LOOKING FOR THE TRUE SENSE OF EXISTENCE. DIALOGUE-INTERVIEW WITH PROF. VICTORINO ANDREOLI.
“The man of nature – says here, at a certain point, the famous psychiatrist – we don’t like the world as it is either: here the problem is to ask ourselves why we no longer like man or the world. This is the prelude to a small apocalypse: the theme of ‘destructiveness’ emerges, the condition in which, not liking what is there, I smash everything, destroy everything and go to the Metaverse. Where can this escape take us? In my opinion this generates schizophrenia, dissociation”.
Below we report the first part of this dialogue-interview, referring to the link at the end of the page to access the full text
Prof. Andreoli I find that we often fall into the error of looking around us, in material goods and in the desire to possess them, for the purpose of existence, eluding profound questions which instead concern the meaning of life even in its recondite aspects: relationships with the others, the effort that accompanies every conquest, the duty of responsibility, up to sacrifice and pain. What awareness must we recover to ennoble our being here, in the world?
You see, Dr. Provinciali, I believe that there are moments in which perhaps joy, play, curiosity should prevail: in short, there is also a time to escape, I am convinced that there are occasions in which the weather becomes pleasant for the existence and for man. However, there are different life situations in which these positive aspects are not possible because you have to go from ‘particular‘ – to use an expression of Vico – to the general and therefore there comes a time when it is necessary to devote oneself to the search for the meaning that man has in the world and therefore reciprocally to the meaning of the world for man. In this consists the continuous discovery of the meaning of life. It seems to me that we should “be inside” this time, for a very simple reason: we live in times of crisis. Now you know that there are individual crises that are part of existence: there are conflicts in one part that we consider positive and others that need to be addressed and resolved. Until recently we considered all conflicts to be treated, to be resolved, this was the lesson learned from Freud and maintained for a long time. Today there is a crisis of existence for each of us: the fatigue of living, the difficulties that concern us individually. But there are crises that we cannot pretend do not exist, avoiding them, because historically they are characterized by their periodicity: in the past we had two great economic crises, that of 1873 – after the great Franco-Prussian war – and that of 1929. first it was defined as ‘panic’, that of 1929 as ‘depression’: the economy was not working and two terms typical of psychiatry were used to describe it. In the light of those experiences we can say that today there is a major economic crisis whose cause certainly originates from the global financial context, from the collapse of subprime stocks in the USA in 2006 but which then suffered the enormous slowdown due to the pandemic, and is the first time it happens in modern times. This premise of mine – with respect to your question – aims to lead to this conclusion: today the time for playing to understand who we are is over, because if we face individual problems and individual and specific needs we will never get out of the general epochal crisis that concerns world. Today it seems to me that the problem that we have experienced up to now as tension – having passed for a long time from what Darwin called the ‘struggle for survival’, which is centered on nutrition, on the defense of the territory and on procreation in order to continue the species – concerned the theme of ‘quality of life’ which has an infinite and indefinable meaning, an open world of always feeling good. Now what is happening: that we are regressing from quality of life to survival, the crisis therefore means going back to the needs of the past. Some pretend there is no crisis while there is someone who is ill, has no job, the banks do not give them credit, cannot make ends meet, cannot cope with the increases in energy costs , to the bills to be paid, also consequences of the ongoing war.
In this existential context of crises and uncertainties that you describe, we can consider the theme of loneliness, which is like a kaleidoscope of feelings: there is that sought to find oneself, that suffered which can give us a sense of detachment and humiliation, that of who is marginalized and feels a void of inadequacy and incomprehension. This state of mind, which has inspired poets and artists, seems to me to be negatively accentuated in this age of communication facilitation – and this is a paradox – also through the use of technologies. Do we risk being engulfed by the media and getting lost in the babel of words and clichés?
The question raised is interesting and contains many ideas: allow me to begin with a reflection.
The problem is to enter into the merits: ‘who is man’. If we want man to be ‘augmented’, giving him the ability to see in three dimensions, to listen to sounds we don’t usually hear, to read through infrared, then we must ask ourselves: why do we want him like this? If the answer is ‘this world doesn’t suit us’: this could be the answer. In one of your recent writings, you carefully and carefully investigated the theme of the Metaverse: in principle, I am terrified of the Metaverse, I agreed to go and give a report at a conference, but I asked for a year to investigate. Do we want augmented man? We have always looked for it and wanted it to be like this: think of the theme of sexuality, without which we psychiatrists would die of hunger…
Now it’s a matter of understanding that if we want augmented man this means that we don’t like the current one.
Would we want him with an eye behind his neck to see what’s going on behind his back? With three legs?
So we don’t even like the world and that’s why we invent the Metaverse which is a world that doesn’t exist, that we build because we want to invest money, because the economy also makes money in the virtual world.
We don’t like man by nature, nor do we like the world as it is: here the problem is to ask ourselves why we no longer like man or the world. This is the prelude to a small apocalypse: the theme of ‘destructiveness’ emerges, the condition in which, not liking what is there, I smash everything, destroy everything and go to the Metaverse. Where can this escape take us? In my opinion this generates schizophrenia, dissociation.
I lived sixty years treating schizophrenia and dissociation. Maybe I failed? The fact that you go to the Metaverse with your own avatar confirms what psychiatry has long since discovered: there are “I”s in the two of us. If I send my avatar into the Metaverse it means that I am splitting and I have to cure this identity dissociation.
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Who is Victorinus Andreoli
World-renowned psychiatrist, he was director of the Psychiatry Department of Verona–Soave and is a member of the New York Academy of Sciences. He is chairman of the Section Committee on Psychopathology of Expression of the World Psychiatric Association. He firmly opposes the Lombrosian conception of crime according to which the crime was necessarily committed by a mentally ill person, and supports the compatibility of normality with the most heinous. He is the author of books ranging from medicine to literature to poetry, and collaborates with the magazine Mind and Brain and with the newspaper to come. You have produced several series of programmes, with episodes lasting around 30 minutes, dedicated to adolescents (Teenager TVB), to elderly people (W grandparents) and to the family (A challenge called family).
Among his works, published with Rizzoli, we remember Praise of error (2012, with Giancarlo Provasi), Money on the head (2012), Our fears (2011), The noise of words (2019) e The future of the world (2019). In 2014 it comes out The (im)possible education. Finding your way in a society without fathers, and the following year But we are crazy. A country suspended between normality and madness. In 2016 it comes out My ride through timein 2017 The joy of thinking. In praise of a forgotten art (Rizzoli), Men of God. An investigation into priests and the sacred (Piemme). In 2018 it comes out The silence of the stones (Rizzoli), Blessed solitude. The power of silence (Piemme) and Homo stupidus stupidus. The agony of a civilization (Rizzoli). Then post with Solferino The man with his brain in his pocket (2019), A certain age (2020), Making peace (2020), The digital family 2021, The origin of consciousness (2021), The psychology of us (2021), History of pain (2022).