Stoic Anxiolytics

Abstract
We experience anxiety because things may not turn out as we wish. Perhaps the problem is not located in the unfolding of events, but rather in the nature of the wishing. In this paper, I will argue that the Roman Stoics correctly analyzed the necessary conditions surrounding the arising of anxiety, and offered an effective prescription for the treatment and prevention of this disordered emotional state—a prescription that does not involve benzodiazepines such as Valium or Xanax, but one that holds out the promise of a more stable and enduring anxiolytic effect. Ultimately, anxiety can afflict only those whose desires are not rationally governed. There is little that anyone can do about the vicissitudes of the external world and the unraveling of events therein, but there is a great deal thata rational agent can do to manage the objects and direction of desire and aversion. Though not dispensed in tablet or capsule form, Stoic anxiolytics remain available without prescription and exhibit an extraordinarily benign side effect profile. They rarely cause weight gain, sexual dysfunction, or uncontrollable movements of the limbs. Physiological dependence is relatively rare—and not especially pernicious. Instead, Stoicism offers rationally grounded, proven psychological techniques for the gradual development of consistent self-mastery and emotional detachment from those facets of the human condition that tend to cause the most pervasive and unsettling forms of fear, anxiety, and avoidable disquiet
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