We live in a world strangely bereft of love. The characteristic mood is one of loneliness, anxiety, and estrangement. This is powerfully portrayed in Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit, in which three souls drag out their existence in hell, physically together, but hostile, antagonistic, and embittered. The first, a man, had been a Fascist collaborator; the second had been a prostitute; the third, a lesbian. Condemned to the torture of enduring eternally a fellowship that they all hate, these three inmates of hell have no love, no pity, no hope. They long for escape, but hell has no exit. The man finally cries out, “There’s no need for hot pokers in this place. Hell is—other people.” So here on earth we experience hell—the presence of other people with whom one must exist but with whom there is no community, no joyous feeling of relatedness, no loving mutuality. And this by and large is the human lot today.

Psychotherapy is a discipline concerned with understanding and treating personality disorders. In the years since Freud started to explore the subconscious reaches of the mind, psychotherapy has been accumulating a wealth of data, much of it bearing upon the matter of love. In fact, psychotherapists stress the necessity of viewing life as a ceaseless quest for love.

Any discipline that can help to release human beings from a self-centered love, that inverted love which prevents a true self-acceptance and a true self-understanding, ought to be Christianity’s welcomed ally. Can psychotherapy, then, illuminate and perhaps correct the Christian conception of love? Or does the Christian view prove far more adequate than this secular wisdom about man?

Since the vast field before us includes an overwhelming amount of literature, let ...

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