Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Guest Review: A General Theory of Love, by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon

Guest review by Andrea. Andrea is cousin to Blue Bookcase regular Christina. She spends most of her time with her three small children, but also enjoys making domestic and crafty things and reading books from every genre (though graphic novels and fantasy tend to get more attention than the rest).

Published: 2001

It's aboutA scientific look at how and why love is important to human beings.

I thought: Sometimes I forget just how important love is. Like I need to tell myself, "Hey, remember that thing that's so important that ties you to all your favorite people, and is what we all live for? It's called LOVE; you might want to try it." Not that I hate people; I'm just self-absorbed a lot of the time.  This book has helped me to justify to my logical self taking the time to build relationships with important people in my life.  That's not something that really should need justification, but with so many other priorities, sometimes love gets lost.

I love how this book tied together scientific research, poetry, psychiatry, zoology, and personal experiences to form a coherent picture of the importance of love and interpersonal relationships. The text is a little prosaic, but full of interesting flavor, rather like a good curry.

The first part talks about the parts of the brain and how they evolved and their functions in relationships and consciousness.  It gets a little technical, but the terminology is necessary to understand what they are talking about later.  They also talk about how pop psychology's view of love (especially Freud) is completely wrong and not supported by studies.  The second part talks about how that relates to love, and how important love and good relationships are in the development of a child, in healing from illness, in learning -- in everything. Most of that was stuff I already "knew" (from life, religion, upbringing, child development classes, etc), but wasn't really applying. I mean, who's going to disagree with a statement like "Love is important"?  But does the way we live our lives reflect that?  Sometimes I think we mistake "being nice to people" for "loving people", but while the one may help you feel pleasant and is still a good idea, the joy and wholeness that come from knowing and being known are only available through love.

I thought one chapter at the end was a little doomsday-ish and didn't have quite as much evidence supporting it as the beginning chapters, but it was still interesting.

I think instead of "Homemaker" for occupation, I'm going to write "Child Limbic Brain Neuron Engineer". That sounds quite satisfying.

Verdict: Shelf! I want to read this again, and be able to loan it to people.

Reading RecommendationsI recommend it for adults who love and are interested in science/psychology

WarningsThey talk a little about Freudian psychology and evolutionary biology, which includes sex.  Nothing graphic or controversial, though.

Favorite excerpts"Even after a peak parenting experience, children never transition to a fully self-tuning physiology. Adults remain social animals: they continue to require a source of stabilization outside themselves. That open-loop design means that in some important ways, people cannot be stable on their own - not should or shouldn't be, but can't be. This prospect is disconcerting to many, especially in a society that prizes individuality as ours does. Total self-sufficiency turns out to be a daydream whose bubble is burst by the sharp edge of the limbic brain. Stability means finding people who regulate you well and staying near them. (86)"

What I'm reading nextCastle Waiting, by Linda Medley