ERP 310: How To Unlearn Unhelpful, Unconscious Tendencies That Keep You Stuck — An Interview With Dr. Thomas Jordan

By Posted in - Podcast March 8th, 2022 0 Comments

Falling in love is human nature. The moment you are born and see your mother, you form a bond, and that is love. But if falling in love is that easy, why are there so many failed relationships?

In this episode, we’ll look into unhealthy relationship experiences, things that we have learned in the past that we tend to repeat in our relationships over and over again. Although these are part of who we are, the good news is that there is something we can do about it. Dr. Thomas Jordan discusses how we can unlearn these unhealthy habits and stop these vicious cycles.

Dr. Thomas Jordan has helped thousands of individuals and couples enjoy more fulfilling relationships and experience more satisfying, longer-lasting love lives as a psychotherapist for the past 33 years. He is the author of a breakthrough book Learn To Love: Guide to Healing Your Disappointing Love Life. Dr. Jordan specializes in the treatment of chronic love life problems and founded the educational resource Love Life Learning Center in 2012. In 2017 he launched the Healthy Love Life Seminar, leading love life educational seminars with his wife, a psychotherapist, Victoria Jordan, LCSW. He resides and practices in the Upper West Side of New York City.

In this Episode

3:49 Three reasons that got Dr. Jordan interested in helping couples and individuals in their love lives.

17:27 Unhealthy relationship experiences that people tend to replicate in their relationships.

22:41 How our experiences and the after-effects influence our love life.

25:51 An overview of the 3-step unlearning method.

40:13 Dr. Jordan defines what a psychological love life is.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Identify what the repetitive patterns are.
  • Promote an ability to challenge what has been learned.
  • Remind yourself that these old habits are unhealthy and move toward something unfamiliar.
  • Maintain good communication with your partner.
  • Although you are in a relationship, you should maintain your own individuality and respect your partner’s individuality.

Mentioned

Learn to Love: Guide to Healing Your Disappointing Love Life (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

ERP 238: How to Find Your Emotional Balance in Relationship

Take Him To Court For Child Support?

How To Live Without Love In Your Life?

Connect with Dr. Thomas Jordan

Websites: lovelifelearningcenter.com

Facebook: facebook.com/Dr.ThomasJordan/?ref=tn_tnmn

Twitter: twitter.com/LLLearningCtr

Instagram: instagram.com/lovelifelearningcenter

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drthomasjordan

Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins

Facebook: facebook.com/EmpoweredRelationship 

Instagram: instagram.com/drjessicahiggins 

Podcast: drjessicahiggins.com/podcasts/

Pinterest: pinterest.com/EmpowerRelation 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drjessicahiggins 

Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 

Website: drjessicahiggins.com  

Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Dr. Thomas Jordan, thank you for joining us today. 

Thank you for inviting me. 

Yes, and you have done so much research and supporting other clinicians and helping people understand through what you’ve learned in helping people look at where they’ve gone wrong, where they’ve experienced disappointment in their love life. And I’m just curious, before we dive into this topic, what helped you really focus on this particular area? 

Well, for three reasons. One is that I’m a psychologist, a clinical psychologist, and a psychoanalyst here in Manhattan on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City. I’ve been in practice for a long time, over 30 years. And I’ve seen a lot of people that are really having trouble in their love lives, and especially repeating patterns over and over again in different relationships. So that became something I was interested in researching, collecting information, and gathering observations. I started doing that in the late 1980s. And so, I kept doing it, and I started to see patterns that I thought were important to write about and talk about. 

And then also, a bit prior to that, I changed my own love life as a consequence of a personal therapy experience I was in back in the early 90s, late 80s, middle 80s. I was working with an analyst that helped me realize that I had learned some things in my family of origin that were not working for me. I was repeating them unconsciously in my love relationships. So, becoming aware of that helped me understand how I might unlearn some of the things that I learned. And as a consequence, I’ve been married for 27 years to my wife, Victoria, who also works with me. She’s a clinical social worker, and we’re in a group practice together. 

