To sum up my blogs of the past few days, you learned to love that person on many levels including a deep neural physical level in your brain. That fact, that the love you feel for that person is something you have learned to feel, is tremendously important. It is important because, if you learned to love someone, you can unlearn that love.
If you can learn to unlearn, what freedom! You won’t have to spend years struggling in the backwash of an old love affair. You won’t have to rely on illuminating the whys and wherefores of your former relationship with insight.
If love is learned, you can unlearn to love someone, because you want to stop the pain.
You won’t have to rely on wishful thinking (“if only, if only”), the advice of friends or “experts,” or the random chance of inspiration or insight, or the slow passage of time.
You can do it yourself. And you can do it now.
I’m not saying your memories of “him” or “her” aren’t accurate. I’m saying it doesn’t matter whether your memories of “him” or “her” are accurate or not.
It doesn’t matter what “he” or “she” said or did because your memories cannot and will not help you get over the pain. In fact, as I’ve said, going back over those memories feeds your pain.
Recent work on the neurophysiology of remembering is shaking the most basic assumptions we hold about memory. When you remember a deeply painful experience, you also experience a surge of adrenal stress hormones which increases the strength of the memory. So, every time you recall a painful memory, a fresh rush of epinephrine and cortisol reinforces the event’s emotional impact and its ease of recall.
In other words, each time you remember something painful, the memory and the pain and stress that go along with that memory are strengthened.
Your pain is refreshed and renewed with every recollection.
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.
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.
Hundreds of thousands have gone through my program ( in How to Fall Out of Love) and have fallen out of love in the sense that they no longer constantly think about the person they formerly loved, no longer feel great pain and longing when they do think of that person, and are able to build new relationships with new people.
As I said, I first wrote this book more than thirty years ago, and I am really happy it has helped so many people. It makes me smile when I see copies of that first book, worn and dog-eared, passed from one person to another for sale on Amazon and eBay with the words, “this works.”
The program in the new version of How to Fall Out of Love is behavior therapy.
That is, it is based on what neurologists, behaviorists, and other scientists have found
out in the laboratory about the way we learn. So it’s not a pep talk for following moral
guidelines. It won’t give you directions for achieving more insights. And it will not offer
the platitudes of “common sense.” How to Fall Out of Love is a straightforward positive
program based on observed facts. I developed the program at Temple University Medical
School and at Princeton University. It has been enormously successful. As I’ve said I
wish it could be in the bookstores now, but doing it right takes a little time and while
the first galleys are being printed now it won’t be available until January 6 next year.
Ask any therapist and they will tell you that no therapeutic technique or program can ever be expected to be 100% effective. But in the small sample of the 100 cases I treated or supervised before writing How to Fall Out of Love: evenly divided between male & female; college students to people in their late sixties; gay, straight, and bi-sexual, I had a 100% success rate. I couldn’t believe it, but it was true.
“It works, it works,” I shouted out loud. I was so happy. I thought “this is how Edison must have felt when his light bulb first glowed.”
I felt as if I had invented aspirin or penicillin. And I knew that I had to write a book about my program. I have never had an unsuccessful outcome with my How to Fall Out of Love clients. I do a two year follow-up and in a few cases, I’ve done some “touch-up,” usually for jealousy, the most stubborn of the emotions in unrequited love.
Yes, falling out of love is harder to do by yourself without the guidance and encouragement of a trained therapist. But if you are in enough pain, do the exercises, the program in this book will work for anybody who is in pain because their love is not returned or because they are in a dead end relationship.
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.”
As I was saying few days ago, the world has changed radically since I first wrote “How to Fall Out of Love”. In that distant time, nobody had heard of the Internet, Walmart, Starbucks and Tim Tebow. Now we connect on Facebook and Zoosk. We Skype, Google and tweet to give our friends the news of our lives with a click. And yet, as much as the world has changed since I first wrote the book, human nature hasn’t changed at all. When love ends today it is just as painful as it was in those distant days before the Internet.
Isn’t it ironic that love, our greatest source of joy, can inflict so much pain?
Half the marriages in the United States end in divorce, casual affairs are common, and there’s a parallel rise in suffering.Perhaps as choices increase and the old behavior codes decline, anxiety rises. Perhaps people are simply more open about their pain.
Whatever the reason, every time I mention that I have a program called “How to Fall Out of Love,” I am swamped with letters and phone calls and personal visits from people who have seen the order of their lives turn to chaos, who suffer emotional devastation and pain and who desperately need help. And now with years more experience, hundreds of new cases, and innumerable improvements to my program, I knew I could make “How to Fall Out of Love” better and I knew I had to renew it.