More Tools for the Proverbial Toolbox
Updated: Apr 5
***Stutz spoilers contained herein***
Recently, someone very important to me recommended the documentary Stutz and asked about my perspective regarding the film. I’ll refer to this person as “Jammies.”
For those unfamiliar with the flick, one source describes it in the following manner:
Jonah Hill’s gently powerful documentary “Stutz” is a personal project about someone else’s work. It’s personal in that Hill is sharing his therapist, Phil Stutz, with us, and the “tools” that Stutz has concocted and imparted. Using Stutz’s voice as a guide and line animation to recreate the diagrams Stutz draws on notecards for his patients, we learn about “The Shadow,” “Life Force,” “The Snapshot,” “The Grateful Flow,” and more.
While I remain familiar with some of the psychotherapeutic concepts presented in the film, other tools were new to me. After reviewing the picture, I found value in discussing with Jammies her perspective juxtaposed with my own view.
Though I’ve discussed my clinical perspective with her for a number of years, Jammies has been wise enough not to simply take my interpretation of mental health into account. She’s sought out those tools and techniques which resonate with her.
The information contained in this blog post relates to the discussion I had with Jammies and my understanding of Stutz’s tools. It’s my hope that those who haven’t seen the documentary will watch it before reading this entry, because there will be spoiler alerts contained herein.
Before I address the tools one may find useful for a proverbial toolbox, I think it may be worth stating that my bias leans towards concepts pertaining to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). Though some may disagree, REBT is said to be the original form of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).
I use REBT in my personal and professional life. Still, I understand that not everyone appreciates this form of therapy or CBT techniques in general.
As I don’t take on the responsibility of telling others what they should, must, or ought to do, I leave it up to the reader to accept, reject, or assume no position at all regarding my perspective of Stutz. It’s up to you.
Phil Stutz is a psychiatrist, whereas I am not. I identify as a psychotherapist (licensed professional counselor and licensed clinical social worker). To my understanding, Stutz has also been identified as a psychotherapist.
Though I’m unaware as to whether or not Stutz maintains REBT education and training, I appreciate his use of psychotherapy tools—some of which I practice with REBT. My aim is to promote resources clients can use on their own which I refer to as “tools.”
The following tools were addressed in Stutz, as I will include my interpretation of, or response to, these techniques. Keep in mind that I don’t have the answers, so question any and everything I have to say, if you’d like.
This tool is said to concern the relationship with your body, people, and yourself, as demonstrated using a pyramid. The body occupies the base, people comprise the middle, and oneself rests at the top.
This tool reminded me of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Of life force, Stutz says, “The life force is the only part of you that actually is capable of guiding you when you’re lost.” Presumably, being lost is akin to the experience of suffering. It’s one’s reason for seeking mental health treatment.
Expanding on this concept, Stutz states, “All you gotta’ do is get your body working better,” as he specifically highlights exercise, diet, and sleeping as “85%” of the mental health component that may lead to symptom improvement.
In a blog entry entitled Holistic Approach to Mental Health, I posed the question:
[W]hat’s the harm in assuring that a person receives improved sleep, more exercise, better nutrition, healthier social support, and other factors that may lead to an overall subjective improvement of health in addition to other common mental health strategies?
I encourage clients to consider that mental healthcare involves more than receiving medication from a psychiatrist or speaking with a psychotherapist. I was pleased to discover Stutz spreading this message, as well.
Stutz adds that improving relations with others is necessary for a better life. He explains, “The key of it is you have to take the initiative. If you’re waiting for them to take the initiative, you don’t understand this,” as, “That person represents the whole human race, symbolically.”
I like that Stutz encourages others to take the initiative in relationships. Too often, we convince ourselves that it is others who should, must, or ought to do the heavy lifting in relationships. We all need to put in work when maintaining relations in our lives.
Stutz continues, “The highest tier is your relationship with yourself. And the best way to say this is to get yourself in a relationship with your unconscious, because nobody knows what’s in their unconscious unless they activate it.”
When addressing how to activate the unconscious mind, Stutz expresses, “One trick of that is writing. It’s really a magical thing. You enhance your relationship with yourself by writing,” and, “If you start to write, the writing is like a mirror. It reflects what’s going on in your unconscious.”
In a blog entry entitled The Elegant Solution, I stated of a fictitious client:
“Philbert would be encouraged to sit with the discomfort associated with his beliefs, journal about the experience using the ABC Model, and discuss the event at our next session,” as I use journaling homework with my clients.
