Nous #26: Self-Depreciating Humor, Good vs. Bad, and Stoics Brought to Life

Nous #26: Self-Depreciating Humor, Good vs. Bad, and Stoics Brought to Life


Discover profound insights and practical techniques from ancient philosophies in this edition of "Philosophy Picks."

Uncover the wisdom of the Stoics and learn how to apply their teachings to modern life.

the today’s Nous:

  • 🏹 Insights on vulnerability, sexuality, and self-acceptance by Ronan Loughney.
  • 🧘 A guided breath meditation by Hans van Veen to re-anchor your senses and achieve inner peace.
  • 🎓 John Sellars' comprehensive lecture on the core principles of Stoicism.
  • 🧰 Utilizing self-deprecating humor as a powerful Stoic tool.
  • 🤖 Reimagining ancient philosophers with AI—meet Marcus Aurelius, Socrates, Epicurus, Epictetus, and Plato.

Read time: 12 minutes


Wisdom Arrows

  • 📖 On Vulnerability, Sexuality, and Self-Acceptance: Ronan Loughney delves into how opening up about the things we are ashamed of is a key step to wholeness. This insightful article explores the importance of vulnerability in achieving self-acceptance. Read the article here.
  • 🧘 Feeling Lost? You Only Need This Breath, Right Now...: Hans van Veen offers a guided meditation to help you re-anchor your body, senses, breath, and gravity. This meditation, accompanied by Solfeggio frequency music, is designed to activate the root chakra and provide a sense of grounding and peace. Try the meditation here.
  • 🎓 What is Stoicism?: John Sellars delivers a comprehensive lecture on Stoicism, explaining its core principles and how they can be applied to modern life. This video is a great resource for anyone looking to deepen their understanding of Stoic philosophy. Watch the lecture here.

Stoic Toolbox

Use Self-Deprecating Humor

If you learn that someone is speaking ill of you, don’t try to defend yourself against the rumours; respond instead with, ‘Yes, and he doesn’t know the half of it, because he could have said more.’
— Epictetus

Self-deprecating humor involves making fun of yourself in a way that demonstrates humility and confidence. It can be a powerful Stoic technique to disarm critics and deflate verbal attacks without escalating conflicts.

In our daily lives, we often encounter criticism or negative remarks. Instead of getting defensive or retaliating, using self-deprecating humor shows that you are secure enough in yourself to laugh along. This not only diffuses tension but also demonstrates emotional resilience and self-awareness.

Practical Examples:

  1. Workplace Criticism:
    • Scenario: A colleague criticizes your presentation skills in a meeting.
    • Response: "You're right! And you should have seen my first attempt—slides were upside down and all!"
    • Effect: This response acknowledges the critique while showing confidence and a sense of humor, diffusing potential tension.
  2. Social Situations:
    • Scenario: A friend teases you about your fashion choices.
    • Response: "Absolutely! I’m just waiting for this look to come back in style… hopefully soon!"
    • Effect: By embracing the joke, you show that you’re not easily offended and maintain a light-hearted atmosphere.
  3. Online Interactions:
    • Scenario: Someone leaves a harsh comment on your social media post.
    • Response: "Oh, you should see my other posts—this is one of my better ones!"
    • Effect: This response can turn a negative interaction into a humorous exchange, showing your followers that you handle criticism gracefully.

How to Practice:

  1. Start Small: Begin by using self-deprecating humor in low-stakes situations, like joking about a minor mistake you made.
  2. Be Genuine: Ensure your humor is light-hearted and not overly critical of yourself, which could come off as lacking confidence.
  3. Observe Reactions: Pay attention to how people react to your humor. Adjust your approach to ensure it’s disarming rather than self-destructive.
  4. Reflect Regularly: Take time to reflect on situations where you used self-deprecating humor. Consider what worked well and what could be improved.

By practicing self-deprecating humor, you not only protect yourself from the sting of criticism but also build a reputation for being approachable, confident, and emotionally resilient. Embrace this Stoic technique to navigate life's verbal slings and arrows with grace and good humor.

