Review: “The Epictetus Club”

Based on real events, this novel is set in the old Ohio Penitentiary. The metaphors of the institution are realistic. The inmate characters and the names of staff have been changed in this novel. The story begins by tagging a group of inmates who meet weekly under the tutelage of a lifer named Zeno in a group called the Epictetus Club. The inmates try to learn something from the teaching of this Greek philosopher.

The inmates meet the daily confronts of their lives with the help of his ancient perception. The club members show how to think beyond our own self-imposed limitations and comfort zones, as they start to learn to think outside the limits of their own literal walls as they resist to convert themselves. The author Jeff Traylor, M. A. , L. P. C. , wrote this novel as he was inspired by an inmate he had worked with.

He was a professional counselor who had worked at the Ohio Penitentiary and Marion Correctional Institution, and taught a cognitive skills course at a community-based correctional facility and here in this novel he is trying to persuade people to become productive and responsible members of society by showing a glimpse into a maximum security prison. The primary purpose for writing this novel was to provide a refresher for the men who have completed a course in cognitive skills that the author taught in a community-based correctional facility.

And, to provide the concepts and ideas to probationers or inmates at other correctional facilities who do not have access to these kinds of groups. Third purpose would be to provide some ideas for the general reader who is interested in personal growth and change. Also, this book is dedicated to improve the mankind with the ideas and the principles of Epictetus, who is an ancient Roman philosopher. The whole book goes with the relation between the writer himself and the inmate Zeno.

The author also mentions that the whole prison as the walls and the inmates as the resident of it. From time to time the book keeps on talking about the philosophical truths about the life. He writes as the death is scary and awful and it upsets us. If we change what we tell ourselves about something, we will change our response to it also. In some chapter, the authors have placed the acronyms so brilliantly. He has used the acronyms such as ABC/s of the inner boxing, FAIL. Although at a glance these words look ordinary, they say a lot.

In ABC, A means attacking the thought, B means block the attacking thought and C means counterpunch which means to replace the attacking thought with a productive thought. On the other hand, FAIL stands for fear, apathy, inertia and lack of vision. This increases the beauty of the whole novel as author has written the important ideas in a very simple way. Through this book, the author says that even though the people live in the place like prison, they can have good thought in their minds. Even the people like Zeno have their philosophy about the life.

We can replace FAIL with HOPE. Here HOPE stands for hope, opportunity, possibility, and enthusiasm. And, most importantly, I found CALM model very effective. In fact I am practicing it after reading this novel. When we are worried or upset about something, we can use the CALM model to be less anxious. We can all remember to think CALM in the midst of emotional turmoil. Each letter represents a step on the pathway out of the stress. C stands for cognition, which is just a fancy word for thinking. Ask yourself, ‘is this up to me or not up to me? The second letter is CALM is A, which stands for act. If you answered that the things you are worried about is up to you, then do what you can do about it. “If you answered that that the thing is not up to you, go to the next letter in CALM, which is L, meaning ‘let it go. ’ Find a way to accept what is happening without causing you anxiety, fear or undue stress. Finally the last letter is M, for ‘move on’. Don’t spend your time dwelling on things beyond your control, move on to something else. And it usually doesn’t take too long for the next thing to arise.

The most important points of the book that I plan to consider for my personal growth and development are bulleted as follows:

1. If we change what we tell our self about something, we will change our response to it.

2. Some things are up to us, and some things are not up to us. That is probably the forerunner of the Serenity Prayer. If we can correctly sort events into one of those two piles, we have a very good chance of being happy and efficient.

3. The model of inner boxing named ABC is simply awesome. It says that we should identify the attacking thought that we are throwing at ourselves.

Second, we should block it with the key questions and last we should counterpunch it with a better and more effective thoughts. This shows like the presence in the rings, but the opponent is our own thoughts and attitudes. The book warns us to be on guard against ourselves as an enemy lying in wait.

4. When someone is trying to insult or provoke you, listen like a rock. Don’t react in a haphazard or impulsive way. Stay calm and centered. That way we keep our own power instead of giving it away to the other person. The insulter ends up looking foolish, just like the person who insults a rock.

The defensiveness of the insulted is the insulter’s only advantage, and if we listen like a rock we don’t get defensive and we don’t get played.

5. A half-hearted spirit has no power. And, power is a very important part of change. We can have good intentions, but without any power to carry out our plans we will not succeed.

6. Blaming others is silly. When we suffer setbacks, disturbances or grief, let us never place the blame on others, but on our own attitudes.

7. We should understand what freedom really is and how it is achieved.

Freedom comes from the understanding the limits of own power and the natural limits set in place by divine providence.

8. If we are lazy, forgetful, or distracted and take our eyes off of the target, our lives would come to misery and pain.

9. Do not seek to have events happen as we want them to, but instead want them to happen as they do happen, and our life will go well.

10. We cannot harm someone else or something else without also harming ourselves. Life is like a spider web, and if we harm one strand, we will hurt the whole web.