Stuck in a rut? Feel that life is passing you by? Do anxiety, worry or insecurity hang over like a dark cloud? Obsessing over past hurts and events so that forward movement seems difficult or impossible? If these seem familiar, they are identified as among the most common problems that clients bring to the authors of this book in their counseling practices.
Believing that traditional therapy is convoluted in focusing too extensively on exploring the causes of clients' problems, psychiatrist Phil Stutz has designed an innovative approach which he and psychotherapist and co-author Barry Michels use to help clients overcome problems by emphasizing solutions. They provide tools to their clients to work through these common problems. "The surest way to change behavior is with a tool," they state. Human beings have untapped powers that allow them to solve their own problems they believe. With a combined 60-plus years of working with clients, they have identified four fundamental problems their clients are challenged by. They have field-tested solutions with clients enabling them to develop capabilities and move foward.
These four fundamental problems which keep clients from living the life they want to live:
1) Pain avoidance (out of fear of rejection, failure, and negative consequences) to the extent that clients don't move forward or progress--clients are stuck in a comfort zone in which they aren't achieving their goals, life is passing them by.
2) Unrealistic belief that people will treat you fairly--when this doesn't happen, clients become enraged/hurt and replay the experience, refuse to move forward until wrong is rectified, obsess about the person or event, fantasize about revenge etc.
3) Insecurity based on intimidating situations--leads to difficulty expressing yourself, connecting to others etc.
4) Negative thinking displayed in worry, anxiety, criticism, judgment of others and self-hatred--clients feel like a dark cloud hangs over them and have difficulty enjoying life and creating positive experiences.
The authors' approach to problems is positive--they view problems as "portals to enter the world of untapped potential" and see problems' purpose as primary avenues to growth. They help clients turn problems into opportunities with simple--but not necessarily easy--techniques called tools which change not only attitudes, but behaviors as well. How?
Take problem #1: pain avoidance, keeping our lives small, because of fear of negative consequences and discomfort. Explained simply, the "tool" they teach clients to employ is "reversal of desire" to avoid the pain. They show clients how to embrace the pain and forward movement. This universal principle enacts the power of forward motion. Move towards the pain, towards the activity you have been avoiding. It's a think-do approach. Thinking is not enough, clients have to do or act. This enacts power and energy which support you.
Each of the four fundamental problems has a tool to use to create new behaviors which energizes a higher force helping clients to evolve, develop capabilities and experience new possibilities. It matters less what problems you have, than that you use the tools they believe. The tools provide concrete access to the forces or power to solve the problems. Theirs is a spiritual orientation to therapy--not based on any religion or New Age theories, but on what they believe are principles and forces operating in the universe.
Do clients need faith to use these tools? No. Just the willingness and perseverance to apply them. For each problem, a tool is identified, an exercise-action is explained as to how to use the tool, and the higher force or principle is described which operates in supporting the tool. Real life examples of results in their clients' lives are provided regarding how the tool has worked in different situations. There's a helpful summary, and Q & A, on each tool at the end of chapters.
This book won't appeal to everyone. If you believe that the universe is simply mechanistic governed by material laws, matter-based cause and effect alone, you may find this book isn't for you. However, if you believe that growth and spiritual evolution are principles operating in the universe, and that laws and powers exist to support resolving problems and forward movement, then you may be intrigued by the tools the authors have discovered and field-tested through their personal experience and clients' experience. This book offers originality and clarity on using tools and techniques as levers on common problems. I found the book so helpful I read it twice and am implementing some of the ideas in it. At the very least, to the open-minded, you should find it thought-provoking and encouraging.
In their book, The Tools, Phil Stutz and Barry Michels introduce a novel method of psychotherapy. By combining elements of Jungian psychology with the kind of practical approach found in Ellis' Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, the authors present a series of exercises that they claim can harness the power of higher forces and affect radical, positive changes in their patients' lives. Per my assessment the exercises that they present are groundbreaking, but my guess is that there may be variable amounts of success for the average reader. I will try to explain what I mean by this below. Nevertheless, the book presents what appears to me to be an interesting, original,and possibly effective method of psychotherapy.