The third reason is that I’ve been looking at this divorce rate that hovers at 50%. Sixty percent for second marriages and 73%, can you believe it, for third marriages. There’s something wrong with that. That divorce rate has pretty much remained the same. So, the way I think about it is that a lot of people are not in control of their love lives. They’re repeating patterns over and over again that were unconsciously learned. I think it’s important to become aware of what those patterns are so that work can be done on them, improving the chances of having a healthy love relationship. 

Woman in White Long Sleeve Shirt Holding Black Smartphone

“A lot of people are not in control of their love lives. They’re repeating patterns over and over again that were unconsciously learned. I think it’s important to become aware of what those patterns are so that work can be done on them, improving the chances of having a healthy love relationship.”

Absolutely. And I want to just endorse the process that you’re really laying out here. And that being able to be aware of our tendencies, how we potentially protect ourselves, and how we approach relationships, our belief patterns, and our nervous system patterns around what we’ve known, and how that informs how we relate. And if we are not, perhaps turning towards this using this as information that we can likely repeat and be operating unconsciously around a lot of these areas. 

Absolutely. 

Yes. And for people listening, I’m curious. I don’t know if you’re open to sharing your number two point when you talked about what you learned about yourself that actually led to a relationship breakup. 

I’m sure that can be scary for people sometimes when they’re like, “Ah! When I start to change, is that going to impact the relationship?” And sometimes it does, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that that has to be true. I’m just curious. Did you attempt to try new things with your significant other at the time and just run into a place of making a decision that it wasn’t going to work? 

No. What I realized is that I learned a few unhealthy things from my mother, who was a dependent and controlling person. She was a bit on the self-centered side. And I looked for partners with that constellation of personality dynamics, if you will, over and over again. I had been drawn to what I had become familiar with. It was a template that I was using over and over again in who I was attracted to and how the relationship played out. I had multiple disappointments over and over again as a consequence of it. 

I realized when I became conscious that I was using this template, this blueprint over and over again, that I had to step away to do some conscious work on what was inside of me, which I now call the psychological love life. I think that real permanent changes in our love life take place on the inside. I am a big proponent of learning. I think unconscious learning is a wonderful concept that needs to be further researched and understood because I think that these experiences that get internalized when we are young, often if they’re unhealthy, they get replicated over and over again. And that’s what I was doing. 

So then, when I realized that this was happening, and I was able to talk about it, I became conscious of it. I made some changes in my love life. I stopped dating for a while. I didn’t have any sisters, only brothers. So, there were some things about women that I had to learn, and I had to learn it as a young adult male approaching middle age. So, it was interesting for a period of time. I made friends with a few women. It kind of happened semi-consciously. This is a lot of looking back on it, you know. I learned a lot from these relationships. These were non-sexual relationships that I had with several women friendships.

I learned some things about independence. I learned some things about not being controlling in a relationship. I learned some things about intimacy as opposed to self-centeredness. And it was so interesting that as those relationships changed and people moved away, Victoria showed up. She was an independent, not controlling, and intimate woman. We lived together and got married. It was kind of like I changed what I expected to find and what I was looking for. 

The way I look at it is I became more conscious of my love life choices, thinking more about what I needed and what I didn’t want. I believe that consciousness is applied in the sense of being able to challenge what you don’t want as it pops up in your mind. Or sometimes, these old habits, in other words, are replicated. They reoccur. And when we become conscious that they’re unhealthy, we have to challenge ourselves a bit and remind ourselves that these old habits are not healthy and move toward something unfamiliar. 

It’s interesting that the root of the word familiar is family. The unfamiliar would be, you know. I talk to patients about unfamiliarity. It’s a word that can create anxiety. It’s like, “I don’t know what I’m going to find. I’m used to finding this, even though it’s not healthy.” And the extent to which people can replicate and repeat these psychological expectations and patterns is awesome. It’s tragic. And it’s also awesome because I’ve sat with patients that had such a disconnect between what they had experienced growing up and what they were doing in their love lives now as middle-aged people. 

