How Can Stoic Philosophy Help You Recover From A Breakup

A breakup is never the end of your identity; it’s only the end of a chapter in your life.

When a relationship ends, you feel like the world you’ve known for so long has come to an end. The future becomes unclear. Your once-energizing, life-affirming values seem to lose their meaning.

Many of us would feel that way after a breakup. To cope with that difficult phase, you could do these things to be happy again.

You might also turn to the way the Stoics would handle a breakup.

Stoicism for Breakups

How To Handle And Heal From A Breakup Like A Stoic

The Stoic way to deal with a breakup is to accept the situation, change the perspective on it, remember the good times together, and move on with life, without any grudge or regret.

Stoic philosophy can help people recover from breakups, separation anxiety, and the loss of a loved one. The Stoics say the worst way to handle a loss is to keep mourning it without moving on. Since a breakup is rarely as extreme as our minds make it out to be, lingering on it only prolongs the perceived pain.

How much more damage anger and grief do than the things that cause them.

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations XI, 18

Grief is a natural human emotion, and the Stoics do not advise you to avoid or suppress it. Rather, they suggest you confront and accept the negative emotions left over by such experiences.

Then, instead of sitting back in sorrow, the Stoics nudge you to take little steps that move you forward in life. Even modern psychology tells us that while it is vital to reflect on our past to learn from them, we should focus most of our efforts on the future.

Reliving painful memories over and over makes you feel like a hamster in a wheel, unable to move forward no matter how hard you try.

Stoicism originated in Athens during the Hellenistic times—the period of Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander and the start of the Roman Empire. The fact that it has lasted for 2000 years and is still thriving is quite remarkable.

The Stoics knew what it was like to be in love. They also understood what it was like to fall out of love and pick up the pieces from a breakup. Stoicism is a practical philosophy that can help you deal with painful feelings and thoughts after a split.

Stoicism got its name from the Greek word “stoa,” which means “porch.” It was a porch in a marketplace where Zeno first started teaching it. His followers came to be called Stoics. Their four virtues were the complete means to achieve glory and status.

Stoicism has always been a way of life, rather than only a topic of discussion among the intellectual elite. To those who practiced it, it offered many effective strategies to cope with the stressful Hellenistic period of constant wars.

Stoicism taught people how to find equilibrium and tranquility in the midst of tragedy.

It showed people how to achieve tranquility—a mental state free of emotional pain, confusion, and melancholy. Gradually, its principles evolved into popular tools to help people thrive in the face of severe adversities.

A breakup can be the most traumatic thing to happen in a relationship.

It can shatter your whole identity, which you built around that person. Especially, an unexpected breakup can bring in dark days of despair and loneliness that never seem to end. Often, it can get hard to process the situation alone, no matter how long you give it.

As a modern global citizen, remember that you can seek expert grief counseling when it gets difficult to cope on your own.

5 Stoic Strategies To Handle A Breakup

A breakup is an intensely unpleasant experience, and it is not always easy to find love again. Till you do, you may feel lonely. Loneliness is hard to live with, but there are certain things we can do to feel better.

The Stoics, as against the commonly held flawed belief, are not expressionless, emotionless people. They are perfectly capable of feeling the entire range of human emotions, without suppressing any of them.

Here below are some of the most successful Stoic strategies to handle a breakup:

1. Change your perspective about the event.

Breakups can leave us feeling helpless and hopeless.

The Stoics knew that people are innately eager to move on from difficult situations in order to avoid the pain of it. However, to do so successfully, they discovered, the suffering person must not run away from the situation but embrace what has happened.

One of the most prescribed ways to move on with your life after a breakup is by allowing yourself to feel what your emotions want you to feel. If you feel frustrated and despondent, as it reminds you of what you lost, then you must let yourself feel so.

Some things are rushing into existence, others out of it. Some of what now exists is already gone. Change and flux constantly remake the world, just as the incessant progression of time remakes eternity. — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

A breakup of a long-term relationship may make us believe that we’re never going to be able to move on from this pain. But if we change our perspective, and allow us to feel the joys of life again, we may see the opportunity for a new relationship as time passes.