Philosophy Remixed

Ancient Philosophers Brought to Life

I attempted to reimagine some legendary Stoics and philosophers using AI. I thought the results were pretty cool. Try to imagine sitting opposite these people and having a coffee with them. ☕️

Marcus Aurelius: 26 April 121 AD – 17 March 180 AD
Socrates: 470/469 BC – 399 BC
Epicurus: 341 BC – 270 BC
Epictetus: c. 50 AD – c. 135 AD
Plato: 428/427 BC – 348/347 BC

Stoic Contemplation

Are Things Really Bad or Good?

What decides whether a sum of money is good? The money is not going to tell you; it must be the faculty that makes use of such impressions.
— Epictetus

According to the Stoics, virtues like practical wisdom, justice, courage, and temperance should be prioritized above all else. Everything else, including relationships, wealth, and status, is secondary and should be considered preferred or dispreferred indifferents.

Using strong value judgments to describe external events can lead to heightened emotions and a lack of inner peace. By focusing on virtue as the only true good, one can achieve a more stable and content life.

True happiness, therefore, consists in virtue: and what will this virtue bid you do? Not to think anything bad or good which is connected neither with virtue nor with wickedness.
— Seneca

Action Steps for Stoic Contemplation

📝 Reflect on Your Values:

Identify what you consider to be in your A set (virtues) and B set (external circumstances). Write these down and reflect on how you prioritize them in your life.

Example: List virtues like honesty, kindness, and bravery as your A set. Place career success, social status, and material wealth in your B set. Reflect on how much time and energy you spend on A set vs. B set.

🔍 Practice Lexicographic Ordering:

Implement a hierarchy of values where virtues are non-negotiable and always come first. Make decisions based on this hierarchy.

Example: If faced with a decision between telling a difficult truth (A set) and avoiding conflict for the sake of comfort (B set), choose honesty. This reinforces your commitment to virtue over convenience.

🗣️ Monitor Your Language:

Be mindful of the words you use to describe events. Avoid value-laden terms like “horrible” or “fantastic” for external circumstances. Instead, describe them factually.

Example: Instead of saying "This traffic is horrible," say "There is a lot of traffic today." This reduces emotional reactivity and promotes a more balanced perspective.

🌟 Daily Virtue Practice:

Dedicate time each day to practicing one of the four virtues: practical wisdom, justice, courage, and temperance. Reflect on your progress regularly.

Example: Spend a few minutes each morning planning how you will practice temperance throughout the day, such as by moderating your use of social media or resisting impulse purchases. Reflect in the evening on how well you adhered to your plan.

🧘 Detach from External Outcomes:

Work on detaching your sense of happiness from external outcomes. Remind yourself that true happiness is within your control and based on your virtue.

Example: If you don’t get a promotion at work, instead of feeling devastated, focus on how you conducted yourself with integrity and diligence. Recognize that these qualities are within your control and are the true measure of your success.

Self-Improvement To-Do List

 ✅ Try ChatGPT-4o: Experience the latest in AI technology with ChatGPT-4o. It’s their newest flagship model, offering superior speed and performance in working with audio, visuals, and language. Whether you’re looking to enhance productivity or engage in creative projects, ChatGPT-4o is designed to assist you better than ever.

✅ Listen: Dive into a hyper-focus work session with this curated playlist. Currently, I’m listening to "Hyper Focus," a playlist put together by legendary entrepreneur and creative leader Jordan Lejuwaan. It’s perfect for maintaining concentration and boosting productivity.

✅ Organize with Simplify your task management with, my current favorite to-do list app. Its design mimics a paper calendar, allowing you to focus on one week at a time. It’s an intuitive way to keep track of your tasks and stay organized throughout the week.

✅ Play: Due to parenthood, I've discovered the world of YouTube gaming, where creators narrate their gameplay. I’ve found some of these creators to be very intelligent and creative. Recently, I’ve been playing "Poppy Playtime: Chapter 1," a game set in an abandoned toy factory with monstrous and terrifying living toys. It’s been quite fun and a unique way to unwind.

Thank you for joining me in this issue of The Nous. Looking to support The Nous and educate others on Stoicism?

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Thank you for reading. As Stoics, we understand that the future is uncertain, so let's say, "I will be in touch soon, fate permitting!"