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English - May 28, 2021

How to understand people and ourselves? With Valentina Freni.

Hello everyone, welcome to the second episode of “I’m Luna Dolph”. I’m Luna and I thank you for being here with me. In the first episode we talked to a young girl passionate about pastry, today we’ll discover what is the conscience and we will analyze the deep and complex psychology of people.

With the psychologist Valentina Freni, psicologiaebenesserevfreni on Instagram!

Before to continue… You can listen, instead of read:

Otherwise, keep reading…

Thanks to the explanation of a young psychologist, we will learn that people are all different, and that each one has unique feelings and emotions, which are understandable only thanks to empathy and dialogue. In this delicate moment, people are forced to leave sociality and isolate themselves in order to protect themselves; this involves a worrying approach to social networks and the virtual world which, on the one hand, represents a great means of communication and rapprochement, but on the other, it is a dangerous tool that risks canceling physical contact between people.

Finally, we will discover a museum-laboratory, which allows you to take an interesting walk inside the halls of an old asylum in Rome, and showcases the old techniques that were used by doctors to treat patients suffering from mental disorders. Let’s begin!

What’s the psycology?

Me: Hi Valentina, it’s a pleasure to meet you!

V: Hi Luna, I’m very happy to be here with you.

Me: You must be wondering how I got right to you! Well, actually I can’t explain it to you either. I was looking at some Instagram profiles and I get lost in yours, I started reading some photo captions but I couldn’t fully understand their message.

From what I understood, you do a really interesting job and you are very close to people. I don’t belong to this world, and I’ve never had the pleasure of knowing an individual in all his entirety. I’m discovering now, slowly, everything there is to know about your world and about you. However, I understood, through some of the phrases found on your profile, that a human being is endowed with a conscience and therefore with a psychology. Can I ask you to explain better what it is?

V: So this is a complicated question! Because, explaining in a few words what a person’s psychology is, is a really difficult task. I can try.

We can say that a person’s psychology is the set of his affective states, his intellectual states, his psychic dispositions and her behavior. In a nutshell, the set of emotions, experiences, feelings, ways of reacting, ways of thinking, behaving, perceiving and feeling that characterize that person. Which characterize them, making them different from all others, unique and unitary.

Have you ever thought about having a psychology? Did you understand a bit what it could mean?

Me: Thanks for asking Valentina, this is the first time someone has asked me such a complex question. Personally, as I explained to you before, I’ve been stuck out of society all my life, and I never imagined that people could exist, above all, I never imagined that they could be so deep and complex.

When I ended up on your profile and read all things you wrote, I started asking myself questions. I think there is something inside of me, a conscience, a set of new emotions and feelings that I still find it hard to fully understand. But, probably, it’s something different from what you mean by psychology, don’t you think?

V: So, this other question is also quite complex. In reality, I don’t know if we can define your conscience as completely different from those of other people. But, surely, the experience we are living, due to Covid, unites us a lot.

I mean… Many people have been forced to abandon the relationships of the real world, and to protect oneself, then isolate oneself from others and be able to connect with others only through the virtual world. On one side, this was a salvation. You can imagine if it happened even ten or twenty years ago! We would have been completely isolated. But this opportunity has also turned into a condemnation.

In the sense that human beings need to be in relationship with others. A relationship that cannot only be verbal, through a screen, but they need human contact. Feeling close to each other. In order to function effectively. This has caused many feelings of loneliness, abandonment, a sense of emptiness. In certain people, even reaching real depressive symptoms, anxious symptoms.

So, since it was an opportunity to be able to continue their life, it’s turning into something that can also harm us; therefore, something that separates us rather than uniting us.

How to understand people?

Me: You really said some nice words, Valentina. The virtual world has unique aspects, as you have already said, it can bring people together, it can put them in contact even if they are miles away, it can make them feel close.

But, at times, this turns into an excess and the virtual world “captures” the everyday life of these people, before they are aware of it.

It’s as if the virtual world knows what people want but, in my opinion, it doesn’t understand them fully, it can’t understand their psychology, just like I can’t understand it. I think it is easier for human beings to fully understand each other.

V: So, understanding a person a hundred percent is impossible. Let’s start from this assumption.

However, you can a little understand the other, at least. And the fundamental element that allows us to understand others, is empathy. Empathy is the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of the other. To experience what the other experiences, and it is also possible thanks to a biological basis, namely mirror neurons.

Now, it is clear that a lot can be grasped, but not totally. So my idea, my advice for the work I do, is that you have to put yourself in the shoes of the other, but always with dialogue. Because we can’t comprehend all. Some things are a bit complex.

Therefore, it is important to compare ourselves with the other where, instead, we could be the ones to imagine that the other is experiencing certain things. So, yes to listen, then to listen to ourselves that we perceive the other but above all to confront each other, to dialogue.

