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Interview with Dr. Thomas Jordan

Q.1 Tell us a little about yourself?
A. I am a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst living and working in New York City. I am a graduate of New York University’s Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis, and an instructor in their program. I have been married for 26 years to my wife and colleague, Victoria Jordan; LCSW and we have a 22-year old son, Bradley.

Q.2 Do you have any upcoming books?
A. At present, I am focused on getting the word out about Learn to Love: Guide to Healing Your Disappointing Love Life. I believe the message and method discussed in this book are extremely important and need to be known by anyone experiencing love life difficulties.

Q.3 What inspired you to write Learn to Love?
A. Basically two things, the first was what I was learning from working with many patients over the years who came to treatment because of love life difficulties. The second reason being the changes I was able to make in my own love life using the simple method I describe in Learn to Love. Through my work and personal experiences, I realized that improvements in the success of a love life have everything to do with changing what was “learned” about love relationships. This realization was so inspiring I wanted to tell as many people as I could about what I have learned. I believe writing a book was the best way to get that started.

Q.4 What do you want readers to take away from your book?
A. That they can seriously and effectively “work on their love lives.” That they can read my book and begin the process of strengthening their “psychological ability” to form and sustain a healthy love relationship. I wrote Learn to Love as a guide in order to help people, who might be a bit skeptical at first, to begin improving their love lives.

Q.5 We hear a lot today about unconditional love. Are human beings really capable of that?
A. My understanding is that the emotion of “love” is an experience nobody gets to control or predict. In a sense, it is “unconditional.” It comes (and sometimes goes, unfortunately) beyond our control. What is “conditional” is the way a person “relates when he or she is in love.” In other words, the kind of relationship we form when we are in love, are the conditions, healthy or unhealthy, that determine the success of the love we experience. So, I would say there are always conditions in love, more specifically, the type of relationship that gets formed when love exists.

Q.6 What are some simple everyday things we would do to bring more love into our lives?
A. My recommendation, as outlined in my book, Learn to Love, is to get to know what you’ve learned about love relationships in your life. If it was unhealthy, and it’s interfering with your ability to form and sustain a healthy love relationship, do what it takes to “unlearn” what you’ve learned about love relationships, and practice a healthier alternative. In Learn to Love, I call this the “Unlearning Method,” and I outline the three steps involved in the unlearning process in detail.

Q.7 What have you learned about love, in the 30 years of your study?
A. I learned that the key to making permanent improvements in our love lives is to identify what was “learned” about love relationships. The hard part is, most people are not aware of what they’ve learned, because we learn about love relationships “unconsciously” as we are growing up and into adulthood. I wrote Learn to Love in an effort to help readers become aware of what they’ve learned, using the book as a “guide” to deciphering the learning involved in their particular love life. The good news is as human beings, learning, and our ability to unlearn and learn something better, is our greatest asset. We start this learning process from the beginning of life.  

Q.8 How do you deal with a lingering, creeping thoughts of doubts, anxiety, and fears?
A. Changing ourselves psychologically always involves three steps. The first step is to consciously “identify” what we are experiencing. Being able to tolerate whatever feelings are involved in becoming aware of what we are experiencing and why. People are good at hiding this kind of information from themselves and others. Being able to verbalize what we are experiencing, clearly and directly, is always the first step that empowers a person to begin the process of change.

The second step is to “challenge” what is unhealthy in what we are experiencing. Once we have allowed ourselves to identify what we are experiencing, we can determine what is healthy and what is not healthy. Challenging what is not healthy is basically a decision not to let something continue to happen because we have decided to disrupt its control in our minds. This commitment to challenge what we’ve decided is unhealthy is a powerful way of disrupting what has taken control of our emotional lives. I’ve learned in my professional work, that many people are not aware of their ability to challenge themselves in this way, until and unless it is pointed out to them.

The third and final step is to “practice” a healthier alternative. Let’s say you discover that you’ve learned something unhealthy about love relationships, and it has created repeated disappointments in your love life. Once you’ve identified what you’ve learned, and challenged the control that unhealthy learning has had over your love life, you can now “practice” the healthy opposite of what you’ve learned as a “corrective” experience.

Identifying, challenging, and practicing change in a person’s love life is the method I describe in detail in Learn to Love as the “Unlearning Method.” My book is meant to introduce readers to this highly effective method. However, sometimes a person may need a bit of counseling or therapy support while making this kind of change in their emotional life.