As well, I discover meaningful lessons when writing blog entries. Due to this, I appreciate Stutz’s encouragement of others to use writing as a tool to improve relationships with the self.
A foundational building block of Stutz’s work, this tool is said to represent pain, uncertainty, and constant work associated with mental health. One imagines this concept relates to negative thoughts and how to address them.
This tool reminded me of imposter syndrome.
Regarding part X, Stutz explains, “Part X is the judgmental part of you, it’s the antisocial part of you. It’s an invisible force that wants to keep you from changing or growing. It wants to block your evolution, it wants to block your potential; it fucks up your shit.”
In a blog entry entitled Self-Disturbance, I addressed what Stutz refers to as part X. From an REBT perspective, self-disturbance largely relates to irrational beliefs, extreme attitudes, and rigid demandingness we use towards ourselves, others, and life itself.
Stutz continues, “Part X is the voice of impossibility, ‘cause whatever it is you think you need to do, it’s gonna’ tell you that’s impossible,” and, “It creates this, like, primal fear in human beings.”
When asked what his part X says to him, Stutz candidly replies, “It makes me feel like I’m wasting time. It tells me that I’ve invented all this stuff and this stuff is great—I’m very confident, but it never…it won’t spread deeply enough into the culture.”
If I had a client express this to me in a session I would conduct an inference chain to assess what meaning the narrative has to the client. For instance:
Client: I don’t think my effort is making a difference.
Me: And if that’s the case, what meaning does this have in your life?
Client: Well, I guess it would mean I’ve wasted my time.
Me: Suppose you have. Then what would that suggest about you?
Client: Then, I think it would mean that I—not just my efforts—am a waste of time.
Me: And if you as an individual—not just your actions—are a waste of time, then what?
Some people may think it’s the role of a psychotherapist to convince a client of the person’s value. I don’t take this approach. Perhaps Stutz or my imaginary client truly believes that time, effort, or even mere existence is a waste.
Use of an inference chain may be a reasonable approach to discovering the self-disturbing narrative that leads to unpleasant cognitive, emotive, bodily, and behavioral consequences. The goal is to help the client move from an unhelpful or unhealthy consequence to a less disturbing experience.
Albert Ellis, creator of REBT, stated:
The therapist indicates to the client how he can raise his frustration tolerance; thus helps the client convince himself that he doesn’t need what he wants; that he can stand losses and rejections even though he’ll never like them; that frustration may be annoying and irritating but that it’s never awful, horrible, or catastrophic.
Whether with Stutz or an imaginary client, I would address low frustration tolerance (LFT) and awfulizing. As I understand part X and imposter syndrome, it’s what one believes about one’s circumstance that leads to suffering, not the external conditions to which one is exposed.
Or as Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” Part X is merely the bullshit we tell ourselves which leads to how we perceive the world.
When asked by Hill how to “get rid of part x,” Stutz replies, “You can’t. You can defeat him temporarily but he’s always gonna’ keep coming back.” This is something I wish more people understood, especially those receiving unhelpful information on platforms such as TikTok.
There is no end to suffering while alive, no otherworldly cure. As I’ve stated elsewhere in my blog, “Life is suffering.” Finding purpose to that suffering and deriving meaning from the purpose can improve one’s experience in life.
Stutz continues, “That’s why you have three aspects of reality that nobody gets to avoid—pain, uncertainty, and constant work. So those are things you’re just gonna’ have to live with no matter what. If it did work like that, if you could banish part X, then there’d be no further progress.”
String of Pearls
This tool is said to symbolize a string of events encompassing positive, negative, and neutral aspects of life. In essence, getting out of bed, experiencing a breakup, stubbing one’s toe, or hearing about the loss of a loved one are all pearls on one’s string of life.
This tool reminded me of the Daoist or Taoist and Confucianist concept of Yin and Yang.
Photo credit, Kenny Shen, fair use
Concerning the string of pearls, Stutz states, “You just draw a string of pearls. It’s a line then a circle, line then a circle. Each one of those circles equals one action, but here’s the thing; every action has the same value. This is a matter of identity.”
Of the tools expressed in the documentary, Jammies expressed that this was among her favorite. When asked why, I was informed that the value of each experience in life is often weighted in an unbalanced manner. This can create unreasonable expectations.