Me: So, by being in contact with people, you can understand their moods and their feelings but you cannot go all the way without establishing a dialogue or, in any case, a relationship. From that I’m understanding, each person is different from the other, each experiences different feelings and emotions in front of a certain event.

Of course, it must not be easy to understand the state of mind of each person who is in front of you! I already struggle to understand myself, I can’t imagine to understand all the others! (hahaha) Joking aside, it must be a really stressful thing.

V: Understanding all people is, in reality, something extremely difficult because a set of variables come into play. And, actually, many people think it’s something straight and simple. As to go from A to B, to understand a person. But it’s not like that.

Human beings are very complex and immersed in systems of other human beings, even more complex. By which they are influenced and to which they themselves have a relationship. It is actually difficult and it actually becomes a stressful situation because, many times, you can’t understand what the other person’s reaction is; what is happening.

To return to what I said before, the only possibility, in this case, to avoid stress, frustration and, in some cases, even aggressive attitudes, it’s to dialogue, discuss, have a moment of encounter with the other. It means meeting and acceptance. Accepting that, probably, the other will be different from us. That he will have different ideas, different feelings. This doesn’t means that there is a right or a wrong. In most cases, it happens that there isn’t a single vision of what is good and what is not good. Despite this, dialogue is very important.

Social hierarchies between humans

Me: You know Valentina, I’ve observed people a lot since I have been here, as you’ll have understood I’m a curious woman! Anyway, looking at people and their relationships, I noticed that there are, how can I call them? Organized hierarchies, in which everyone has their own role within the company.

V: So, human beings, as I told you, live in contexts where there are other human beings and they form systems. What does it mean? That, being in a system, in a context, they live in the midst of other people and it is necessary to establish rules, ways of living, norms. That allow everyone to be together and live as best as possible.

Obviously, since they are made by us, human beings, and we are not perfect, even these rules often do not work, or they are partial rules, that is, they do not always work. Therefore, it is something that changes with us, it is not defined, stable and rigid, but societies change together with human beings: the more we go on, the more they go on too.

Me: Can this discourse also be applied to smaller realities such as those of the family? For example, are there established roles in a house or not?

V: Of course, an organization exists not only at the level of the wider society, but also with respect to the small groups that make up the company itself.

As you said, even in an house there can be such an organization. But more than using the word at a hierarchical level, which is more suited to me than a work context, within a family I would say that there are different levels. I mean… There is the level of the parents. The level of the couple, which is quite distinct from that of the parents. The level of the children. The level of the brothers, which is still different. And, if we look at a much broader level, there can be the level of grandparents, of uncles, of cousins…

What characterizes each level is that a certain type of behavior is expected. Therefore we propose ourselves to a certain role, a certain position, certain objectives and certain ways of understanding relationships. Both within the level itself and with the other levels.

Let’s take the level of parents: parents are expected to agree on how to educate and raise their children. And, at the same time, they are expected to make a contribution to the growth of their children, define rules, ways of behaving that support these children. So that they grow up in the best possible way.

Obviously, this is a very simplified thing. But we can say that almost all human groups, even the smallest, give themselves an organization. They give themselves rules, objectives, expectations and, on the basis of these, they act and continue their path.

So, almost all of them work like that. Another important thing is that, between these different levels, within systems, groups, families, etc., they must be communicating. They must not have too rigid boundaries, in which information does not pass. Because, otherwise, they don’t work. They are condemned in some way to malfunction or even to melt.

Those families who are unable to communicate, at a certain point, explode. It is important that there is an exchange of communication, of information, but also of elements of affectivity and emotion. Human beings need contact, and they need an authentic and sincere contact.

Differences between real life and social media life

Me: Thanks for your explanation. There is a doubt, however, that it is growing more and more in me. I often find myself observing people’s lives on Instagram and, almost always, I see beautiful things.

People spend a lot of time in that virtual world and they seem really happy, they seem to have everything they want. I come from that universe, yet I have never felt the happiness they feel. I only have memories of a closed environment, always the same, without company, without open spaces or relationships. I can’t understand how it is possible for people to live happily on social media.

V: Precisely, because we return to the discourse of society, of the context. There are people who unfortunately find themselves living in a context that is not enriching, a context that is far from their expectations, from their desires. From what they expected. Therefore, what it happens? That, when we are faced with a reality that is not what we wanted, we can react or try to change it.

But we must have the security of having the means and strength to do it. Or, in any case, the support to do it. We can decide to ignore the problems and say “Oh well, that’s it” and then, we take it for what it is; or, in some cases, when it becomes too painful, decide to escape from reality. And the virtual world is one of the many ways to do it.

So, unfortunately, we choose to do so because the surrounding reality is not a reality that allows us to grow. It is a reality that makes us feel feelings of helplessness, unhappiness, frustration, anger. And the human being does not want to experience these negative things. So, he takes refuge elsewhere.

