Italians call it “Allegria”; You can call it your pathway to serenity

I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t know how important cheerfulness is to your social, personal, and work life. How could you have? After all, just as the name Antonio Meucci is conspicuously missing from books that document the invention of the telephone, the name Roberto Assagioli (1888-1974) is similarly absent from every psychology textbook that I have ever come across in my twenty years of lecturing in universities. Despite the fact that Assagioli’s techniques have spread to 64 countries– including the US—academically, his theory fails to be mentioned, while Maslow and Rogers are given sole credit for launching the human potential movement.

Assiagioli, a Venice-born psychiatrist, put forth a personal transcendence approach, which took the complete personality into consideration; and included the higher aspects of what it truly means to be human—such as free will, spirituality, joy, and the wisdom of the inner Self. He called his theory “psychosynthesis”, because it integrated all aspects of the human experience. While Freud’s work admittedly dealt with the “basement” of human consciousness (pathology), Assagioli preferred to examine what he referred to as the “whole building” of human potential. He was particularly interested in developing self-help techniques to help people live better lives. His strategies were based on the healing aspect of daily joy; the wisdom found inside of ourselves; and the power of positive emotions, such as allegria, or cheerfulness. In fact, he recommended that we practice cheerfulness on a regular basis as a way to improve our interactions with others; such as “hierarchical” relationships between boss and employee; in government; business; and for reducing family conflict.

If you don’t normally feel so cheery, there is a way to develop this trait and make a profound difference in your emotional well-being. Try it and see for yourself. The steps below are adapted from Assagioli’s original journal article published in the Psychosynthesis Research Foundation, in 1973.

Steps to get cheerful:

  1. Take a few deep breaths and blow out all tension. Then, go in front of a mirror and practice— smiling! You might not feel like smiling, but do it anyway.
  2. Reflect on what cheerfulness means, how important it is, and how much you want to make it a part of you.
  3. Associate the word “cheerfulness” (or allegria) with the corresponding feeling. Say it several times, while feeling it.
  4. Picture yourself getting through a problem or difficult situation while staying cheerful.
  5. Make a conscious decision to radiate cheerfulness all day long.

Getting into a cheerfulness habit will transform your personality, as will practicing other positive qualities, such as courage, joy, and patience.

Assagioli saw allegria as a pathway to serenity, and indeed those that knew him even later in life, recollected a beautiful, fully alive octogenarian, with eyes that twinkled and lips that were never far from the curve of a smile. He lived his philosophy, and gave behavioral science a brilliant new approach to helping people live la dolce vita.

Today, remember to smile whenever you think of it, and live your life con allegria.

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This blog is dedicated to offering you self-help you can use, often with the sweetness of Italy. I welcome your comments and urge you to share the link to these posts with your loved ones. Tomorrow–one of my favorite recipes for Pasqua!

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