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The Tools: Transform Your Problems into Courage, Confidence, and Creativity Hardcover – May 29, 2012
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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.
“Transcendent . . . a rapid and streamlined method of self-improvement.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“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.”—Marianne Williamson
“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 Spiritual Guide to Health and Happiness
"Every single thing I’ve written of any power or merit came through using the tools Barry taught me. Usually counterintuitive, sometimes dangerous, they only changed my life.”—Stephen Gaghan, Academy Award–winning writer of Traffic and writer/director of Syriana
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Phil Stutz is an atheist who came to believe in higher powers that direct our lives. He insists that the tools use these higher powers to transform us, help us evolve and grow. At first, I was a bit put off by his atheistic view, but I told myself to be patient and listen to what he had to say anyway. Little did I know that I was choosing to use one of his tools when I made that choice. One of the tools we can use to solve our problems is to choose to love people just the way that they are.
Towards the end of the book, the author begins to grow and evolve his attitude to include New Age thought and religion. He explains that by using the term “higher power” instead of God, he is trying to reach all people, no matter what they believe. Much of what he says can be found in religion. He begins to quote Jewish belief, Alcoholics Anonymous and the Bible, and to relate the tools to those belief systems as well.
When he gets into the topic full swing, he explains that religion is the best belief system of them all. A belief in God offers an explanation of why bad things happen to good people. Atheists don’t have that explanation, and New Age thought doesn’t go that far. Believing that everything happens for a good reason is paramount to mental health because it offers a stimulus that propels self will into willpower and a drive to overcome and make it through the problem.
Self will gives us a choice about how we react to situations and people. The Tools explains those choices. In a way, it’s much like Dorothy’s realization that she has always had the power to return home, she just had to want to use it. We all have the power to change our own lives. If you want it, here it is.
For some parts, you may have to "go with it". Some activities are different and unique. However, simply put; the Tools WORK. The work now, in real life. I've spent countless hours involved in personal and professional development along with several weekend trainings and conferences. I rarely give 5 stars. However, The Tools earned it!
Easy "tools" to use daily. Very well explained and made simple and easily adopted into daily life.
I've been through it twice so far, took notes and adopted all the tools quickly. Again, life changing.
But only if you are ready to be free.