A classic example is I always remember this woman in her early 50s I was sitting with who, in an initial interview, was telling me that she grew up in a home with a violent alcoholic father, who was physically abusive to her mother. She witnessed this. She observed this, she and her siblings. And then when she left home, she married two men who were, you guessed it, alcoholic and violent. And the third relationship or boyfriend was moving in that direction. 

And when I pointed out in the form of a question whether or not she saw a relationship between growing up in this particular home environment and what she was doing in her love life, she looked at me, and this was an intelligent, educated person. She looked at me like, “What?” Like, there was a momentary look of like, “What are you talking about? The two are so different. There’s no connection.” I think that’s one of the bridges that need to be created so that people can understand that these things are learned, and they’re replicated. 

I can say that my experience is following what you’re describing in my love relationships and that I had a very profound relationship that awakened or at least illuminated and was mirroring a lot of the things that I had been unconscious to prior or wasn’t fully aware of. And just the distress and how perplexing it was. I was in a master’s program at the time. I hadn’t gotten my Ph.D. yet but grew up in a pretty progressive family being taught “I” statements and all of these things, and I felt really ill-equipped. 

I remember coming across some of these concepts psychologically around the unconscious commitments, and perhaps what I was attracted to, and these templates as you’re describing, and it was incredibly profound and really scary in some regard, and that I actually have some choice and like, you’re talking about this unfamiliarity. And I don’t know what that terrain looks like, and what is that, and then also a sense of empowerment of like, wow, I do have options here. I’m not stuck in this holding pattern of continually experiencing this thing on repeat. 

I also similarly had a strong deep dive into my own personal work and then was very clear in what I was looking for and what I was wanting to cultivate. And hence, the relationship that I’ve fostered with my now-husband, and we’ve been together since 2006. And, you know, we continue to do our work, but those first few years, we definitely put things into practice, but the commitment and what we were wanting to cultivate was very aligned on our values. So, that consciousness is huge. I can’t underscore that enough. 

Yeah, absolutely. And you don’t stop working when you find someone because I think when you find the person you fall in love with, I mean I had this experience with Victoria. The old patterns, it’s a work in progress, and it continues. I would say it continues to the last day of life. I mean, it weakens over time. That’s been my experience. And if you develop a dialogue with the person you’ve fallen in love with, perhaps married, and you work on it together, you become aware in that dialogue of each other’s psychological love life, so to speak. I think that’s a great advantage. Not only does it promote communication, which is an extremely important experience in a relationship, but you also become aware of each other’s handicaps, so to speak, you know, what kind of things can happen. With love behind you, you can communicate things. 

I remember, at the beginning of our marriage. Victoria, who’s also an analyst and also aware of these concepts, when my mother would show up in my behavior, she would comment on it. I remember one time, she got really frustrated. I mean, she walked away saying, “I’m not your mother!” because I was projecting it onto her.

I grew to become less defensive when I heard this kind of thing and more open to it. In fact, it was like now it was stated in the form of like a code, you know, that she didn’t have to say much. And it works the other way as well. I became aware of how her family of origin would show up. I mean, she comes from a divorced family. So there are experiences there that can creep into our relationship. And so, to be aware of them, and be able to communicate non defensively about it and kind of invite each other to strengthen this mutual consciousness that’s so important to keep a relationship healthy over time. 

Woman in White and Red Floral Long Sleeve Shirt Playing Acoustic Guitar

“To be aware and be able to communicate non-defensively and invite each other to strengthen mutual consciousness is so important to keep a relationship healthy over time.”

Well said. Yes! And I love what you were talking about the ongoing dialogue that I believe when we can continue to have the goodwill and the safety and the ground of that relationship, then we can perhaps be more open to those points, or those raising that flag, so to speak, about what we might be aware of and just that mutual attentiveness to the consciousness. It’s beautiful. 

Well, can we go back to the number one point that you mentioned? What are some of the common themes that you see as to where people are running into these roadblocks with love? 

