One of the many fascinating aspects of Stoicism is the path that each person takes to finding it. For Eve Riches, it was a gradual process that eventually influenced her psychology work and led her towards being a big part of Modern Stoicism and The Aurelius Foundation.
Stoic Athenaeum chatted to Eve about her Stoic experiences, the importance of bringing different perspectives into philosophy and the Stoicare project aimed at helping caregivers.
Thanks so much for speaking about your experiences Eve. It’s been great to follow your work within the UK Stoic community and I’m interested to know how you first came across Stoicism and what your experiences have been with philosophy in general.
Thank you for inviting me. I came across Stoicism in stages, over my whole lifetime, rather than picking up a particular book. So, it’s been more of a gradual process to realise that all the aspects of modern psychology that I really value were from Stoicism.
I come from a psychology rather than philosophy background, although I was always interested in philosophy, and I don’t actually see a divide between the two disciplines.
How has Stoicism helped you specifically in your life?
It made a huge difference in my twenties when I found out I was going blind. Around that time, I had read Viktor Frankl’s book; ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, which is amazing and full of Stoic insights. I had also come across ‘Radical Acceptance’ from within psychology. So, realising that what was happening to me was not in my control, but that I still had agency in my response to it, made all the difference.
Through your work in disability employment support, you’ve brought Stoicism into the role and how do you discuss it with your clients?
I was working with a client today where we were exploring the role of journaling in self-improvement / self-awareness, and I did actually tell her about Marcus Aurelius and ‘The Meditations.’
I usually try to be more subtle in my use of Stoicism with clients in that role. I can usually find a Stoic tool that will help, whatever challenge someone is facing. Whether it’s looking at the bigger picture, realising the importance of self-care in caring for others, or the dichotomy of control.
On a basic level, the cognitive theory of emotions is the basis of much of the work I do. There is no end to how useful Stoicism is in supporting others, and most importantly, in empowering others to feel and act with more agency.
There’s a powerful link between resilience, positive mental health and Stoicism. What Stoic techniques do you feel best describe this link?
I would argue that all Stoic techniques build resilience, not just the ones that work on that directly (e.g., premeditating adversity). For example, the Stoic theory of emotions makes an enormous difference in terms of mental health. If we can begin to gradually change our response to our circumstances, it means that we feel less like a victim of what has happened to us. It gives us power when we feel most powerless.
You are also a part of Modern Stoicism and the Aurelius Foundation. What is your role within each organisation and how does each help to bring philosophy to a wider audience?
Within Modern Stoicism, I’ve been working with Tim LeBon for a long time now. Initially on a nine month long online group, and then recently on Stoic Week. Tim and I made a huge effort to create materials that would be more accessible to people who, for example, are time poor, neurodivergent, or visually impaired.
We created content as videos and audio whilst using more accessible language, because we found that most material within Stoicism tend to be delivered using language and vocabulary that many might find it difficult to access.
With Brittany Polat and Amy Valladares, I’ve been working on Stoic Week for Students. We created these materials to help get Stoicism into classrooms all over the world; another way of helping to spread the word beyond the age group that most Stoicism related events would usually target.
We are getting the materials for Stoic Week translated into other languages, and I hope to do the same with Stoic Week for Students. With the Aurelius Foundation, I have been writing materials for a course on Stoic Wellbeing with Tim LeBon and Chris Gill. Again, with the emphasis on accessibility for all.
You recently established Stoicare alongside Brittany Polat and it’d be great to hear about what you’re looking to achieve with the project and where you see it going in the future.
We want to share Stoicism with everyone who cares for people, animals, or the natural environment in a personal or professional capacity. We’re working on creating a network for people from all different areas of work and volunteering, who are connected by being interested in both Stoicism and caring for others.
We are also creating ‘Toolkits’ for areas like parenting, teaching, working in the criminal justice system etc. In addition, we hope to introduce Stoicism more broadly into the caring professions and caregiving roles.
We want to help caregivers alleviate stress, reduce burnout, manage emotions, and care more effectively. We are also interested in exploring the deep connections between theoretical foundations of Stoicism and care. We could then organise online events or courses, watch this space!
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Outside of Stoicism, what other types of philosophy or worldviews are you interested in exploring?
I think it all comes back to the same deep truths. So, it doesn’t matter to me whether I have found something from Buddhism, Christianity, Mindfulness, Daoism.
I happen to identify as an atheist; however, I have a lot of faith and belief. I have deep respect and reverence for what we can learn from different philosophies and religions.
What I find interesting is how much different perspectives have in common. When you talk about Stoicism, you will find people from different faiths or perspectives saying ‘Well of course I believe that!’ Stoicism aligns both with people’s existing faiths and also with atheism.
If you could go back in time to ask one question of any philosopher, who would it be and why?
I would want to speak to Marcus Aurelius, but I want to cheat and not ask him just one question, I would want to sit down with him and see what sort of man he was.
When I read ‘The Meditations’ I see so much humour in it, but is that my own perspective as I laugh very easily myself? (most often at myself!) Some people read it completely differently and think he was very serious.
I also think they read him as being from the ‘Fun Police’, whereas I think he obviously really enjoyed things like food, sex, friendship etc.
Stoicism is an ever-evolving philosophy and how do you think a female perspective can help it to evolve?
Katherine Koromilas and Brittany Polat have been doing an incredible job with the ‘Paths to Flourishing’ women’s online Stoicism conference. There is a lot of change in the air in terms of women being at the heart of new developments within modern Stoicism.
For me, it’s not just about there being a particular a female perspective though, we are all different. I think it’s about bringing everyone in, asking everyone to contribute, getting everyone involved. For example, what about people from a poor background who missed out on an academic education and so might not come to Stoicism in the traditional ways?
What do disabled people have to say about caring for others and dealing with challenges? What can we learn from people who have struggled with addiction? What wisdom do elderly people have, from the perspective of more time on our planet. What do people who experience direct discrimination teach us about resilience?
There is so much to be gained from valuing different perspectives and sharing Stoicism with everyone, and the more we do that, the more relevant and important it will be.
True Stoics might not have read a single book about it, but they have the lived experience, and with that they have direct access to deep truth. We need to recognise and value that.
Interested in hearing another Stoic perspective? Read Stoic Athenaeum’s interview with author and podcast host Anderson Silver!