Before I begin, I have to admit that it is difficult to assess this book completely in such a short amount of time. I received the book from the Amazon Vine program for review three weeks ago. I am obligated to write a review, but you must realize that the exercises in the book take a fair amount of practice. I have noticed some positive changes that I will relate below, but I can't say at this point whether this will improve, stagnate, or decay over time. I will try to write an addendum later, if I see any differences over time. Additionally, I was a psych major in college, but I am certainly not a psychiatric professional. I do not have an advanced degree in psychiatry, so I can only give my opinions as a layperson. I think that this is appropriate as the book was written as a self-help manual for the general reader, but please take my comments in this light.
Phil Stutz invented The Tools when he was finished with his training as a psychiatrist. After a number of failures at helping his early patients he felt that the kind of psychotherapy he was trained in didn't offer much to patients that was all that practical. He basically started from scratch and invented The Tools as a way to help his patients with day to day problems, and to his surprise and his patients' satisfaction, it worked. Barry Michels faced the same dilemma, but at a critical juncture in time Michels was lucky enough to attend one of Stutz's lecture. He became the prime student of Stutz and found incredible success using the tools with his patient population. Both have used these tools as the cornerstone of their psychotherapy. The two worked together to refine them and are now the go-to psychotherapists to Hollywood writers and the stars. They are presenting this book to bring their ideas to the general public and to help people help themselves.
The writing style is colloquial. They introduce each tool by discussing a patient vignette. They show the reader how the particular tool works using descriptive language and some simple cartoons that illustrate the principles at a glance. They then tell the reader what cues should prompt you to use a specific tool and how to use the tool. The last couple of pages of a chapter are devoted to a quick summary which is very helpful.
WHAT ARE THE TOOLS?
Without giving away any of the authors proprietary information, The Tools are as follows:
1. Reversal of Desire: A way to overcome avoidance of painful or difficult situations.
2. Active Love: A way to quell anger, prevent yourself perseverating on injustice, or prepare yourself for confronting a difficult person
3. Inner Authority: A way to overcome your insecurities.
4. The Grateful Flow: A way to rid yourself of overwhelming, negative thoughts that hold you back and give you back your sense of control.
5. Jeopardy: A way to solidify your willpower so that you will continue to use The Tools. The Tools are not a one-shot deal. They require an ongoing effort. If you stray off the path you will backslide to where you came from. Tool five keeps you on track.
The above descriptions are sketchy, but you get the idea. The Tools all involve simple, Jungian concepts. A basic way of thinking about them is that we are often trapped in "The Maze"--stuck in negative patterns of thought and behavior that we cannot escape. On the one hand, The Maze is detrimental, as it prevents us from ever escaping from unhappy and unhealthy patterns of behavior. On the other hand, The Maze may disturb us, but the patterns, unhappy and unhealthy as they may be, keep us within our comfort zone. We are constantly distressed by The Maze, but we are also afraid to break out.
The Tools are designed to help us tap into The Source--a benign higher authority in the universe--which gives us the strength to break out of our old patterns of behavior. The Source is that Jungian mystical, spiritual power of good in the universe that unites us and can give us energy. It is the 'Higher Authority,' that "Power greater than ourselves" described in the second step of AA's 12 step program that can restore our sanity. For the religious, The Source is God, but, for the atheist, The Source is just a given. We also must confront our Shadow--a kind of second self that lives inside you. The Shadow is the picture of yourself within your minds eye that is devoid of any of our positive traits. It is the vision of yourself as that simpering, frightened, pimply child that cowers in the corner when you really need to stand up for yourself. By connecting to The Source and shedding light upon our shadow, we can overcome just about any problem.
BEHAVIORAL MODIFICATION OF THE SPIRIT
If all this seems a little mystic and spiritual, it's because it is. The Tools themselves, however, are down to earth and practical. Similar to Ellis' Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, The Tools give the reader a way to correct our recurring irrational beliefs and reorient ourselves with The Source and our Shadow, allowing us to escape the Maze. As complicated as all this may seem, The Tools themselves are simple and straightforward exercises that help us realign our thinking.