In a blogpost entitled Stoically Existential, I highlighted Jammies’ observation when identifying the difference between description and prescription, and how our perspective can shape the experience we have in life.
Stutz continues, “Now here’s the thing, in every one of these little circles [pearls], there’s a little darker circle—much smaller—and the darker circle is a turd. It’s kinda’ funny in a way, but what it says is every effort you make […] it’s not gonna’ come out perfectly.”
In a blog entry entitled Human Fallibility, I noted that “every human being I’ve ever known, currently know, and ever will know is imperfect,” and posted the question:
While perhaps you know people who behave as though they make no mistakes—living life as though they are the saintly among us—in actuality, do you consider these people to be infallible?
Human perfection is an illusion. When we use rigid terms of service to demand that we, others, and life should be perfect, it’s as though we should (shit) all over the world—creating shouldy (shitty) pearls.
Similar to the dark dot within a light pearl, this tool seems to exemplify a part X-like role within the human psyche. As is the case with many psychological concepts, I find that Stutz’s theoretical elements overlap.
This tool reminded me of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung’s concept of the shadow, as both theorists were said to have contributed to this idea.
Of the shadow, Stutz expresses, “Everybody has a shadow; everybody’s shadow is a little bit different. But on the other hand, everybody’s shadow is the same; because it’s the part of themselves they’re ashamed of.”
I addressed this concept in my blogpost entitled Remembering Shadows, encouraging the reader, “Imagine telling yourself that your shadow shouldn’t exist as it is and that somehow you must change it.” What purpose does shame serve in regards to your shadow?
Using a visualization technique, Stutz states, “Visualize a time in your life when you felt inferior, embarrassed, rejected, despondent; that you’re ashamed of it. It’s the part of you that you wish you were not, but you are, and not only that; you can’t get rid of it.”
In clinical practice I find that people often maintain some unreasonable demand related to the shadow, such as, “I must not have the perception of failure,” or, “I ought to not feel inferior.” Says who?
They disturb themselves with rigid and extreme attitudes shared by practically every person they’ve ever known, currently know, and ever will know. However, these people somehow believe they should be unique to the world and not maintain self-doubt—having a shadow.
When practicing shadow work, Stutz expresses, “Our goal is not to give a good performance. Our goal is to use this tool and then tolerate whatever happens.” This is akin to LFT and increasing one’s level of frustration tolerance.
The Snapshot (also known as the Realm of Illusion)
This tool is said to concern perfectionism. In the field of mental health perfection can serve as illusions or the “inaccurate beliefs or perceptions” we maintain about ourselves, others, and the world.
This tool reminded me of the concept of utopia or utopianism, though on a personal or individual level and comporting with the notion of idealism.
Photo credit, Robert McCall, fair use
Regarding the snapshot, Stutz states, “It means that you are looking for a perfect experience. So it could be the perfect wife, the perfect amount of money in the bank, the perfect movie…it doesn’t really matter. Whatever it is, it doesn’t exist. It’s just an image in your own mind.”
In a blog entry entitled Disturbing Democracy I provide an example of how the snapshot functions, as I state:
Here’s an example of how illogical reasoning works:
· I should be perfect.
· I often make mistakes. How awful!
· This proves I’m imperfect and therefore worthless.
The mental image of perfection one develops may only exist in the realm of illusion. Why? Because we are fallible human beings, as is the case for others, and as is the case for the world, as well.
Stutz continues, “You’ve taken this snapshot and you’ve crippled yourself with it. You fanaticize—people tell themselves if they can enter that perfect world that magic will happen. But you can’t forget there are three aspects of reality: The pain will never go away, uncertainty will never go away, and there’s no getting away from the need for constant work.”
Reader, I invite you to take a moment to stop and read that last sentence several times. “The pain will never go away, uncertainty will never go away, and there’s no getting away from the need for constant work.”
Anyone suggesting otherwise—and I mean content creators, psychotherapists, evangelists, parents, friends, family members, loved ones, hairstylists, puppet characters from your favorite childhood television program, and anyone in between—is wrong.
As long as you live, you will suffer. Mental healthcare and practices teach us how to live a more meaningful life despite suffering, though it doesn’t erase pain, uncertainty, or the need for constant work.
This tool is said to represent “other people” and the illusion of “fairness” that results in placing one’s life on hold. Think of it as a mental and emotional pause button that freezes the frame from which one cannot—or more accurately will not—move until the button is pressed again.
