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A General Theory of Love

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  4,124 ratings  ·  460 reviews
Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 9th 2001 by Vintage (first published February 2000)
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Average rating 4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,124 ratings  ·  460 reviews

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Aug 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who's ever had their heart broken
Recommended to Manny by: Barney
Shelves: science
I found this book fascinating, but, since it concerns a subject I know little about, I have a hard time evaluating its reliability. The initial idea, which I have seen many times before, is that our brains are divided into three main parts: the "reptilian brain" (basic functions), the "mammal brain" (emotions), and the "human brain" (abstract thought). Love is a function of the "mammal brain", the limbic system, and is essential to the formation of relationships, in particular parental relations ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
A General Theory of Love, Thomas Lewis
A General Theory of Love is a book about the science of human emotions and biological psychiatry written by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon, psychiatry professors at the University of California, San Francisco, and first published by Random House in 2000. It has since been reissued twice, with new editions appearing in 2001 and 2007. The book examines the phenomenon of love and human connection from a combined scientific and cultural perspective.
Feb 19, 2008 rated it it was ok
I'm plugging through this in hopes of gleaning something for a particular study, but it is a bit of a slog, thanks mostly to the authors' writing style. I'm all for creative analogies, but these authors seem to particularly like mixed and inappropriate metaphors: "The young brain teems with far more neurons than it ultimately keeps. Most of these bloomers die out over the course of childhood as luxuriantly populated scaffolds slim down to leaner templates". So the brain is a pond that can own th ...more
Gilbert 04
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was an eye-opening experience for me. Since my early teens, I've established a pattern of being in relationships that start out on a high and then eventually deteriorate and fail. I've never understood why I involve myself-a successful, intelligent, generally happy person--with people who leave me dissatisfied, feeling worthless, and convinced that I should just give up and relegate myself to a Lonely Pasific Sea. "A General Theory of Love" enlightened me. Not in some namby-pamby, self ...more
Aug 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
An amazing book written by 3 doctors about the human brain and the 'home' of emotions. Did you know we have three brains? Reptile, limbic and neocortic? It's a fascinating read and a must read for anyone with chronic love and relationship problems. Uh, who could that be?
The bonus is that it is a literary feat (the language is highly sophisticated and beautiful) besides being a deliciously new theory on brain chemistry, experiments, and evidence that LOVE is really the answer. No joke.
Ammara Abid
Jun 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting & informative book but Pardon me please, For me it's more like a general therapy of love rather than 'a general theory of love'.

And where actually the theory is about to start the book ends.

Though many chapter contains love sonnets, quotations by the renowned writers & psychologists and few lines on love but Where the write-up on love is about to start suddenly some intricate thing jump into the middle and love became a subsidiary subject and the topic under discussion is evolution
Jan 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Dec 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I adore a non-fiction book that uses beautiful language. A General Theory of Love is such a book. The three authors (all M.D.s) speak with one beautifully unified voice about what science is learning about the brain and about love and the brain.

One of the topics I found fascinating regards Freudian psychology. Freud developed his theories of psychology (id, ego, superego, repressed memories, Oedipal complexes, etc.) before science could explain the physiological mechanisms for storing memories.

Sarah Gibbs
May 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: lost-in-space

Nope, can't do it. How did so many people manage to get through this piece of derivative, overwritten nonsense? "And so the towers and walls of the Freudian citadel sprang into midair, where they remain: the looming turret of the censoring superego, the lofty arches of insight, the squat dungeon of the id." And that's just the preface! It drones on for another - OMG - 243 pages! And don't get me started on the condescending italics: " neurotransmitters", "scaffolds" , "neocortex" , "prosody." I
Mar 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: folks puzzled by relationships.
Three MDs (psychotherapists) conspired to write this book. Between them, perhaps 50 years of formal schooling... so in a sense, I learned nothing from this book compared to what these guys know. What I GOT was a pretty damned good model to use in explaining some mysteries of emotional interactions in humans that dovetails with my long standing interest in (and subscription to) the concepts of social biology.

The reptilian, limbic and neocortical brains animate humans, according to the authors. Ou
Apr 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book approaches the subject of love and bonding from the perspective of various science disciplines; but don't think that makes it cold, clinical, and reductionist. I found the writing to be almost poetically beautiful, the thinking expansive and compassionate, and the information fascinating. My copy is full of huge yellow highlighted passages. The book discusses many varieties of love, how bonding affects the brain, and how critical the process is to our evolution as human beings. Publish ...more
May 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is an important book in the category of general psychology and human development. The authors effectively eviscerate Fraud, Jung and Skinner as being artifacts of a pre-scientific approach to understanding human behavior and mental health. They posit that an understanding of the physical structure of the brain and the relationship and interplay of the environment to it is necessary to understanding the manifestation of behaviors found in our species. In outlining the science of the brain's ...more
Nov 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
This was interesting. In some ways, it totally creeped me out that their solution to problems of not being able to love was to find a therapist with whom a person could develop a stable relationship that would teach him or her how to trust again. I know it's a possible aid, but I think that you have to be so careful with someone really vulnerable and a therapist. There is a lot of abuse of power/addiction to therapy potential there. And I think there are other answers besides getting therapy.

I d
Sep 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book marries neurophysiology with the Attachment Theory, via poetic -- if occasionally florid -- language. It posits that human beings possess three layers of brains: the reptilian, the mammalian, and the neocortex. The reptilian governs our most basic acts and instincts, such as our heartbeats, our fight or flight response. The mammalian governs our emotions and emotional communication, and is responsible for empathy, the foundation of basic human morality. Finally, the neocortex governs o ...more
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Have you ever questioned the existence and reason for your emotions?
Have you ever wondered what separates mammals from reptiles?

