Finding Peace with How to Be the Love You Seek

It is difficult to see genre-defining or genre-cultivating books as such when they are released, though it is easy to grant that title to Dr. Nicole LePera’s latest offering, How to Be the Love You Seek. For those assuming it is solely a romance-related read based on the title, I invite you to read the book in its entirety because it is a book about relationships, period. It’s a book that helps you reconnect with yourself and cultivate a strong relationship with yourself as the foundation for your relationships with others.

The book’s towering presence on relationship and wellbeing shelves is justified by its breadth of simplicity, which lacks nothing for depth. I have read many wellbeing books over the years in search of an easy way to understand complex concepts like trauma bonds, and the way that the ego can override our best relational intentions. While reading through this book, I did not find an easy solution, but I had several “a-ha” moments on my tour through its pages. LePera’s plainly stated definitions provide a scenic and enjoyable route to comprehension. The beauty of what we understand is that it is then knowledge we can apply.

Wellbeing books are easy to eschew, simply because there are so many of them within the genre. Furthermore (and I include myself in this at times, given the number of books I read), there are many who read them and don’t always apply, or know how to apply their contents. Some people would rather wear a hot dog suit during rush hour on public transit on the hottest day of the summer with no air conditioning for the ride rather than be seen reading a “self-help” book. I get it. Generally, the abundance of books in the genre means there is a wealth of information about how to do better or differently in our lives, but less so (what we call behind-the-scenes at Waterloo Public Library), doing the doing. It is what makes LePera’s book unique: to read is, in a sense, to do.

For example, there are breathing techniques that the author uses (it is an important feature of a wellbeing book, where authors share how it helps them rather than just being clinical expertise), as well as many useful journal reflections. The storytelling that informs how these concepts have helped the author become their definition of better able to connect with people in their life, makes it genre-bending. It is a wellbeing book, but it is also punctuated with memoir as a teaching method.

LePera also uses stories of those she’s met with through her clinical and other practices which are helpful in equal measure. There are also questions that, while reading, I found myself amusedly thinking, well that’s rude of this book to call me in on my nonsense! As was the case with the chapter titled “Unlocking the Power of your Heart” which states: “But have you ever taken the time to consider whether you actually do follow your heart? Many of us believe that we do, but most of us—including me for much of my life—tend to follow our thoughts” (p.171). In a word (and in the best possible way): OOF.

How to Be the Love You Seek is a remedial, if not humanity-restoring book for those working to make their lives, and inner circles, a more healed and healing place. LePera (an expert, and literal doctor) uses personal experiences and throughout I appreciated the way that she reminds us: not a single one of us is exempt from dysfunction. Relationships are the great equalizer where responsibility and taking ownership are concerned, whether we see them as such or not. It doesn’t matter what your bank account, friends, job description, or car say: we all must “do the work” at creating healthy connections.

We all have habits, beliefs, patterns, and practices that could fall under categorizations of dysfunction. Social media would diagnose these as beyond reproach and thus worthy of discarding. It gets precarious when we start to assign those labels to ourselves or others and make judgements about a person’s worth. LePera reminds us that it is not our dysfunctions that define us. It is, instead, how we choose to humanize ourselves through a healing process in a way that allows us to give the best of ourselves to others, while seeing the best of others in their presence and efforts. We cannot give the benefit of the doubt to others if we are buried in doubt about ourselves. In this sense, it offers wisdom, but it also demonstrates that expertise is not painted with brush strokes of perfection, but truth. LePera is an expert by virtue of her education, but she’s trustworthy based on her authenticity.

I found the chapter on body wisdom to be of particular importance. We live in a world that would reward us for how long we can be disconnected from our bodies simply because embodiment is quite simply, inconvenient. When we are embodied, we recall boundaries, we ask for what we want and need (unapologetically). We stop to nourish ourselves well and prioritize purchases and lifestyle accoutrements that speak to this. We no longer leave the porch light on for what Maya Angelou called the brutes in the neighborhood. Some might call us prickly, too much, or say that our standards are too high; embodiment creates a steadying standard for ourselves, and all our relationships. As part of this, the author gets into the specifics of sympathetic and parasympathetic responses (ie: fight, flight, freeze, fawn) and how to diffuse them so we can respond from an emotionally healthy and balanced state, rather than an activated one.

Improving ourselves and our relationships is generally a thankless task. There is no applause or recognition aside from knowing that we are becoming the kind of person who can be kinder, more compassionate, and able to articulate needs while more importantly, having the capacity to truly see the people in our lives. When we are able to see them, however, we are better able to love them as they want and need to be loved. Crucial to any kind of connection, we must first learn to lay a foundation of emotional healthy relational habits in our relationship with ourselves before we can establish them with others. How to Be the Love You Seek is a guide, map, and companion on that journey that you do not want to miss.

Charlie C.
Programmer & Library Assistant, Main Library

Charlie loves to read across genres. His favourite part of working at the library is connecting people with resources to help better their lives and experiences; knowledge is a path to empowerment. Accordingly, he is interested in reading and borrowing adult non-fiction books related to almost everything. He enjoys reading about business, self-improvement, environmental sciences and spirituality/esotericism. Books that help ask big questions and invoke equally big wonder are among his favourites. Charlie’s other hobbies include writing, hiking, photography and cooking.