I wrote a book in December of 1999, not 1999. I’m sorry, 2019. Going back in time, 2019. It’s called Learn to Love: Guide to Healing Your Disappointing Love Life. It’s a self-published book. It got a lot of Book Awards. I had a great time with it. I wrote it so that I could condense some of this into a guidebook. I wanted to make it easily readable and understandable that regular people, people with love lives, could look into this material and draw out what they needed to to make a change. 

And so, as part of that process and consequence of the research I was doing in my work, I put together at the time ten unhealthy relationship experiences. Now there’s 12. It’s a list that evolves. Things like abuse, abandonment, control, dependency, intrusion, rejection, self-centeredness, experiences like this, I found to be replicated in people’s love lives. So, I became sensitive to what kinds of experiences people would replicate unconsciously. 

And oftentimes, there’s a belief, for example, an unconscious belief, if you will, that relationships, for example, if you’ve experienced, unfortunately, experienced abandonment, let’s say, as a child, or adolescent at a time when you needed the parent, it’s very easy to foster this unconscious belief that love relationships are abandoning or have some element of abandonment in them. And as a consequence of that belief, that never really gets examined. It’s just there because you’ve lived through this experience. 

What happens is I find that people either initiate abandonment or they pick partners that abandon them. And sometimes people do both. Like, I’ve worked with people who abandoned in one relationship and found partners who abandoned them in another. What ends up happening is that this theme of abandonment, this experience, this unhealthy relationship experience of abandonment dominates the person’s love life. And as a consequence, you can imagine, I mean, multiple experiences of disappointment, obviously hurt until people reach a level of disappointment where they become resigned to the fact that love is too dangerous, too hurtful, and that’s very sad. 

I have a blog website that I’ve had up since 2012 called the LoveLifeLearningCenter.com. I’ve been writing. I have about 300+ articles that I wrote, you know, the real stuff. Should I bring my baby’s father to court for child care? Or how do I handle the hurt in a relationship? Articles that people could draw something from, learn something that they could apply to their love lives. 

Some articles that I wrote got a lot of reactions, a lot of commentaries, hit a chord. One of them was living without love in my life. And that got a lot of commentaries. I learned a lot. I revised the article two or three times as a consequence of what I was learning. I learned that there were quite a few people out there who were in resignation. That’s how I think about it—in resignation. They’ve reached a point in their love life where love is simply not trusted. It’s as if they’re traumatized by the experience of repeated hurt and disappointment. And they remain in this kind of painful, individual, solitary place where they are looking at love from a distance but not trusting that it would be healthy. 

I believe that people get to that point because the psychological love life that’s within them is fundamentally unhealthy, dominating their love life with one of these unhealthy relationship experiences that they’re unconscious of fundamentally. So in that respect, it’s tragic. I mean, if you make it to the end of your life and your love life is filled with repeated disappointments, that’s awful. 

It is. Especially how much we need each other in the sense of this attachment system. And that if we have experienced these repetitive, habitual feelings of disappointment, grief, abandonment, and get to this resignation, it’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy and a reinforcement of that. 

Absolutely. That’s a great way to say it. That’s what fundamentally it is, an unconscious, self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve done quite a few interviews over the past year and a half or so. People ask me, you know, what is love life? Okay. My definition of what a love life is, is that it starts at the moment of birth. It involves any and all relationships that involve the emotion of love. So that means your love life starts the moment you open your eyes and you see Mommy. You form a bond. That’s a love bond. 

A Photo of a Couple Embracing each other

“My definition of what a love life is, is that it starts at the moment of birth. It involves any and all relationships that involve the emotion of love. You form a bond. That’s a love bond. “

Events that occur from that point on will be embedded in your love life, the psychological love life basically being a combination of the experiences that we have, what we learned from them, as well as after-effects. And the two after-effects that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about over the years. And I think they get in the way of making real changes in your psychological love life is defensiveness, which people can use to protect themselves from hurt. There are many different kinds of defenses that people can use. And the other one is trying to change the person you fall in love with. Which I’m still looking at, and I haven’t found anybody who’s successfully accomplished that feat. I tried a few times myself. 

Me too. Me too. 

