Reviews of
Authentic Love:
Theory and Therapy

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Authentic Love: Theory and Therapy

Reviews - Page 5

After years of clinical practice, consultation with other professionals, careful research, and feedback from reviewers, Mullaney has created a radical personality theory and its application in clinical practice. This is not an "easy read" and an open mind is required. Mullaney is candid as he shares his basic concepts and his long-held difficulties with various personality theories. Influenced by the work of Carl Rogers and Charles Truax, Mullaney came to the conclusion that Love was at the core of any success he had with clients, a conviction that firmed up his disbelief in the Freudian personality theory taught in graduate school. Based upon his own experience as a clinician and based upon discussions with other clinicians, the key factor in therapeutic success was the relationship between client and therapist. He identified love as the basis for successful therapy and set about developing a personality theory that explains love in human functioning.

In the Introduction and in the first paragraph, Mullaney throws down the gauntlet: "Love alone heals. This is the fundamental premise of love therapy, a new model of psychotherapy introduced here." Mullaney credits his skepticism with Freud's personality theory as well as the sterile theories of the behaviorists for his motivation to develop love theory and how it impacts psychotherapy. Love seated in the heart is a core concept in his personality theory. In the area of human functioning, "love is normal" and that "not loving is abnormal." He is not afraid to describe a "psychospiritual heart" and some of the mystery experienced in intimate, loving interaction.

Mullaney adheres to the basic Hebrew-Christian tenet that a first cause or God exists and humans are created with the spark of life (God is Love) at the core of the self. He maintains that his personality theory and therapy applications are valid if a person believes in other first causes other than God. Readers who are tired of our culture equating love with sexual intercourse will appreciate this definition of love: Human love is a fusion of psychospiritual hearts, an experience of intersubjectivity, a communion of uniques in their uniqueness, an interpenetration of beings, a dynamic mutuality of subjective selves given, received, and so fully united that even some of the otherwise unknowable spiritual mysteries of the heart become known. Love is the power that enables us to risk a leap into mystery -- believeing, trusting, and hoping in the unseen and unproved goodness of others, ourselves, and God, risking that we will not be hurt. "Love is Reality" sounds like a theological concept and requires attention to the precise language in defense of that Principle. Readers oriented to the experimental method will be challenged to reread this chapter.

In Part Two, Mullaney redefines emotional disorders as wounds of the psychospiritual heart. At first reading, one is tempted to laugh at this concept. Mullaney defends his concept as no more laughable than a physicist's description of the ultimate unit of matter. Only pure love is permitted into the core of the heart. This is love characterized by faith, hope and trust. The love exchange between therapist and client is a necessary prerequisite for movement toward health on the part of the person who has a damaged heart, i.e., disorder. This sort of love exchange alleviates fear, enables one to control anger, and deal with guilt.
In Part Three, the application of Love Therapy to Major Mental Disorders assumes that the mental disorder being treated has no physical origin. Most therapists working one to one with clients suffering a major mental disorder will appreciate the insights shared in this Part.
AUTHENTIC LOVE is a daring challenge to clinical social workers, clinical psychologiest, psychiatrists, nurses, and counselors. Mullaney's personality theory is less mysterious than that of Sigmund Freud and more in tune with personal experiences than that of Pavlov or Skinner. With some refinements and revisions, AUTHENTIC LOVE can take its place as a graduate school textbook. Clinicians who read this work will be moved to love their clients and patients.

The reader with a knowledge of Hebrew/Christian Scriptures and with an orientation to Scholastic Philosophy will find it easier to understand Mullaney's principles. Spiritual directors can benefit from a meditative reading of AUTHENTIC LOVE.

— Joseph Emmanuel Willett, Ph.D., retired clinical psychologist, former CEO of a multi-county community mental health organization, former president of the Kentucky Psychological Association, and former member of the Psychology Licensure Board of Kentucky.


