Lessons From an Italian Doctor: Break Out Of The American Numb Zone and Embrace Your Passion

Dr Michael Fiorintini witnessing our wedding docs in Positano, Italy

Dr Michael Fiorintini witnessing our wedding docs in Positano, Italy

I wouldn’t say we are passionless as Americans, because we’re not, but, I would say we can be numb.  There, I said it.  Let me explain myself  before I get the e-mails.  I was having lunch with a friend of mine at Chez Black on the Amalfi Cost in Italy.  We were discussing some cultural differences between our two countries.

He’s a physician and native of Italy who just wanted to understand what we were all so depressed about in America.  I said, “What do you mean depressed”? He said, “Almost every American tourist that I see as a patient notes on their history that there taking anti-depressants.  I know that they’re not all chemically imbalanced or bipolar because in every case I’ve asked if a blood test was taken to diagnose and it never was.”

He went on to explain, “In Italy if we love you, we LOVE you, if we hate you, we HATE you.  There’s not much middle ground.  If we are happy we laugh and cheer, if we’re angry, we cry and yell.  In America, if you get too high you’re manic (and you take something to mellow you), if you get too low you’re depressed (and you take something else raise you).  In Italy, we call that happy and sad.  Those are good things.  Feeling really happy and really sad are emotions that serve us and allow us to respond to appropriately.  They are not emotions that need to be medicated, they need to be felt. You have so many things to be happy about, what’s the problem?”

It really got me thinking.  Is he right?  I think he is.  How passionate are we really about life?  Do our cars embody the passion of a Ferrari? Does American food have the assault on our senses that real Italian food does?  Do we appreciate the beauty of woman like our Italian counter parts (or do we just want to hit it)?  Are we so passionate about our sporting events that we can’t even be let in the same entrances as the opposing team?  In my opinion, the answer to all of the questions above is:  nope.

I say excuses are over.  It’s time to live!  Let’s get out of the numb zone and live like we mean it.  Live like we really mean it.  Live like tomorrow isn’t promised, because……it’s not.  Let’s take a hat tip from my friend, the Italian doctor, in Amalfi and find out what we love to do and begin living La Dolce Vita!


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9 Responses to Lessons From an Italian Doctor: Break Out Of The American Numb Zone and Embrace Your Passion

  1. Julia says:

    This is totally true. I love living in the U.S., but I’m always amazed when people tell me that I travel too much. I’m like you need to get a life and work is not a life. We are medicating every single issue we have and not trying to figure out and address the problem. I might be American, but I have a European sensibility. I work to live, not live to work.

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  2. Darryl says:

    May I suggest a book entitled The Culture Code by C. Rapaille? It explores these cultural differences in interesting ways. There’s some good insight into Italians and love.

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  3. Rob says:

    @Julia Ahhh… European sensibility. Right there with you!

    @Darryl Just got the book on audible. I listen to it on the plane this weekend and let you know my thoughts. Thanks!

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  4. David Walsh says:

    You’re spot on with this Rob, so true. Fortunately, experiencing true passion doesn’t depend on everyone in the culture around changing – but simply going to new cultures that live more passionately. If the Puritanical repressions of the States feels stifling and hypermedicated, the new rich lifestyle allows one to simply seek out the right mentality. It’s time to find the place where passion underscores every interaction – where it’s experienced, not striven for.

    Let it never be said that the jet set can be held down by the limitations of location. The Ferrari’s subtle roar, the woman’s curves, the intimidating meal and the arch rival at the football match – all deserve the fire of our passion. La Dolce Vita.

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  5. Lenard says:

    Work like you don’t need money,
    Love like you’ve never been hurt,
    And dance like nobody’s watching.

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  6. franje says:

    First of all, I am Italo-Canadian, so my response will be different to that of, say, an Italo-American because in Canada, we are taught to embrace our heritage. I also live in Toronto, the city with more Italians than any other city outside of Italy, and yes, that includes NYC. But I digress…

    Our (North American) cars are not like Ferraris, but neither are most Italian cars. We, at least, have an affordable Mustang, which is a poor man’s Corvette. We once had the Camero.

    The Italian food here in Toronto is as good as any in Italy, and sometimes better.

    As for the sporting events…the fact that the Italians must be admitted to entrances different to that of the opposing team’s fans tells me they may not be as civilized as we are. Passion is good, but you get to an intensity of passion beyond which you reduce yourself to something barbaric. Civility can be a good thing.

    Lastly, I have to make a comment about the appreciation of women. We DO appreciate women here, but the women here respond differently to a man’s signs of appreciation. Besides, ask any non-Italian women who has had to stay in Italy for over a week…the men there also just “hit”.

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  7. Andy Hayes says:

    It always seemed to me that Americans are over-medicated in general. Contrast that to the UK where here everyone self-medicates with alcohol. So I guess it’s about finding your own balance?

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  8. Jenna says:

    Fabulous post,Rob. You guys are doing a great job providing the tools and inspiration to “live like you mean it!”

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  9. Great post Rob and congrats on the wedding by the way, what an amazing place to
    do so, wow!

    So as A 2 passport and Green Card holding Canuck Aussie (Canadian Born/Mum is an Aussie went to high school there) living in Texas with some Italian blood in me (mum’s side), and the son of an old school allopathic MD who is also well travelled I must say I can relate with much of what you write here mate!

    No question here in the US we are way over medicated, there is a pill for every
    ‘ailment’ some ailments so obscure (like restless leg syndrome) ya just have to laugh when ya see or read the ad! :) The ‘happy pill’ is the # 1 prescribed pill as we are a nation of ‘depressed’ people, at least by the definition given these days (feeling sad, lonely, down, confused, etc) and my theory on why so many people are sad is simply we are undervalued, under appreciated, un fulfilled, overworked, underpaid,over taxed and our souls are starving for meaningful ‘work’ that matters (all about PASSION) and connection with other
    human beings (that goes way beyond this computer screen and social media) we are just dis-connected in general and not living with Passion, La Dolce Vita!

    I think it’s true that in other cultures (UK, Aussie for example) that people tend to self-medicate with alcohol (I love Australia, one of the most beaut places and people in the world, but I must say the Aussies and Pommies tend to make a religion out of beer) and or food, sex, etc (as well in the US) anything to distract us from truly FEELING…from getting in touch with what we are feeling and WHY which is the true key and answer to what ails us!

    I do agree that Italians (and much of Europe) seem to live with much more passion and have figured out this lifestyle design thing (it’s more a part of their culture and lifestyle) for the most part, however I also agree that sometimes their passion can be a lil out of hand, with the Soccer example above and yes many Italian (and other European) men are just as capable of wanting to ‘Hit It’ as any male no matter where they live, especially when the target of their ‘passion’ is a foreigner or traveler aye! :)

    Overall I highly agree we here in North America (US) need to stop looking for a ‘pill’ to make us happy, and to be okay with FEELING how we feel to get in touch with that and do some deep soul searching to get in touch with what is it that that FEELING is saying to us and to listen to that and take Action… and start living with PASSION…La Dolce Vita!

    Cheers my friend, keep up the great ‘work and keep living your PASSIONS!


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