By changing the way we relate ourselves to The Source and our Shadow, we banish the irrational beliefs that hold us within The Maze. Our dysfunctional way of relating these elements is the major source of our woes. The important factor here, however, is that this is not once in a lifetime revelation. You need to constantly work at The Tools--it's a job that is never done. If you avoid them, you will slip back into your old patterns and get trapped again.
DOES IT WORK?
After practicing The Tools for three weeks, I have to say that I was very surprised that they have had some positive effects on me. My personal experience tells me that they do, indeed, have the potential to work. Once again, I can't say that I'm at the point where I'm so good at using The Tools that I have had a major life transformation, but the overall the results so far have been positive. Realize that using the Tools is an active and ongoing process. You need to continue to work on them; it is a job that is never done. Stutz and Michels do not promise something for nothing. However, if you put in the effort they do seem to work.
It is hard to tell, however, if these techniques are a good way to go for everyone. No research has been done to assess how well The Tools work. Yes, Stutz and Michels have had great success within their psychiatric practice. This is a start, but remember that most patients will stop using a therapy if they don't feel that it is helping. Patients who stick with a therapy--Stutz's and Michels' included--stick with the therapy because they feel that it works. The patients that continue using The Tools in Stutz and Michels' practices are the ones who are successful. Clinical success is hard to judge in a vacuum. Without research--knowing how many tried The Tools, how many were successful with them, and how many failed--it's hard to make a blanket recommendation.
Using The Tools takes a leap of faith when it comes to buying into the Jungian concepts involved. It also takes a lot of effort and imagination to put work with those concepts and put them into action. I don't think that it is any mistake that many of the authors' patients are larger than life, Hollywood, creative types. These are people who are likely driven to success and are also driven to put these techniques to use. They are also creative and imaginative enough to breathe life into the more mystical concepts.
That said, it's an interesting idea that you really don't have to believe in the reality of The Source for the techniques to work. Whether you believe in an actual Source or not, you could think of it as part of Jung's collective conscious. For example, many people don't believe in a God but have no problems believing in luck. At some core, we would all at very least like to believe that there is a benign power in the universe that tilts the scales--at least a little bit--in our favor. Positive reinforcement is a powerful motivator and something we all react to in our environment. If we get the desired results by doing something, we try that something again and again. As we all learned in Psych 101, if you put a subject on a random, positive reinforcement schedule they don't just sit and wait for the next treat to come by. Our brains try to make sense of the situation, and we start displaying deliberate, ritualized behaviors that we think are will result in more rewards. Regardless of the randomness, our brains are trained to structure our universe; to tease out causes and effects even when they don't exist. With a random reward schedule we still try to figure out exactly what it is that we are doing to receive the reward. It is as though we believe that our actions will almost always determine outcomes. That there is an invisible hand that will reward us if we do the right thing...
So hockey players will continue to let their beards grow during the playoffs, basketball players will bounce the ball before taking a foul shot, and baseball players will continue to spit on their hands before picking up a bat. Belief in a Power greater than ourselves has helped many an atheist alcoholic. In the same way the concepts of The Source, Shadow, and The Maze still may work for you, even if you don't believe in them in a literal sense.
At the same time, Stutz and Michels are not about to lose their clientele because they published this book. The fact that 'the secret is out' doesn't mean that everyone can negotiate The Tools optimally on their own. Not only do The Tools take imagination, energy, perseverance, and a lot of work, it isn't always so easy to figure out how to apply them in all situations. For most, it probably takes the guiding hand of an experienced therapist to help a patient really use these tools to achieve maximal effects. A therapist's guidance can also help a patient stay on track. Once successful, it is easy to stop using the tools and backslide back into a Maze (or create another Maze). The Tools are not a one shot deal--they take commitment. You have to continue to use them to reap the benefits.
The Tools is an intriguing book that might just be the kind of self-help guide you are looking for. I'd encourage you to visit the authors' website and view their introductory videos. I would also encourage you to look at the preview of this book before purchasing. The Tools may not be for everyone, but the book is a quick and interesting read and, at least for me, I have seen what I believe is real benefit from trying these techniques on a daily basis.
