“Nearly all emotional disorders are disorders of love, and we heal from these disorders to the degree that we learn to give and to accept love.” Peter Breggin, MD
The following is an excerpt taken from an article by Peter Breggin, MD, entitled Are Emotional Disorders Really Disorders of Love? (Published by Mad In America on 26 November 2018):
Love and empathy are key to our social nature. Across the psychological, spiritual and political spectrums, many thoughtful people have concluded that love and its expression as empathy are the central principles of living a good and productive life.
Historically, the importance of love and empathy had its initial and perhaps still fullest expression in the teaching of Christ: to love God, to love one another, and to follow the Golden Rule—to treat others as we would want them to treat us. The Old Testament, Buddhism and many other religious documents have also expressed variations on the Golden Rule.2
The Surprising Truth about Charles Darwin and Adam Smith
Contrary to common belief, the great evolutionary scientist Charles Darwin did not place emphasis on the survival of the fittest but instead on mutual aid and love as the key to human success as individuals and as a species. Darwin described the concept of a loving God and the Golden Rule as the highest achievement of human history, emanating in part from our embedded social instincts but ultimately requiring conscious reasoning:
To do good in return for evil, to love your enemy, is a height of morality to which it may be doubted whether the social instincts would, by themselves, have ever led us. It is necessary that these instincts, together with sympathy, should have been highly cultivated and extended by the aid of reason, instruction, and the love or fear of God, before any such golden rule would ever be thought of and obeyed.3
Adam Smith, author of The Wealth of Nations and the great 18th century advocate of economic liberty, wanted more than a dog-eat-dog free market. In his great work on the Theory of Moral Sentiments, he saw empathy and love as social sentiments required to temper greed. He praised human “fellow-feeling” and the “principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it.” He wrote, “it is the first precept to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength, so it is the second to love our neighbor as we love ourselves…”4
Despite the importance which Charles Darwin and Adam Smith placed upon love and cooperation in individual and societal success, these themes receive little emphasis in most discussions of their work. Most of us have been misled by our education and by contemporary writers into believing that the Darwin and Smith advocated competition and survival of the fittest. People are surprised to learn that their respective theories of evolution and economics emphasized love, empathy and cooperation.
Love and Empathy in Psychology and Psychiatry
Emphasis on love and empathy abounds in sources seemingly divergent from the themes of Judaism and Christianity in which Darwin and Smith were immersed. One of the richest analyses of the role of love in human life is found Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving. Fromm, a psychologist and secular humanist with Marxist leanings, was seemingly as far away as one could get in his thinking from men like Charles Darwin and Adam Smith; but this was not so in respect to the centrality of love.
Fromm described love as “the answer to the problem of human existence.” He declared:
The awareness of human separation, without reunion by love—is the source of shame. It is at the same time the source of guilt and anxiety. The deepest need of man, then, is the need to overcome his separateness to leave his prison of aloneness. The absolute failure to achieve this aim means insanity…5
R. D. Laing, the most widely read critical psychiatrist in the 1960s and a continuing inspiration to psychiatric reform, placed love at the center of the therapist’s healing qualities. Laing was addressing the therapist’s role in reintegrating the “divided self,” an aspect of psychosis and so-called schizophrenia, when he wrote:
The main agent in uniting the patient, in allowing the pieces to come together and cohere, is the physician’s love, a love that recognizes the patient’s total being, and accepts it, with no strings attached.6
What if this were true?
What if the teachings of so many wise observers provide a straightforward holistic concept for personal, emotional or psychological success and failure? Could it be that human psychological and spiritual well-being lies in becoming an increasing source of love and in accepting love more deeply, while psychological and spiritual unwellness lies in varying degrees of being unable to love and to be loved?
Could the whole array of psychiatric diagnostic categories, to the extent that they have any validity at all, be expressions of the failure to love and to accept love? Could the wide range of successful psychotherapies really work by means of the therapist’s ability to encourage people to experience love through how positively he or she relates to them?
Here is the link to the full article: