In, A General Theory of Love, authors Lewis, Amini, and Lannon use a combination of art and science to decipher human emotions. They argue for the importance of our society gaining an understanding of why we feel the way we feel:
“Our society underplays the importance of emotions. Having allied itself with the neocortical brain, our culture promotes analysis over intuition, logic above feeling. Cognition can yield riches, and human intellect has made our lives easier in ways that range from indoor plumbing to the Internet. But even as it reaps the benefits of reason, modern America plows emotions under—a costly practice that obstructs happiness and misleads people about the nature and significance of their lives.” (36-37)
Their research is valuable to all who wish to gain a better understanding of human feeling and emotion. The study of happiness is one that has just been undertaken by science, as until fairly recently, “research on happiness was considered too soft for scientists” (Csikszentmihalyi), and “matters of the heart were matters only for the arts—literature, song, poetry, painting, sculpture, and dance” (Lewis et al. vii). As a result of this, the science of happiness and love have been undermined and society has not been able to gain a comprehensive understanding of either.
A General Theory of Love is an eye opening read which discusses such matters as the importance of our relationships with our mothers, the science behind the emotions we feel when we go through a breakup or lose someone dear to us, but most significantly A General Theory of Love focuses on matters of the heart and the science behind love.
In A General Theory of Love, we learn that the idea of love at first sight is not as far-fetched as we have come to believe. As when we make eye contact with another person “it is an emotionally responsive multi-layered experience” where a symphony of mutual exchange and internal adaptation makes us attuned to each other’s inner states. This capacity is known as limbic resonance:
“Instead of seeing a pair of eyes as two bespeckled buttons, when we look into the ocular portals of a limbic brain, our vision goes deep: the sensations multiply just as two mirrors placed in opposition create a shimmering ricochet of reflections whose depths recede into infinity…When we meet the gaze of another, two nervous systems achieve a palpable and intimate apposition.” (Lewis et al. 63)
Furthermore, because our brains are so complex, much of our mind simply cannot take orders from us, “a person cannot direct his emotional life in the way he bids his motor system to reach for a cup. He cannot will himself to want the right thing, or to love the right person, or to be happy after a disappointment, or even to be happy in happy times” (Lewis et al. 33). This concept can be problematic for us to understand as we live in a society that thirsts for instant gratification. A society in which it is presumed that any mechanical device that does not comply with our wishes must be broken, or poorly designed. However, this is not true of our hearts; as Pascal determined more than 300 years ago, “The heart has its reasons whereof Reason knows nothing.”
The most important lesson to be learned from the research of authors Lewis, Amini and Lannon is that who we are and who we become depends in part, on whom we love. Furthermore the impact of limbic resonance is reinforced by our gained knowledge that human physiology is an ‘open-loop,’ were the maximal influence is derived from the mother-child relationship. This openness of our physiology enable the possibility of, “a second person transmitting regulatory information that can alter hormone levels, cardiovascular function, sleep rhythms, immune function, and more—inside the body of the first.” Allowing us to synch not only emotionally, but also physiologically with a significant other creating an even stronger bond between us and our lovers.
Find A General Theory of Love, here.