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Some questions to introduce Matteo Rizzato and his work

matteo rizzato foto

MATTEO, WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO WRITE THIS BOOK?

David Donelli and I met thanks to the discovery of mirror neurons. We each became fascinated in the subject and at a certain point our paths crossed, we exchanged information and decided we had to tell as many people as possible about the benefits that can come from the knowledge of this discovery.

WHAT ARE THESE BENEFITS?

First of all, understanding that others understand us instantly. We have no secrets: our bodies speak for themselves and show things about us that we do not even suspect. One of the things that is most difficult for us is to see ourselves from the outside, to understand our own characters and how others see us. Once one becomes aware, everything seems different and amazingly clear. The discovery of mirror neurons shows us how others can understand us deeply. Our book is a tool to show how this mechanism works, with simple, straightforward examples.

WHO IS IT FOR?

Everyone, without distinction. The first part of the book is more scientific and explains what mirror neurons are, using as far as possible simple, clear language along with amusing, entertaining cartoons. The second part looks at how this knowledge can be used in daily life through examples of the kind of things that can happen to anyone, and through which we explore and can understand hitherto unknown perspectives. Our book is a tool that anyone can understand.

WHAT IS THE REAL AIM OF THE BOOK?

To spread the word. To tell as many people as possible that emotions are contagious. If we go out looking sad, we make others feel sad, and if we see others looking anxious and upset, we feel the same. People need to understand that the evolution of human relations comes about through awareness of one’s own state of mind and the ability to manage it. No one can stop me being aggressive and cranky, but I need to understand that this affects others and it is time everyone began to take responsibility. Often, children imitate their parents’ moods precisely and this alone is a good reason to teach parents the importance of what they “give” their children in emotional terms. Our mood should no longer be considered a matter of fact, but rather something we choose. I want to tell everyone this.

IT IS A RATHER AMBITIOUS PROJECT, DON’T YOU THINK?

I’m an incurable optimist. The ability to understand the emotions of others is democratic: we all have it and we can all train it, even those who live crammed together in conditions that are often at the limits of human endurance. I really wish that everyone, absolutely everyone, realized how important and worthwhile it is to live in a better way with others. If we live in different houses, that does not mean we have to be distant. We are all inhabitants of the same planet and it is time to collaborate rather than compete. This is the spirit that guided us while writing I Am Your Mirror.

HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO CONVINCE PROF. RIZZOLATTI TO WRITE THE PREFACE?

In fact it was unexpected and a wonderful surprise. Can you imagine the joy that two young men, guided only by their enthusiasm, felt when they saw their work validated by the leading expert in the field? The explanation lies in the immense generosity of Prof. Rizzolatti. A scientist of his calibre decided to support the work of two complete strangers such as David and myself simply because he recognised the value of their work. It is a gesture we will always be grateful for and we wish that kind of luck for all the young people who are following paths that may not be fashionable, but who are driven solely by passion and the desire to evolve.

DO YOU THINK THAT READING YOUR BOOK COULD CHANGE SOMETHING IN SOMEONE’S EVERYDAY LIFE?

I firmly believe so. The thing I hear most often is: “Ever since I read your book I can easily recognise my emotions.” That makes me very happy. A complete stranger even wrote me a very short but meaningful e-mail: “I read your book and now I don’t get angry any more. Thank you.” That is indescribably satisfying. I don’t know how we managed to explain what we wanted in so few pages. The next one will be much longer!

THERE’S A FOLLOW-UP?

No, because “I’m your mirror” was designed to be complete in itself. Brief but intense! Rather like the past of its two authors.