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by M.D. Lewis & M.D. Amini

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-375-50389-7
Publisher: Random House

An engrossing argument that emotion plays a profound and perhaps prevailing role in a human being’s ability to develop and find happiness. So what else is new? What’s new here is a careful explication by three professors of psychiatry at UC/SF that love is the answer, and that love stems from clear and powerful connections in the limbic brain, the middle layer between the neocortex, site of so-called higher-order thinking, and the so-called “reptilian” brain, responsible for the lowest levels of survival. Chapters on emotion and relationships argue convincingly that from infancy, all mammals, but human beings in particular, depend on reading and adapting to the emotional signals of others to develop and make their way safely in the world. Those signals are read in the context of what the authors call “attractors,” neural networks that classify incoming information, rightly or wrongly, as “if it conformed to past experience.” If past experience has been good, the exchange of signals is mutual and reciprocal, that is, loving; if the experience has been bad, emotional signals are blocked or distorted, leading to adults who may be anxious, depressed, or addicted. Changing and developing new attractors, whether in relationships or in therapy, requires years of close contact; drugs can help, but self-help is a “hoax” and vaunted psychological insights are “the popcorn of therapy.” For reason is for the most part blind to the limbic edifice, and only when science partners with art will people reach their full potential. Taking their own advice, the authors pack the text with examples and similes drawn from music, literature, and film. Eloquent writing gives weight to a simple, albeit New Age-ish message: feelings count more than intellect in fashioning a healthy psyche. (Charts and illustrations, most not seen) (Author tour)