Rating: 3.5 stars
If you look up the meaning of the idiom "get religion" in the third edition of the American Heritage College Dictionary, you will find out that it means, "to accept a higher power as a controlling influence for the good in one's life." Getting religion seems to be the underlying philosophy for Phil Stutz and Barry Michels' s "The Tools." As I read the book, I was pleased to see that two trained mental health professionals give a nod to spirituality. Yet, I was also somewhat amused at their efforts to re-brand some of the ideas behind the "tools" with catchy names when in fact they have roots reaching back into traditional religious, moral and ethical principles.
Unlike other self-help books, when you read "The Tools," it is understood that you have a problem. The authors do not dwell on the whys of what may be afflicting you. Instead, they identify four problems and give you five tools to help you move through each problem. Each tool is associated with a higher force and using the tools will eventually bring you in touch with "the Source" and your inner creator.
In spite of the New Age-like terms, some readers may feel a sense of familiarity with Stutz and Michels's tools, problems and higher forces. The Force of Forward Motion is encompassed in old concepts of determination, tenacity and persistence. The Higher Force of Outflow is forgiveness (we know forgiveness is a higher force: To err is human, to forgive divine, remember?). The authors' problem called "The Maze" is what we know as resentment. The Black Cloud is pessimism or if we wanted a more scientific name, generalized anxiety disorder. Their concept of "The Source" could easily be that of god and the inner creator is that of soul.
The tools themselves are visualizations designed to motivate you into action or to change an old perception that is preventing you from changing your life for the better. The authors warn that they are not magic pills and only constant practice of the tools will lead to success. In fact, the fifth tool is the key to making all the other tools effective.
I cannot vouch for the efficaciousness of the tools. But I think they are not meant for serious mental problems. They are more for people who might feel that they are in a rut or stuck in their lives and are trying to find a way to move on. What strikes me about the book is the tough-love stance of the authors. There is no coddling the reader, no excusing him/her because of an imperfect childhood. The authors deliver their message with a sort of (you) do-or-die attitude.
Though they may be packaging old ideas in new wrappers, I like their willingness to recognize the spiritual aspect of a problem and its solution, reminding readers that there is something bigger than us--be that called god or source. And that it is our estrangement from that being or force and our fixation with consumerism (the false idol) that is perhaps the major cause of our unhappiness as individuals and as a society as a whole.
In this self-help book, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist present methods they have used in their practices. At the core of this book are five "tools"--ways of dealing with psychological obstacles, meant to be used repeatedly. I'll try to summarize them briefly. (This will inevitably be a great oversimplification, but hopefully will give you a feel for the book.)
Reversal of Desire. Intended to allow you to take action you have been avoiding. You focus on the pain you have been trying to escape, see it as a dark cloud, silently scream, "Bring it on!" Silently scream "I love pain!" as you become one with it. Say "Pain sets me free," and pass beyond the cloud to a realm of pure light. (Obviously this involves visualization.)
Active Love. Use when angry or about to confront a difficult person. Feel your heart expand, send love to the other person. Sense a oneness with him or her.
Inner Authority. Use when you are intimidated or feel performance anxiety. See your "shadow"--that is a visualization that embodies all that you most dislike about yourself. Bond with it. Turn to the audience or whoever intimidates you, with teh shadow by your side. The two of you silently scream, "Listen!"
Grateful Flow. For when your mind is full of negative thinking. State to yourself items you are grateful for. Focus on the physical sensation of gratefulness.
Jeopardy. Use when you face resistance and no longer want to use the other tools. See yourself on your death bed. Your older self screams at you not to waste your present moments and squander your life.
There is a chapter about each tool, with anecdotes about how it is used in actual practice. The writing is clear and the stories are interesting.
Do the tools work? Yes, say the authors. If--a big if--you consistently use them.
I have personally used a method much like Grateful Flow, derived from Positive Psychology, for dealing with a wee tendency toward negative thinking. It works. The fact that some of these visualization exercises get you to face your psychological fears and sources of pain--including the reality that your lifetime is limited--makes me think they just might be worth trying.
