#21: The Psychopathy of Emperor Nero and the S.P.I.R.E Model of Happiness

PLUS: How to find your life purpose with Robert Greene

Welcome, Courageous Soul.

Dive into a world where ancient wisdom meets modern insight, exploring life's purpose with Robert Greene, the virtues of Benjamin Franklin, and the intriguing psychoanalysis of Emperor Nero.

Uncover hidden gems in philosophy, from the practicality of the S.P.I.R.E Model of Happiness to the historical depths of Nero's reign, and join a journey of self-improvement and Stoic discovery.

In today’s Nous:

  • 🎥 Exploring Purpose with Robert Greene: Delve into the secrets of life's purpose and learning from experiences.

  • 💪 Benjamin Franklin's 13 Virtues: Revisiting forgotten philosophers and their timeless teachings.

  • 🧰 The S.P.I.R.E Model of Happiness: A comprehensive tool for assessing and improving various aspects of life.

  • 🧘 The Psychopathy of Emperor Nero: A detailed examination of Nero's complex and controversial reign.

  • 🤖 Modern Psychotherapy Meets Emperor Nero: A creative exploration of ancient personalities in a modern setting.

Read time: 10 minutes

Editor’s Picks

🏹  Wisdom Arrows

🎥 Robert Greene and Andrew Huberman Talk Life Purpose:
In this episode of the Huberman Lab podcast, Andrew Huberman talks to Robert Greene, a popular author who knows a lot about how people think and act. They talk about how to find and follow your own life purpose, and how to learn from both good and tough experiences along the way.

💪 Forgotten Philosophers: Benjamin Franklin and His 13 Virtues:
Benjamin Franklin, known for his contributions to political philosophy, also practiced moral philosophy. In his autobiography, he listed thirteen virtues he aimed to live by, including temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility. To improve these virtues, he recorded his mistakes in a notebook and focused on one virtue each week. Watch here.

Technique Try-Out

🧰 The S.P.I.R.E Model of Happiness

I am currently reading a book called "Happier: No Matter What" by Tal Ben Shahar. The book revolves around the "S.P.I.R.E" model of happiness, which I find to be an excellent tool for assessing potential areas of weakness in one's life. Below, I will outline each component of this model, and I urge you to examine your own life to identify any areas that could benefit from improvement.

🧘‍♀️ Spiritual

This aspect relates to finding meaning and purpose in life. It's about being part of something greater than oneself and involves activities or experiences that provide a sense of awe and wonder. For readers to benefit from this, they should engage in activities that align with their values and beliefs, and seek experiences that contribute to a sense of larger purpose.

🏃‍♀️ Physical

This refers to the well-being of the body. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, healthy eating, and mindfulness practices are all part of maintaining physical well-being. To maximize this aspect, readers should establish and maintain healthy lifestyle habits that boost physical health and energy.

🧠 Intellectual

Intellectual well-being is about engaging the mind, learning new things, and being open to new ideas. It involves curiosity and the desire to expand one's knowledge and skills. Readers can enhance this aspect by challenging themselves intellectually, reading, learning, and seeking out mentally stimulating activities.

🤝 Relational

This aspect focuses on nurturing healthy, supportive relationships with family, friends, and others. It involves developing deep connections and a sense of belonging. To improve relational well-being, readers should invest time and energy in building and maintaining positive relationships, showing empathy, and communicating effectively.

❤️ Emotional

Emotional well-being is about understanding and managing one's feelings, developing resilience, and experiencing positive emotions like joy and gratitude. To enhance emotional health, readers should practice self-awareness, emotional regulation, and seek to cultivate positive emotions in their daily lives..

Learning From The Past

🧘 The Psychopathy of Emperor Nero

Emperor Nero, born on 15th December AD 37, is a figure synonymous with extravagance, cruelty, and madness in the annals of history.

His reign as the Emperor of Rome from 54 to 68 AD was marked by personal decadence and political terror, a stark contrast to his early years when he displayed promise and competence.