Yeah. So, you know, falling in love is easy. That’s easy. I mean, that’s biological, psychological, spiritual, whatever. It’s all of it, and it happens. We’re made to fall in love. Okay. The problem comes in the type of relationship we set up when we fall in love. That’s the problem. That’s learned. 

If we learn that a relationship is an abandoning one, that feeling of loss that is characteristic when abandonment is dominating a person’s love life, when we are convinced that that’s the way it is because we grew up in a family and the family is the first and most powerful classroom we’ll ever be in, then that’s what we expect to find in our love lives, and we’ll be attracted to people with this dynamic. We will experience loss repeatedly. 

Once I became sensitive to these issues, I think it helped me try to figure out what kind of interventions I could help my patients experience that would create a consciousness where they would stop, look at their love lives, think about their love lives on the inside. Like, what kind of psychology do I have that supports this discomfort, this misery that I’m recreating over and over again? And that’s pretty much where the work went. 

Well, that’s profound. And are you open to sharing one of those interventions? I know that this has to be done in the context of therapeutic space. I just wonder if there’s anything that’s helpful to share. I mean, you’re giving us some really great information already. I just wonder if you want to speak to that at all. 

In the book, I talk about what I believe to be an unlearning method. I call it an unlearning method. It’s a three-step method that I believe can be something that people can do on their own, or they can do it in the context of working with a therapist. But the first step is always identifying what the unconscious pattern is. And so, looking at repetition, I think is the most productive way to do that.

And the thing that maybe we’re most unhappy with, or our biggest complaint, can also be a pretty good indicator. 

Yeah. If you get people to talk about their love lives, eventually tell you where the problems are. I mean, I think that we know this as therapists that you know, when people talk, they talk from consciousness as well as unconsciousness. So you’re going to gather information about what’s repeating in their love lives over time as you gather information about their experiences. So the first step is always identifying. 

The second step is to promote an ability to challenge what has been learned. And I think that’s a wonderful skill that we all possess. It’s in our language. For example, “I was beside myself yesterday.” I love that. Like, what does that mean? Is it two of me? “I took myself out to dinner.” Oh, all right. 

There’s a relationship we have with ourselves. People use it in the language. How do you feel about yourself? Uh-huh. Okay. So, extrapolating from that what’s implied. Implied is that we can split up between what we’ve learned and what we have to let go of, or what we’ve learned and what’s unhealthy about it. We can split therapeutically between the part of us that has learned something unhealthy and the conscious part that now is aware that this is unhealthy and needs to be changed. And a challenge is possible. And this is something that I’ve witnessed patients becoming stronger about over time. Applied consciousness does that. It tends to strengthen people’s resolve, their ability to apply perhaps. People become a little more focused about seeing this kind of thing and will report in sessions. “I went out to a party the other night. Wow! Two women came up to me that’s just like my previous girlfriend. I had to run. I went in a bathroom to get away from one of them.” I mean, that usually indicates that the awareness of what is not healthy, and also the flip side, you know, like encouraging people to move toward what we talked about the unfamiliar.

Step three is to create and practice these corrective experiences. Back in the old days, in the 20th century, there was a concept called corrective emotional experience. Alexander in French wrote this wonderful book about it, and then it had a lot of controversies because therapists and analysts said no, this is a manipulation of the therapy, make-believe experiences, trying to make people better with them. It’s not real. And that was a criticism that really kind of put that book and its concept of corrective emotions printed on hold. Well, I think the concept is extremely important, but it has to be revised. And the revision, I believe, that gives it importance is to realize that people can create their own experiences. 

For example, say, one of the unhealthy relationship experiences is neglect. You grew up in a neglectful home, and you experienced neglect firsthand. Now, that’s a powerful learning experience, and you might carry that into your love life, picking neglectful partners, partners who aren’t available emotionally, or being neglectful yourself, uncommitted yourself. So, as a consequence, multiple disappointments occur. 

