How important is beauty in your everyday life? Is beauty something you feel deserving of and comfortable with? Piero Ferrucci, author of "Beauty and Soul: The Extraordinary Power of Everyday Beauty to Heal Your Life" talks with Commitment about the power of beauty to heal us and help us live a vital, satisfying and balanced life.
Commitment: What motivated you to write this book? Why was the healing power of beauty something you felt compelled to write about?
Piero Ferrucci: I find the significance of beauty underrated in our culture, and its essence misunderstood. I have always felt strongly about beauty, and the evidence in my therapy work has confirmed my its importance.
Commitment: How can experiencing beauty in our everyday lives help us find our way back to our true selves? You wrote, “Without beauty we lose contact with our feelings, the world appears harsh or banal to us, others do not interest us, and life loses its bright colors.” Why do you think a life without beauty make life seem more harsh?
Piero: I believe there is in each one of us a need for beauty which cannot be reduced to some other factor. Beauty is present in all human cultures and we have evolved an aesthetic intelligence as part of our biological endowment.
A life without beauty is sad and impoverished, because it does not satisfy a fundamental need and it does not allow us to use the fullness of our potential.
Commitment: Do you believe that beauty is necessary to living a happy, balanced and satisfying life? If so, why is beauty so important to our well-being?
Piero: Beauty is necessary for a happy life because it shows that we live in a universe full of wonders. Existing in a world that looks neutral or harsh to us, a world that cannot be loved, admired, enjoyed, is most depressing. Beauty has several important effects on us: it makes us feel that life is worth living, it is a wonderful tonic, it facilitates relationships, stimulates intelligence, decreases aggression and feelings of isolation, benefits health, reconnects us with our feelings.
Commitment: Why do some people forget or lose the ability to connect, experience and create beauty in their home and their environment? What do you think has happened to their heart and soul that has made them unable to enjoy and create beauty in their everyday life?
Piero: A number of things might have happened. First of all, we may fear beauty because it is too intense and it may change our life in too radical a way. Our fears and scars may prevent us from letting go to the experience of beauty.
Also, we may feel that we do not deserve beauty. Our prejudices get in the way as well: we may believe that we should be cultured in order to appreciate beauty, or that beauty is frivolous. Both of these beliefs are wrong.
Another reason may be that one has not developed his or her aesthetic intelligence enough.
Commitment: When you meet a person who has lost their ability to create beauty and appreciate beauty, what is going on inside of them? In your work as a transpersonal psychologist, what are some of the core reasons why a person fears beauty, is unable to experience beauty, and may even avoid it?
Piero: I believe that fear of beauty is deep down a fear of death. The ecstasy of beauty dissolves the ego and stops the passing of time. Many of us find that too frightening to experience.
Commitment: How does the ability to enjoy beauty signify a strong and healthy personality? What led you to this conclusion?
Piero: All of us develop a relationship with some basic realities in our life, for instance: feelings, time, sex, intimacy, money, death – and beauty. Often this relationship is uneasy, perhaps tormented or ambivalent. The clearer and more direct it is, the healthier and stronger is the individual.
Commitment: What words of advice do you have for someone who feels they have no time for beauty, because they have to deal with more 'practical matters'?
Piero: I do not know if this is a more common problem today, but it is certainly a widespread attitude. Following this belief can lead us ultimately to disrespect of nature, divorce from our inner world, mental disorientation, increase in aggressiveness.
Commitment: If someone came to you and said, “My home has no beauty, but I have little money to create beauty” what advice would you give them?
Piero: Beauty can cost little, simplicity may be elegant, opulence often goes with bad taste.
Commitment: What do you personally find beautiful in your life?
Piero: The list would be too long, here are some examples: I find beauty in music, in people young and old, clouds, trees, ideas, poems, stories, stars, flowers, old houses, paintings, sculpture, the sound of rain, mist, good jokes, breakthroughs and victories over ignorance and misfortune, rusty old doors, puddles reflecting the sky.
Commitment: You wrote that people who feel most at home with beauty are also more in touch with their feelings. How is beauty related to being able to fully feel and experience one's emotions?
Piero: How can there be an experience of beauty without any feeling?
Commitment: Have you found that some people feel they do not deserve beauty in their life? If so, why? And how they can gain back the feeling that they deserve beauty?
Piero: People feel they do not deserve beauty because they have been put down and their value and dignity has not been respected. If they can love and respect themselves again, it will be easier for them to free their capacity to enjoy.
Commitment: How can the feeling of not belonging, and not feeling at home with ourselves, relate to our feelings about beauty in our life? What does a sense of belonging have to do with aesthetic dimension?
Piero: Beauty shows us the world in its most pleasing and joyful aspect. We do not feel separated from it anymore, we feel that we are part of it - not aliens in a cold, impersonal, extraneous place.
Commitment: You wrote, “beauty plays a central role in our decision to be here.” Can you explain that? Do you find that those who secretly wish they were not alive, or perhaps feel too much in pain to truly experience life, also avoid the experience of beauty?
Piero: It is the other way around: People who avoid the experience of beauty are more likely to feel that life is not worth living.
Commitment: When working with your clients, do you use beauty as a way to heal those who are experiencing trauma, sadness and depression? If so, how?
Piero: Yes. Of course I first acknowledge their pain and work on it with them. That is basic work. However at some point in therapy it is not enough,. Then we tackle beauty, love, creativity, and everything that makes life worth living.
Commitment: How does an aesthetic experience help us to feel that “I am alive in a universe that is fundamentally all right.” What if our life feels fundamentally not ‘okay’ then how can we appreciate and experience beauty if inside, we are suffering, sad, alone and a bit desperate?
Piero: There is no universal remedy. Often, however, we are prisoners of our pain and rage. We are hypnotized by our paranoid feelings, our fantasies and our nightmares.
The experience of beauty in any form can uplift us, help us forget ourselves. And that is profoundly healing.
Commitment: How can a mother bring beauty into the lives of her children?
Piero: We (mothers and fathers and everybody else) can bring more beauty into the lives of our children, first of all, by letting them enjoy it. They are already in touch with beauty, they already know wonder. We can expose them to nature, limit time with electronic gadgets, find out what is their favourite way of enjoying beauty (music, painting, nature, etc.), read them stories, enjoy some form of beauty together and talk about it.
Beauty will not eliminate pain completely, but it will help a suffering individual recover from pain.
To purchase "Beauty and Soul" click here.
About the Author: Piero Ferrucci is a psychotherapist and philosopher. He has been a student of and collaborator with Roberto Assagioli, the founder of psychosynthesis. Ferrucci is the author of "What We May Be," "Inevitable Grace" "What Our Children Teach Us" and with Laura Huxley, "The Child of Your Dreams." He lives near Florence, Italy with his wife and two sons.