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Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.
Blogs about inhabiting this present moment

How Socrates' Students Chose Themselves

Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Updated: Feb 19th 2014

Socrates, an Athenian teacher and philosopher, was known for his inquiring and intelligent mind, especially in philosophical dialogue. Many young men aspired to study with him. In order to dissuade the less than serious from poorly engaging his time, intellect and life, he persuaded several close associates to be highly confrontational with applicants. These associates would declare Socrates a most difficult person and warned that the studies would be a laborious and frustrating experience. Most students declined.

socrates statueAnyone still desiring to study with Socrates would have a one-on-one meeting in which Socrates would greet the student and suggest they take a walk in order to discuss what brought the person to study with him. During these walks, Socrates listened and observed. He regularly put his hand on the student's shoulder, as teachers did in those days. Invariably Socrates led his companion close to a lake, and then into it. The students seldom protested, thinking surely Socrates must know what he is doing.

At some moment, with lightning speed and no warning, Socrates would grasp the student's shoulders and thrust him under the water, holding him there as the student struggled to no avail. Finally, Socrates would let go and the aspirant would bob up to the surface, gasping for air, flailing his hands, outraged, frightened and thoroughly confused. Many would-be students immediately fled. To those who remained, Socrates announces, "When you want to know what I know as much as you want breath and life itself, then come back and see me." Most of these candidates did not return.

Occasionally a brave survivor would return, go directly to Socrates, and say, "I want to know what you know." Only then did the master know the student was serious and replied, "We'll see." At any given time Socrates never had more than a small cadre of highly dedicated students. It was always up to the student to take the plunge into his core and make the commitment. Some left after a short time. The most determined remained for years and were transformed in choosing to remain engaged in a highly demanding process of critical thinking as well as looking, finding and being Truth.

What one values is self-evident - what resources of time, energy, activity, are present.


Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.

Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. is a seasoned clinician in private practice in Pleasanton, CA in the East San Francisco Bay area. Licensed as a psychologist in California since 1987 and in the field since 1976, he specializes in Presence-centered therapy principally with adults and couples. Presence-centered therapy is a conscious attuning to the richness of this present moment (sometimes called mindfulness or wakefulness) along with witnessing, that is, observing what the mind is up to now by looking from outside of it. His practice is centered upon inhabiting this present moment, witnessing and "buying out" of the ego-mind's unworkable patterns, desensitizing root emotional charges, and gaining effective tools to thrive in the world. He specializes in providing therapy for adults facing anxiety, significant stress, work issues, relationship challenges and depression as well as couples with marital issues, communication issues, self-defeating behavior, divorce mediation, co-parenting and pre-marital counseling. Core to his approach is installing, building and developing strong internal resources, an enhanced capacity to hold, bear and tolerate strong emotions, and highly adaptive tools to better thrive in the world.He can be reached directly through his website (featuring over 215 articles, 27 YouTube videos and pages upon pages of highly practical annotated resource links) or by email at . Dr. Friedman is available for business consulting, business training and executive coaching (detail on his home page).

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