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From Wise Up by Karen Duffy

This is an excerpt from Wise Up: Irreverent Enlightenment from a Mother Who’s Been Through It reproduced by kind permission of the author, Karen Duffy, and her publisher, Seal Press.


Stoicism is a good and faithful companion. When you’re alone, it offers good company. When you’re ambitious, it inspires self-discipline. When you’re lazy, it motivates action. When you’re fortunate, it reminds you to be grateful and moderate. When you’re suffering, it teaches you to dig deep and be resilient. When you are anxious and fearful, it gives you the knowledge that you have the guts to carry on.

Anxiety and fear want to protect you from harm. In keeping you from engaging the tests you face, they also keep you from the good things in life.

Karen Duffy

Donald Robertson, the best-selling author and noted Stoic philosopher, has a particularly sharp insight: “Worry is a horror story we tell ourselves where we exaggerate the probability, imminence, and severity of a perceived threat and minimize our ability to cope with it.” Anxiety and fear want to protect you from harm. In keeping you from engaging the tests you face, they also keep you from the good things in life.

Wise Up by Karen Duffy
Wise Up by Karen Duffy

Courage is not a limited resource. In a pinch, you can borrow it. Be inspired by others. Borrow a philosopher’s courage, or your mother’s. You can borrow courage from the wisdom of Epictetus or the valor of Theodore Roosevelt. Your father or your friends can all lend you courage. They’ve all been tested. They’ve all faced huge obstacles. You can borrow courage from your teammates, who are prepared to mix it up with the other guys to protect their goalie. You can repay the loan by letting others borrow from you.

Don’t confuse borrowing courage with giving up your belief in your own decisions. You can try to avoid tough challenges by allowing other people to tell you what to do. Coaches, parents, teachers, and friends all have wisdom to share. Do not lose sight of your own wisdom. Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Look well into yourself, there is a source of strength which will always spring up if you will look.” Courage is thinking for yourself.


This is an excerpt from Wise Up: Irreverent Enlightenment from a Mother Who’s Been Through It reproduced by kind permission of the author, Karen Duffy, and her publisher, Seal Press.

2 Replies to “From Wise Up by Karen Duffy”

  1. Donald Robertson is a psychologist, not a philosopher.
    Do you publish philosophy? Is Karen Duffy a philosopher (and I do not mean “philosophy of life?” What’s her background and training?

    1. >> Donald Robertson is a psychologist, not a philosopher.
      Donald is a psychotherapist by profession. He also has two degrees in philosophy, and has published several books and articles on philosophy.

      >>Do you publish philosophy?
      Yes, of course. You can check our blog archive, where you’ll find articles and interviews with people from a range of backgrounds, who are all engaged with philosophy, including several well-known academics and authors.

      >> Is Karen Duffy a philosopher (and I do not mean “philosophy of life?” What’s her background and training?
      We don’t think someone necessarily has to have a degree in philosophy to be described as a philosopher – most famous philosophers throughout history didn’t. As opinions vary, though, we leave that up to readers to decide for themselves. We do, however, include content from anyone we think has made a worthwhile contribution, through teaching, writing, or other work, to philosophy, especially as applied to modern life. Duff has helped many people cope with chronic pain, and other challenges, through her writing about philosophy, so we’re proud to carry an excerpt from her work. Thanks for your comment.

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