Member’s Stories

Judith Stove | Travis McMullen | Courtney Shipley

Judith Stove

My name is Judith Stove, and I live near Sydney Australia. I’ve been a member of the Brisbane Stoics Facebook group for some time.
That would have been in April 2020, but a month or two before that, I had personally discovered or rediscovered Stoic philosophy. In February 2020, my husband and I had travelled to Istanbul, and as it turned out I had brought chicken pox with me. In a small flat in Istanbul, not knowing how sick I or
my husband might get, I read one of the books I had brought, which was the letters of Seneca.

What a perfect choice that turned out to have been! Seneca reminded me that illness may always be around the corner: we are not exempt from it just because we’ve gone on holidays. He reminded me that being far from home, as he was when he was exiled from Rome, is also a constant element of the human condition. As it turned out, I was fortunate in not becoming very ill at all, while my
husband escaped completely.

The experience proved to have been excellent preparation for what followed. Just weeks later the Australian borders closed, and the world in general faced the uncertainty of a novel illness and political response. That was the background to my joining the Facebook groups, and gradually coming to realise how extensive the global Stoic revival had become.

In November that year, a small group of us, including members of Brisbane Stoics, organised the first Australian Stoicon-X, entirely online. It was great fun, and we made or consolidated some excellent friendships. In 2022 we graduated to organising in-person Stoic events in Melbourne: our next Stoicon-X event will take place in October 2023, in conjunction with Stoic Week organised by the
Modern Stoicism movement.

Through our philosophy reading groups, Courtney and I have developed our understanding of Western philosophical authors and concepts. We would love more people to come along to our online reading group; they are a great learning experience.

My learning in Stoicism continues through the podcast which I co-host in The Walled Garden philosophical community along with Simon Drew, another former Brisbane Stoics person! The podcast is called Soul Searching with Seneca, and we have been exploring Seneca’s letters in depth. This kind of close study helps us not only with greater understanding, but even with our personal growth and the kind of transformation which ancient philosophy always sought to bring about.

Philosophy and literature are living disciplines which enrich our lives, and can help us to become more understanding, to arrive at better judgements, and ultimately to become better people.

Travis McMullen

My name is Travis McMullen and I live in Brisbane, Australia. I’ve been a member of Brisbane Stoics since 2020, finding the group on meetup. I had heard of Stoicism over the years, although never put much energy into the history behind it, or engaged in detailed discussions. I was hooked after I attended my first catchup and have been a regular attendee ever since. 

I’ve always been interested in ancient history, particularly the greeks and romans. Through my readings, Stoicism would be mentioned, particularly when you look at the life of Marcus Aurelius. YouTube took me into a rabbit role of Modern Stoicism, and I was introduced to the works of Ryan Holiday and the Daily Stoic. After reading some of these books, I then started looking for groups near me so I could engage in in-person discussions.

Since attending the meetings, I’ve become more interested in Traditional Stoicism, and enjoy reading the ancient texts and commentaries. My learning in Stoicism continues daily as I try to incorporate teachings into daily life – even if it is just a daily reminder that there are things up to us and not up to us, and to live in accordance with Nature – even if I’m falling short. The philosophy of life has had a major impact on me, and has helped me to understand myself better, make better decisions, and be calmer when dealing with and facing adversity.

Courtney Shipley

In 2016 I was struggling with life, as a new father, coming to terms with domestic responsibilities and all that good stuff and I stumbled upon a copy of Alain De Botton’s ‘Consolations of Philosophy’, which introduced me to Stoicism. Strangely, this philosophy was never introduced to me in my undergraduate degree despite my doing quite a number of subjects in philosophy. It made sense to me immediately.

I joined the Brisbane Stoics and attended monthly discussions. At this time, I enrolled in a Master of Counselling and Psychotherapy. I got back into reading philosophy in general and started the online book-club ‘Let’s read: Philosophy, Literature and Psychotherapy.’

I have read a decent amount of material on the Stoics but probably not enough on Physics and Logic. I am more interested in Stoic psychology (yes, that’s physics) and the ethical character of the Stoics and Plato’s Socrates.

In this regard I have read (to name a few books)- Pierre Hadot ‘Inner citadel’, ‘Philosophy as a way of life’, John Sellars (articles and) ‘Stoicism’, Martha Nussbaum ‘Therapy of desire’, Margaret Graver ‘Stoicism and Emotion’, Christopher Gill ‘Hellenistic self’, A. A. Long ‘Epictetus: a Stoic and Socratic guide to life’, Foucault ‘Technologies of the Self’, Will Johncock ‘Beyond the Individual’, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Arius Didymus, Some Cicero, Some Seneca. As you can see no Bobzien or Jedan yet!

My personal view is that Stoicism (and in particular, Traditional Stoicism) is a superior philosophy compared to anything else I have encountered (including many aspects of contemporary western psychology) and I want to share my understanding with others. Also, having graduated with Masters in Psychotherapy I am currently working in addiction counselling and also in Prison’s delivering psychoeducation. I have experienced many opportunities to share Stoicism as a supplement to traditional psychology and it is always well received, giving deeper meaning to otherwise abstract concepts and grounding it in something people relate to (i.e. Virtue and ‘happiness’). It has been an ongoing project of mine to develop a system of psychotherapy that uses a Traditional form of Stoicism as the basis of exploring the client’s worldview. I want to emphasise here my awareness of what goes wrong when psychology reduces a philosophy to a set of techniques.

My talk therapy framework is based in Motivational Interviewing, where the client (a student of Stoicism) explores resistance to change and builds motivation for effective change. This is guided by the competent Stoic therapist, who helps to contrast the client’s current situation (habits of assent, misuses of reason, inabilities to respond to misfortune, and the like) with a normative perspective of reason as characterised by the Stoics. This is a similar strategy for dealing with building motivation for change in addiction treatment, creating cognitive dissonance by raising to conscious awareness the disparity between the client’s current state of ‘health’ and the normative ‘health’ they aspire to. My approach makes use of protreptic and didactic techniques from the Socratic dialectic and is in part a response to Epictetus’ challenge, that if you can’t correct someone’s ignorance then don’t blame them, blame yourself. This short description will fail to adequately account for the method, suffice to say I am motivated to be incredibly cautious about the misuse of Stoic philosophy and I will proceed carefully and am happy to demonstrate my ideas so that they can be scrutinised.