A Letter from the Authors: What Is a Tool?
In conventional psychotherapy, we talk about “insights” or “causation” and we tend to believe that if we can uncover the deep-seated reasons behind someone’s problems, then the person will change automatically. This implies that awareness alone creates the forces that cause change. But real change, the kind of change patients in therapy cry out for, means changing your behavior, not just your attitude.
That requires much stronger forces. A tool is a technique or procedure that can generate a force that allows you to do the work of change. It is work that must be done in real time. When do we use a tool? In the present.
Conventional therapy tends to be passive and focuses on the past. It excavates a patient’s history, usually from childhood, brings it into the light of day and interprets it so as to strip it of its unconscious power. I have the greatest respect for the past. Memories, emotions, insights can all be very valuable. But my patients needed help and relief in the present and all the insights in the world weren’t going to be powerful enough to deliver that.
To control your actions you need something else: a specific procedure you can use systematically to combat a specific problem -- you need a tool.
There’s an obvious objection that arises here: Isn’t what you’re doing superficial? Sure, these tools of yours may help a patient change his or her behavior but you haven’t addressed the underlying reasons. Unless you do that they’re bound to go back to their (self-) destructive ways sooner or later.
There are two answers to this objection. The first involves a misunderstanding of how people change. Insight into the “reasons” for a problem isn’t the cause of change – it’s the result. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have always known this. You don’t join AA and then sit around discussing why you drink too much over a few beers or vodka martinis. You join to stop drinking one day at a time. Only after that can you look into the roots of your addiction by “taking inventory.”
The second answer goes back to our original question about what a tool is. There has been a bias in psychotherapy implying that anything that is active and involves your will is superficial; as if the deepest part of human experience can only occur inside your head. The truth is the opposite; the deepest part of human experience happens when you interact with the world outside yourself. That means you need to go beyond thinking and into “doing”—and this is exactly what a tool makes possible.
—Stephen Gaghan, Academy Award–winning writer of Traffic and writer/director of Syriana
“Barry Michels and Phil Stutz are profoundly talented guides to the inner workings of the psyche. The Tools is breakthrough material that ignites your own capacity to transform your life.”
“These tools are emotional game changers; they can help you work through conflicts, get happier, and feel a deep sense of purpose. As simple and practical as they are, they do nothing less than deliver you to your best and most powerful self.”
—Kathy Freston, author of Quantum Wellness: A Practical and Spiritual Guide to Health and Happiness