Psychologists have found that certain errors in thinking lead to the kind of stress that can ruin our emotional and physical health. Everyone faces challenges, and sometimes it takes a few tries before we conquer them. A rigid reaction to our challenges, such as believing that problems are permanent (will last forever); pervasive (will affect all the other areas of our life); and personal (it must certainly your fault), lead to the kind of boxed-in thinking that makes us feel helplessness and stressed out. Stress, I might add, causes reactions in the body that put our health at risk. A bit of italianita’ anyone?: Try approaching your predicaments with confidence and creativity, and your struggles will lose the power to defeat you.
The late Alberto Sordi, the last survivor of the golden era of Italian cinema, once said in an interview, that Italians—more than anyone else in the world—live by the arte d’arrangiarsi, the art of getting by. The very expression of this concept, which includes the word “art”, connotes the use of creativity in dealing with the kind of bumps in the road we all face on a daily basis. When some people run up against a wall they either bang their heads against it or turn away and refuse to deal with it until stress consumes them. Sometimes they get ill as a result. The Italian arte d’arrangiarsi , implies the option of choosing from any number of trouble-shooting solutions, limited only by the imagination. In other words, it is assumed that there is never just one solution to a particular problem, but there is always some solution to every problem. That is where confidence comes in. The action you ultimately take to solve your problem ,should be the one most likely to keep your dolce vita, intact. Italians don’t get trapped in “all-or-nothing”, thinking. No situation is either all black or all white.
The Italian culture is the antithesis of stimulus-response equations, and behavior modification charts. Italians simply do not believe that life is –nor should it be –linear. The next time you face a challenge, listen to the vastness of your own creativity. Write down all possible solutions on a piece of paper—no matter how offbeat they may seem. Trust that your inner voice will lead you to the right solution. Then select the idea that will help you maintain inner tranquility. If your first solution doesn’t work as you had hoped, just go back, select another, and start again; nothing lost.
Sordi once told a journalist that in all of his career — ultimately one that spanned seven decades —the only concept he ever really tried to portray was the extraordinary capacity of Italians, to rise up above any kind of tragedy, big or small. “And if no one is there to give us orders”, he said, “ better still. Ci arriangiamo di piu’, we will get by even better.”
Believe in your heart that you have it in you to find solutions that will help you get by everyday, too. No matter what you face.
(Adapted from an article I wrote for The Italian Tribune). I invite you to share (via email, twitter, etc) if you love these articles (see buttons below). I also encourage you to press “like” to let me know what you might like for future themes. If you haven’t already read it, you might also revive your passion for Italian with Living la Dolce Vita: Bring the Passion, Laughter, and Serenity of Italy into Your Daily Life . Mille grazie!