Reading time: 4min.

by Clarissa Forbes

Techniques of the tools, a review

The Tools is a self-help book written by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels, successful psychoanalysts working in Los Angeles. Like many people, I approach the self-help genre with some skepticism, but the book has made an impact due to its unconventional advice. The philosophy of the book marks a contrast to what they call ‘Southern California positivism’, the idea that smiles and visualisation solve problems.

The Tools encourages readers to root themselves in the present, to not only acknowledge unpleasant situations and emotions, but to move into them. What’s their unlikely motto? ‘Go into the pain.’ This is not meant to be taken literally but to encourage readers to engage with the life they have, rather than trying to escape it through vices (drugs, alcohol, junk food, sex). The book’s often-counterintuitive advice is what makes it such an interesting and compelling read. For example, Stutz tells suffers of writers block to try to write the worst paragraph they can as a means to open up their imaginations and free themselves from self-judgement.

Clients of Stutz and Michels include Hollywood writers, producers and actors but they are openly blasé about celebrity. Another slogan: ‘Success always fails.’ They talk about the misguided belief many people hold that when they reach a certain point of success, all of their problems will be solved. Stutz says that working with some of the most celebrated people on Earth has showed him that this isn’t the case.

I was drawn to The Tools as it as offers practical solutions for dealing with real world problems, Stutz and Michels take the view that people want to take an active role in their recovery, not simply review painful periods in their past, as many therapists would encourage. This way people have the opportunity and responsibility to shape their own development, rather than relying on others to help lift them up.

Stutz and Michels draw inspiration from a variety sources including Buddhist teachings and Carl

Jung. The Shadow concept was inspired by Jung’s theories. According to The Tools we all have a shadow; a side of ourselves we are embarrassed by and would rather hide. By accepting this ‘person’ we can grow in confidence and face challenging situations with renewed authenticity.

Since reading The Tools, I have tried to incorporate the the techniques into different areas of my life. I found I gained motivation for keeping a healthy lifestyle, as I was encouraged to focus on what was difficult rather than looking for quick fixes. I also feel I’ve gained in confidence as I result of focusing on these techniques, particularly when dealing with situations involving conflict.