Within this book, you will discover the science behind your emotions, and the criticality of why we need to understand more about them and your brain. This scientific book explores the difference between a mammal brain (us humans included) and a reptile brain, explaining the key differences that have allowed us (mammals) to develop a sense of belonging, a complex ray
Beth Haynes
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
Every wonder why humans need each other? Why and how are we social creatures? What is the neurophysiological basis of emotions? What is the biological basis of love? Why does it hurt when we lose someone?
These and many other questions at the core of what it is to be human and in relationship are addressed in the short, engaging book. Written in a style that melds science and art, facts and poetry, the author(s?) provide a straight forward explanation of the connections within our mind-body-emot
Sandy Plants
I found this book SUPER insightful. My therapist recommended that I read it and I’m so glad I did. I would summarize it as a crash course on the science of attachment, plus how attachment wounds form, how they affect a person and what that says about the culture as a whole. Naturally, I thought of myself and my entire family as I read this.
Sujeet Gholap
Jan 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: psychology enthusiasts
"I know it's not in my best interests to feel this way, but I do feel this way... Wow this sucks!" The angry stare from that stranger on the road... why does it make me feel uneasy? "Some random guy on road, why does it matter if he stared angrily at you?" I reason out. Nope. The feeling doesn't go away. I used to think of this as an indication of a 'weak mind'. This book explained me how it is not about weak or strong mind but how it is about human brain structure itself.

The central theme of th
Adam Ross
Dec 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This ended up being a very different book than I expected. I expected something that was really about the science of romance - and it is, in a way, but it is about a whole lot more than that. It is really about the brain and psychology. It is written by three neuroscientists about the state of knowledge about the brain, and how it works, all written in quite lovely prose and scattered throughout with reflections on some of the greatest works of literature in history. It really could be seen as a ...more
I started reading this last year, and it got lost in one of my book piles. I'm glad I picked it up again and finished it. It's a great book that discusses how love (or lack of it) alters the structure of our brains and that "who we are and who we become depends, in part, on whom we love."

"For those who attain it, the benefits of deep attachment are powerful -- regulated people feel whole, centered, alive. With their physiology stabilized from the proper source, they are resilient to the stresses
Julie Ann
May 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
I struggled to get through this one, and only persevered because a therapist friend recommended it. I'd also maybe give it a 2.5. I agree with several of the other reviewers -- the writers style distracted from the content significantly for me, and I found the message to be lost behind the frivolous and over-the-top use of metaphors and analogies that didn't explain the actual point. In short, I think the author used a lot of big words and fancy language to say very little.

In all fairness, the
Amaroq de Quebrazas
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Outstanding; it's groundbreaking in that in just 230 pages it connects all the dots from early childhood (attachment theory plus much more), brain physiology to modern therapy that gradually & positively alters the old mental/emotional harmful wiring in we humans through the therapeutic emotional sharing between therapist & client! This book is a required read for many psychology students & graduate students that go to CIIS (California Institute of Integral Studies) here in San Francisco. It cou ...more
Apr 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This was a fantastic overview of love in a broad sense - not a romantic one. The author speaks of attachment to parenting and healthy love through the three parts of the brain. I appreciated the integrated approach. My only turn-off was that there was a clear policy agenda put forth by the authors - none of which I particularly disagreed with - but it changed the tone of what was presented.

Still, compelling and deep - all presented in prose with more exacting vocabulary than your average book.
Oct 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
To say this book changed my perspective seems to understate. It is a book I wish that everyone could read and re-read. Written by MDs with amazing insight, passion and eloquence. One of the most powerful quotes (of so many): Who we are and who we become depends in part on whom we love.
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
While its academic nature has caused this text to age a bit over the last 20 years, it is still a worthwhile read. The authors delve into the evolution of the human brain and human relationships, and explain how the two are inseparable. Their stance on self-help books is made blatantly clear: "The sheer volume and variety of self-help paraphernalia testify at once to the vastness of the appetite they address and their inability to satisfy it." And yet, the details and insights make this work fee ...more
Walt Jacob
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
It took me what seems like forever to finish this book, not because it didn't hold my interest or I didn't like it - on the contrary, I absolutely loved it! The reason quite simply is that it is the kind of book where I like to read several pages then put it aside to reflect on what I've read (generally picking up something fictional and reading it through during the interim) then returning for several more pages, and so on. The younger of the three authors who I presume actually did the writing ...more
Rania G
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Having read a lot of biopsychology and aware from my profession the ways that memories that are hidden appear like open wounds in our relationships especially with a partner, want to quote that who we are and who we become has to do a lot with who we love.The healing power of the healthy relationships.
Alyssa  McNaughton
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the most life-changing narratives I have EVER read.
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In my top 5 books read ever in my life
May 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone, particularly those interested in mind sciences who have/want heart
I've had this book sitting on my shelf for 6 months. I'd heard good things about it but could not bring my self to approach what I thought would be yet another washed down but drawn out neuropsychology rant for layman. And whilst I was glad I waited till now (my holidays) to read it, this was because I had the time to enjoy it; my concerns were not met.

For a basic rundown on content read the (Goodreads) blurb - I find it an accurate summation. The neuropsychology - thankfully, despite my love of
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