Why Falling in Love Can Turn Us All into Bunny-Boilers; A Psychotherapist Reveals the Real Reasons for the Besotted Behaving Badly BOOK OF THE WEEK

The Evening Standard (London, England), June 7, 2018 | Go to article overview

Why Falling in Love Can Turn Us All into Bunny-Boilers; A Psychotherapist Reveals the Real Reasons for the Besotted Behaving Badly BOOK OF THE WEEK


Byline: Katie Law

The Incurable Romantic and Other Unsettling Revelations by Frank Tallis (Little, Brown, PS18.99) Q: WHAT'S the difference between seeing a psychotherapist and a prostitute? A: After seeing a prostitute at least one person feels better. This is one of the more light-hearted asides in Frank Tallis's absorbing book about the different kinds of obsessional feelings people can experience when they fall in love.

Tallis, a clinical psychologist, practising psychotherapist and author of books about obsessive compulsive disorder and the link between romantic love and mental illness, presents 12 case studies based on real patients.

His style is not unlike that of Stephen Grosz in The Examined Life, but his focus is on the extreme, sometimes delusional feelings that arise from being besotted, and he makes a strong case for how the line that separates "normal from abnormal love is frequently blurred". In other words falling in love is in itself a form of madness that our culture and the health profession trivialises at our peril. Some of us, actually quite a lot of us, are potential bunny-boilers.

Megan, a married, middle-aged barrister's clerk, is referred to Tallis after stalking her dentist. She has fallen violently in love with him after a tooth extraction and is convinced the feeling is mutual, even though the evidence suggests the opposite. Tallis diagnoses Megan with de Clerambault's Syndrome, a condition that neither drugs nor counselling can really cure.

He sees Mavis, a widow in her 70s suffering from loneliness and hallucinations, who takes him by surprise when she tells him that what she misses most about her husband is the sex. In a chapter about Anita, whose jealousy of her partner Greg is so extreme that they have come to Tallis for couple's therapy, we learn that it was the Nazis who first developed couples' therapy "to promote stable, racially pure and large families". There's an interesting digression, one of many, on the evolutionary reasons for why men are more jealous of women than vice versa, since a woman being unfaithful may result in a man raising a child that isn't his. Entrepreneur Ali comes to see Tallis because he is suffering from workrelated stress. Tallis calls this his "admission ticket" a relatively trivial problem patients use as a pretext for entering therapy. …

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