In outlining the science of behavior therapy in his introduction to How to Fall Out of Love Dr. Wolpe went on to explain how behavior therapy works:
Reducing anxiety is central to behavior therapy.
The elimination of anxiety is most easily accomplished by inhibiting the anxiety with a competing response. If a therapist can evoke a response (deep relaxation, for example) in the presence of a stimulus that provokes anxiety (criticism from your father, for example), the bond between the old stimulus and the anxiety it caused (fear of criticism, for example), will be weakened. Eliminating or significantly reducing your anxiety removes obstacles between you and functioning creatively and comfortably in everyday living.
This book illustrates the way behavior therapy deals with emotional involvements that have outlived their appropriateness. People who are depressed or oppressed by obsessive thinking about another person will learn how to use competing thoughts to break their repetitive chains of thought.
People who are habitually dominated by others will learn how to overcome feelings of helplessness by learning to be assertive.
Joseph Wolpe the great behavioral scientist, the father of Behavior Therapy, and my mentor at Temple University Medical School, wrote the introduction to How to Fall Out of Love. In it he explained the foundation for behavior therapy.
Our emotional habits resist logical argument or good advice, because something learned emotionally cannot be dealt with purely at an intellectual level.
He wrote: Anxiety is central to unadaptive behavior. Anxiety is learned behavior. Because of certain experiences, an individual forms the habit of reacting automatically with anxiety or fear to certain situations. Sometimes fear is appropriate, because real danger is involved. In cases where no real danger exists, the fear or anxiety is inappropriate (a fear of heights while looking out of a window would be an inappropriate fear). For some people, such anxiety, whether it’s fear of flying, fear of heights, fear of rejection, fear of what others think, fear of taking risks, fear of criticism, fear of intimacy, and a whole range of sexual fears, can become so debilitating that it seriously interferes with daily life.
I was giving a seminar on sexuality at the very posh Carlisle Hotel in New York City years ago. I wanted couples to reconnect, communicate, throw off their old sexual habits and bring romance back into their sex lives. I’d invited BobJudd, a young copywriter from JWT, then the world’s largest advertising agency, because I wanted a professional to write a brochure on my course which was fundamentally about communication. I thought a bright young copywriter would understand and communicate my ideas and I’d been told that Bob was the best.
After the first morning session, Bob and I were having lunch and he said, “you have a wonderful program. I think you should do a book about sexual communication.” And I said I had a better idea for a book. I had a program to help people get over a lost or impossible love affair. And the program worked. Bob said “great.” He said he was going through a divorce and he understood the pain and the need for a program that really helped. “Let’s call it ‘How to Fall Out of Love,” he said.
In going over the original version of How to Fall Out of Love I was impressed by the advantages of a systematic program. It really does help to observe and organize your feelings. It helps, because as psychologist Dr. Herbert Fensterheim has shown, once you observe your feelings, you objectify them and gain perspective.
Gaining perspective lets you see your feelings from a distance.
That distance makes your feelings less overwhelming and easier to handle. It also helps to have a step-by-step program of positive things to do rather than struggle with an tide of amorphous, overwhelming feelings. And it helps to have specific goals so you can measure your progress.
Probably no endeavor on earth begins with higher hopes in the face of fewer chances for success than new love affairs. When the affair or marriage doesn’t “work out” and falls apart for whatever reason, falling out of love is usually a natural, although painful process. Most people can and do fall out of love without help. Time heals, they meet other people, and their lives go on.
On the other hand, for some of us, the loss of a love can be an almost overwhelming obsession and an intense, enduring, immobilizing pain. Being in love when it’s not returned can lead to depression, obsessive thoughts, sexual dysfunction, inability to work, difficulty in making friends, and self-destructiveness.
For all sorts of reasons, some of us hold fast to the memory of love as if it were the real thing.
Love is so precious (real love, false love, or any kind of love) that we fear to let go, afraid of the loneliness, the feelings of rejection, and the anguish. Losing love is so very painful, it’s like losing a part of yourself.
