Last updated on 19th October 2015
I wrote a short post appreciating Barbara Fredrickson's research and her interesting & challenging book "Love 2.0" a couple of months ago. Here's a short 2-3 minute YouTube video of Barbara introducing these ideas and here's her "on song" in a 11-12 minute TEDx talk. It's such a wonder of the internet that one can potentially immerse in so much fascinating and potentially helpful information. There's more that's relevant at the awkwardly named www.positivityresonance.com - which gives access to eight excellent compassion/lovingkindness meditations as well as interesting self-assessment & tracking tools. More impressively, there is her "Positive emotions & psychophysiology laboratory (PEPLab)" with its concise descriptions of key components of her research and a wonderful long list of her publications with linked free, downloadable full text PDFs. And now at "Happify" there is a free online course "Love 2.0: Unlock more moments of connection with others" with its subtitle "Science-based activities, games & meditations" that explores these ideas further.
Mm ... although I have huge respect for Barbara’s work, I find all kinds of queries pop into my mind about her view of love. In "Love 2.0" she states clearly (p.17) “To put it in a nutshell, love is the momentary upwelling of three tightly interwoven events: first, a sharing of one or more positive emotions between you and another; second, a synchrony between your and the other person’s biochemistry and behaviors; and third, a reflected motive to invest in each other’s well-being that brings mutual care.” I think this is a fine, challenging, in many ways helpful suggestion for how one might view an aspect of love, a kind of love. But, on closer examination, I think all three of her "love criteria" turn out to be unnecessary. So "love is ... first, a sharing of one or more positive emotions between you and another". Mm ... what about looking down at one's child or someone else one loves when they're sleeping (or even just thinking of them when they're not there)? There can be a great upwelling of love in my chest & being, but the other person may be completely unaware I'm even thinking of them ... not really "a sharing of one or more positive emotions between me and another" here. Much the same can be said for the second criterion of "a synchrony between your and the other person's biochemistry and behaviors" and the other probably doesn't have much of a "motive to invest in my well-being" at that point either. And I don't think this kind of objection is "trivial" when one realises that the major "love training" approach that Barbara advocates is loving-kindness meditation practised without the people one is thinking of being present. I have a query too about the need for sharing of "one or more positive emotions" in criterion one. I believe love is often linked to attachment ... see, for example, the post "Attachment, compassion and relationships" - and careseeking/caregiving behaviours are typically most powerfully triggered in situations of distress where there is need for a "safe haven".
Having voiced these criticisms, I'll return to my overall appreciation of Barbara's wonderful, insightful research. As with Mick Cooper's "Relational depth" (see the series of blog posts beginning at "Meeting at relational depth: outline of a 'research' workshop") or Eugene Gendlin's "Experiencing scale", I feel Barbara's suggestions in "Love 2.0" are fascinating, stimulating and rich with implications and avenues to explore. Long may she continue to push at the boundaries of what we know. Research like this is a big reason why I love my work so much ... even if that love doesn't rest on Barbara's three criteria!