Nietzsche said that “he who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.” All human lives, however seemingly untroubled, need that why. For some the search seems more difficult; for some it seems irrelevant. Nevertheless, even if only subconscious, the search is there. In his book, AUTHENTIC LOVE: Theory and Therapy, Brennan Mullaney proposes a solution to the search for the why that enables us to bear with almost any how.

The focus of this fine book by Brennan Mullaney is love. Love as a reality, love as a therapy, love as God. The human person and the role of love in his life is the center of the theory. So the question naturally arises upon reading the book: What is love? Generally speaking, most people are familiar with the famous question asked by Pontius Pilate: What is truth? The difficulty that many have in answering this question is one of the contributing factors to the overwhelming relativism of our time. One writer has even indicated that we are living under a “dictatorship of relativism.” Many more people, however, have asked: What is love?

In order to utilize the reality of love effectively as a therapy one would have to have a fairly firm grasp of it. In Part One of the book, Mullaney attempts to give us this firm grasp. Chapter Seven, for example, is entitled “Reality is Love.” Here we meet theological, psychological, spiritual, physical, ontological, biological, logical, and epistemological explanations of love. While all of these explanations of love are intriguing the question arises if any is sufficient. I think that Mullaney would agree that none are sufficient since love itself cannot be either known completely or explained completely.

Mullaney claims that the truth that “all of reality is love is self-evident.” But as St. Thomas Aquinas notes in the Summa something can be self evident in itself but not to us. The problem is not that reality might not be exactly as Mullaney asserts but rather can reality be known to be as it really is. Can reality be known to be love? Does love create the power to know? How much of our ability to love is rooted in our ability to know, i.e. our intellect? One must certainly say that he “knows” what love is in order to answer the question. One must “know” that love works in the way that it does in order for love to have the therapeutic value that Mullaney claims that it has.

At various points in his book Mullaney identifies love as truth and love as God. The question that arises at this point is a philosophical question. Can any of these three realities adequately explain the other? The problem is important. There is a sort of trinity here: truth, goodness, and beauty. Are any of the three superior? Could any of the three adequately “define” the essence of God or reality? Or are all three necessary components of our understanding of God and reality?

Granted, it is said that “God is love.” Is Mullaney justified in converting this to “Love is God.” Jesus Christ, the incarnate God, said “I am the truth.” Would we be justified in converting this to “The truth is Jesus?” In one sense the conversion of both seems to make sense. As St Augustine points out, he who searches for the truth searches for Christ whether he knows it or not. Would it then be fair to say that he who searches for love searches for God whether he knows it or not? It would seem fairly logical to think so. The philosophical and theological problem of attempting to understand the reality of God, love, and truth would indicate that the search for one leads to the others.

This seems in fact to be what Mullaney is driving at in emphasizing the role of love in psychotherapy. As he reminds us, some therapists focus on the reality as experienced (being “in touch” with it); some emphasize finding the “root” of the problem (a la Freud); some focus on what it is that makes life meaningful. (This may be, in fact, what Mullaney is doing. The key is that he focuses on love as that “meaning” to the exclusion of other possibilities.)

Perhaps the solution to the puzzle of love that Mullaney presents is that it is the most effective means for an individual to deal with all of the problems of life. For it is not uncommon for us to aim at that which can never be fully understood for the precise reason that it does not fully exist. It will in fact come into fuller existence by means of our actions. It should then not cause the reader any concern that the philosophical aspect of the reality of love is ultimately a mystery.

Mullaney has not attempted to write a philosophical treatise but rather a therapeutic handbook with certain philosophical underpinnings. The world of therapy is primarily concerned with what works. Mullaney is attempting to combine “what works” with what is true. Throughout his long career as a therapist, he has concluded that “love works.” It is my hope that this book is only the beginning of the development, both psychologically and philosophically, of a theory that will take its place alongside the many other influential psychotherapeutic theories in the world. Brennan Mullaney has laid an exciting foundation. May his fellow therapists now eagerly take up the task.

—Tim Fout, M.A. (Philosophy) Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, Bellarmine University, Spalding University, Indiana University Southeast, University of Louisville.

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