The Velveteen Principles: A Guide to Becoming Real Hidden Wisdom from a Children's Classic

Overview

In the tradition of The Tao of Pooh, a noted therapist shows how the wisdom of a children's classic can lead to a life of love, fulfillment and purpose.

Who wouldn't want to go back to when life was simple and a stuffed animal could fix all your problems?

Botox parties. Extreme Makeovers. "Reality" TV. These are just some examples of how we have lost sight of something so basic yet so essential to true ...

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Overview

In the tradition of The Tao of Pooh, a noted therapist shows how the wisdom of a children's classic can lead to a life of love, fulfillment and purpose.

Who wouldn't want to go back to when life was simple and a stuffed animal could fix all your problems?

Botox parties. Extreme Makeovers. "Reality" TV. These are just some examples of how we have lost sight of something so basic yet so essential to true happiness: On our way to becoming status-seeking super-humans, we forgot how to be Real.

This charming gift book guides readers down a simple path to reclaiming joy, fulfillment and individuality, using an unconventional source-the children's classic The Velveteen Rabbit. By sharing the timeless insights and poignant quotes from the popular children's book, the author identifies 10 keys to becoming Real, with the promise that when you become Real you will love and be loved with all your strengths, weakness, faults and gifts. As the Skin Horse explains to the Velveteen Rabbit:

"Real isn't how you are made . . . It's a thing that happens to you. . . . Generally by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes droop and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But those things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

Destined to be a classic in its own right, The Velveteen Principles delivers a simple yet profound message for the ages.

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Editorial Reviews

BookPage

Like The Tao of Pooh and The Gospel According to Peanuts , Toni Raiten-D'Antonio's new book, The Velveteen Principles draws on well-known children's literature for inspiration. The author skewers the prevalent worldview that equates wealth, beauty, public acclaim, power and popularity with happiness. True happiness, she says, only comes from being "Real," and "Real" rarely means conforming to the standards of the "United States of Generica." Instead Raiten-D'Antonio extracts 12 principles for becoming real from the charming children's classic, The Velveteen Rabbit . It begins with realizing that "Real is Possible," confesses that "Real Can Be Painful," and defines "Real" as Generous, Grateful, Flexible and Ethical. "Real," she insists, is "a life well-lived, where we are true to ourselves," and "all the struggles and challenges only make us more Real."

-BookPage, December 2004

BookPage
Like The Tao of Pooh and The Gospel According to Peanuts , Toni Raiten-D'Antonio's new book, The Velveteen Principles draws on well-known children's literature for inspiration. The author skewers the prevalent worldview that equates wealth, beauty, public acclaim, power and popularity with happiness. True happiness, she says, only comes from being "Real," and "Real" rarely means conforming to the standards of the "United States of Generica." Instead Raiten-D'Antonio extracts 12 principles for becoming real from the charming children's classic, The Velveteen Rabbit . It begins with realizing that "Real is Possible," confesses that "Real Can Be Painful," and defines "Real" as Generous, Grateful, Flexible and Ethical. "Real," she insists, is "a life well-lived, where we are true to ourselves," and "all the struggles and challenges only make us more Real."

-BookPage, December 2004

BookPage
Like The Tao of Pooh and The Gospel According to Peanuts , Toni Raiten-D'Antonio's new book, The Velveteen Principles draws on well-known children's literature for inspiration. The author skewers the prevalent worldview that equates wealth, beauty, public acclaim, power and popularity with happiness. True happiness, she says, only comes from being "Real," and "Real" rarely means conforming to the standards of the "United States of Generica." Instead Raiten-D'Antonio extracts 12 principles for becoming real from the charming children's classic, The Velveteen Rabbit . It begins with realizing that "Real is Possible," confesses that "Real Can Be Painful," and defines "Real" as Generous, Grateful, Flexible and Ethical. "Real," she insists, is "a life well-lived, where we are true to ourselves," and "all the struggles and challenges only make us more Real.
Library Journal
The first of these books on personal development sounds like an exercise in schmaltz, but it turns out to be a surprisingly good exploration of how meaning and principles can guide one's life and work. Psychotherapist Raiten-D'Antonio bases her explorations on the wisdom of Margery Williams's classic The Velveteen Rabbit. The author encourages readers to "become Real" like the rabbit and the skin horse by rejecting the superficiality and surface beauty so prevalent in the "Generic State of America." Her work as a therapist informs and deepens her comprehension that becoming Real is the "purpose of every kind of psychotherapy." Twelve principles (e.g., be generous, careful, empathetic, grateful, and ethical) are explored, and though the basic message is not new, the book's clarity and readability more than compensate. Peterson, a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, writes in soothing, considerate tones about taking responsibility "for the fulfillment of your dreams and desires." This mellowness proves problematic, however, as the resultant advice lacks the urgency required to get readers off their duffs. The titular tools are buried within the exposition, and while this is good reflective reading for beginners, the simple tips (e.g., keep your car neat) might have been better in list form. Readers will be nodding their heads but then wondering what to do. Skip on Peterson; Raiten-D'Antonio is an optional purchase. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780757302114
  • Publisher: Health Communications, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/1/2004
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 417,114
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 7.78 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Toni Raiten-D'Antonio, is a well-known psychotherapist with a thriving private practice in Suffolk County, Long Island. She is a professor of psychology and social work at Empire State College. Prior to becoming a therapist she worked in television and theater as both a performer and producer. She has two daughters and lives in New York with her husband, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael D'Antonio.
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Read an Excerpt

Her husband, a white-haired man dressed in khaki pants and a flannel shirt, was small, alert and quite fit. He had pushed her wheelchair with relative ease and then knelt next to her. He pushed back the sleeve of his shirt, revealing a very old tattoo of a buxom young woman - maybe it was Betty Grable - and stroked his wife's hair. As he adjusted the plastic tubing for her oxygen supply, he spoke softly in his wife's ear. Whatever he said made her smile.

