Last updated on 19th October 2015
"Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new." Ursula Le Guin
In July last year, I heard Barbara Fredrickson lecturing at the 7th European Conference on Positive Psychology in Amsterdam. It was a fascinating talk putting forward a challenging view of love. For example Barbara rather delightfully underlined that, in the emotion-science/relationship-science informed view of love that she is proposing, love is not sexual desire, not a special bond, not a commitment, not exclusive, not lasting and not unconditional. Well that certainly feels like the energetic sweeping of a new broom. Barbara suggests "Love blossoms virtually anytime two or more people - even strangers - connect over a shared positive emotion, be it mild or strong. 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. My shorthand for this trio is 'positivity resonance' ... shared positive emotions, biobehavioral synchrony, and mutual care."
She also reported on an as yet unpublished research study, which had only been completed a couple of months earlier, comparing mindfulness training with loving kindness training. Fascinatingly they had found that loving kindness training somewhat increased positive emotions (relative to mindfulness training) and that this positive emotion boost was associated with a reduction in "adversity-related patterns of gene expression". The loving kindness group also completed more hours of home practice than the mindfulness group, possibly because they had found the loving kindness practice more enjoyable (and less frustrating) to do? These are just early hypotheses, but despite this they are still intriguing.
After her talk, I ordered myself a copy of her recent book "Love 2.0". Barbara has a number of helpful websites. There is one associated with Love 2.0 - 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. Very good!
For one or two doubts about Barbara's position on love, see the later post "Barbara Fredrickson and Love 2.0: some questions".