This tool reminded me of rumination.
Of the maze, Stutz says, “The quest for fairness puts your life on hold. Time is fleeting and we don’t have time for that bullshit.”
In a blogpost entitled Calling DIBs on Gibs, I plainly stated:
You can whine and moan and make yourself thoroughly miserable about the lamentable state of the world. Or you can accept things and get on with the business of living. No matter how much you insist that the world should be fair and you should be given certainty about how things are going to pan out, you ain’t going to get it.
Though, who wants to hear that? It’s not a needlessly hopeful message. Encouraging others to take personal ownership of their lives; who has time for that?
Stutz has an answer, as he states, “The average person wants to get payback. They want everything to be fair. They want everything to be balanced, but you’re not gonna’ get it from them.”
As long as one wanders in a maze of pain and uncertainty, without putting forth the difficult work necessary to navigate the meandering cycle of life, one will remain stuck in self-disturbed suffering. Demanding that others level maze walls to make this experience easier to navigate will likely create more unnecessary agony.
This tool is said to directly relate to the maze as a navigational element to the path of clarity. As Stutz conceptualized the maze as relating other people, active love empowers a person to focus on the circle of control—oneself.
This tool reminded me of a mindfulness exercise known by many terms such as an Intention to Create Well-Being, Receiving Loving-Kindness, and so on and so forth. For a written example, read this. For a video example, watch this.
In the documentary, Stutz conducts a guided imagery exercise that requires Hill to close his eyes and imagine a “universe completely made out of love.” As Hill laughs, Stutz humorously says, “I know it sounds nuts, but just shut the fuck up. You will do what I tell you. Don’t prejudge it and see what happens.”
I recall being exposed to similar exercises in grad school and elsewhere. These techniques have an opposite effect on me. I don’t want to become one with others or the universe.
Regarding this, Stutz explains, “People say, ‘Well, you’re asking me to love somebody I hate.’ It’s not a way to forgive somebody. It’s not for the other person. It’s to make you feel whole and then free you from the maze, and then you can move forward.”
I’m grateful for REBT, because I understand that I’m whole without having to imagine a universe filled with love. I can maintain a realistic view of the world—that it isn’t solely filled with love, à la shit stains on pearls—while still being able to move on from unpleasant events.
Personally, I view the concept of active love as a false dichotomy. I don’t practice irrational empathy for others, nor do I need to choose either love or hate. I can opt not to feel any type of way at all and be at peace. Perhaps others can’t, which I understand.
Admittedly, this is my favorite tool addressed in the documentary. I practice a form of this in my personal and professional life.
This tool reminded me of the REBT concept of unconditional self-, other-, and life-acceptance.
Whether “radical” or “unconditional” in nature, it makes little difference as long as the acceptance component is present. Still, Ellis was quite clear about his perspective on the matter, as he stated:
“The humanistic principle of unconditional acceptance holds this assumption regarding human worth: I exist, I deserve to exist, I am a fallible human and I can choose to accept myself unconditionally with my flaws and mistakes, with or without great achievements-simply because I am alive, simply because I exist,” regarding unconditional self-acceptance (USA).
UOA [unconditional other-acceptance] holds that people condemn others’ iniquitous thoughts, feelings, and actions but accept the others as fallible humans- just as they are. ULA [unconditional life-acceptance] encourages acceptance of adversities that we neither create nor can change-such as death of loved ones, physical disabilities, hurricanes, and floods.
Regarding his view of radical acceptance, Stutz states, “Finding something meaningful—it strives to find a state of not getting into a lot of negativity but actually training yourself to say, ‘What am I gonna’ do about it now?”
This is precisely the antithesis of falling into the enticing trap of victimhood. Think about how many people you know who relentlessly whine, moan, complain, or bitch about how so-and-so did this or that, how such-and-such happened to them. What function does this behavior have, other than to perpetually self-disturb?
In a blog entry entitled Iss-ME vs. Iss-YOU, I stated:
When working with clients, I don’t seek to create precious victims, special classes of people, or self-entitled individuals to whom society supposedly owes something. I’m not endorsing psychobabble nonsense which keeps one ensnared in unhelpful or unhealthy irrational and extreme attitudes.
