Prejudice—Get Rid of It to Enrich Your Social and Personal Life

Sacco & Vanzetti

When we form attitudes about people before we get to know them or on the basis of what we see on TV,  we unfairly exclude them from our social circle and guess what? We lose out.  I once had contact with a desperate father, whose son was not allowed to sleep at his classmate’s house because the classmate’s parents didn’t trust people of “Sicilian heritage”. Can  you imagine what those two friends had to miss out on, as a result of a parent’s erroneous assumptions?

In 1920 robbers stole $16,000 from a Massachusetts show manufacturing company, killing a guard and the company paymaster. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti had two things going against them. First, they held political views that were unpopular in America. Second, they were Italian, at a time when the negative stereotyping of Italian was at its peak. After a long trial and despite the Italian Government’s appeal for justice, the two men were convicted and sentenced to death. Vanzetti’s final statement to the court was as follows:

“I am suffering because I was a radical and indeed I am a radical. I have suffered because I was an Italian and indeed I am an Italian. “

That was in 1927. In 1977, Governor Michal Dukakis of Massachusetts acquitted Sacco and Vanzetti of the charges against them on the grounds that their trial had been tainted by ethnic and political prejudice. Because of the zeitgeist, Sacco and Vanzetti’s widows, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and friends had to miss out on the simple joys of having these two men in their lives.

The lesson for us is this: Don’t automatically make assumptions about people who are not exactly like you.  Open up your heart and mind, and populate your social landscape with a variety of people. You will discover a richness  in your social and personal life you would never have imagined!

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When You Say “I Love You”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Francesco Alberoni writes in  “il Mistero dell’Innamoramento” : Being in love, doesn’t mean professing something about your own grandness. When one says “I love you”, he is not saying “I am important, I am significant , I feel unstoppable. No.  Instead, the phrase “I love you” is a declaration without conditions. “Ti Amo”, means “I surrender”, “you are the only one”, “ You are the center of my world”, “you transcend me” Love, ultimately is the state of grace.

The next time you use these words, use them because the feelings in your heart reflect the willingness to give your love without conditions to another person. Because you cherish that person, you care about what they need,  and you are  willing to be there for them in good times and in bad.

Roman Advice: Live Within Your Means And Do Things That You Love!

Roman Stoic Philosopher Seneca

The long-held italian philosophy of “accontentarsi”, making yourself happy with what you have and living within your means, is especially important now, when so many of us are facing tough economic times. The other side of the same coin is that you don’t just grit your teeth and tighten up the purse strings, you also find ways to enjoy your life with whatever you have! Parks are free–so are friends.  Gather a friend or to , have a picnic in a beautiful park, a great conversation, and you have a day well-lived.

Roman philosopher Seneca  in one of his epistles to his friend Lucilius, advised him: “Be a philosopher now, whether you have anything or not, – for if you have anything, how do you know that you have not too much already? – but if you have nothing, seek understanding first, before anything else. “But,” you say, “I shall lack the necessities of life.” In the first place, you cannot lack them; because nature demands but little, and the wise man suits his needs to nature. But if the utmost pinch of need arrives, he will quickly take leave of life and cease being a trouble to himself. If, however, his means of existence are meagre and scanty, he will make the best of them, without being anxious or worried about anything.”

Don’t wait to enjoy the days of your life. Start now, and make a celebration that costs nothing and is meant only to make you feel happy to be here.

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Nix Love at First Sight. Try Love at “Every” Sight.

Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss (di Antonio Canova)

Italy’s love expert, Dr. Francesco Alberoni in his book  Il Mistero Dell’ Innamoramento  compares love at first sight  (il colpo di fulmine) to animal imprinting, a behavior sometimes found in newborn creatures that follow whatever moves nearby. This is a survival instinct, a type of  dependency. We humans sometimes think we can fall in love in an instant. We are enraptured and taken by the person we fall for.  We become dependent on our need to be enraptured. We raise our love interest to great heights, and then come crashing down, when just a short time after our first encounter, we are no longer kissed by Cupid. Reality has hit and we are left wondering why.

Innamoramento, falling in love, explains Alberoni, real love, is a process, whereby you not only fall in love at first sight, but true love is falling deeper in love at every sight. You see something new and wonderful in your beloved every time you are with them. And the marvel comes at knowing they feel the same way about you, too.

Falling in love, and staying in love, is one of the greatest gifts of Life. Treasure it, cherish it, let it slowly unravel as you work out the kinks to become closer and more in love every single day. You will never find a project more worthwhile than this.

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Exert Yourself to Put Order in Your Universe

 

Roman Emperor Marco Aurelio acknowledged that when one is discouraged it seems far easier to stay in your pajamas and hide under the covers. But that is not the natural course of things, and certainly not what will pull you out of your doldrums.  In Book Five of his “Meditations” Aurelio asks “Dost thou not see the little plants, the little birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees, working together to put order in their universe?’

One very effective remedy for getting through adversity is to get up, get out, and do some work. When you pour yourself into your work (either mental or physical labor—but preferably the latter) you give yourself time to “distance” yourself from your worries.  Intentionally distancing yourself from your troubles  for specific periods of time –not the same at all as denial or repression—has been shown to be a healthy mechanism most often found in those who adjust more easily to tough times.

You might have to give yourself a little push to get going and get working—on something—whether it is planting a garden or mixing the dough for a fresh bowl of cavatelli—immersing yourself in productive work will help you put order in your universe, too, and your problems will definitely seem more manageable.

