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Epicurean Tetrapharmakos


Techniques Happiness > Epicurean Tetrapharmakos

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Here are four rules that can be followed to help you live a happier life.

  • Do not fear god
  • Do not worry about death
  • What is good is easy to get
  • What is terrible is easy to endure

These may seem rather puzzling. However:

  • Do not fear god: In some religions, gods are terrible punishers, and all bad things are thought to be punishments for not living a good life. If you do not fear the gods, you fear nothing. Imagine how much better your life would be if all your fears melted away. If you believe in gods, you can reframe them as your fearless supporters who take away your fears.
  • Do not worry about death: Death will happen, whatever you do. Worrying about death does nothing to prevent it. Likewise, worry about anything does not change if or when it happens.
  • What is good is easy to get: When we focus on what we cannot get, we forget how good are the things we can get. If we want what we have and can easily reach, and are grateful for these, then we worry less about things that are beyond our reach.
  • What is terrible is easy to endure: We worry about the things that may hurt us and we create our own pain when we frame events in our world as terrible. Yet if we did not do this, choosing not to see things as terrible, then coping with the problems that the world throws at us is far easier to handle.


These rules are the first four of the forty Epicurean Principal Doctrines from Diogenes Laertius and provide a useful overview of the keys to Stoicism. 'Tetrapharmakos' means 'four part cure', as tetra means 'four', and pharmakos means 'cure' (hence the modern 'pharmacy').

Further notes about the Tetrapharmakos, with more Epicurian and Stoic notes:

  • Do not fear god: Greek gods were seen as perfect and sublime beings. We should emulate their grace, not fear their anger.
  • Do not worry about death: Epicurus described death as the greatest fear, both in duration and intensity. He noted that being dead and not existing was not a painful place.
  • What is good is easy to get: Stoics view happiness as non-pain rather than joy. Desire creates pain. Removing desire hence creates happiness.
  • What is terrible is easy to endure: Epicurus noted that when we are ill, it feels terrible, yet illnesses seldom last long. If we look beyond our current pain, even though it seems it may last forever, we can find relief in knowing that it will soon be over. Pleasure follows pain, so perhaps we should focus more on this.

The four cures are all intended to reduce our most debilitating fears. If we can fear less, then by definition we will be happier. No fear does not automatically mean happiness, but fear certainly does negatively impact our happiness.

How you think about yourself, the world and what happens changes how you feel about such things. You have control over what and how you think, so you have control over how happy or unhappy you are.

See also

Remind Yourself, Reframe Desire, Stop Judging


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