Visualizing things like clouds may turn some people off, and all the silent yelling may strike you as a bit wacky. But though it would be easy to make parts of this book sound silly, it's not a silly book. There are insightful references to Jungian theory and a crisp, illuminating description of the role of the "shadow." The general approach to life presented here is for grown-ups. (It turns out that real work is necessary if you want to reach your potential. No kidding!)
In addition to presenting these psychotherapeutic techniques, the book chronicles the two authors' separate journeys to a vision of spirituality. Each came to have faith in a Source, a caring universe. Full disclosure--I don't know either one of the authors, never heard of them before I saw this book offered on Amazon Vine, but Barry Michels' journey was so similar to my own that I feel a little bit taken aback. Synchronicity? Maybe. I believe in his sincerity, anyway. A mature spiritual vision has to deal with, not discount, the truly awful things that have happened on this earth. In that context, I particularly appreciated the references here to the work of Victor Frankl.
If you read any self-help books you know the words in them can be like drugs. They get you high and feeling good for a while and then their effects gradually fade away. This book is different. Instead of just words and ideas, it gives you tools to use.
Despite what the authors say; the tools are not new. They're just repackaged. They rework ideas from many great teachers.
But that doesn't mean the tools don't work. They do.
The `Reversal of Desire' tool shows how to accept and embrace pain. It is a form of `Paradoxical Intention', which was first introduced by psychiatrist Dr. Victor Frankl.
The `Active Love' Tool uses visualization as a way to forgive others.
The `Inner Authority' tool teaches self acceptance and a way to forgive ourselves. The Authors use the example of Jung's Shadow which contains our inferiority and repressed weaknesses and teaches us how to embrace The Shadow and use it as a voice of higher authority.
The `Grateful Flow' tool shows us how to appreciate what we have.
`Jeopardy' is the final tool and is the antidote in this book to not letting the ideas in this book fade away like in other self-help books; this tool reminds us that we're going to die and has us visualize ourselves on our death bed filled with regret...if we don't use The Tools.
The book states that we are given struggles by higher forces in order to overcome them and become creators. "God's real job is to keep us in the struggle." The authors borrow from Abraham Maslow's highest need in his Hierocracy of Needs, `Self Efficacy.' The Tools states, "Human beings are only happy when they're working toward their highest potential."
The book concludes with a Tool Using, spiritual version of Alfred Adler's "Life tasks" of occupation/work, society/friendship, and love/sexuality whose individual success depends on cooperation and contributes toward a greater society. Adler said, "The tasks of life are not to be considered in isolation since, `they all throw cross-lights on one another'". The authors say, "Every time you use a tool and bring higher forces to bear on your own problems, you're also making them available to the society at large."
This book presents many thought provoking ideas and offers hope that we are not alone in the universe, but co-creators with a higher force.
The book also has cute illustrations that illustrate the authors' ideas.
My problem with the book is that it presents The Tools as the only answer, even as the book borrows heavily from the ideas of many great minds that came long before book was ever written.
on May 29, 2012
I was in talk therapy for three years, two times a week, with a great therapist. I learned every detail and nuance about how my past effected the decisions and choices I had made. I learned to recognize this complex relationship between past and present almost in real time. This often helped me make better choices, and I'm thankful for that. But something was always missing. I knew where I wanted to get to and what was holding me back. I simply couldn't make that leap. A character flaw of mine? Maybe. I think it might also be a flaw of talk therapy. It bonds the trauma of the past with the present. I needed to bond the present with the future. And then I was lucky enough to get to read The Tools. It explains how to do just what I needed.
In a nutshell?
