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Primal Love

Reclaiming Our Instincts for Lasting Passion

by Doug Gillette
Book review Copyright © 1995 by Bert H. Hoff

Douglas M. Gillette, Primal Love: Reclaiming Our Instincts for Lasting Passion (New York, NY: St. Martinís Press, 1995). (Hardbound out of print) Audio cassettes


Primal Love
by Doug Gillette
(Hardbound out of print)
Audio cassettes

Last month we featured an article by Jed Diamond, Back to the Future: The Evolution of Sex, Love, Men, and Women, on the implications of evolutionary biology. I added a comment at the end of the article, encouraging men to dialog on what this might mean in our own lives. This book by Doug Gillette, co-author with Robert Moore of King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, (order on-line) responds powerfully to that call. It clearly and effectively shows how the patterns established by our genetic ancestors are actively working in our relationships and in our lives today.

The book is at once a thoroughly-researched and extremely thought-provoking study and an eminently practical guide for using our understanding of these concepts to help understand, and ultimately enrich, our relationships. Mr. Gilletteís engaging writing style invites us to explore the concepts, while leaving the detailed expositions to footnotes which the scholar in me enjoyed, but the "get-to-the-point" part of you may safely avoid. He does an excellent job in illustrating the concepts with real-life examples from his own life and from the lives of people he has counseled.

He needs to provide the depth of scholarship that he does, because his views are controversial as well as thought-provoking, especially to those who feel that gender differences are culturally-induced and exploitative of women. His point is that the discussion as to whether these gender differences are genetically hard-wired or culturally-induced is irrelevant, in the sense that the culturally-induced roles have been with us since jungle and savanna days, when we were not so clearly differentiated from the chimpanzees and bonobos we so closely resemble genetically. (In fact there are more genetic differences between individuals in the same species of some fish, than there are between human beings and the chimpanzee-like bonobos.)

He makes the deeper point, like Aaron Kipnis and Liz Herron in Gender War, Gender Peace, (order on-line) that problems arise not because there are gender differences, but because a patriarchal society has come to view womenís roles as less important and less worthy of honor than menís. He spends considerable time in a remarkably even-handed discussion of how gender stereotyping has come to harm men and women alike, and offers valuable insights for gender reconciliation.

But, ultimately, this book is not about "gender reconciliation" about you, me, and our relationships. He discusses the concepts of John Gray (Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus) and Harville Hendrix (Getting the Love You Want), two of the best books on relationships, and adds a new depth of understanding to these concepts. (In return, he garners well-deserved book-jacket praise from the two authors.)

His thesis is that our behavior patterns and the "hot issues" in our relationships stem from the time our ancestors were in the jungle and when they moved to the savannas and needed to develop new social patterns to survive. The patterns developed in the jungle and the savanna conflict with each other, and each is buried in our brains. Each has the potential to raise "hot issues" on our current relationships.

The jungle "hot issues" are promiscuity, recreational sex, extreme male competitiveness and emotional isolation, womenís economic self-sufficiency, single-parent families. intense mother-child bonding, and mutual gender isolation. Savanna-time issues are serial monogamy, sexual jealousy, shame and guilt, economic subordination of women, intense pressure on men to protect and provide, mutual dependency, and our ongoing childlikeness. Mr. Gillette does an excellent job of showing how these "hot issues" of ancient times come alive in our relationships today, and how to deal with them.

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