Stutz continues, “So number one, you’re not allowed to make judgments. You’re not allowed to tell yourself anything negative. It doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it doesn’t mean there isn’t something negative there. It’s you’re not allowed to go through that. It goes against what we’re doing.”
Practicing USA, I encourage clients not to insult themselves. It’s one thing to make a rational observation, such as, “I fucked up.” However, making the irrational claim, “I am a fuck up,” is to discount all other elements about yourself and base a decision of worth solely on a mistake.
Stutz goes on, “Number two, obviously, you wanna’ find something positive about it.” I agree with Stutz’s primary point though I disagree with his secondary point.
Rejecting a negativistic, absolute conclusion is logical. For example, the following would be illogical:
Premise 1: I must always behave well; otherwise I’m an awful person.
Premise 2: Today, I didn’t behave well when I raised my voice at someone.
Conclusion: Therefore, I’m an awful person.
Stutz’s primary observation relates to rejection of unhelpful or unhealthy judgements of oneself. This is in accordance with USA. However, searching for “something positive” may have an unintentional self-disturbing result whereby one reinforces unacceptable behavior.
Suppose that in a fit of anger I insult a loved one with the intention of inflicting emotional harm. I can try to rationalize my behavior by saying to myself, “At least I didn’t physically assault the person.” However, there’s a difference between rational thinking and rationalization.
The American Psychological Association defines rationalization as “an ego defense in which apparently logical reasons are given to justify unacceptable behavior that is motivated by unconscious instinctual impulses.” This is not the same thing as rational thinking.
Attempting to rationalize unacceptable behavior by finding “something positive” could theoretically reinforce my use of verbal insults to a loved one, as long as I’m not physically violent. Rather than searching for positivity, I can be honest with myself about my behavior.
Using USA—which requires rational thinking, I could accept that I’m a flawed individual while also holding myself to a higher standard of behavior. This isn’t antithetical to acknowledging that pearls have shit stains, as opposed to searching for a positive narrative about how shiny pearls are.
In a blog entry entitled Chosen Suffering, I stated:
Per David Hume’s is-ought problem—said to occur “when one makes claims about what ought to be that are based solely on statements about what is”—there is no need to trivialize an action, occurrence, or event with subjective labels or demandingness.
Many people seem to obsess over finding positivity in life, which often relates to what they think ought to be. However, focusing on what is—positive, negative, neutral, or otherwise—doesn’t come with the baggage of what we think should, must, or ought to be.
This minor quibble aside, Stutz states, “You need to look at all events as having value. If you can do that, then you’re in a zone of tremendous opportunity.”
In a blogpost entitled You Gon’ Die: The Existential Window, I demonstrated a guided imagery exercise that promotes a perspective shift and how it may improve one’s life. If this is in alignment with Stutz’s promotive of value assessment, then we agree on this matter.
The Grateful Flow
This tool is introduced using a personal anecdote relating to the experience of flying. Stutz describes having flown on an airplane as a child and observing “dense clouds” blocking the sun, relating the clouds to negative thoughts.
This tool reminded me of positive thinking.
Using a false dichotomy, Stutz states of the grateful flow, “Every thought your have is gonna’ affect your mood. Every thought you have is gonna’ be either positive or negative. So the grateful flow wants to choose the positives.”
Thoughts aren’t always either-or, good-bad, right-wrong, and so forth. Sometimes a thought emerges as randomly as, “Squirrel,” when contemplating matters unrelated to rodents. This isn’t “either positive or negative.”
In a blog entry entitled Swimming in Controversial Belief, I stated:
[I]t may be useful to draw a distinction between thoughts and beliefs. Per one source, a thought is essentially an observation or the product of thinking, and while a belief is also a form of thought, “a belief is a thought that is really rigidly and strongly held.”
Minor distinction aside, I don’t understand Stutz’s apparent fascination with positive and negative aspects of his method. What utility is there in labeling things as good, bad, right, wrong, righteous, evil, and otherwise in a subjective manner when addressing mental health?
What use is there with lying to oneself? If Mr. Play-It-Safe, who’s afraid to fly, packs his suitcase and kisses his kids goodbye after waiting his whole damn life to take a flight, and as the plane crashes down he thinks, “Well, isn’t this nice?” what use was it to tell himself the crash was nice? That’s not useful or even ironic.