The opposite of neglect is to practice some kind of devotion, some kind of commitment in a relationship. So, you become aware, in therapy, for example, that your love life is dominated by neglect. This is a consequence of growing up with neglect when you’re young. You witnessed it perhaps in your parents’ relationship, and you’re replicating it in your own love life. So, you identify it. You realize that it’s unhealthy. You’ve challenged it, and you continue to challenge it. You’re not in the mood to set up any more neglectful relationships. You’re working with a therapist that’s supporting you in that endeavor. 

Now you get to step three, and you’re thinking, “Okay, the therapist is talking about what’s unfamiliar.” The unfamiliar is to find someone who possesses the capacity to commit. You might become aware that you tend to run away from those individuals. So that would be an interesting thing to work with within yourself, to challenge yourself again to do something different, to take a risk. 

And this becomes part of a dialogue with the therapist about how an experience of commitment is something that, when practiced, you’ll be over time more comfortable with it, and understanding how healthy it is, how it moves your love life in a healthy direction away from what was learned in the family of origin. I think that that promotes change. 

I can remember sitting with multiple patients over the years, where in terms of an intervention, we would talk about developing the sensitivity required to assess whether the person you were sitting with across the table at a wonderful restaurant on a date is someone who can make a commitment. So, you’re a person who has suffered neglect, you’ve had multiple disappointments, you grew up in a family where that was, unfortunately, what you will learn to replicate. 

And now you’re sitting across the table with a person. He’s an attractive guy, combs his hair the right way, plenty of money in his pocket, he’s got a good job, a nice car outside, whatever. And you’re thinking, is this the guy? Or is he another one of those neglectful individuals? 

And so, developing a sensitivity to commitment would be the way in which this emotional corrective experience. It’s kind of like now, it’s not only created by the patient but it’s also co-created with the therapists. It’s worked on. It’s flushed out. It’s looked at. It’s analyzed. It’s understood. The patient is an equal participant in that process, you know, talking about commitment, talking about what’s scary about it, talking about what kind of things can identify. 

“Oh, he told me a story. He’s a divorced man, but he told me a story about raising his children. He got custody of his son and his daughter, and he’s raising them. He’s a great father.” Well, a little bit of a check on the commitment ledger. What else did you see? So, developing a sensitivity to that, I think, empowers, and that’s the name of this podcast, right? Empowers. Empowers the patient to be able to manage the sum familiarity and begin making your correction in their love life. 

And the consciousness that you’ve also been talking about really having that explicit attention and awareness to become more sensitive. And in my experience, I had felt my own nervous system, the real difference between what might have felt anxious in the past. Because I had had abandonment in my very early years, even pre-verbal like I lost my biological father when I was three months old, and some other major losses. It took me a real disappointment in my love arena that allowed me to feel such grief that allowed me to tap into the emotion around those previous losses and grief that I wasn’t aware of. 

I think prior to that, as you were talking about what we tend to do in a relationship and the self-fulfilling prophecy, I think I was participating in both choosing people that weren’t available and then also maybe not being able to follow through or be fully committed and those types of things. And what this awoke me to in my own journey, as I talked about the deep dive, and then the practice then on there out, I could tell in my nervous system, the difference between when I was picking up cues, and my tendency of how I would engage with what felt like maybe fear of abandonment or that attraction, right? 

I think Harville Hendricks talks about this part of the brain and the amygdala and the memory that we have around a lot of this history. And like you’re saying, the early education and the picker, right. We might have a certain level of chemistry, which might feel like chemistry and love. But it could be the picker, right? That this is familiar, and I can perhaps, work through the things that I wasn’t able to fully resolve in childhood, and maybe the pattern of that versus the conscious, and the commitment around what I’m choosing and what I’m wanting to co-create, and the scaffolding of that and what that feels like the resonance and the congruency of that feels very different in my nervous system. 

I’m speaking of this many, many, many, many years ago, and as you’ve been talking, and just this developmental process, and how the psychological love life is, perhaps the history of all relationships that we’ve experienced love and family included, that as we continue to do our healing work and get in that congruence, that consciousness and get into practice. I believe there’s an integration of these parts of us, the part of me that would react or have that anxious tendency, or the part of me that can really choose and be mindful and have wisdom. And again, that’s not perfect. It’s a fine-tuning process, and you’re talking about the sensitivity. That’s how it resonates with me as you’re talking in my own process. 

