Love Sick

February 6, 2006

The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.                                                                                                                         Mother Teresa

Jane Jimenez

Jane Jimenez

Born on May 6, 1856, in Moravia, Sigmund Freud was destined to radically alter the understanding of the human heart.  Freud graduated as a doctor in 1881, and his initial professional work involved research on the uses of cocaine.  But over the next fifty years, following his fascination with dream analysis, Freud developed the new field of psychoanalysis and, abandoning his Jewish heritage, embraced atheism.

Since Freud, many new theories of human personality have been constructed.  And the U.S. Department of Labor reports that psychiatry and psychology are the “fastest growing occupations projected to have the largest numerical increases in employment between 2004 and 2014.”

Psychologists study the human mind and human behavior.   So it is more than idle curiosity to wonder what they study of love.  Very little, according to “Love Doctor” Leo Buscaglia.  In 1969, Buscaglia endured professional ridicule in order to begin an experimental class devoted to the study of love at a California university.

His students’ first major lesson about love was unexpected.  “Love has really been ignored by the scientists.  It’s amazing,” wrote Bascaglia.  “My students and I did a study.  We went through books in psychology.  We went through books in sociology.  We went through books in anthropology, and we were hardpressed to find even a reference to the word love.”

So it is today.  Standing in the bookstore of our local state university, reading through psychology textbooks, love is still absent from any professional consideration.

Holding Learning and Behavior, skimming chapter one on the psychology of learning and behavior, I note that students will study the spectrum of influences on human behavior:  external events, classical Pavlovian conditioning, habituation, operant conditioning schedules, punishment, stimulus control, imitation, modeling, choice and self control.  But nary one word about love.  Neither is love listed in the index.

The textbook Science and Human Behavior by B.F. Skinner is only slightly better.  Love appears in the index twice.   On page 162, love is likened to fear and anger…a person “is generally talking about predispositions to act in certain ways….the man ‘in love’ shows an increased tendency to aid, favor, be with, and caress and a lowered tendency to injure.”  On page 310, Skinner teaches that “…love might be analyzed as the mutual tendency of two individuals to reinforce each other, where the reinforcement may or may not be sexual.”

That’s it.  That’s the full consideration of the one emotion forceful enough to make the world go round.

In The Nature of Prejudice, the author actually writes a complete sentence about love.  “Why is it,” he asks, “that we hear so little about love – prejudice – the tendency to overgeneralize our categories of attachment and affection?”  This notion of “love-prejudice” pops up just one more time in his textbook that has six pages referenced in the index for sex and a whole section devoted to sexuality.

Sensing a pattern, I reached for the fourth and final psychology textbook, Psychology of Behavior.  Its eighteen chapters thoroughly cover human behavior: human consciousness, evolution, nervous cells and structure, psychopharmacology, methods of research, ethical issues, vision, audition, chemical senses, control and movement, sleep, reproductive behavior, emotion, memory, ingestive behavior, relational learning, schizophrenia, affective disorder, anxiety disorder, autistic disorder, hyperactivity disorder, stress disorder and drug abuse.

Love?  Not there.  But, checking the book’s index, if you want to know about sex, there is no end in sight: hormones, chromosomes, activational effects, gender development, sexual maturation, arousal, prefrontal cortex, hormonal control, human sex, sex of lab animals, neural control, sexual dimorphism, prenatal androgens, sexually dimorphic nucleus (SDN), orientation, heredity…my fingers wore out just listing all the ways we have to study sex.

Love may make the world go round.  But when the world is sick from lack of love, it is the last thing our love doctors think to check.

If the academics miss the obvious, a humble woman with no desire to reach the pinnacle of professional greatness sees it all.  “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody,” said Mother Teresa, “I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”

In the midst of plenty, we are a love sick world.

What does it say about the likelihood that we can recover from love sickness, if our most elite educators study more about our sexually dimorphic nucleus than about our ability to love one another?

What does it say about our future, if those who study to fill the exploding market of jobs for psychiatrists and psychology can memorize the psychopharmacology of modern drugs, but have only read two pages in their college text about love as a prejudice?

And what does it say about our children and their love future when we have saturated their world with so much of sexual orientations and so little of love?

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody…”  We are love sick.  And we need a cure.


It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.                                                     Mother Teresa


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