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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Close Enough


I recall being confused about intimate partner relationships following the dissolution of my marriage. At the time, a coworker who had also previously divorced gave me advice which she applied to her second marriage.


She told me, “Find someone who loves you more than you love them.” Being charitable to her perspective, she appeared to have a stable second marriage and having witnessed my coworker interacting with her latter husband; it appeared as though they were happy.


I thought that what she was expressing was to remain Stoic so that if I again divorced, I wouldn’t experience the misery she and I both endured once hope was shattered form our first marriages. Although I don’t advocate her recommendation, which I’ll address further in a bit, I appreciate her perspective.


For context, I do support the practice of Stoicism though I also advocate open, honest, and vulnerable communication when in romantic relationships. As well, it may be useful to briefly describe what Stoicism is. According to one source:


Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy that flourished in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. The Stoics believed that the practice of virtue is enough to achieve eudaimonia: a well-lived life. The Stoics identified the path to achieving it with a life spent practicing the four virtues in everyday life: wisdom, courage, temperance or moderation, and justice, and living in accordance with nature.


The style of psychotherapy I practice, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), is incorporated with Stoic principles. For instance, Epictetus stated, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”


This is in alignment with the ABC model of REBT. Thus, when an Activating event occurs and a person Believes something unhelpful about the situation, it’s one’s assumption which results in unpleasant Consequences.


Additionally, REBT practice involves unconditional acceptance regarding matters over which people have little control or influence. Therefore, rather than self-disturbing with unproductive beliefs, people can instead use tolerance and acceptance.


It’s also worth noting that not everyone appreciates a Stoic approach to life. For instance, one source states:


Stoic-ness exists as a pillar of traditional masculinity alongside competitiveness, dominance, and aggression. The ‘ideal’ man is supposed to be rational and indifferent to crises at all times. However, the emotional labor of portraying a stoic, masculine ideal is a ticking time bomb for physical and mental distress.


One imagines the source vilifies Stoic principles while favoring irrationality and emotionality in the face of adversity. My Stoic reply to this interpreted stance is, so be it. In defense of Stoicism, a separate source states:


The events of the world may be put into two categories: those that we can control and those we cannot. Practicing Stoics recognize the difference and choose not to be affected by those events which are beyond their control. This puts their personal happiness in their own hands.


Stoicism empowers people to establish mastery over how they react to situations. Although my former coworker’s rigid approach to remarriage involved caring for her romantic partner less than he loved her, such behavior doesn’t represent Stoicism.


Nevertheless, I consider her perspective when listening to Struggle Jennings’ song “Won’t Let You,” featured on hip hop producer Coop’s mixtape Coop Take Off On Em. The track includes musical and lyrical samples from Adele’s song “Turning Tables”:


I won’t let you close enough to hurt me


For context, one source states, “Jennings (real name William Harness) was at the Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City, Tenn. He was looking at 13 years in prison after being arrested on — as he’d later tell All Hip Hop — charges of conspiracy for very large quantities of cocaine and marijuana.”


In what one presumes is an exposé related to his actual circumstances, Jennings stated on “Won’t Let You”:


The glass is half empty, guess I’m pessimistic

There’s somethin’ I’m supposed to find, guess I must’ve missed it

I never found my callin’, guess I had the ringer off

Tired of this drama, but they won’t cut Jerry Springer off

So let it sit, let it linger in ya temporal lobe

It’s like these streets forgot the number to a simple code

My only crime was bein’ loyal to the wrong people

So now I keep ‘em at arm’s length with this long Eagle

One in ya’ head, bruh, only way I’m livin’ now

Trust issues, I don’t take the time to feel ‘em out

I brush ‘em off and push ‘em off to the wayside

The closest you gon’ get to my soul is at the graveside


With his first verse, Jennings sets the stage for why he chooses to distance himself from others. Insightfully, the rapper admits he didn’t fulfill his interests or goals in life, as the path upon which he subsequently set is one of willful solitude.


