I’m not kidding. Not fun.

As my daughter and I were laying around all day on the couch recovering and watching Cartoon Network (my choice as much as hers), I started reading a new book someone recommended to me recently.  It’s called A Guide to The Good Life by William Irvine, and its about Stoicism, the philosophy of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius.  It’s a really good book and an easy read considering the subject, if you’re into that sort of thing.  Something else good to check out on Stoicism is this post on Tim Ferris’s blog.

As I was reading it…it got me thinking…

What the heck happened to philosophy?

Not psychology mind you.  Philosophy.

In ancient times, when Socrates and Aristotle and Seneca were all walking around in togas and looking much cooler than I would have, everyone that had the means went to schools of philosophy, where they learned HOW TO THINK.

Funny enough, in those times, thinking was considered kinda important…

It seems like nowadays we don’t value actual thinking a whole heck of a lot anymore and instead place a great deal of importance on memorization and spewing out of facts.  Kids in school know lot of “stuff”, but it seems, at least to me, that they understand less and less.

When did we start to devalue thinking?

We’ve forgotten how to sit quietly and alone and evaluate the noise in our heads.  In Seneca’s time, that was many people full time job and what people talked about before they had more important things like American Idol to pay attention to.

“All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.”
-Blaise Pascal

Let’s forget a second about the implications on a societal level…when’s the last time YOU really put some energy into evaluating how you’re viewing life and the thoughts that run through your head all day?

I’ve got some news for you.  If you’re struggling with anxiety, maybe a little more attention on your thoughts is on order, because anxiety doesn’t make sense.  Logically we all know that, right?  Nothing will come out of the sky and hurt us if we’re too far from home/on the highway/in a plane/in line at the store, but you worry about it obsessively anyway and it wrecks your life.

Maybe you need a whole new philosophy.

To practice thinking again – and evaluating those thoughts.  Getting some control over the noise in your own head.

I mean, that’s really what my programs do, right?  They help you get control over the noise in your head that causes you to get anxious or panic when it’s not appropriate.

But I bet that’s not the only area of life you could use some philosophy.

Hey, I know I’m not asking you to begin a small task, like starting to floss (although that was equally challenging for me).

I saying maybe you should consider undertaking a lifelong quest to understand yourself.  To make THAT your hobby.

I swear, you’ll find you’re every bit as entertaining as American Idol.

Where do you start? Well, you can start by simply paying attention to your own thoughts and seeing how they effect you.  That’s a very simple sentence that may take a lifetime to master.

Maybe you can start learning about some different philosophies and see what suits you.

Now listen up…

I don’t mean a religion, which is different than a philosophy.  You can be any religion you want and still have a philosophy or ‘rules for thinking”… no matter who you or what you pray to,  and even if you don’t pray at all.

I think the truly wise have their own philosophies, that’s what I’m shooting for.  I steal a little from Stoicism, maybe a little from Buddhism, toss in some I came up with on my own, and before you know it, I have my own rules to work from.

Maybe the right place to start is by just defining what’s most important to you.  Not everything that’s important to you,  but what’s MOST important.  What do you want to be remembered for?  What will you regret?  What do you not want to lose?

What do you want to decide to be about?

It’s YOUR choice you know.

YOUR life.

No do overs.

So what are you three most important things?  What are you committed to making your life about?  Now’s your chance to figure it out.


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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom Daniels November 10, 2009 at 4:23 pm


Rich November 10, 2009 at 5:01 pm

As a fan of anxiety, I have a tendancy to think alot. As a matter of fact, I overthink alot. I think about living, dying, what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. That sort of thing. Socrates, Aristotle, et al, probably thought about things like why the earth was flat, how to set the sundial, and where to buy a new toga.
The people that I know that don’t have any phobias, anxieties, etc., don’t seem to think about much, other than getting their kids to soccer practice on time. They keep life simple and take each day as it comes. As they say, ignorance is bliss. Maybe ignorant is the way to go!

Rich Presta November 10, 2009 at 5:14 pm

So what is it that you want to do before you die Tom?

Rich, what makes you think the people you know don’t think about all those things too? Just because they don’t discuss with you their internal thoughts, fears, and hopes doesn’t mean they don’t have them, right? Looking in from the outside, do you appear to be as thoughtful as you really are? I guess what I’m getting at is that I think we’re all more alike than we think we are, some of us just disguise it better than others.

Chris November 10, 2009 at 6:31 pm

The hardest thing of all to do is nothing. Recently have done some EMDR and find it rather like thinking nothing.

Owen Johnson November 10, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Because self-talk is so powerful, I think it’s important to watch how we frame our inner thoughts. A good start is to ask ourselves questions like: What is my purpose? What are my goals? How can I achieve my goals? What are my dreams? How can I achieve my goals and stay in alignment with my perceived purpose and my dreams?

These questions need to be asked and answered in a positive way. If we were to ask ourselves why we CAN’T achieve our goals, we’d surely find all kinds of excuses. And make ourselves more depressed and anxious.

Also, when we define our purpose and goals, if we make sure they involve helping others or the world in general, they will get us out of our own heads and our fears. It’s hard to be anxious when you’re thinking about doing something for someone else.

carrie November 10, 2009 at 7:00 pm

rich you are awesome! thanks for all your thinking and sharing!

Stephen Hanecak November 10, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Hey Rich,

I just bought your driving fear program and am going to STOP this limiting bahavior if it kills me. I am done with it after 12 years….I have some other phobic responses that have developed as a result of the driving thing, fear of being alone, and really want to end all anxieties, panic and phobias ASAP. What do you recommend I read or do to begin this,or actually end this, negative thinking thing? I know that I can and will do this, just need a little advice to get started.