-If you ever find yourself in a rut
-If you, like me, have been in psychotherapy but still have bad habits that hold you back
-If you are in a creative field, or want to be
-If you ever feel uncomfortable speaking to people (one or a thousand)
-If you wish you could make bolder moves with your life
-If you have unhealthy relationships
-If you worry about things to a point where it stifles you
-If you want to get things done but somehow don't
-If you know someone who fits any of the above
...then please buy 'The Tools' by Dr. Phil Stutz and Barry Michels. They are two therapists from LA who are brilliant. This is not a self-help book per se, but instead an answer to the part of talk therapy that doesn't actually change your life significantly enough and fast enough. (I've never picked up a 'self-help' book in my life...) Obviously, understanding your past is critical in knowing who you are. But the future is what you have to look forward to. 'The Tools' will help you make the most of it. The authors each had incredibly successful private practices treating some of the most successful people around. This book shares part of their unique, groundbreaking methods that have evolved over decades. For less than $15 you, or someone you love, risk finishing that project that's been laying dormant, having a healthier relationship, improving your confidence, and/or otherwise changing your life dramatically for the better. I just spent $30 on a T-shirt that didn't do any of that for me. Take a risk on this book: if you read it with an open mind your future might be more fulfilling than you ever dared think it could be.
on June 12, 2012
I'll say up front that I have been a patient of one of these remarkable men for over 15 years - but this is far from some cynical shill. In fact, I was dubious that the worth of these extraordinarily potent concepts could be articulated outside the intimacy of longterm therapy.
Happily, the opposite is true - the dynamics laid out within this book are deceptively simple-seeming - and to a certain degree they are no more complicated than your average furniture assembly directions. Simply put, if you follow the suggestions, regardless of any doubts clouding your resolve while you do it, you will experience firsthand the proof necessary to inspire you forward into deepening your commitment.
We are a nation of faddists, forever seeking the approval of others - a dangerous place from which to leap toward change.
Others will question - perhaps even attempt to dissuade or dishearten your decision to break the spell of diseased thinking - faulty egocentric wiring that feeds upon the very approval you no longer require. Your mind will explode from the darkness of perpetual self-torture and begin to serve you as an ally.
As an artist I was addicted to the attention of others until I learned that this addiction was not my fate, it was a detour away from my fate by way of hell - an endless looping maze that promised everything and, even in "success", gave nothing.
I stopped hoping for change - which is passive and weak - a word that may get you elected but won't get you much more. I committed myself to taking action.
The negative reviews here are from people who haven't taken the time to apply the tools - one writer claims to have thrown the book from his 12th story apartment. Is that who you wish to be? Driven toward irrational insanity instead of taking brave, willful action?
This is not a book about some secret way to picture cars and houses and find them magically accumulating all around you. This is a manual for learning how to think clearly, take appropriate action, generate self-respect and create a true sense of peace for yourself.
I had read a little over half the book when I had the thought, "this book might disappoint a lot of people - there is no magic bullet. It will take lots of work to put these tools into action." After reading a few more pages I came across this line from the authors, "This book is designed to change your life. It is not a magic pill, it's a blueprint for action."
Those who study human behavior have known for a long time that insights do not necessarily lead to change in behavior. If we wish to change our behavior, when we gain insights, we must take action on those insights. And those actions must be repeated often enough so they become a part of us.
So if you are thinking you can buy and read this book, gain some insights and change your life, save yourself the time and effort. The authors repeatedly stress that these tools require work to bring about the changes you want to see in your life.
The book is written by two unorthodox psychiatrists. Phil Stutz developed the concepts and taught them to Barry Michels. Both were looking for some techniques that would deliver better and faster results than the traditional long term "talking" through the issues.
There are five tools presented in the book. If you are a serious student of human development, you will probably have seen some similar concepts. The fifth tool, they call Jeopardy, I have seen in a few different presentations. The point of the tool is to get you to focus in the end of your life and reflect that time is precious. Plus you really never know when that end will be. The intent is to give you a sense of urgency about doing the things you should be doing to grow as a person.
Underlying the tools presented in the book is a philosophy of life. The authors talk a lot about how we like to stay in our comfort zones and how we all struggle to reach a point where life is easy. It is their belief that this fantasy undermines our efforts. The purpose of life is not to find easy street, it is to overcome adversity and grow to our natural potential. There will always be adversity.
If you are not willing to embrace this philosophy, this book will be of little value to you.
The book also has a very strong spiritual message. The authors believe that we are all connected by Source (God, Universal Intelligence or however you choose to define it). The authors believe that you really must have faith in Source - that there is some guiding presence which will open up as you use the tools and help guide you to your higher purpose.
