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Thinking Our Way to Happiness
An interview with Brazilian therapist, writer and philosopher Flavio Gikovate
Antonio Carlos Rix (carlosrix)     Print Article 
Published 2007-08-30 06:14 (KST)   
Flavio Gikovate graduated from USP (Sao Paulo State University) in 1966 with a doctorate. As a Brazilian philosopher, Gikovate answers many of our questions in life using simple words and taking vivid figures from our day-to-day experiences to give meaningful examples so we all may enjoy -- through his lectures, speeches and writings -- many moments of personal self-realization.

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He has practiced psychotherapy since 1967 and provided care for more than 8,000 patients making use of brief therapy techniques. He has collaborated for magazines and periodicals of great circulation in Brazil, famous periodicals such as Folha de Sao Paulo and Claudia Magazine. In 1970 he worked abroad as a clinical assistant at the University of London's Institute of Psychiatry.

Gikovate has written 25 books on the main aspects of intimate self-conflict in normal people, especially those conflicts related to people's affective and sexual life. His books -- some also published in Spanish and Italian -- have sold more than 600,000 copies.

He has also participated as a guest on practically all of the programs on Brazilian television. Between 1991 and 1993, he coordinated a daily program called "Speaking the Truth" on TV Bandeirantes.

Gikovate, who regularly receives requests to lecture the public in general as well as the management of companies, psychology professionals and some medical specialties, was very kind to except my invitation to be interviewed recently while giving a lecture at FNAC bookstore in Campinas.

Dr. Gikovate gives a lecture at the FNAC bookstore in Campinas.
©2007 Antonio Carlos Rix
Writers many times have actually one composition line throughout their entire body of work. In your case what is that?

I have started my work paying close attention to sexual matters, really fashionable at the end of the 1960s. In the 1970s I shed more light on matters of love, couple life and the difficulties more common among those who lived and shared intimacy. From that moment ahead, everything got entwined so that now sometimes I write more about love, other times more about sex (still a great mystery), other times about moral matters (selfishness and generosity critic) -- a subject that is actually relevant to the matters of affective relationship between different people. [Essentially Gikovate's main goal is to help people find the best conditions for happiness and freedom.]

This is already the third millennium. Where are we (as humans) emotionally speaking right now?

We have a biological trend which is always the same (at least for the last 150,000 years). Our culture evolves all the time and yet it has never changed as fast as now. Cultural pressures are the highest, in such a way that today I think that our liberty is damaged, in special due to the impositions determined by the patterns and the standardization set by the media. We do have more conditions for liberty than ever before, yet I think we have never before been as much enslaved by the social environment as we are now.

What about love? How has the development of society and technology -- especially the greater accesses to information -- affected our relations in your view?

The greatest new factor was the development of individualism People have difficulty in abandoning the idea of the romantic love, so much part of the 19th century, in which the objective was the fusion of two halves that would be together all the time and everywhere. Individualism requires more individual liberty and moments of solitude, an aspect I consider a great advance in practical terms. Now, for the person to be able to really enjoy the delights of a life in which individual liberty does not collide with the romantic objectives, that person will have to fully develop emotionally to a level of more autonomy and to be able to cope with oneself. In order to be well alone there must be real emotional autonomy. To get along well the couple must have respect for the differences. Nowadays, the key word in relationships is "respect" and no longer "concession" as it was in the times when everything had to be done together (one allowing and the other leading). We are advancing even unwillingly, yes, because individualism happened as a byproduct of technological advancements and not due to any conscious decision of mankind. Mankind interferes in the habitat and changes it, then they get back the changes that obliged them to modify themselves and the form they relate.

You have, I know, international experience. To what extent do you think your work would speak to the community outside Brazil?

I work with patients in New York and have worked already with patients from many different nationalities. It doesn't seem to me, at least in the emotional helm and in matters of moral related questions, of happiness and even sexuality, that there are significant differences.

In your last book that's just arrived the bookstores in Brazil, "Da para ser Feliz Apesar do Medo" ("It Is Possible to Be Happy Despite Fear") you talk about intellectual men you know who want to be rich and rich men who want to be intellectuals and how both types are actually frustrated. This was meant to show that our condition is not a determiner of happiness, right? Where do you want to get with that book?

©2007 Flavio Gikovate
The idea is to show that happiness corresponds to a structured set of situations that evolve through positive willingness (and fast overcoming) with life's inevitable adversities, for the pleasure of being in peace without fear of feeling bored, for the pleasure of the body (sex, noncompetitive sports), for intellectual pleasures (pleasure of learning, enjoying arts, getting to know oneself and others better, exchanging information with friends). Good health has everything to do with pleasure too, with consistent and gratifying sentimental encounters, based on friendship, reciprocal fellowship and trust. Mainly it all goes through being capable of coping with those adversities without giving in to any form of self-destructive attitudes; that is what we usually do, we do not stand happiness because it seems to attract the fury of the gods and other people's envy; without noticing, we sabotage our own conquests and thereby put ourselves away from our ideals.

What message would you like give to our Korean and worldwide readers?

I think that there is a great collective unfamiliarity regarding the most important questions of our intimate life. Particularly, in matters related to love and the importance of this feeling in our daily lives, as basic nourishment for our self-esteem and personal revolutionary potential. When we are happier, we become freer of cultural pressures, emotionally balanced and consume much less. This allows us to get away with the culture of consumerism that tries to impose definite patterns to our way of being.
You can read Dr. Flavio Gikovate's writings on his Web site. A good number of texts are available in English.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Antonio Carlos Rix

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