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.
Laurel’s rapid response wasn’t unusual, as numbers of other people who successfully went through the program would later prove. Young, old, men, women, gay, straight, they were all, in some ways, immobilized by pain.
Many of them were skeptical of therapy in general and especially wary of a systematic program. That’s not surprising because some therapy can take years and still produce little in the way of results.
I believe therapy should be held to the same standards as medicine and work as quickly and painlessly as possible.
And that healing progresses best when therapy is specifically designed to address a specific problem and is systematic and step-by-step.
People who come to my office for help are in love and in pain. I’m a behavior therapist, and I help stop the pain so you can escape from a nonproductive dream world of unreturned love. So you can love again and be loved.
I first began developing this particular program in response to Laurel, whose partner had suddenly left without warning or explanation the day before their wedding. Laurel and her fiancé were graduate students at Princeton. They shared courses, friends and vacations and they planned to be married the day after graduation and go on to be field anthropologists. The day before graduation, Laurel’s fiancé left (for his parents’ home in Nebraska, Laurel learned later) without a word of explanation. The more she thought about what had happened and why, the more she became obsessed and depressed. After two weeks she still couldn’t bring herself to apply for grants or a job. She felt isolated and felt it must be all her fault. She was so depressed she seldom left the apartment she had shared with her fiancé.
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.
The most common problems stem from believing the childish fairy tale that one day you will find your perfect, perfect person, the one who will be right for you in every way. It’s an impossibly high hope that always leads to disappointment and broken relationships. There is no perfect person for you. One person cannot fulfill all your needs and expectations. And it is an unfair burden to expect them to carry.
A definition of love as giving and sharing means that you do not exploit the other person. It’s so easy to make demands or be critical, but less easy when another person’s needs are as important to you as your own. To be sure, there are plenty of people in love who play destructive or manipulative roles. But that’s not helpful to either partner. And usually we see one person being exploited, diminished and even damaged.
The best of love is a total acceptance of another person; an acceptance of weaknesses, mistakes and vulnerabilities along with the goodness and strengths. Accepting and being accepted means that you are free to be yourself in a relationship. You don’t have to play a role or feel you have to change yourself or your partner into someone slightly different.
So…..Love: If it hurts, it’s not worth it.
What do you feel? True or not true?