Thanks in advance,

Rich Presta November 10, 2009 at 7:57 pm

My pleasure Carrrie!

Hi Steve,
I found a great way to stop thinking negative is to START thinking positive! So how do you do that, right? Start the day like that. Instead of getting up out of bed and thinking about all the problems of the day, or whether or not you’re anxious, start by thinking about everything you’re grateful for. Better yet, WRITE THEM DOWN. Keep a pen and pad of paper next to your bed and before your feet hit the floor, write down 20 things you’re grateful for. Yes 20! Maybe you’re grateful for your family, or your job, or that you have a car to ride in, or a bus token, or food to eat for breakfast, or that you’re not dead yet. EVERYONE has 20 things. Start the day that way for 10 days and see how much better things are when you start your day with a heart crammed full of gratitude.


Stephen Hanecak November 10, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Your response touches my heart Rich. I will do it!!

Sharon November 10, 2009 at 9:23 pm

I can really relate to this article. Recently I’ve taken the time to “live inside my head” a little, and I’ve noticed some patterns to my thoughts that have taught me a lot about how I relate to the world. I’m also experimenting with meditation to “transcend” my thoughts for a short time each day, which really helps to reduce stress.

jacqui heindl November 11, 2009 at 2:51 am

our australian summer……………..

it doesnt take long,
just a minute
just sit in the sun
and be……………
let the wind take you to places
let the cicardas drill your brain with their shrill
smell the sweet air and feel the heat on your back
if you are beginning to feel relaxed just reading this then……….
let the cockatoos fly over your head and see them so close, you can feel the wind in their wings,
hear them squark, let it echo through your thoughts
smell the bushfire summer
and become completely absorbed by the nature around you
whatever that may be………
open your palms and close your eyes
and let go…………..
xxx jacqui

Jed November 11, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Rich does have a an interesting post about taking kids to practice etc., and that he has observed that his friends seem to NOT have anxiety to the extent some other do. Most of that has to do with keeping your mind centered on ANYTHING other then you and your anxiety. My problem is driving{30 years}. I notice that when im driving and i have something going on in my life thats important, it seems to almost push away the fear. Its re-directing your thoughts. Sometimes even listening to talk radio to a pundit i really dislike is good for me when im driving. I get into what he is saying, and it gets me mad, but ALSO takes my mind off driving. I just moved to a new city. So im trying very hard to find my way around{the easy way}. I went with friends all around and took a pad and pen and wrote everything down so i could refer back to it when i practice, like in a few minutes. Every day or so i will get in my car and”practice”. Take little steps, which will hopefully lead to bigger ones. If you want i can keep you posted. thanks for all your support. jsa9

Teresa November 13, 2009 at 2:52 am

I really am going to look into the book Rich mentioned but really love Jacqui’s post. It reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw on an SUV right before Halloween that spoke to me. It said “Slow down and look around at God’s beautiful creation – nature! When you go too fast it all looks like a blur” I instead would phrase it “Slow down and look around at the beauty of Mother nature – why zoom by and miss the world and life around you when it is this part of life we all seem to love greatly” Without our world where would we be after all? Nature calms me :)

jacqui heindl November 15, 2009 at 4:57 am

bless you, beautiful souls………….

people with anxiety have a hard time sometimes……………
but did you know they are so much more on the ball
they can read people particularally well………….
have more emotional IQ than others, unless you are in the field of caring for people, because most of the time they have been there
they are really apprieciative of people doing things for them, and how people can be so nice at times when you need it most……………
they are generous and giving, because they know how much it means when others are to them……………
they are open wholesome people. because if people weren’t open to them, they would never get any better………………..
they are even healthy and switched on because they know that being unhealthy doesn’t help the condition…………….
they are warm to people because they too want to be loved and accepted for who they are………………..
they are happy because they know how lovely it is to be positive and see people smile right back at you…………….
they are at peace too,
because they know the world mightn’t be perfect place, but they are more willing to help themself and read up on how to help themself to make this world a better place and to be even kinder to the world than they already are………….
what a beautiful human being you are!
so just stop a minute, take a look at what a difference to this world you are making and give yourself a hearty break, and a big cuddle
love yourself for who you are……………
enjoy the trees
and always help the less fortunate than yourself,
it is only then you become so grateful of who you are…………….

give freely to others,
it will come back to you
i promise…………….
and smile to strangers
it might make someone think a little
nature lovin jacqui
in aus!
best wishes to you all……………

Tom Daniels November 18, 2009 at 7:47 pm

So what is it that you want to do before you die Tom? I don’t know if this was ask of me or not, since I did mention that there is one thing I wanted to accomplish before I die.

Here is the answer: Although I have many goals, since my first panic attack some 27 years ago, I have sought relief everyday. Did a lot of research first, then went to several doctors, read a lot of books, went to several therapist, spent a lot of money on anxiety programs, took years of medication, but nothing brought lasting relief. Before I die I want to solve this thing. I am so happy that I am finally on the right road, thanks to The Anxiety Lie. I am so glad that now I have the key to unlock what I thought was unlock able. In my case, it was my thinking and as soon as I started thinking differently, bam,I started acting differently.

There were a lot of jewels in The Anxiety Lie, but the on that I will never forget is, the difference in fear and anxiety. Once I fully understood this, I had reached a milestone in my life. Every time I get anxious, I ask myself, is this real fear or is it a mind trip(a movie in my head)?

But now that I have that (anxiety relief) going, I have a lot of irons in the fire, to do before I die-I may even write a book.

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