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“La Sprezzatura” to Overcome Loss

Book of the Courtier

In  his book of The Courtier of 1528, Baldassare Castiglione gave us the concept of “sprezzatura” in describing how the Renaissance gentleman should conduct himself. The word connotes a devaluing (de-pricing) showing an effort when carrying out a skill. In otherwords,  it is gentlemanly to make the difficult look easy or make productivity look like an artful masterpiece.  All part of the classic Italian “bella figura” the importance of putting your best foot forward.  Cognitive psychology takes a slightly different perspective on the same general principle. “Automaticity” means doing a task so well that you can attend to something else at the same time. While playing a piano piece, for instance, you can hold a conversation at the same time.

When you’ve been hit by adversity or loss, think about la sprezzatura, in terms of  making positive affirmations become automatic. Our natural instinct is to panic and filter anything positive with the fears and doubts of what is to become of us now that this bad thing has happened. “What if I don’t make it”? “I will never be happy again”, etc.

What if you turn your negative automatic thinking into postive automatic thinking? YOU are the one who needs to be reassuring yourself and reminding your self of your strengths when facing crisis. Here is how:

1. Write down 3-4 affirmations that give you self confidence in hard times. “I will get through this.”  “This will pass”, “I will build a new life and it will be even better and happier”, etc.

2. Repeat  your affirmations 10 times in a row; 3 times per day, everyday of the week.

This will ensure that POSITIVE not negative thinking will become your automatic masterpiece of thought, mind, and emotion.

Remember, that adversity always opens a door to your personal evolution. By making a habit of positive affirmations, you will also build your self-confidence, at the time you need it the most.

Simple Old World Advice for Staying in Shape: “Non esagerare!”

 

There is an entire movement in American psychology based on the need to get back to rational thinking. Nowhere do we need this more than the area of weight control.   How often do we see situations as all or nothing? “If I can’t stick to this diet to the letter, I will chuck the whole thing.”  How often do we make mountains out of molehills and announce the end of the world if just one thing goes wrong? “ I blew it today. There’s no use, I might as well eat the whole bag.”

Fortunately the gluttonous orgies of the Roman Empire have long since been replaced by the wiser belief in the daily philosophy of : non esagerare, don’t overdo it.  While the ancient Romans enjoyed laying around the table (on couches) for 5 or 6 hours, in a stuffing -vomiting ritual, modern Italians have a healthy skepticism towards overindulging in anything.  Meals are still best enjoyed as a social event,  but Italians make sure they consume high quality foods in the right amounts that satisfy their hunger. Once a meal is done, they typically do not refuel until the next one. The act of eating is much less pleasurable if reduced to an all day grazing ritual.  Italians opt for moderation, and my own research on Italy-US body weight comparisons validates their approach.

Our bodies and minds don’t do will with excess. Homeostasis is a natural physiological phenomenon that helps us to survive. Excess in food, sedentary behavior or even negative thinking, throws our homeostasis mechanism out of balance.  Think of moderation on a spectrum. If you have been sliding towards the edges of the spectrum blow, think about reeling yourself back into the middle of the range—the area of moderation and good health.

The Non-esagerare Mindset

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Too Little                                                                                Too Much

You want to try and stay as close to the  mid-line  X as you can, when it comes to any behavior related to weight control. The  X is the non-esagerare, or moderation zone. It is the healthy point at which you neither deprive nor overindulge yourself. You simply live well, and watch the weight start to normalize as your behaviors do.  Slight deviations from the X always average out, and are nothing to worry about.  Not to worry about an extra indulgence here and there, just go a bit to the other side of the X for the next few days to make up. If you notice a pattern at either extreme of the spectrum, however, it is time to take action.

Here is an example. Loretta takes a walk on most days during her lunch hour. On the non-esagerare continuum for exercise, she would place herself on or close to the red X. She is getting a good, moderate amount of activity in every week. Maria, on the other hand sits at a computer all day, then comes home and sits in front of the TV all night. On a weekly basis, she gets very little daily exercise. She would be toward the left (too little) of the non-esagerare continuum for exercise. Dina has gone in the opposite direction. She goes to the gym twice a day and takes a short run at lunch. She feels guilty when she sits down, and constantly worries about how many calories she burned off each day.  She would place herself toward the “too much” side.

Either “too little” or “too much” of food or exercise is not healthful. On the other hand, if you simply keep yourself within the normal range each day, you won’t have to deny your self anything, and eventually your weight problem will be history, without much fanfare or sweat on your part. A common impression is that Italians seem to enjoy life as if they haven’t care in the world.   Moderation has a lot to do with it, because excess not only causes stress, but also requires way too much effort to correct. Living in balance promotes serenity.

I have never met an Italian who felt compelled to finish a whole tray of biscotti, on the rationale that since she already ate one, and “blew it” anyway, so why not go for it and start over tomorrow?  Italians live by a down-to-earth practicality, especially when it comes to fitness and well-being.  A few extra pounds? Cut a little bread from your supper this week. Just tweak something here or there and get back to good common sense. “Does it make sense to dive into last night’s leftovers at 10 0’clock this morning?” “Does it make sense to eat a whole layer cake just because I had a fight with my cousin and I’m upset?”  If the answer comes up in the negative, just turn around and walk away.  Practice strengthens the non-esagerare muscle.

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