There is no question that society has become too self-centered, too focused on material possessions. Our standard of living continues to increase but our satisfaction with life is moving in the opposite direction. The authors offer some insights which if put into action, might reduce the individual greed which is so rampant in society today.
The value of this book is not in simply reading it. To get the most from the book, you will need to delve deep into its teachings. You will need to embrace the concepts and put them into action. For many this will require an act of blind faith. And as the authors point out, you will need to use the tools long enough to see results. There is no promise of instant gratification.
For those willing to fully embrace the concepts, do the work and stick with the tools, I believe you will see some amazing results.
I've read a lot of self-help books over the past couple years. Most are feel-good narrative, explanations of what's wrong with you, some journaling exercises to complete once to fix it, maybe some advice about how to sustain the changes you experience through the journaling or whatever (but not much of that). I read them, feel inspired for a minute, and then move on to something else. This may say more about me than the efficacy of any of the books I've read. :-)
This book is a different approach, offering not a philosophy to adopt, but five simple exercises to do over and over and over and over and over. The authors specifically call out the "consumerist" approach to self-help, of which I am most certainly guilty, saying we expect change from reading these books, but we aren't willing to do the hard work to incorporate that change into our real lives. Fair enough.
These tools, too, require hard work, but they're concrete and specific enough that incorporating them is do-able. The work is in practicing enough that it becomes second nature.
As far as the efficacy of the tools, well, I read the book a week ago, so I can't offer any stunning testimonials there. I will say that I did, immediately after reading this, feel inspired to cause some major shake-up in my life, and then the next day felt like it had been a horrible idea. And then the next day thought maybe it was the right idea, I just dove in too quickly. This was upon using the first tool, which is designed to help you move through the fear of doing something outside your comfort zone, and I think my problem was that I took the initial enthusiasm I had for doing that and just plunged in, rather than applying the tool steadily until I could take the plunge with a greater level of lasting fortitude or something. I don't blame the book for my rashness, but I would argue that this isn't a system for overnight change, but for a new approach to the world. I think the authors would agree, and maybe laugh (kindly) at my eagerness.
Bottom line is, honestly, though I'm giving this book four stars, I'm not sure whether or not I'd really recommend it broadly. More than other self-help books, where there is a feel-good underlying philosophy that seeps into your consciousness rather than concrete tools you can apply, in order to get *anything* from this book, you have to be willing to do the work to use the tools regularly. If you are willing to do that, though, I think it could be quite powerful.
Therapists Phil Stutz and Barry Michels share their approach in this book. They argue that there are "higher forces" present in the universe into which one can tap, enabling a person to transform their life for the better. They believe the universe wants to help us if we would only just let it, and to help harness these higher forces, they have devised a set of five techniques ("tools") which they say they and their patients have successfully used to realize their full potential. They even claim that if enough people take advantage of the tools, society itself can be transformed for the better.
In a nutshell, the tools are: (1) "Reversal of desire": instead of seeking out comfort zones, realize that life is a treadmill, so tackle potentially painful problems head-on. (2) "Active love": if someone offended or angered you, rather than dwell on it, try to move past it and love them instead. (3) "Inner authority": don't try to hide the things of which you are ashamed (your "shadow"), but take ownership of and express them as just another part of yourself. (4) "Grateful flow": replace negative thoughts and anxieties with thoughts about things for which you are grateful. (5) "Jeopardy": imagine your future self on your death bed being mad at your current self for squandering the present. This is the tool to use when one is tempted to quit using the other four tools.
I take them at their word when they say the tools have helped many of their patients, and I won't deny that the book contains many threads of wisdom; for example the theme of consumerism being a destructive force in our society certainly resonated with me. They invite readers to try their tools, but fully admit that their claims (especially regarding "higher forces") are not scientific. This is the part which was less than convincing for me; I would have found it much more satisfying had they presented some hypotheses regarding the success of their methods, rather than chalk it up to higher forces. If you're the type who is happy to use a tool as long as it works, but has no desire to understand *how* it works, then this book may be for you.