2. Make sure that you do not keep focusing on the past.

It is human nature to think back on what we have done and ponder about what we could have done. It stops you from being able to progress from where you were at the time of the breakup.

The Stoics knew an excellent method to get over the past: Mindfulness—a non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. They practiced mindfulness meditation to refocus on the present rather than remaining tethered to the painful past.

Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.

Sometimes we may not even realize we are doing it, but we see the present and the future through the lens of past tragedies.

However, if you make a conscious effort and keep focusing on the present, as the Stoics did, you will be able to move forward. This is what will help you grow as a person.

3. Make time for yourself and your friends and family.

One of the best strategies to handle a breakup is to take care of yourself (self-care).

Focus on your mental and physical well-being because having a clear mind helps you think more clearly about your situation. It also helps you maintain your emotional stability, which then allows you to move on with life at a faster pace than if you focus on self-torment.

The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature. — Marcus Aurelius

There are many ways to take care of your mental and physical health and here are some of the best ways to show yourself some self-care: Writing, journaling, laughter, exercise, meditation, learning new things, watching movies and shows, socializing.

Try each and spend time figuring out what works best for you.

Find out what is The Stoic Triangle of Happiness.

4. Take it as just one chapter of your life.

Breakups are hard, but they’re just one chapter in your life. You can’t predict how you’re going to feel after a breakup, and there’s nothing wrong with feeling angry, sad, or guilty, for a while.

But you must remember that a breakup is not the end of your life, and there will be more chapters ahead.

Joy comes to us from those whom we love, even when they are absent. – Seneca

Sometimes relationships don’t work out because one person is not right for the other. This can be a heartbreaking experience, but it’s important to keep in mind that it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a life of loneliness and misery.

It doesn’t matter how long you were together or what the circumstances of your breakup were; while it may take some time, eventually things will get better, and you will be able to overcome this difficult period.

5. Focus on what you can control, don’t dwell on things that you cannot.

No one can control the external world, but you can control how you react to it. It’s not worth wasting time on things that are outside your control.

The breakup was outside your control, even if you had made zero contribution toward it or never saw it coming. So, let go of it as it is something already out of your hands.. Release the person from your life. Detach yourself from the feelings of turmoil associated with the event.

Instead, the Stoics say, learn how to focus on what you can control.

Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting? – Marcus Aurelius

You can’t control everything in your life – but you can focus on what you can control, like your opinions, judgments, and actions. Controlling them is the most important aspect of controlling life beyond a breakup.

Stoicism also asks us to be grateful for all that we have, something that modern science calls savoring. It is something under our control.

When we are being grateful for our blessings, no matter what life throws at us, it can help us heal from the trauma of a relationship loss.

Final Words

The Stoics did not focus on pleasure – that was something the Epicureans did.

Instead, Stoicism taught a person must be content with what fate delivers them without fighting against it (amor fati).

When a person exits a relationship asking us to never contact them again, we should accept that fate. If we try to drag them back​ after they have moved out, we could be setting ourselves up for a life of regret and resentment.

A parting of the ways in a long-treasured relationship can leave you feeling rudderless and powerless. However, following what the Stoics teach, you can recover from the dark phase of your life after a breakup.

Stoicism teaches self-control, mindfulness of the present moment, improving your way of thinking and acting, and moving on with life after emotional setbacks.

With Stoicism, you could learn to focus on being content with what you have, and not despair for what you have lost.


How do Stoics deal with a breakup?

The Stoics would stop wishing the breakup hadn’t happened and accept it, letting go of their denial. They would quit ruminating why it happened to them, fighting their negative emotions, or trying to reverse it. A seasoned Stoic would move on, turning their thoughts to the happy times and good things that happened while it lasted.

Do the Stoics believe in loving again after a breakup?

The Stoics fall in love knowing and remembering that their love can be lost any time, through unfaithfulness, a change of heart over time, or death. Keeping these in mind, a Stoic is ready to love again, never losing the tenderness of their feelings or rationality of their thoughts.

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How To Practice Stoicism: 18 Stoic Exercises For Modern Life

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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental health, happiness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism)

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