Robert M. Gordon: Great Book on Love

Apr 12, 2014 by

I Love You Madly

An Interview with Robert M. Gordon: Great Book on Love

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico

1) Dr. Gordon, can you first tell us a bit about yourself, your education and experience?

I was first a science major at Temple University and fell in love with philosophy of science taught by a social psychologist Robert Lana. I started doing psychology research as an undergraduate and later entered the PhD program in psychology. It was Behaviorally oriented. My dissertation was on resource exchange and the quality of life. I found that love given in childhood was the best predictor of current happiness.

My dissertation committee was very upset with me for studying love even though I only looked at it as a resource that can be exchanged. The difficulty I had with them almost turned me off to research. I did a clinical internship. I studied with some of the top experts from the various schools at the time, such as Manuchin in family therapy and Albert Ellis in Rational Emotive Therapy. After doing working in private practice, I noticed that people treat intimates differently than they do others in a manner related to their relationships with their parents. I knew then I needed to know more about transferences, defenses and the whole area known as object relations.

What I had learned was anti-psychoanalytic and it lacked explanatory value when it came to mental life and intimacy. I was an open-minded scientist ready to go with any theory that better explained my observations. I then went to a psychoanalytic institute and had my own psychoanalysis- which by far was the most profound education of my life.

2) Now, you have just self – published a book on love- what motivated you to do this ?

I was an APA sponsor of continuing education since the mid-1980’s. I offer Home Study courses. I wanted to offer a course on object relations, but most of the material was very challenging. Otto Kernberg had just published his outstanding book, “Love Relations: Normalcy and Pathology” (1998). I first tried to teach this to psychologists, and either they were too dogmatic in their thinking, too defensive or too concrete, but a lot of them just could not get it. Then I worked for the next few years finding a way to teach it. I took some writing workshops and decided to write a book on the subject that was fun to read. In 2006, I published my theory of love relations and later that year I published “I Love You Madly! On Passion, Personality and Personal Growth.” I finally had my home study course! That is why there is a Continuing Education (CE) exam at the end of the book.

3) What role does passion play in love and how do you define passion?

There are different forms of love. I am mainly interested in the differences between healthy love and pathological love. Passion is just nature’s way to get us to continue the species by inducing an idealized delusional state. It lasts for a period to produce off spring and then generally fades unless there is enough healthy love to make it last.

4) Now, intimacy–give us your definition ( there is not a lot of empirical research on it in the literature ).

There is a lot of empirical research now in the literature on intimacy. PsycInfo, APA’s literature search engine lists over 6000 empirical studies on intimacy. Intimacy is an attachment to another person. Our psychology constructs are often complex and may be harder to research than a simple construct, but that is what makes science fun and useful.

5) From my studies on love – I know there are different types – for parents, siblings, and then for significant others, in which there may be a sexual component. Can you discuss, I believe it is agape and eros?

We do not have good language for the different forms of love. My interest is in mainly how love gets so messed up and how can we do better at loving.

6) Some people seem to fall into love and out of love quite easily. Is this a symptom of some problem or personality disorder?

You are so right. The capacity for healthy relatively enduring love relationships is a sign of a healthy personality. People with personality disorders, especially borderline, narcissistic, histrionic and antisocial have too many problems with hostility, egocentricity and primitive defenses to maintain love relations. They can initially be intoxicating with their idealization but soon they switch to devaluing.

7) Psychologists seem to have difficulty in their interpersonal relations. How are their love lives?

No different than anyone else. A psychology degree does not cure a personality disorder.

8) I know Robert Sternberg years ago wrote about love as an intersection of passion, commitment and sex. Was he off on this or what is your take?

I quote him in my book. Amazingly, Robert Sternberg preceded the neuroscience validation of his model.

9) Some people are looking for a lifetime of deep love- others are looking for a shallow half hour. What do people need to be aware of?

There is nothing wrong with a passionate “shallow half-hour” among consenting adults. But have realistic expectations. Lasting love requires emotional maturity and hard work. The law of entropy is always at work. Love as all things, decay without work.

10) I understand there is a Continuing Education test at the end of the book. What is that about?

I answered this briefly in question number 2. It lived beyond the CE home study. It is even translated into Mandarin. I think the eBook went world- wide since it is so readable, fun and relevant to so many people.

11) How can interested lovers and friends get a copy of this book?

First, look at google books for a glance at some of the chapters. You can then download it for only $2.51. No, I will not get rich on the royalties.

Robert M. Gordon Ph.D. ABPP is a Diplomate of Clinical Psychology and a Diplomate of Psychoanalysis in Psychology, as well as Fellow of the Division of Psychoanalysis, and served on the governing council of the American Psychological Association. He was president of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association and received its Distinguished Service Award. He authored many scholarly articles and books in the areas of psychotherapy, relationships, forensic psychology, personality assessment, diagnoses, the Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual, ethics and the MMPI-2. He has a consulting practice in Allentown, PA.

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