Although Seneca often expresses a disdain for the body, vividly detailed evocations of bodily experience feature frequently in his writing. In particular, he presents the repeated imagining of anticipated pain and suffering (praemeditatio futurorum malorum) as an important psychotherapeutic technique. This strategy should be seen in the context of Stoic theories of perception and the embodied nature of emotion (theories that resonate in significant respects with findings in cognitive neuroscience). Yet Seneca’s approach is also profoundly colored by a perception of the relationship between imagination and emotion which lies at the heart of ancient rhetorical theory. While anticipating future misfortunes is sometimes presented as a means to dull anxiety, a method of cultivating stereotypically Stoic impassivity by rooting out negative emotions, Seneca also highlights the power of the vividly imagined scene of suffering to stimulate an ardent love of virtue, a positive emotion which plays a crucial role in the moral progress of the Stoic student.
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Research Article| October 01 2021
Visualizing Pain: Psychotherapy, Emotion, and Embodied Cognition in Seneca’s Letters
Classical Antiquity (2021) 40 (2): 221–248.
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Catharine Edwards; Visualizing Pain: Psychotherapy, Emotion, and Embodied Cognition in Seneca’s Letters. Classical Antiquity 1 October 2021; 40 (2): 221–248. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ca.2021.40.2.221
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