Millions of people are in love and in pain because their love is not returned. Chances are you know several people who are going through the painful process of falling out of love.
Suddenly, without warning, a young research engineer leaves his wife to live with another woman. A graduate student is deserted by her fiancé just before their wedding. An elderly woman’s husband leaves with his young lover for Hawaii. An administrative assistant is in love with his boss who strings him along. A website designer is having an affair with her neighbor but doesn’t want to damage her marriage. A banker falls in love with a client who cannot return her love. A venture capitalist is in love with an alcoholic. A hedge fund manager’s partner falls in love with another man. A love affair ends for the director but not for the actress.
Our whole culture says “love, love, love” is all you need and says it a thousand ways every day. Yes, yes, it’s so easy to fall in love.
But where are the signs to point the way out?
I developed the “How to Fall Out of Love” program from my notes on the first person I ever treated for a broken heart. Of course I realize that poets and song writers have much more to say about the pain of love than any therapist ever could. But I thought I might have something to add. Something that would help people get over their pain and get on with their lives. I analyzed the components of unrequited love: obsessive thinking; putting the person who doesn’t return your love on a pedestal; feeling a strong emotional and sexual attraction for that person; feeling worthless and inadequate; and, typically, intense jealousy about any other relationship that he or she might have.
I then designed ways to change those painful components for the better…
“How to Fall Out of Love” is a painstaking reproduction of an extraordinarily successful behavior therapy program. I wrote it for the millions of people (divorced, separated, or in a destructive relationship) who are suffering and have no idea how to deal with their suffering other than vaguely trying to suppress the love they feel for someone who does not love them, and for people who are in a relationship that gives them only pain.
“How to Fall Out of Love” is a sincere effort to make therapy practical, concrete, accessible, brief, and durable. The point is to stop the pain caused by obsessive thinking about someone who does not or cannot love you and to give you the skills you need to build a new relationship. It’s not a “fun read.” It is a work book, a step-by-step manual on how to stop constantly thinking about someone and how to change the way you think about someone. And how to get on with your new life. As the new cover says, “Someone you know needs this book.”
The more I thought about updating and revising “How to Fall Out of Love”, the more excited I got about the project. So many of my techniques have been vindicated by new discoveries in neuroscience. We know so much more about how the brain works now on a cell by cell level.
So now that phrase from the beginning of the book “if you can learn to unlearn what freedom” is backed up by the new science on how the brain works. You can’t wish for change to make it happen. You can’t just tell yourself to stop thinking about someone who you have been thinking about constantly for months or years. But you can unlearn. And that’s exactly what “How to Fall Out of Love” is, a step by step program to unlearn those obsessive thoughts about someone. And a way to think about them differently.
A couple of years ago, while I was clicking through Amazon’s books, I had a hunch. I clicked again and to my amazement, there it was. I was stunned. I’d written “How to Fall Out of Love” over thirty years ago. At the time it caused quite a stir. I was on Oprah 4 times, the Today show twice, five pages in People magazine, and profiled in the New York Times. But all that was so long ago. And yet, there the book was (and is) still in print.
I hadn’t really forgotten about “How to Fall Out of Love”. I’ve treated hundreds of patients, in my practice in Los Angeles, New York, and Paris who were in love and suffering because their love wasn’t returned or because they were in a dead end relationship. When I saw “How to Fall Out of Love” was still in print, thirty years later with no advertising, or PR, I realized it must be because my systematic, step by step program still works.
Of course I knew it works because with many changes and improvements, I’m still seeing a virtually 100 % success rate healing my patients with broken hearts.
If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Yes, the world has changed in almost every way since those days before the Internet, smart phones, personal computers, satellite TV, those long ago days when he wore bell bottom trousers and she wore flowers in her hair. But one thing hasn’t changed: Human nature hasn’t changed at all.
Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, to bring “How to Fall Out of Love” up to date.