A psychologist explores the intersection of love and madness through the riveting stories of the patients he has treated
In The Incurable Romantic, Frank Tallis recounts the extraordinary stories of patients who are, quite literally, madly in love: a woman becomes utterly convinced that her dentist is secretly infatuated with her and drives him to leave the country; a man destroys his massive fortune through trysts with over three thousand prostitutes--because his ego requires that they fall in love with him; a beautiful woman's pathological jealousy destroys the men who love her. Along the way, we learn a great deal about the history of psychiatry and the role of neuroscience in addressing disordered love. Elegantly written and infused with deep sympathy, The Incurable Romantic shows how all of us can become a bit crazy in love.
This thoughtful study from British psychologist and mystery novelist Tallis (Mephisto Waltz) comprises 11 tales from his own practice touching on a single theme: people who "have experienced significant distress attributable to falling in love or being in love." He posits this as a neglected field in modern psychology. Tallis recalls that during the eight years he spent studying to become a clinical psychologist, only one hour was devoted to the subject, though love, which often involves delusions and obsessions, can sometimes seem a form of psychopathology. Perhaps the tales that best illustrate this are those of a married woman infatuated with her oral surgeon and convinced, against all evidence, that he reciprocates; of a successful businessman who approaches bankruptcy because of his hypersexuality (he estimates that he has been involved with 3,000 prostitutes); and of a guilt-ridden pedophile who struggles mightily to resist his attraction to the young daughter of a friend. Tallis has a graceful narrative style, easily incorporating brief digressions on deeper philosophical issues such as free will versus determinism. Most importantly, his book is suffused with compassion, avoiding facile categorization and struggling to understand and empathize with his patients as people in pain, often anguish, because of the love they feel.