In reading the stoic handbook by Epictetus I came to realize something that in one respect disturbed me, yet at the same time gave me a better understanding of who I am. While first reading this book of passages, I was shocked at the apparent coldness and lack of compassion that surrounds the stoic ideology. In various excepts, Epictetus speaks of the benefits in remaining non-emotionally attached to things that we as humans instinctively hold close to us, such as a wife or a child. He preaches that no matter how grim or misfortunate something might be, we can not take pity on ourselves. We must look at events that occur in any given day's discourse, whether good or bad, simply as facts of life beyond our control and immediately move on. Furthermore, Stoicism emphasizes the only harm one feels from an action is strictly their reaction to the action, not the event its self. Of course it is natural to want to reject such an uncompassionate, distant philosophy. Upon further reading however I came to realize that there is some merit in what stoicism and reacting based on reason rather then emotion has to offer us.
Whether I see stoicism as a good thing or a bad thing, I am still unsure. I have spent a large majority of the past two weeks analyzing, reading and just plain thinking about what stoicism is and how I feel about it. It is easy to go after Epictetus with an explosive argument on why it is bad to live a life of passivity. After all it appears that stoics say not to love, to have passion, or to feel any emotion at all. This statement may have some truth to it; however, this philosophy doesn't come with out its benefits as well.
In many ways we use stoicism as a defense against the bad things that happen in our lives. For example, Epictetus in his 11th passage speaks about how death should be handled. In it, he articulates how when a child dies we should not look at it as a loss but rather as giving him back.