Book Review
by Florence Fitzgerald


Lessons in Love: The Transformation of Spirit Through Intimacy
by Guy Corneau


With a certain diffidence this reviewer, a person in the third half of life, undertook to read and review Lessons in Love: The Transformation of SpiritThrough Intimacy.  More about that diffidence later.

Guy Corneau, also the author of Absent Fathers, Lost Sons, is a Jungian Analyst in Quebec, a man in the middle passage of life, whose current work Lessons in Love was translated from the French, which may explain certain cultural quirks in his work.  Corneau relies heavily on Freudian concepts, from what it means to be born a man or a woman to the relationship of fathers and daughters and the mother/son relationship to which he devotes more than twice the space.  In the last he includes cogent suggestions for the single-parent mother.  Having outlined the complexities of parent/child relationships, he then addresses our contemporary problems of "love in distress" - the fear of commitment, the perceived need for romance and the difficulty of men and women communicating clearly.

"Falling in love," Corneau is quick to define, "is not the same as entering a relationship."  His analysis of infidelity is thought provoking.  His insistence on the necessity of friendship as a basis of true relationship is pivotal.  Friendship, as Corneau points out, binds us to a real task of detachment, not the kind that leads to indifference, but a "letting go" attitude that lets the partner be whomever he or she is.

Finally he addresses the necessity of intimacy with oneself - a point at which this reviewer joined him with whole-hearted interest.  What he is speaking of is the process of individuation in the Jungian sense, and he delves into it with depth and enthusiasm.

"This is a true passage of initiation and is comparable to the transition from childhood to adulthood… to become conscious of the need to take ourselves in charge because love will not save us is an invitation to release the partner from our demands.  … No psychological or even spiritual progress is possible if we maintain the illusions of projections."

Corneau proceeds to show how projections can be withdrawn through true communication because "communication is indispensable for living."  Throughout Lessons in Love Corneau shares the experience and insights of others in the field and he draws on the wisdom in plays, songs, fairy tales and even alchemy.  Eventually he comes back to reconnect to his own story, which led him to the pronouncement: "The aim… is to open ourselves to reality, to be in the here and now… We cannot be present to ourselves, to others, and to the world if our bodies and hearts are tormented by unresolved relationships."

Corneau defines the modern situation between couples and families as a "war having broken out in the land of love" and he places it in the context of a "teetering Patriarchy."  When I expressed earlier in this review some diffidence about reviewing this very interesting book, it was because I did not share the negative aspects of father/daughter experience which he describes - silence, absence, emotional incest, etc.  Fortunately, at some point, Corneau observes that "psychological musing is not dogma" and "what is important here is not that this concept or worldview be objective or verifiable, but that it generates the enthusiasm required to continue progress on the road of life."

"This is the kind of truth I am seeking, a psychological truth allowing us to look at couple dynamics from a new angle, a truth that would lend meaning to our problems and encourage us to go on living and loving.  So, use this book, won't you, as a research tool. Take what's important to you, that with which you identify, and leave the rest."

To which this reviewer says, "Amen!"

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