A Square-Peg People Book Review
The Velveteen Principles
by Toni Raiten-D'Antonio
The Velveteen Principles is based on The Velveteen Rabbit, a classic in children's literature, which tells the story of a stuffed rabbit and his growing understanding of what is and isn't important in life; and his learning how to be Real.
He has a wise friend in the nursery, the Skin Horse - who helps him learn what love is, how it can sometimes hurt and what an incredible delight it is to be loved for who you are.
I was a young adult when I first read The Velveteen Rabbit. I was very much a mind-driven person at the time - barely aware of my emotions, but the book brought tears to my eyes. I remember being so touched by the way the story emphasized NOT attempting to find your worth by comparing yourself to others and the new-to-me lesson that you did not need to be perfect to be loved.
In the book author Toni Raiten-D'Antonio (who is also a psychotherapist and professor) starts by telling us something powerful about the effects of not being Real:
"...I've come to believe that the major cause of addiction, depression, anxiety, even obsessions and compulsions, is the loss of empathy for our Real selves."
She lets us know that this applies to us all:
"...at least in small and subtle ways, we have all abandoned our Real selves."
Luckily, she has ideas for us about reconnecting with the Real. Toni explains how the principles she's extracted from The Velveteen Rabbit can assist us:
"...the main characters teach us how to find the peace that comes when we focus on what matters most in life: love, relationships, and empathy for ourselves and others."
She tells us that The Velveteen Principles is:
"...intended to help you to navigate the Object culture, to recognize what is Real in yourself and others, and to shape a life based on your own values, talents and character."
Throughout the book she names and expounds on the principles of being Real and the opposite of Real - which she calls "the Object culture".
After explaining the differences between being Real and the Object culture Toni divides The Velveteen Principles into chapters describing the components of being Real. Some of these are:
• Real Is a Process
• Real Is Possible
• Real is Empathetic
• Real is Courageous
• Real Can Be Painful
Toni tells us that the Object culture has a huge influence on us (often unnoticed).
"Once we accept the pervasive messages of the Object culture, once we believe that we should be perfect, we start to feel shamefully inadequate."
We often think that what is required of us is some form of perfection. One of the sweetest things in the book is the reminder that:
"...in a life well-lived, where we are true to ourselves, all the struggles and challenges only make us more Real and more loveable. Others can see this quality in us, and make us even more Real with their love and nurturing."
The author gives us some beautiful, real-life examples of this.
Practically speaking, the basis for the belief that we can change - that we can reconnect with the Real is her "formula": "...your beliefs lead to feelings that prompt behaviors...". She says that "Your happiness, your identity and your self of self-worth all depend on this paradigm." The power in this being that "Beliefs are learned...which means they can be unlearned and replaced..."
I love stories, whether they come from books or people's lives. Toni really sums it up when she says:
"Every life is, ultimately, a story with a message. This is true, even when it comes to fictional characters whose lives are drawn in books by gifted authors. In writing The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams sketched for us a childlike character who expresses the hopes, dreams, anxieties and fears we have all experienced at one time or another."
The Velveteen Rabbit has always touched my heart. The characters have stayed with me. I've always wanted to be that very Real rabbit!
At the end of the book Toni offers us this encouragement to work toward being Real:
"If you become more Real in your own life and bring that to your relationships, you are practically guaranteed to leave behind an inspiring example for other. Your life's message will encourage everyone you touch to live with a sense of wonder, curiosity, and openness, rather than cynicism and fear. It will say. 'I was Real. And you can be Real, too.' "
Let's get to it!!
~ ~ ~ ~
Full Disclosure: we're affiliates of Amazon.com - so when you buy from the links above you don't pay a penny more, but you help support Square-Peg People. Thanks!