People general try to avoid the topic of heartbreak, especially so close to Valentine’s Day. Nevertheless, author Meghan Laslocky’s talk at Brooklyn’s Bookcourt Bookstore on Saturday, Feb. 10th, attracted a solid crowd of fans, eager to hear Laslocky discuss her recently released literary debut, “The Little Book of Heartbreak: Love Gone Wrong Through the Ages”, which chronicles history’s most tragic love stories, along with personal anecdotes, quirky trivia and a look at the hard science behind heartache.
“I was fascinated by how heartbreak has changed over time, especially for women,” Laslocky said explaining her inspiration for the book to her audience of over a dozen attendees. “Heartbreak is bad enough now, but there are so many ways that it could be worse and has been worse.” Says Laslocky, referencing the stories in her book that recount famous relationships throughout history, many of which failed simply due to the oppressive social norms of their time.
In a sit down interview over a glass of white wine, the Oakland resident admits that while “The Little Book of Heartbreak,” only took seven months of intense writing and research to produce, she had been flirting with the idea since 2005, when she was still a graduate student at the Berkley School of Journalism. “I’d done a story about the feeling people get in their chests and I interviewed a psychologist on campus about why we suffer so,” she recalls.
It was while writing the article that Laslocky first became introduced to attachment theory, as well as the biochemical science explaining the pain people feel after a break-up. “Love isn’t so much an emotion as it is what researchers call, a goal oriented motivational state,” says Laslocky, referring to medical studies which used MRI scans to prove that love registers in the brain’s rewards center.
“Love gives you a dopamine rush, so when you’ve just been dumped basically your rewards system is still expecting the reward, but you’re not getting it and that’s why you behave like an addict,” she says. “This is all the stuff that goes on with drug addiction and I think that that’s really empowering to know. I wish I’d known that at certain points in my life when I was behaving like an idiot.”
Laslocky is open and candid about the times during which she went through the classic symptoms of love withdrawal, other wise known as bad breakups.
One instance, described in her book, took place when Laslocky was 30-years old. After several passionate months of dating a man she thought could be the one, he came over for dinner one night with flowers and chocolate. She thought it would be the night they would have a serious discussion about their future together. Instead he broke up with her on the spot and left.
“ It was brutal,” Laslocky recalls. “I remember the pain in my chest so acutely and I wanted to displace it. I wanted to put the pain somewhere else, it was so intense.”
Another boyfriend indicated the end of their relationship of three and a half years by simply never answering her calls again, giving Laslocky no other explanation.
Even short-term love affairs can leave long-term heartache in their wake, says Laslocky, recounting a relationship that only lasted a week and a half, but left her devastated for months afterwards. “I would burst into tears loading the dishwasher or at the gym,” she says.
“I’ve had a lot of experience with extreme disappointment,” Laslocky says, “I’ve had a lot of relationships that I thought were going to go somewhere and then just plummeted off the cliff.”
For this reason, she was only able to turn her interest in the history and science of heartbreak into a book once she met her husband and was safely out of the “heartbreak zone.”
Waiting for the right time to write paid off for Laslocky. Her debut has received praise from readers and critics since its release in late December—and was even listed as one of January’s must-read books on Oprah.com. “Don’t call your girlfriend, read this book next time you are stuck in your pajamas and don’t know how to get over the cad who dumped you,” wrote literature blogger Mary Wallace in an online review of Laslocky’s work.
When asked why people find so much joy in reading about heartbreak, Laslocky says it’s obviously because we’ve all been through it. She also suggests that people might be nostalgic for their own heartbreak. “There’s something gratifying about knowing that you can feel that bad and get through it,” she says.
Laslocky insists people remember that the pain they feel is, in fact, a temporary chemical imbalance, “I think that’s really important to know– that you’re not imagining it,” she says, “this is what your brain is going through…this is a legitimate experience.” The author also advocates feel-good activities: “do whatever you need to do. Endorphins help, reading for me helps, drink if you need to.”
As for handling the loneliness of Valentine’s Day, Laslocky suggests making a good plan in advance.“Organize something like a whisky tasting with friends or go see a movie don’t just sit around and feel sorry for yourself with your chardonnay,” she says.