Ginna's Reviews > A General Theory of Love

A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis
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Feb 28, 09

Read in February, 2009

This book was recommended to me by a school librarian who was trying to apply its principles in a small Alaska town. She felt that the kids who came to her school lacked a real connection with the people around them, and so she had started an after-school knitting group that was becoming very popular. When you teach someone to knit, she said, you have to sit close. She made rules that limited negative actions and reinforced positive ones, and she gave her own attention to kids that she felt were fairly starved for it. Bit by bit, she was seeing a change in the way the kids (mostly second-graders, but some older) behaved, listened, and treated her and others.
_A general theory of love_ takes research from psychology, psychiatry, neurobiology, and anywhere else that has something relevant to say, and combines them to argue for the importance of love in shaping the brain, especially in childhood, when important neural connections are being made and strengthened. It explains the reasons that it might be true that you wind up with a partner who echoes your parent in some ways, that most people create the home emotional environment in which they grew up. The authors do address the possibility of reshaping neural connections made in childhood, but I felt that part of the book was the thinnest -- lots of thought about how psychotherapy can use the relationship between patient and therapist to reorient the love motivation -- toward someone who echoes your therapist's emotionality. (Better be careful picking your therapist! Choose the gender carefully, and better make sure you like them...)
There's a lot of focus on the limbic brain, where emotional motivations start, often before the neocortex is aware of them. It's fairly accessible for readers without a deep knowledge of psychology & neurobiology. It's an interesting read, and it definitely makes the world look a little different. I'd recommend it.
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