If, on the one hand, it is true that it’s also a problem of response mechanisms to negative events, it is also true that it is a problem that is encountered in the context in which it lives. And since the human being is not an island, but part of something bigger, of a network of human beings, it is important to act not only at the level of the individual, but above all at the level of the context.

Context which is done by other individuals, therefore, through the contribution of each one, it is hoped that reality can change for the better and, therefore, allow everyone to be present, to be able to live in reality and not have to flee from it.

Me: I understand your speech very well and I can’t blame you but, having lived in that world, I still can’t understand how you can prefer to take refuge behind a fake place, which offers nothing tangible to a real world, full of colors, of objects, relationships. I’ve missed all of these things, and now that I’m discovering them, I find them truly amazing. I don’t understand the fact that people prefer to escape rather than fully experience the world around them. Another curious thing, that I noticed on Instagram, is that it is a place full of young people, of young boys and girls. I wonder why! Don’t adults haunt that world? Do they no longer need to want to take refuge elsewhere?

V: Let’s say that the reason why there are more kids on social media is that, the generations starting from the 90s, are those who were born with social media in hand. Or in any case, with technology in hand, technology would be more appropriate.

So, they didn’t need an adaptation process, because they were born there, so they developed with them. Adults, on the other hand, come from generations in which there were no such technologies, or in any case, they were limited in certain areas, they had to adapt.

And after a certain age, therefore after a certain period of growth, adaptation becomes increasingly difficult, it takes a lot of effort, a lot of energy and you are not always prepared for this investment. In fact, then, there are situations in which this investment leads to misuse.

This also happens among boys, however, in my opinion, one of the main reasons is precisely this, which is the adaptation that requires a lot and not everyone is marked by this adaptation. Rather, perhaps, having already a defined life, it is easier to choose to use them sporadically and without much interest.

How to get involved in psychology

Me: Really fascinating. Just as I thought, this topic is complex but very interesting. I’m really curious to know how you got into psychology and how you decided to do such a difficult job!

V: So, I became passionate about psychology after reading a book and also seeing the film. The book is called “Zoo Station: The Story of Christiane F”. This will surely be a cliché of many who have studied psychology and have become psychologists. It’s the history of some heroin addicts, and their journey in the Berlin of the nineteen-seventies.
Ehm, in reality, I don’t deal with addictions. I take care of anything else.

However, basically, the same motivation remained. I believe that every human being is predisposed to reach the best. We have a potential. And I believe that, in face of the difficulties that the reality poses to us, and that we place ourselves, a support, a scientific study that tells us “it works like this, it doesn’t work like that; this is better etc…”, can help the person to reach this potential.

To fully develop it, and to live as best as possible. And therefore, to be able to fully realize what, to quote the philosopher Aristotle, “it is in power in itself ”. And thus become what we are meant to be in power.

However, to fully realize your essence, your being, beyond the limitations that reality and ourselves can place.

Museum-laboratory of the mind in Rome

Me: Incredible, truly incredible and fascinating. I’ll definitely go find the book you mentioned and read it, to better understand what you have explained to me. Since you told me about the book that made you curious about this topic, I would like to know if you could recommend a place to visit, a museum, for fans of the field or simply for which want to get closer to this world and get to know it better?

V: So, a place to recommend to psychology enthusiasts or to those who still want to deepen, is a beautiful museum-laboratory. The “Museum-laboratory of the mind”. Located in the complex of Santa Maria della Pietà in Rome.

For the uninitiated, Santa Maria della Pietà was the old asylum in Rome. The one that was closed with the Basaglia law. And, in the old rooms of the asylum, this museum-laboratory was created. It is very interesting.

A very emotional experience, very strong. But also beautiful, because it tells the path of what mental health was in the past. That is how it was seen, how it was treated. And, above all, it allows us to realize how, thanks to the commitment of enlightened people, it was possible to end those so negative stories of treatments. These enlightened people, in any case, had committed themselves to human life and the human being.

There are stories of people with psychological problems, or psychiatric disorders, that was ghettoized, stigmatized and sidelined by the society.

Redoing this path inside the museum, allows us to understand how many steps forward have been made and, as I said before, how the company has grown. And, with this growth, to allow everyone to flourish and become what their potential is.

Me: Thanks for the suggestion, I find the museum you described really interesting and important, above all, from the point of view of the knowledge of a world that is really complex. Thanks again for your words and for your availability Valentina, you were very kind!

V: Thanks Luna, I’m very happy to have shared this space with you, I hug you. Hello!

Me: Thanks also to those who listened to the second episode of “I’m Luna Dolph”. I learned a lot thanks to this chat with Valentina, and I hope to have helped you to better understand the world we have talked about. Let me know if you know the museum-laboratory that she recommended, or if you are going to visit it, I have already put it on the list!

Leave me a good review on my web channels, to encourage me to continue this journey. Subscribe to my podcast and Instagram, and contact me on lunadolph.com for advice, criticism or just to get to know me. See you next Friday for a new episode! And don’t forget: experience and enjoy the real world!