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Beauty and the Soul
Piero Ferrucci. New York: Tarcher, 2007

All of us, in one way or another, seek beauty. We know it brings happiness and wellbeing. When we think of beauty, we might imagine a beautiful body. Perhaps we also think of artificial beauty, offered to us by our consumer society: gadgets, clothes, cars, furniture, trips to exotic places. For many of us the beauty of nature springs to mind: the grandeur of the sea, the majesty of the mountains, the joy of a flowering meadow, the magnificence of the starry sky. Others most easily find beauty in all forms of art: a statue or painting, music or film, poetry or theatre.

Some manage to see the inner beauty of people: generosity, intelligence, honesty. It is a beauty less evident, but deeper and more lasting. Others still find beauty in ideas and meaning, or in the elegance of mathematics. But many people discover it in everyday life, a song heard on the street, a crumbling old wall, the reflections in a puddle.

As a psychotherapist, I have always been interested in beauty and the reactions it evokes in each of us. I have noticed that beauty can help us rediscover the will to live, restore a lost connection with our feelings, make us think in a new way, heal our deepest wounds, move us closer to another person, help us forget our problems. At least for a while.

I have also noticed, oddly enough, that we are often afraid of beauty. It is an undeclared, unconscious fear. This is because beauty may be too intense; or perhaps we feel we do not deserve it; or maybe we think it is somehow frivolous. Deep down we know that if we were really to surrender to it, it might radically change our lives.

Unfortunately, the repression of beauty harms us: it elicits aggressiveness, depression, anxiety. I am sure that more beauty in our lives would cure many ills.

In my forty-odd years of work as psychotherapist, I have seen how much beauty at all levels can be a source of strength that helps us regenerate and rediscover ourselves. I have also done a series of interviews with people of different countries and backgrounds, and have asked each one: "What are the effects of beauty on you?"

I have collected all the material in a book: Beauty and the Soul. The Extraordinary Power of Everyday Beauty to Heal Your Life In it I have written about my research, but also I have shown how, in order to better understand the mystery of beauty, we have to see it from many different points of view: biology and evolution, neurophysiology, psychology, art history, art therapy, ethnology, sociology, cultural anthropology.