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A General Theory of Love Paperback – January 9, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 248 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Poor, poor science--it gets blamed for everything. While it might be true that some of our alienation and unhappiness stem from a too-rational misunderstanding of emotion, it's also true that science is its own remedy. A General Theory of Love, by San Francisco psychiatrists Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon, is a powerfully humanistic look at the natural history of our deepest feelings, and why a simple hug is often more important than a portfolio full of stock options. Their grasp of neural science is topnotch, but the book is more about humans as social animals and how we relate to others--for once, the brain plays second fiddle to the heart.

Though some of their social analysis is less than fully thought out--surely e-mail isn't a truly unique form of communication, as they suggest--the work as a whole is strong and merits attention. Science, it turns out, does have much to say about our messy feelings and relationships. While much of it could be filed under "common sense," it's nice to know that common sense is replicable. Hard-science types will probably be exasperated with the constant shifts between data and appeals to emotional truths, but the rest of us will see in A General Theory of Love a new synthesis of research and poetry. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The Beatles may have sounded naive when they assured us that "all you need is love," but they may not have been far off the mark. New research in brain function has proven that love is a human necessity; its absence damages not only individuals, but our whole society. In this stimulating work, psychiatrists Lewis, Amini and Lannon explain how and why our brains have evolved to require consistent bonding and nurturing. They contend that close emotional connections actually change neural patterns in those who engage in them, affecting our sense of self and making empathy and socialization possible. Indeed, the authors insist, "in some important ways, people cannot be stable on their own." Yet American society is structured to frustrate emotional health, they contend: self-sufficiency and materialistic goals are seen as great virtues, while emotional dependence is considered a weakness. Because our culture does not sufficiently value interpersonal relationships, we are plagued by anxiety and depression, narcissism and superficiality, which can lead to violence and self-destructive behaviors. It is futile to try to think our way out of such behaviors, the authors believe, because emotions are not within the intellect's domain. What is needed is healthy bonding from infancy; when this does not occur, the therapist must model it. The authors' utopian vision of emotional health may strike some as vague or conservative to a fault, and the clarity of their thesis is marred by indirect and precious writing. Yet their claim that "what we do inside relationships matters more than any other aspect of human life" is a powerful one. Agent, Carol Mann. 9-city author tour.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375709223
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375709227
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (248 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Exposed as children to imperfect relationships, many of us slip into the same stale and ineffectual patterns as adults, inexplicably falling for those who will hurt us, driving away those who don't, or habitually avoiding the intimacy that we need. No matter how senseless our behavior seems, we stick to the formula, married to conscripts of love that--time and time again--leave us broken-hearted.
Enter this sizzling new book called "A General Theory of Love," which--with unsurpassed eloquence--explains why love confounds us and why it is finally within our grasp. The authors--Drs. Lewis, Amini, and Lannon--are practicing psychiatrists from the University of California. Melding cutting-edge neuroscience with real human experience, they make a sober but uplifting case for the elemental tie between love, health, and happiness. Their argument will grab you by the seat of your pants. It is grounded in fact but spelled out in lovely prose with compelling allusions to history and literature. Believe me, this unusual work is a far cry from the stagnant drivel of many scientific journals (and some evolutionary biologists). Nor is it anything like a typical self-help book. It is a lifeline, masterfully woven from the hefty secrets unveiled within its pages.
To a few, love may come easily. For the rest of us, "A General Theory of Love" is indispensable reading. Why wait?
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Format: Hardcover
Warning: The General Theory of Love contains highly innovative ideas that are elegantly stated. It has been found in some cases that reading this book carefully may cause greater understanding of the world we live in. In order to understand a theory, it helps me if I can state the axioms as Euclid did in the classic Geometry text: "Elements".
In order to summarize the tremendous impact this book has had on my concept of human interaction, I have tried to reduce this theory to its core axioms or principles. Though one cannot do this in as pure a sense as pure mathematics, my approach is more concise than it is inaccurate. I should note that these axioms are based on conversations with the authors after a recent book signing.
There are 3 "axioms" for successful love: (1) Connect, (2) Be authentic, (3) The earlier the better. The more these 3 conditions are met, the more we experience love. Now that is a theory we can apply! As a member of the corporate world, I like the fact that the authors offer solutions not just scientific observations and results. "Connect" means listen, look at, etc. "Be authentic" means say what you are really feeling not what is convenient or politically correct. "The earlier the better" suggests that loving is most crucial early in life and early in relationships.
I don't want to get too analytical in the space of 1000 words, but let me illustrate a single application of these axioms. Separating the infant from the mother at birth is a common practice in the USA. However, this practice violates the "axioms of love" since the mother cannot connect emotionally by holding and smelling the newborn child if the child is taken away for "medical procedures".
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By A Customer on February 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
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 Siberian outpost. A General Theory of Love enlightened me. Not in some namby-pamby, self-help, touchy-feely kind of way-but by explaining the science of brain development and the associated outcomes in our personal lives using accessible, easy to understand language that borders on lyric prose. Thank you Dr. Lewis for introducing me to myself!
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Format: Hardcover
They wrote the book of love. The scope of the task undertaken by these authors is vast: explaining love. To unlock the secrets of the (metaphorical) human heart, they begin by educating us in biological fundamentals, explaining the three layers of the brain (reptilian=basic function, limbic=emotion, neocortical=facility to reason) and postulating on why our evolutionary path did not involve a cleaner convergence of our emotions and our rational mind. They go on to pour over several studies demonstrating our emotional dependence on others. All of the science is delivered masterfully, and this section of the book is one of the more literate non-fiction pieces I've read recently. Building on the underlying scientific knowledge collected, the authors then go on to explain their theories of limbic resonance (how we interact emotionally with others), limbic regulation, etc. While these theories may not seem absolutely convincing, they do make intuitive sense, though one is justified in remaining skeptical. Regardless, their theories are well presented and are certainly filling food for thought. Finally, we are left knowing much more about the biology behind our emotions, and should be more secure knowing that our emotions are a valid part of us, and not something that must be conquered by the rational mind. This is a different point of view then I've held, and it is a welcome outlook. Highly recommended
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