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Thursday, December 31, 2009

How to become REAL. (book review)

How to Become Real
Blog entry written March 2007.
Formerly posted at Danny's myspace blog.

A Review of:

D'Antonio, T. (2004) The Velveteen principles: a guide to becoming real. Health Communications, Inc. Deerfield, FL.

D'Antonio (2004) has written A Guide to Becoming Real based on Margery Williams classic children's story: The Velveteen Rabbit. Becoming authentic is a form of becoming self-actualized. Although based on a children's story, D'Antonio's summary of the principles to becoming real are for all ages: children, adolescents, adults and seniors.

One does not need to have read Margery William's The Velveteen Rabbit as a prerequisite to reading D'Antonio's (2004) The Velveteen Principles: A Guide to Becoming Rea. D'Antonio shares segments from The Velveteen Rabbit in order to help the reader understand.

D'Antonio (2004) identifies 12 principles on becoming real based on The Velveteen Rabbit. These principles include: a.) real is a possibility; b.) real is a process; c.) real is emotional; d.) real is empathetic; e.) real is courage; f.) real is honest; g.) real is generous; h.) real is grateful; i.) real can be painful; j.) real is flexible; k.) real love endures; and l.) real has a meaning. Each of D'Antonio's (2004) principles will be reviewed here.

1. Real is a Possibility

Real is possible. It requires being oneself, which can be difficult in a world that pressures us to conform, to buy the latest trend, to look a certain way, and buy a certain product. The media portrays an example of how we "should" be, but being real is about living in a way that we truly want to be. Real is especially possible during leisure pursuits when a person can express her true interest, i.e. poetry, painting, dance, or yoga. Values clarification would be an excellent way to help a person to decide what is "really" important to her.

2. Real is a Process

Real is a process that takes time. A person does not become real overnight. It takes becoming aware of your own values and slowly starting to live them. D'Antonio (2004) explains four parts of this process to keep in mind: a.) [Developing] close relationships make us feel more real; b.) Work that matters makes us feel more real; c.) Creativity and growth make us feel real; and d.) Teaching, nurturing and caring for others makes us feel real. None of these parts require having a certain gadget, product, widget, thingamajig, doohickey, or doodad. Buying all of these products to have a certain image is being unreal. Being real requires being patient and learning what is truly important in our lives.

3. Real is Emotional

A person must have emotional intelligence in order to be real. She cannot hide or ignore her true emotions. It is okay to feel sad, angry, or afraid. One does not need to be ashamed of their feelings. Our emotions serve us as a guiding system. Take time to indulge in your emotions: How do you really feel? One must be self-empathetic and empathetic towards others.

4. Real is Empathetic

An unreal person who puts on a front in order to make herself out to be "better" than other people has not learned to be empathetic. It requires understanding and respecting other people's feelings. D'Antonio points out a good lesson in empathy. She claims to look at the "Intent" opposed to the "Outcome." In example, if a good friend brings you flowers (that you are allergic to) when your sick had the intention of a caring gesture towards you. It is easier to be more empathetic towards the friend when one focuses on the intent opposed to the outcome: his actions caused an allergic re-action.

5. Real is Courage

Being real may not be easy. A person may feel like an outcast by not living and acting in social conformity. In example, if a woman has never danced before and she really want to be a dancer, and then she needs to have courage to do it. It would require her to feel awkward for not being the best the first time she tried. D'Antonio points out that one does not need to be the best at any activity in order to enjoy it. One does not need to win either. Develop courage by trying new experiences.

6. Real is Honest

A person cannot be real if she is not honest. It requires being honest about our own strengths and flaws. Nobody is perfect. A perfect cut diamond would be boring to look at after a long while. It requires being true to oneself.

7. Real is Generous

A real person helps other people. She gives of herself to help others. This does not mean just giving advice, but actually taking action. D'Antonio uses this example: a neighbor high school student is interested in college and comes to you for advice. Do not tell her to go to the library. Take her to the library and help her find information she needs.

D'Antonio claims that "winning" is not everything in life. Competition requires a person to use their best ability. Runners run faster in races opposed to being timed when running alone. A person who must win in order to feel real is really dependent on an object to feel real, which is a form of being unreal.

8. Real is Grateful

This requires being glad for the things one has in life and expressing thankfulness. Take time to be aware of all the good things in life. In example: getting a cup of coffee at McDonald's requires much work to be grateful for. The cashier took the money, another person probably brewed the coffee, a manager ordered the coffee when inventory was low, and a truck driver delivered the coffee. A farmer planted the beans. Another person roasted them and another person probably roasted them.

Advertisers attempt to make us feel bad about our current situation. They want us to buy new things in order to feel happy. D'Antonio explains that this will not work because every season will have new things, which is a constant cycle.

Some people feel they must buy a new car every year in order to fit in with society. They always have the newest model, color, and accessories for their car. Others are grateful for the car they have and they keep it for ten or more years. This allows them to have more money for what is really important in life: family and friends opposed to spending it on a car to feel good.

9. Real is Painful

Becoming real can be painful. It requires for many of us to sort of wake-up and realize one has not being living their life authentically. A person who is becoming real may realize they have been living a fake life and discover she is not really happy about the way things are going. This could be a reason many people go through a mid-life crisis. They have been working in a job they do not enjoy for years and feel like they need a change. D'Antonio suggests taking time to re-discover personal values by thinking back to childhood interests. It may be painful to realize how much you loved painting or playing ball or dancing, which you have not done for years. Realize what your interests are and do it.

10. Real is Flexible

An old motto claims that: A tree that does not bend with the wind will break. Major life changes cause pain: divorce, death, disability, disease, war, etc. Change is hard, but it must not break a person. A real person is flexible. They bend and adjust. Being real can be painful during a life change.

11. Real Love Endures

The New Testament explains that love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not rude, it does not require its own way. Real love takes time. Men who have a fascination with the young and beautiful is a form of being unreal because it treats young women as objects to possess opposed to being loved. Men who leave their wife for a younger face are not being real because these men believe they need a young attractive person in order to feel better, which is not true. I (Danny P.) am being real and honest when I admit that I desire beautiful women. Of course, I am single at this time and that is natural. On the other side of the coin, I would think a woman who is real is much more attractive opposed to a beautiful girl who is unreal and fake.

12. Real is Ethical

A real person is content, grateful, and satisfied. This is a person who has achieved self-actualization. They are empathetic towards themselves and others. This person lives the golden rule: Treating other people the way she wants to be treated. This person is courteous, patient, and respectful towards other people. They are their real selves and they do not need to act in unethical ways for greed and having objects in order to feel real. The real person is going to be a true friend and not intestinally betray others.

Conclusion: Real has a Meaning

Being real is not being the kid with the most toys or the adult with the most expensive SUV. These things alone are not known for making a person happy – at least not for long. The newness wears off and they are in the same place as before: wanting something newer in order to feel real again, which is really being unreal.

What is real then? D'Antonio (2004) explains that "It is not stuff or power or achievement, but rather a sense that you are using your time on Earth well, that you are connected to others and that your life matters (p. 185). At the end of the Velveteen Rabbit Story, it reads "But once you are Real, you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."


D'Antonio, T. (2004) The Velveteen principles: a guide to becoming real. Health Communications, Inc. Deerfield, FL.

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