1️⃣ Early Life and Rise to Power

Nero was born into a lineage of influential and, at times, ruthless leaders. His great-great-grandfather, Augustus, the first Roman Emperor, was a legendary figure in Roman history.

His mother, Agrippina the Younger, was known for her ambitious and manipulative nature. Nero ascended to the throne at the tender age of 16, making him the youngest emperor at that time. His rule began with promise; he was politically active from an early age, showing interest in empowering impoverished communities.

2️⃣ Extravagance and Mismanagement

Nero's reign quickly devolved into an era of financial recklessness and personal indulgence.

He was known for his lavish spending on grandiose projects, which significantly strained the empire's finances. This profligacy was accompanied by a series of personal scandals, including multiple chaotic marriages and affairs.

3️⃣ Tyranny and Paranoia

Nero's rule became increasingly characterized by acts of tyranny and paranoia. He was known to eliminate those he perceived as threats, including his own mother, Agrippina, whom he had killed after a power struggle.

Nero's mistrust extended even to his step-brother, whom he viewed as a rival and had poisoned.

4️⃣ Cruel Entertainment and Persecution

Nero's love for brutal entertainment was well-known. He reportedly enjoyed watching the gruesome execution of criminals and perceived enemies.

His reign saw the harsh persecution of Christians, whom he used as scapegoats for the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD. This event marked a turning point in Nero's rule, as he faced increasing opposition and unrest.

5️⃣ Personal Life and Downfall

Nero's personal life was as turbulent as his reign. He had a notorious affair with Poppaea Sabina, leading to his divorce and subsequent marriage to her.

This relationship, too, ended tragically when Nero, in a fit of rage, caused Poppaea's death. His later life was marked by further erratic and cruel behavior, including his marriage to a young boy named Sporus, whom he had castrated.

6️⃣ Final Days and Legacy

Nero's final days were filled with isolation and fear as he faced revolt and abandonment. He eventually took his own life at the age of 30, marking an ignominious end to a reign characterized by madness and cruelty.

His death plunged Rome into a period of turmoil, highlighting the destructive impact one ruler can have on an empire.

Nero's legacy is a complex one, often overshadowed by his extreme behaviors and psychopathic tendencies.

His reign serves as a cautionary tale of how power, when coupled with unbridled ambition and cruelty, can lead to a leader's downfall and a nation's suffering.

Recap: 10 Facts About Nero

  1. Matricide: Nero is infamous for orchestrating the murder of his own mother, Agrippina the Younger. After several failed attempts, including a plot to drown her in a collapsible boat, he finally succeeded in having her killed.

  2. Persecution of Christians: Nero notoriously blamed the Christians for the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD and subjected them to brutal persecution. This included horrific methods of execution such as burning them alive as human torches or feeding them to wild beasts.

  3. The Great Fire of Rome: Many ancient historians suggest that Nero may have started the Great Fire of Rome so he could rebuild the city according to his own designs. However, this remains a topic of debate among scholars.

  4. Forced Suicides: Nero was known for forcing his perceived enemies and rivals to commit suicide, a method he used to eliminate threats without public executions. This included his former mentor, the philosopher Seneca, and his own wife, Octavia.

  5. Vanity and Artistic Pretensions: Nero had grand artistic aspirations and often forced his subjects to listen to his poetry and musical performances, under penalty of death for those who showed disinterest or disapproval.

  6. Extravagant Spending: He spent enormous sums of money on lavish personal projects, like his Golden Palace, the Domus Aurea, which included a colossal statue of himself, draining the Roman treasury and leading to economic strain.

  7. Psychological and Sexual Aberrations: Nero's rule was marked by numerous sexual scandals. He married a freedman, Pythagoras, in a public ceremony where Nero took the role of the bride. He also castrated a young boy, Sporus, who resembled his late wife Poppaea, and married him.

  8. The Murder of His Wife Poppaea: Nero kicked his pregnant wife Poppaea to death during an argument. He later mourned her extravagantly, displaying extreme swings in behavior.

  9. Public Performances: Breaking from Roman imperial decorum, Nero often performed in public as an actor, musician, and charioteer, which was considered scandalous and inappropriate for a Roman emperor.

