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The Malady of Love

CHARLES BACTAWAR, HCPC Registered Counselling Psychologist & Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist, of Psyconsultancy, has provided an overview of The Malady of Love.

Book Review

Charles Bactawar



In Cognitive Psychology a Schema is an organised pattern of thought or behaviour that has developed and impacts upon how you relate to yourself and others.

The Malady of Love’ is about a complex relationship between a man and a woman and is told from each of their perspectives. The male character has suffered from selective mutism from an early age and the female character has a fear of loneliness and abandonment due to the antenatal loss of her twin sister.


It is an innovative novel that draws heavily on psychological ideas such as Attachment, Separation, Loss, Trauma (miscarriage/ abortion), Mutism, Survivor’s guilt and such concepts as Schemas (Abandonment, Defectiveness, Mistrust) etc.


The narrative began with a dialogue between the two characters who felt hurt and rejected by each other because of misunderstanding and misinterpretation of each other’s behaviours and intentions. As the story progressed their shared difficulties, fears and vulnerabilities surfaced, and they were drawn closer to each other.


In this book the male character suffers from a condition called selective mutism from an early age. He recalled that as a child he kept moving from place to place and that his fear of communicating selectively surfaced around that time: getting to know someone and then they were no longer there was difficult for him growing up and he experienced this as an abandonment. At school he struggled deeply with the desire of wanting to embrace life on one hand, but on the other experiencing the social environment as being harsh and punitive. He felt different and may have believed that he is somehow fundamentally flawed. To protect himself he supressed and avoided his emotions and retreated into his internal world to feel safe. The more he did this the more split off he felt from his true self.


The female character suffered intrauterine trauma when she lost her twin sister antenatally, through having greater foetal blood supply, and feeling responsible for ‘killing’ her sister, subsequently experiencing survival guilt. Being traumatised by the loss of her twin sister, she may have also experienced this as abandonment – the loss of one half of herself. Her fear of emptiness and loneliness reflect the depth of her distress and dysfunctional schema(s). 


The male character discovered that his lover was pregnant, and he remarked that this child will be the most precious thing in his life. This seemed to have triggered the female character’s fear of rejection, loneliness, and abandonment.  The thought of becoming second best in her lover’s heart was too much of an emotional pain to bear, and she lied to him later saying that she had a miscarriage when, in fact, she had an abortion. The male character discovered, quite by accident, that his lover deceived and misled him. The male character felt let down and abandoned - the trust between the two of them was destroyed. Later, they attempt reconciliation in a Café only to miss each other signals (each wanting the other to show signs they wanted to get back together) similarly repeating the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of each other’s behaviours and intentions as when they initially got together.


Years later he visited her graveside having discovered that she died from an infection from self-inflicted cuts, the pattern of which leads him to believe that she was shining distress about their separation. He tells her of his regrets and that he believes that her son is his son.  He pines by the graveside.


I found this novel quite interesting because it deals with the complexity of human relationships and the psychology involved. It gives an insight into the power of emotional pain and its destructive nature and devastation. I would recommend this novel to people interested in psychological fiction and those learning about psychology and counselling / psychotherapy as it focusses on the minutiae of experience, emotion, and psychology.

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