Love in the Time of Neuroscience

Helen Fisher in The New York Times:

CouplesIn “The Devil’s Dictionary,” Ambrose Bierce defined love as “a temporary insanity curable by marriage.” Enter Sue Johnson, a clinical psychologist and couples therapist who says that relationships are a basic human need and that “a stable, loving relationship is the absolute cornerstone of human happiness and general well-being.” To repair ailing partnerships, she has developed a new approach in marriage counseling called Emotionally Focused Therapy, or EFT, which she introduces in her new book, “Love Sense.” EFT draws on the work of the psychiatrist John Bowlby, the father of attachment theory, who argued that humanity has evolved a strong, physiologically-based attachment system that drives the infant to attach to the mother. In the 1960s and ’70s, he and the psychologist Mary Ains­worth put forth the idea that children develop one of three basic styles of attachment that they carry into their adult relationships. Secure individuals grow up knowing they can count on their primary caregivers, so they don’t obsessively worry that they will be abandoned by their partners. However, if one’s primary childhood caregiver is inattentive, unpredictable or abusive, the individual forms one of two “insecure” attachment styles. Anxious individuals worry constantly that they will be abandoned, so they cling to their partners, seeking reassurance. The avoidant, meanwhile, eschew deep connections to protect themselves from being dependent.

Johnson believes EFT can help couples break out of patterns, “interrupting and dismantling these destructive sequences and then actively constructing a more emotionally open and receptive way of interacting.” She aims to transform relationships “using the megawatt power of the wired-in longing for contact and care that defines our species,” and offers various exercises to restore trust.

More here.