As I peeked over my magazine I became strangely jealous. Here she was, at the end of her life, physically debilitated and struggling. But she was not shy or embarrassed. Instead, she exuded a peaceful sense of certainty about who she was and her inherent value. It was clear that her husband adored her and cherished every moment they spent together. I considered his tattoo and thought of the time when he was young and probably quite obsessed with pretty women. And who knows, maybe his wife was once the girl who had fulfilled his fantasy. But in the moment I witnessed, what he loved was the true and essential person inside the body, the invisible beauty he may not have seen in younger years.

In the weeks after seeing that couple in the doctor's office I struggled to understand why I had been so envious. I had a husband who loved me. I felt good about my work and about my two children, Amy and Elizabeth. But I felt, deep in my heart, there was something that older woman possessed that I wanted. It was there in her face, and in the way she interacted with her husband, but I just couldn't name it.

The answers we need often come to us at unpredictable moments and from surprising sources. This happened to me on a summer evening as I prepared dinner. I was in the kitchen, taking vegetables out of the refrigerator and grabbing pots and pans from the cupboard while my daughters sat together reading on the sofa in the next room. Elizabeth, age six, was reading to two-year-old Amy. Amy had her favorite blanket in her hand, her best bear, Lauren, in her lap and her thumb in her mouth. Elizabeth's stuffed bear, Ted, was propped next to her. They had reached page sixteen of The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams's story, which was one of their favorites.

What is REAL asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?"

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But those things don't matter at all, because once you are real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

In the kitchen, I was suddenly flooded with emotion and understanding. The Rabbit and the Skin Horse, I realized, were talking about the difference between superficial beauty and the kind of Real, inner beauty that we all possess as unique human beings. They were saying that in a life well-lived, where we are true to ourselves, all the struggles and challenges only make us more Real and more loveable. Others can see this quality in us, and make us even more Real with their love and nurturing.

At last I understood my reaction to the older woman at my doctor's office. She was loose in the joints. Her hair was thinning, and her clothes were shabby. But she showed no anxiety, no shame, no worry. She accepted herself fully. She knew she was precious and irreplaceable. She was Real. She loved and accepted herself as a Real, and therefore imperfect, person.

The scene at the doctor's office was made all the more poignant by the fact that the woman's Real value was clear to her husband as well. To him she could never be ugly, because she was simply herself. At a moment when anyone else might have been supremely self-conscious, he was so Real that he was almost carefree. He had thoroughly overcome the superficial attitude reflected in his old tattoo and come to adore his wife for her deepest, inner self.

As the pages of The Velveteen Rabbit turn, the main characters teach us how to find the peace that comes when we focus on what matters most in life: love, relationships, and empathy for ourselves and others. The Skin Horse is a wise and experienced elder who is generous with what he has learned. The Rabbit is, like all of us, insecure and searching for his place in the world, a place he eventually finds in a rather unexpected new life.

As in so many children's books, the human beings in Margery Williams's tale are mostly oblivious to the intense drama affecting the toys in the nursery. In this case, the little Velveteen Rabbit stays with his owner - the Boy - as he suffers through scarlet fever. When the Boy recovers, the doctor insists that the bunny - "a mass of scarlet fever germs!" - be replaced. Though the Rabbit is discarded, it is not the end of the story. As he lies in the yard waiting to be burned with the trash, the Rabbit is transformed from a toy that was Real only to the Boy into an actual living creature who is Real for all to see. He hops off to live a splendid life with other Real rabbits, who become his friends. The words of the Skin Horse, who was wise, secure and content, are proven true. Being Real transforms us.

Out in the living room, Elizabeth and Amy paused and looked at their own stuffed animals. Elizabeth's bear, Ted, was missing an eye. The white fur of Amy's bear was dingy gray. Its pink thread nose was a little ragged. The two stuffed animals had both been loved so much, and so deeply, that the girls agreed that they must be Real. What was so obvious to my young daughters - that you don't have to be perfect to be worthy - was a revelation to me.

A Realistic Point of View

Over the next few weeks I noticed that the message of The Velveteen Rabbit had stirred some long-standing and painful feelings. Even though my life was good, at least as other people might measure it, I didn't posses the confidence, the completeness, the self-awareness of that woman in the wheelchair. As a young woman, mother, wife and professional, I was filled with insecurity and self-doubt. Every day I wore the facade of being sure of myself, but deep inside, I wasn't sure of anything. I wasn't completely Real.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2005

    Finally Free - I want to be Real also

    Loved this book!!! This is the best self help book I have every read and believe me I have hundreds. I want to be real also just like the book describes and I am going to finally take steps in that direction. I am a Beautiful, Worhty, Loving, Strong, Healthy Joyful Woman. And with God's help I will stop 'being an unhappy Accountant' and become an 'Artist/Playwriter' SOON. Thank you so much for this wonderful gift. I hope Mrs. D'Antonio is able to read this message and know what a gift from Heaven it is, Again thank you, Have a Wonderful day-every day. Always, Michelle Fontenot Smith 6227 Westridge Drive Baton Rouge, LA 70817

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2005

    An instruction book for a well-lived life

    Ms. Raiten-D'Antonio's beautiful little book is composed of quiet, simple wisdom and big ideas. Perfect for those who are looking for a book that is challenging but not overwhelming, comforting but not filled with fluff, and helpful without being preachy. The Velveteen Principles has given me many a nudge towards creating my best life. This one has a permanent place on my bookshelf and I know I will refer to it often!

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    Posted December 20, 2008

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    Posted December 1, 2008

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