  10. Nero's Death and Aftermath: Facing rebellion and declared a public enemy by the Senate, Nero fled Rome and eventually committed suicide, reportedly uttering the words "Qualis artifex pereo" or "What an artist dies in me!" His death led to a brief period of civil war known as the Year of the Four Emperors.

New Ways of Seeing

🤖 Emperor Nero gets Modern Day Psychotherapy

A modern psychotherapy office, sleek and professional. Dr. Julia Martin, known for her expertise in handling complex psychological profiles, faces a challenging client – Emperor Nero, whose journey through time has brought him face-to-face with contemporary psychotherapy.

Dr. Martin: "Emperor Nero, it's fascinating to have someone from ancient history here. What made you decide to seek therapy?"

Nero: "Well, Dr. Martin, I am Nero, the great Emperor of Rome. I thought it might be interesting to see what your modern world thinks of my... greatness."

Dr. Martin: "I see. Let's start with your perspective on your reign. How do you view your actions as Emperor?"

Nero: "I was magnificent, wasn't I? I did what others were too fearful to do. I made Rome glorious!"

Dr. Martin: "It's important to have self-confidence, but let's also explore the impact of your actions. How do you think your reign affected your subjects?"

Nero: "Subjects exist to serve their Emperor. My actions were necessary to maintain order and my superiority. They should have been grateful."

Dr. Martin: "Empathy is key in understanding others' perspectives. Did you ever consider the feelings and well-being of your people?"

Nero: "Feelings? An Emperor does not concern himself with the trivial emotions of the common folk. They were lucky to be ruled by me."

Dr. Martin: "It's often easy to overlook the effects we have on others, especially in positions of power. Let's talk about your relationships. How did you view those close to you?"

Nero: "Alliances and relationships are tools for maintaining power. Trust is irrelevant. Even my mother was a pawn in my grand design."

Dr. Martin: "It seems you viewed relationships more as means to an end. This can be isolating and lead to a lack of genuine connection."

Nero: "You dare to analyze me, to question my methods? I was Rome's greatest emperor! My methods were flawless."

Dr. Martin: "Challenging your views isn't an attack, Nero. It's an opportunity to grow and understand yourself better. Do you ever feel lonely or misunderstood?"

Nero: "Lonely? Misunderstood? I am above such petty feelings. I am a god among men! This... This session is beneath me."

Dr. Martin: "Nero, it's important to stay open in therapy. Denying feelings doesn't make them less real or valid."

Nero: "Enough! Your words are an affront to my greatness. You, like so many others, fail to recognize my brilliance. This was a mistake. I need no one's counsel but my own."

Off The Troden Path

📆 Self-Improvement To-Do List

  3 Wins: I have many projects and use different methods to stay productive and organized. It can be overwhelming, but I found a helpful app called "3 Wins". It's simple - you write down three accomplishments each day. You can use it to record past achievements or set goals for the next day. I limit myself to three items to stay focused. I avoid listing tasks I have to do and instead prioritize what matters. If you can't use the app, just write your wins on paper or a document. The main idea is to establish a daily ritual of focusing on what's important.

Read: Being judged by others can be extremely painful and unsettling. As a social species, we have evolved to care about how we are perceived in the social hierarchy. While this has helped us survive, there are times when this instinct leads to unnecessary suffering. This guide aims to provide strategies on how to effectively respond to judgment from others.

Watch: Dynamo is Dead is a two-hour TV special that tells the story of British magician Dynamo. The show includes interviews with famous people and ends with Dynamo burying himself alive. The special also discusses Stoicism.

Quote: Some of the great philosophers of the past used to memorize quotes by heart. Nowadays, we don't often engage in that practice as we can simply "look them up." However, occasionally we come across a piece of writing that is truly worth remembering. This is one such example for me.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt

Course: I just published my 2-past course The Buddhist Compassion Mindhack to End Suffering. You can access it with a free trial on my Stoic Handbook Premium here.

The reviews have been pretty amazing:

All Things End

🔥 Friend of Wisdom

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