Yeah, absolutely. And you know what I found? I found that when you said, our psychological love, life includes all of the experiences we’ve had with love, you know what’s interesting, I’ve been looking at that idea, which seemed understandable and rational and logical. But I found that there are people, I’ve met people who have been through horrific experiences in love relationships when young, and it didn’t affect their love life. They were able to do the opposite. They were able to do the opposite without much experience with therapy or something else. These are very interesting people. It’s modified my view of it a little bit. 

I now have the idea that what gets into our psychological love life is hard to predict. It’s something we have to check out. It’s unique to the individual, perhaps. I could talk to someone who experienced abuse, and they’re a very loving parent with their own children and not abusive towards their spouse. How the hell did you do that when you grew up in an abusive home? 

I could also meet someone who’s replicating it to the tee, exactly as it was experienced. So, at this point, I now have the understanding that, okay, I’m not going to make any assumptions going in. I’m going to take a look at what it is and use that. My mother was quick with her hands. Corporal punishment was a big thing in the 1950s and 60s. I’m 69 years old. I know quite a bit about that. I never touched my son. Never. And if I felt like it, I’d go for a walk. I told my analyst. My mother showed up, and I had to go for a walk. But I never engaged my son with corporal punishment and believed in it. I believe that communication and relationship were the way to bring up my son. And I believe that was a successful thing. My mother didn’t know how to do that, unfortunately. 

Well, thank you for acknowledging just the complexity here because on the one hand, you know, looking at attachment research, and sometimes that gets very clearly defined, and I think that’s for a certain purpose. I think the attachment we might have with our mother or our grandparents or our father or any caregiver, you know that these are all informing our bigger system, but it’s not as pure as just, are you insecurely attached? Are you securely attached? I think it’s really much more complex. And then you’re talking about individual resilience and all the different factors that go into that. I love the just permission to just recognize it. Everyone’s experience can be very, very different. 

Well, I know we’re winding our time, you know, getting kind of towards the end of our show. One of the things that you also talk about is just the definition of love. And we’re talking about psychological love life. Just while we have you, how do you define love? How do you see this fitting into the concept of what we’ve been talking about? 

Love is extremely difficult to define. Can I take my exit on that? I know when I’m defeated. I know when I can’t get a perfectly stated concept to cover this phenomenon. The one beautiful thing about love, let me stop there, is that love is an uncontrollable, unpredictable, emotional experience. And the beauty of it is we human beings, who, by the way, love to control everything we get our hands on, cannot control that, at least not yet. I hope never because it basically brings mystery into our lives, and that’s a beautiful thing. We can’t make ourselves fall in love. Love does us. We don’t do love. 

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“Love is an uncontrollable, unpredictable, emotional experience. And the beauty of it is we human beings cannot control that. It basically brings mystery into our lives, and that’s a beautiful thing. We can’t make ourselves fall in love. Love does us. We don’t do love.”

People confuse love with all kinds of things. Sex is the most common. Love, I believe, if I control what would be a weak definition, at such a large phenomenon is it’s a joining, a union without losing one’s individuality. To me, once you break it down a little, that’s what’s really curious. True love, real love, healthy love embraces both the union and the separation at the same time. So, I think it’s naive to think of love as simply a union. I think that if we look at how the poets and how people have tried to understand love, that’s usually where they go.

I love the interdependence. Dr. David Snarks, in his work, have just the differentiation. It’s so key. We are in our life. We are standing on our own two feet. We are responsible for ourselves, and yet we choose to co-create, and that cultivation with another is that you can, and we still are an individual in our own psychological.

And if we lose that individuality in the experience, love is damaged. By the way, true love also has this uncanny ability to individuate us. We become interested in the uniqueness of each other in this union. It’s like an umbrella that two individuals join hands under. But it’s this wonderful psychological, biological, spiritual thing that happens. 

