If you think what the world needs now is love, sweet love, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of Love 2.0, Barbara L. Fredrickson would agree. If, however, what you mean by love is that lifelong emotional attachment to the one significant other that is your destiny, then you and Professor Fredrickson are talking about two different things, and what you mean by love is not at all what the world needs now, nor what it needs ever. In her latest tome, Love 2.0, Fredrickson explains exactly what love is and why what she calls love is good for you, all, and sundry. Then she proceeds to provide you with a program you can use to go about developing it.
“Love,” it turns out, “is that micro-moment of warmth and connection that you share with another human being.” Now while we might want to quibble about the idea of the “micro-moment,” warmth sharing is reasonable, so far, so good. Love is the “supreme emotion.” Okay, so far we’re still in the same ballpark. These “micro-moments” will make you healthier; they will make you wiser. Whether they will make you wealthier as well, Dr. Fredrickson doesn’t say, but two out of three “ain’t” bad. She does explain that there is a wealth of scientific experimentation to back up these benefits, but more often than not the support for that assertion is left out of the text itself and relegated to the end notes. Still the idea that love is good for you, while someone like Othello might have something to say about it, is probably going to appeal to most of us.
The problem, if there is a problem, is with the last part of the definition—”another human being.” Another human being means any and all other human beings. Love, as Fredrickson defines it is not limited to the one specific other; it is not limited to the family. It is not limited to friends, not enemies. The supreme emotion she is talking about not only can be shared with anyone, but it should be shared as often as possible with as many as possible. The more the merrier. She, of course, is not talking about promiscuity. What she means when she uses the word, and what we mean when we use it are just two different things.
To avoid confusion, then, she very quickly introduces a new term to substitute for love—positivity resonance. It doesn’t have quite trip lightly off the tongue, but then it doesn’t have all that emotional baggage attached to it either. Positivity resonance has three elements: “shared positive emotions, biobehavioral synchrony and mutual care.” Positivity resonance, the confluence of these three elements can occur at any time with anyone, as long as an individual opens himself up to the possibility.
Once the value of positivity resonance is recognized and accepted, the next question is how to get the individual to open up. The second part of the book goes on to explain just how it’s done. Different chapters offer exercises based on the practice of Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) to help the reader first learn to love himself, then love others in “sickness and health,” and finally love others the world over. The actual exercises for the most part won’t take up a lot of time, and they are fairly easy to perform. Usually they involve sitting in a chair, meditating about something positive, listening to your body, and chanting some positive formula related to the particular “love” you are trying to develop. Keep at it with regular practice, and positivity resonance will improve your life and the lives of those around you.
Now while I must confess that I’ve never been a big fan of meditation, but given the wealth of very wise people who swear by it, it makes no sense to dismiss it, especially if Fredrickson is right about all the benefits. I mean if it’s good enough for the Dalai Lama, who am I to say nay? Besides, Fredrickson’s idea of love while differs from the romantic tradition, it doesn’t exclude it. And as Fredrickson concludes at the very end of her book: “Opportunities for love abound. It’s up to you to nourish yourself with them.”