Monday, June 05, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Velveteen Principles

My favourite book when I was a kid was The Velveteen Rabbit. When I saw The Velveteen Principles: A Guide to Becoming Real in the bookstore I couldn’t resist. I was having one of those days in Chapters where I had 9 books piled up and wanted to take them all home. Some girls have shoe fetishes, but I like books. I was with my boyfriend George and he said I could pick three and had to put the rest back. I put this one back very reluctantly. But George ended up buying for me! He wrote in the cover: Hunny Bunny, A gift for no reason <3 Hunny Bear.

If you don’t know the story of Margery Williams's The Velveteen Rabbit, I will summarize it here. It is Christmas morning in 1922 and a young boy receives a velveteen rabbit along with other toys. After the Christmas excitement the Velveteen Rabbit loses its newness and is insecure with the other toys being more modern. He seeks the wisdom of the old Skin Horse who says that the Boy will love him again one day. The Boy later comes down with scarlet fever and seeks the Velveteen Rabbit for comfort. This experience transforms the Velveteen Rabbit into what the Skin Horse calls Real. Real is what happens when you become your true self and are loved despite and even because of your imperfections.

The Velveteen Principles was written by Toni Raiten-D’Antonio, a psychotherapist, who loved the story and thought it had application to every day life. I adored this book and it made The Velveteen Rabbit even more special to me. She has much wisdom, but also appears human, which makes for a real story/book. She affirms that the Velveteen Rabbit is more than a children’s tale but this story has the power to remind us of life’s basic truths: we all want to feel valuable, beautiful and loved for who we are on the inside.

The first section, “To Be Real in a World of Objects” is 40 pages long and describes how our society and culture is obsessed with objects. The explains the difference between superficial beauty and real inner beauty. She uses an example of an old couple at her doctor’s office. This old man in his 80s wheeled in his wife. The woman was quite ill. She wore no makeup and had red splotches and blue veins on her wrinkled face. She wore clothes that were not feminine nor fashionable. Yet when her husband stroked her hair and spoke softly into her ear, she smiled. This was true inner beauty and love.

The book’s message reminds us how important it is to be able to answer the question, “who am I?” To do this, we must self-develop and reflect and look within instead of outside for the answers. Don’t answer this question by your titles, i.e. ‘ I’m a student’ or ‘I’m a husband and a father’. But rather, I am Sharon and I care about animals, I have great respect for the military, I love to cook and I love autumn.

The book really spoke to me about my imperfections and how to be okay with them. Raiten-D’Antionio talks about how many of us fear failure, and that we are perfectionists. These feelings demand perfection of others and we may treat our friends, family and coworkers like they are less human without compassion and consideration.

The second section of the book has 12 “Velveteen Principles”. The message is how to become Real like the Velveteen Rabbit did. The principles reflect texts from the book and often have personal examples or examples from the author’s clients. The principles range from: ‘Real is Possible’ it is also ‘a process’ ‘emotional’ and ‘empathetic’. Real is also ‘courageous’, ‘honest’ ‘grateful’ and ‘ethical’.

I was very impressed with the flow of The Velveteen Principles: A Guide to Becoming Real. It was a super fast read. I read it on the train home this weekend and I was finished it even before my transfer at Union. Each section and principle starts off with a quote from the book. In addition, the author had excellent segways between each principle. The book reminds me of another one of my favourites, Tuesdays With Morrie. It’s just one of those feel good books. In a way it’s a self-help book without being too much in your face. I truly cherish the story The Velveteen Rabbit and the hidden wisdom of the human condition makes the story ever more special.

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