Wine and Psyche

Today, we will be discussing a very interesting topic: the psychology of wine drinking, with an expert on the human psyche, Dr Federica Pagnoni.

What impact does the consumption of wine, and therefore alcohol, have on the human mind?
Although still the subject of extensive study, there have been two important discoveries regarding the effect of alcohol consumption on the human brain: the first concerns the release of dopamine, the hormone that plays a role in how we feel pleasure, when we eat sugar or win a sporting event, for example.
This “reward”system is how we experience the pleasures of life, such as a good glass of wine.
The second observation concerns the function of the frontal lobes. They are affected by alcohol, which acts as a depressant and slows down the communication between neurons.
This part of the brain mainly regulates the way we behave in society: with each additional glass of wine, alcohol dulls its function, giving us that pleasant feeling of intoxication, making us more uninhibited and, often, more clumsy.

Could the perception we have of “drinking”, and those who drink, be influenced by gender or social class?
Absolutely yes, to both!
In the 1980s, we experienced an evolution in drinking, based on gender: with more and more women entering the workplace, the consumption of alcohol became synonymous with emancipation, while the “normal” drinking of men began to be associated with deviant behaviour. However, the old prejudices still remain, which inhibits the social freedom of women, as they risk being judged as “fragile” or “frivolous”.
At the same time, recent studies have shown how belonging to a particular social class modifies a person’s perception of drinking: for the most “prestigious” professions, regular drinking is judged to be a legitimate pursuit, as it derives from one’s status in society, while, if an unemployed person admitted that they drink on a daily basis this would be seen in a negative light.

How has the consumption of wine in society changed over the last 40 years?
Until the 1980s, society was firmly based on the family unit: wine was drunk daily and was an integral part of a meal. Drinking was seen as being healthy and unremarkable, and everyone did it, even the youngest members of the family, who had unfettered access to wine.
Nowadays, however, in our more individualistic society, wine is only found at celebrations, as a prop to help people socialise and face the anxieties of a complex and not very reassuring world.
Wine has therefore become the lubricant of social relationships.

And how will our relationship with wine and its consumption change in the future?
Abuse and addiction are topical subjects and get a lot of media coverage, which is often perceived by the public as a sort of “health terrorism”, and which, paradoxically, leads to the trivialisation of these very topics.
Therefore, I think it is useful to start by looking again at the basic difference between a pleasure and a need: it is a pleasure to enjoy wine, and to experience the sensation of intoxication; on the other hand, a compulsion to drink is a need.

The real question is: why do you drink? When do you choose to drink? What does drinking mean to you? It is just a social pleasure, a way to relieve an insecurity, to fill a void, or simply a tradition?
Only you can answer this question!

Dr Federica Pagnoni graduated in clinical psychology and qualified as a psychotherapist at the University of Paris Cité la Sorbonne.
She is a bilingual Franco-Italian and is a specialist in the field of the dynamics of intergenerational family relationships.
She has a private practice in Rome and works as a counsellor with adolescents and adults, offering flexible and accessible support, that can even be accessed online.

Ilaria Giardini
Tenuta Liliana Staff

It is just a social pleasure, a way to relieve an insecurity, to fill a void, or simply a tradition?

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