Q.9 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
A. I have published three books so far. The first was a psychoanalytic textbook entitled - Individuation in Contemporary Psychoanalysis: Emergence of Individuality in Interpersonal and Relational Theory and Practice. Basically, this was a book about psychological maturation in adulthood and how to promote it in treatment. My second book was entitled - The Healthy Love Relationship. This book was a precursor to my most recent book - Learn to Love: Guide to Healing Your Psychological Love Life.

Q.10 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
A. Absolutely. I read each one carefully. I am always interested in how my “message” has been received by the person writing the review. Learn to Love is not just a book, but my effort to get an effective method of strengthening the psychological ability to form and sustain a healthy love relationship out into the consciousness of the general public. Most of the reviews have been excellent. They inspire and reaffirm my belief in the book’s message. I have not received a “bad” review yet. I got one “fair” review so far. Although the person didn’t have anything bad to say about the book. I believe that the person writing the review may have been already resigned to the mistaken belief that love lives can’t change.

Q.11 Who would you most like to thank for their involvement in your writing career?
A. As I mention in my book, my late psychoanalyst Dr. Ben Wolstein, helped me understand the relationship between love and learning. He shared a lot of personal experiences during the course of my treatment that helped me understand and correct my own love life. He was my doctor and mentor during my training years. He believed in and understood quite a bit about the healthy love relationship.

Q.12 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
A. My most effective way of dealing with writer’s block is to go on a nice long bike ride. Clears my head and allows me to start over.

Q.13 Does writing energize you or exhaust you?
A. Writing always energizes.

Q.14 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
A. I learned to write in and out of my office. When I’m writing a book, ideas and content can and will occur to me at any place and at any time. So, I tend to carry around a notebook whenever I leave my office. I could be walking down the street and have to stop and write my thoughts like they have a life of their own, and I have to “catch them” as they emerge into my awareness. The feeling I get is that I “have to” capture them as they emerge. I could miss an opportunity otherwise. I can remember instances where I felt pretty frustrated when an idea emerged and I had no way to write it down at the time.

Q.15 What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
A. First and foremost, being able to change my love life and form a healthy love relationship with my wife Victoria while raising our son Bradley. I would then have to say, the full and gratifying clinical practices my wife Victoria and I have set up in our private group practice. We work well together, and between the two of us have managed to treat a lot of very interesting people over the years. Our clinical work has given me an invaluable opportunity to conduct my clinical research, particularly on love life topics.

Q.16 What is work schedule like when you’re writing?
A. I tend to write late at night after my wife and son go to bed. I also write a lot on the weekends and on days off. Since my practice is in my home, it takes organizing my time to make sure I’m not overlooking my various responsibilities. I’m grateful that I can use the time I would otherwise need to commute back and forth to an office, to focus on my writing projects.

Q.17 What are your sources of hope, strength, peace, and love?
A. I believe that our greatest “hope” as human beings is to see the uniqueness of each other. Every single person has an inner potential, present at the beginning of life, that needs to be welcomed into our world. This is our greatest hope. Our greatest “strength” is to understand and accept that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves. Together we are strong, divided and in conflict, we are weak. Learning how to “let go” of what we no longer need, or is toxic to our lives, is the requirement to find “peace” in this life. So much of my clinical work involves helping people let go of what they no longer need. And lastly, my most favorite topic, “love.” As I talk about in Learn to Love, the emotion of love is a great gift that we as human beings receive without prediction or control. Our task is to set up the healthiest relationship we can when love shows up. Learning how to relate in love in the healthiest way possible, I believe, is the best way of ensuring that love thrives in a person’s life.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
A. Back in the early 20th century, there lived a man named Sandor Ferenczi, MD. He was a psychoanalyst at the time of Sigmund Freud. But unlike Freud, he had a true love of people, and his life and successes as a doctor of the mind, confirm that. His love of people was apparent in the way he treated his friends and colleagues, as well as his patients. I consider him the most important figure in early psychoanalysis and believe his influence will grow in importance as time goes on. I greatly enjoyed and learned much from studying his life and work.

Q.19 What is your favorite book and why?
A.  Ferenczi keeps a secret clinical diary of his experience as a psychoanalyst working with patients, that were never meant for publication. After his death, his wife managed to preserve these writings and passed them on to people who were able to finally publish them in 1988. The book is entitled - The Clinical Diary of Sandor Ferenczi. This book helped me understand the importance of the human and emotionally intimate relationship between patient and doctor and its vital role in emotional healing.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
A. At this point in my life and career, I believe that my research and clinical work in the area of a person’s love life is my most meaningful focus yet. Love is an emotion that has puzzled people in my profession, has been a source of suffering for many and appears to be a constant contemplation for most people. To be able to decode the mysteries of this human experience using the tools of interpersonal psychoanalysis, while helping people in the process, continues my journey.

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