Regarding her choice to forego an emotionally-connective intimate partner relationship, my former coworker’s approach was similar to behavior described in Jennings’ first verse. Rather than a Stoic response, which I initially interpreted of her meaning, this is one of a Cynic.


According to one source, “A Cynic philosopher would define happiness in terms of freedom and reason. A Cynic would be happy, then, if they were self-sufficient and living naturally rather than conventionally.”


From a conventional positon, loving and being loved in a marriage is arguably a United States societal norm that many believe is associated with happiness. However, my former coworker invited me to allow someone only close enough to my emotion, as not to infringe upon my own happiness. Per a separate source:


Stoicism is a philosophy that teaches us to accept what is out of our control, including the behavior of others. While the Cynics may want to break society out of their social norms, Stoicism would counsel us to accept social norms and not take on the impossible task of changing everyone to a different way of life.


Contemplating the Cynic approach offered by my former coworker and suggested in Jennings’ first verse, I now turn to the second and final verse of “Won’t Let You”:


Don’t ask me where I’m goin’, I love it when you smother me

I just don’t wanna see your name on my discovery

Love to tell you all about me, shawty, but it’s clear to see

Then, you’d be right here with me, charged with conspiracy

Believe that everything I did, I did to feed us

Wit’ every brick I sold, I built a wall up between us

I’d tear it down, but now I fear for your safety

There’s been a bunch of strange cars around the crib lately

I gotta keep ya out here safe to fee these chill’ins [children]

I’d rather be alone right now, thas’ how I’m feelin’

I’m cuttin’ ties with all my closest peers

In case this judge gimmie 30 years, I ain’t gotta see they tears


A Cynic may seek to preserve happiness through the flouting of conventional practices, as Jennings admits to keeping people only close enough to maintain familiarity. However, with shallow ties to other people – albeit for protective means – he appears to believe he can control how others will respond to his incarceration.


Setting aside the notion that a Stoic would honor rules of society, I imagine that one who practices Stoicism wouldn’t fully cut ties with others in an attempt to manage their cognitive and emotive responses. Rather, a Stoic would accept what is rather than irrationally attempting to influence what ought to be.


This is the quintessential difference between how my former coworker advised me and what I encourage people to consider through practice of REBT. I’m not advocating disregard for social standards, yet I invite people to control themselves, influence where possible, and accept all else.


To put a final point on this matter, forgive me an anecdote. When I was in the Marine Corps, I was involved in an inappropriate intimate partner relationship with a woman. She was physically separated from her husband, pending divorce, when we began dating.


As we were both members of the same military command, we were advised not to maintain contact with one another – orders which we both violated. The consequence of my behavior was detention in a military brig, pending court-martial.


My mental approach to being a Marine related to constant preparedness for separation from loved ones, as I was ready to not see the woman I loved for as long as necessary in order to prevail in my case. Rather than Jennings’ Cynic approach, I used Stoic principles after the fact of my incarceration.


Unfortunately, I didn’t maintain philosophical understanding of my approach. Therefore, when my military defense attorney proposed that I sign a plea deal so that I may be released – supposedly because the female Marine was in danger – I foolishly signed the agreement.


Years later, after marrying the woman, we divorced. Stoicism could’ve benefited me immensely during that dark period of my life. As well, that’s when my former coworker suggested her Cynic proposition.


For a time following my divorce, I adopted Adele’s line in association with life, “I won’t let you close enough to hurt me.” Philosophically aligned with neither Cynics nor Stoics, I irrationally and emotively cut many people from my life, though experienced relatively little happiness in doing so.


Fast forward to the present, I now understand a more appropriate approach to life. And while some may argue that Stoicism serves as a form of “toxic masculinity,” I propose that this contributing philosophical element of REBT is empowering and may be beneficial to men and women alike.


What do you think of my former coworker and Struggle Jennings’ Cynic approach to life? Do you also keep people only close enough so that you won’t get hurt? Would you instead like to try a Stoic style of living? If so, I’m here to help.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




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