While Italians love to lure each other into profound debates over politics, wine, or the best recipe for marinara sauce; we generally steer clear of overanalyzing our friendships. Some things are just meant to be lived, not dissected. Researchers agree that over- examining yourself or others can lead to negativity and depression. Perseverating on human flaws just serves to magnify them—and that makes us feel worse! Let’s face it: If we want to live the dolce vita, there are times when we need to stop thinking, and simply go with the flow.
In 1920 Gordon Allport , one of the most influential psychologists in American history, traveled across Europe to Vienna for a chance to make the acquaintance of his hero , the renowned father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. As a young man fresh out of graduate school, the awestruck Allport was understandably nervous. In fact, he could barely speak when he finally came face to face with Dr. Freud. Searching for something to say just to fill the awkward silence, Allport began recounting the story about a little boy he observed sitting next to him on the train. The boy was afraid to get dirty, and his mother made him even more anxious. Freud just listened, studied Allport carefully, and then finally replied: “And was that little boy you?”
No, the boy was definitely NOT him, but an exasperated (and somewhat irritated) Allport realized in that moment, that sometimes” in-depth” psychology , in its attempt to analyze more than what meets the eye— can totally miss the mark. Similarly, when it comes to interacting with friends, a little intentional “shallowness” can go a long way.
Consider the difference between the following conversations:
Mary to her friend: Jane, I’ve been meaning to bring this up to you for some time now. Ever since I lost my job you’ve been kind of insensitive, and that hurts my feelings. Like the tone of your voice when I ask you if there are any openings at your office. You seem like it is a burden to even have to inquire for me . I thought our friendship was stronger than that. If it’s going to be like this I really don’t know if we should continue to get together.
Mary to her friend: Hi Jane, wanna go for a walk? It’s such a beautiful day! Oh, by the way, thanks again for keeping an eye out for me about job openings in your office. I really appreciate it.
(End of story—sans the drama).
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which dynamic helps both parties reap the joy –rather than feel the weight –of amicizia. As one Italian saying goes: Chi cerca un amico senza difetti, resta senza amici, S(h)e who looks for a friend without flaws, ends up with no friends.
Instead of perseverating on small irritations, or looking for hidden meaning behind a friend’s word or action, concentrate on the enormous treasure of just being together! Refrain from overanalyzing, and you will have loyal amici for life.
(Adapted from an article I wrote for The Italian Tribune) If you get inspiration from my blog and want to keep it going, please press “follow” and tell your friends about it, too. Hope you will tune in or stream in to my radio show every Monday morning from 7-8AM on 88.7FM or wnhu.net . Mille grazie!