I think the great thing is that we human beings come into the world capable. And here’s the phrase that really gets you. Ready? Fall in love. FALL in love. It’s a fall. We lose control. We don’t have control. So, we’re capable from the moment we’re born to fall in love. In fact, we fall in love with the first person even though we have individuality, but it’s largely undeveloped. It’s there. It’s glimmering. It’s there, but it’s largely undeveloped in my mind. But where our ability to fall in love, mother nature guaranteed that, and the symbiotic relationship that infants form is a demonstration of falling in love in a certain strong sense, an example at the beginning of life. 

So, you know, falling in love is something that human beings can do. The tragedy is what we do after we fall in love. If we fall in love, and then we proceed to destroy that love because the relationship we set up with the person we fall in love with is unhealthy, that’s a problem. 

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“Falling in love is something that human beings can do. The tragedy is what we do after we fall in love.”

Yes. Okay. Thank you for saying that. Because part of me is also thinking, love is also a verb, and it’s how we show up and how we cultivate that which we’ve been talking about and using the consciousness and the setting up the health. And so, you’re speaking to that now. I don’t know what you would say. I do think there’s something to be aware of. I know there are many jokes out there around “you don’t want to marry the hottest sex you’ve ever had.” Sometimes, that is like not something to build a stable relationship around. However, what you’re describing is there is this holistic, soulful neurochemically feel like there’s this something that is hard to put language around. And then what we do with it and how we live that out is what is really important as we look at the relationship.

Look. Hot, lust, sex—wonderful gymnastic activity that people can do together to express their affections and physical loving to each other. And in my view, if the chemistry is good, for starters, and you can experience the kind of emotional intimacy that a healthy love relationship offers, you’ve got the best of both worlds in that respect because you’re really attracted to each other. You’re in love. That’s a wonderful little word “in.”

I’ve had patients. I become very aware of this phrase people say to me, “I love him, but I’m not in love with him.” Oh, wait a minute. What is love? In love is like a bubble you get in. You step into it with the other person, like, get in here. I’m in love with you. Get in here. Are you in love? Let’s get in together that bubble. If I love you, and I’m not in love with you, then I feel something for you. I care about you. When you break it down, you hear that kind of thing. I care about you, but I’m not in love with you. So it’s interesting how people will use these words. I have become sensitive to when people say, “Oh, yeah. I love spaghetti.” Like, okay. Wait a minute. They are using that word in that context. What does it mean? 

It’s a wonderful experience. I think the fact that we can fall in love more than once in the course of our lives is mother nature’s way of guaranteeing that something interesting happens in our lifespan. 

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“The fact that we can fall in love more than once in the course of our lives is mother nature’s way of guaranteeing that something interesting happens in our lifespan. “

Yes. Well, I can just tell that I am so interested in all the different things that you have to offer. I can tell that I would just be very excited to talk to you more. I know your time is super valuable. I would love to just start closing this out so we can help people learn how they can get in touch with you. 

You’ve already mentioned your book, Learn To Love: Guide to Healing Your Disappointing Love Life. I’ll make sure to put a link to that on today’s show. 

Thank you. Thank you. 

And also your website. Is there anything you want to direct people towards besides the book or your website? Is there anything you want to encourage people to do?

Well, on the website, there’s information if people are interested. My wife and I offer love life consultations, where if, say, for example, someone’s read the book and feels that they need a little support to apply what I call the Unlearning Method to their love life. And oftentimes, it only takes a few consultations to become aware of what has been learned and can be unlearned, to start that process off in a healthy way. So we do that as well. I’m on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for anybody who can hear my voice as well. 

Wonderful. Well, the consultation, the educational seminars, the book, and if you’re in New York, particularly Manhattan, Upper West Side, then they can reach out to you to perhaps work with you therapeutically. Thank you, Dr. Thomas Jordan, for joining us today. It’s been such an honor. I’ve had such a great time talking with you. 

Thank you, Jessica. Thank you for inviting me. 

Signing Off

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching