The Beatles sang “All You Need is Love,” some 30 years before the publication of a groundbreaking book “A General Theory of Love,” by San Francisco psychiatrists Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon (Random House, 2000), that basically proposes without nurturing, loving care children are not going to grow up to be emotionally balanced adults.
“From birth to death, love is not just the focus of human experience but also the life force of the mind, determining our moods, stabilizing our bodily rhythms, and changing the structure of our brains,” the authors write. “The body’s physiology ensures that relationships determine and fix our identities. Love makes us who we are, and who we can become.”
Drawing from neuroscience research the therapists suggest that our brains are prewired to experience love and attachment, and our healthy development requires a form of empathic harmony termed limbic resonance.
Limbic resonance, they explain, is the special ability of most mammals to become attuned to the inner states of others. Using this ability, mammals actually regulate each other’s internal states.
The authors begin by explaining that infants are born with their limbic systems “open” and unregulated, and they need their mother’s closeness to get regulated. As in most interpersonal and relational psychoanalytic theory and research, this relationship is shown to be a two-way thing: the mother also needs the limbic connection with her baby, in order to be emotionally regulated. We need a limbic connection with another, to be successfully regulated.
Babies who do not experience loving resonance with their mothers will repress their need for love and are likely to grow up feeling distant from others, alone and insecure.
“A mother who had been consistently attentive, responsive and tender to her infant raised a secure child,” they conclude.