We can be honest with ourselves about what is rather than seeking to view life through the lens of positivity. Sometimes life occurrences are incredibly negative. REBT teaches not to aggravate these moments by telling ourselves life is awful, terrible, or horrible. Stutz states:
Part X wants you to have the negative thoughts so it’ll create the cloud up there so you can’t see the sun. You forget that it’s actually sunny up there. The question becomes, “How do you penetrate the cloud,” and the answer is with gratefulness. It gives you the sensation, the feeling that there’s always something up there positive even if you can’t see it at all. But you have to have a mechanism. That’s where the tool comes in. The grateful flow is not the things you’re grateful for. The grateful flow is the process of creating these things.
Per one source, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
I have no doubt that practicing gratitude can make a person feel better. However, I question the evidence—if any—that suggests this tool can help people get better.
Expanding upon this proposition, one source states, “The reason positive affirmations don’t work is that they target the conscious level of your mind, but not the unconscious. If what you are trying to affirm is incongruent with a deeply held negative belief, then all that results is an inner struggle.”
Therefore, as an REBT practitioner, I don’t practice positive affirmations or gratitude with my clients. Teaching a person to “smile, darn ya, smile,” practice positive affirmations, or use the tool of gratitude has a novel effect at best.
Instead, I work at addressing the underlying irrational self-disturbing belief. This sort of work is uncomfortable and isn’t always easy. Still, work of this sort can help people get better regardless of whether or not they feel better in a psychotherapeutic session.
Describing this tool, Stutz explains, “Loss processing is a tool that allows you to process loss.” Okay. This seems like a circular definition.
This tool reminded me of the breadth of knowledge related to death and dying. This is an extensive and ongoing field of psychological research, assessment, and treatment related to the matter of dealing with mortality.
Personally, I question the utility of pathologizing death. In the West, we tend to treat death or loss as though it’s something that shouldn’t, mustn’t, or oughtn’t to happen when in fact it is the one undeniable guarantee—an inevitable end to our existence as we currently experience it.
Photo credit, Andrea Hickey, fair use
Stutz explains of loss processing, “The goal of this is to get what’s called the potency of non-attachment. That means I can pursue something but I’m willing not to have it. I still wanna’ pursue it, I wanna’ pursue it really hard, but I’m also willing to lose.”
I discuss loss and attachment in a blog entry entitled You Gon’ Die: The Existential Window. As well, in a blogpost entitled What the Future Holds, I stated:
While I could distract myself with attachment to desirable objects, I realize this serves as little more than a distraction on a path to an eventual death. Instead of wasting my time, I can remember that we all suffer. Therefore, I can be humble, forgive myself, forgive others, and forgive the world for not being as I wish it to be.
In the documentary, Stutz uses an imagery exercise related to letting go of a branch to which one clings and by stating, “You say, ‘I’m willing to lose everything,” and highlighting, “The instrument of possession is your physical body.”
In my blogpost entitled Desire and Disturbance, I propose, “Rather than simply admiring people, things, events, and experiences we’d prefer, attachment to the outcomes [is] fueled by prescriptive demands,” which is in alignment with Stutz’s description of possession and loss.
Stutz continues, “You’re not trying to become non-attached. You’re trying to move towards non-attachment every time you get scared of a loss. For most people, they’ve never been non-attached for one second in their whole life,” and, “It wouldn’t even be good if you were totally non-attached.”
This is something Jammies and I have discussed throughout the years. It’s a difficult concept for some people to accept, particularly because they are attached to the notion of attachment.
One may say, “Deric, if you aren’t attached, how can you relate to others?” I’m not inviting people to become detached in the traditional understanding of the term.
Rather, I encourage others to entertain the notion that it is our attachment to self-disturbing beliefs that creates suffering. I’m not promoting detachment from ourselves, others, or the world. As I stated in a blog entry entitled Demandingness:
It’s one thing to say, “I would like others to treat me well.” This statement simply expresses a desire. If or when our desires aren’t fulfilled, we may be annoyed, disappointed, or mildly frustrated—indicating that our hope for something didn’t come to fruition.
In this regard, keeping our minds open to the possibility that inflexible beliefs aren’t preferable is how one can mentally bend around a spoon [a Matrix reference].
It’s another matter altogether to say, “Others must treat me well!” This declaration implies a rigid demand. When our demands aren’t something to which others adhere, we may disturb ourselves into seemingly intolerable resentment, irrational anger, or bitter revulsion.
As I’ve explained to Jammies, when we are unattached from our illogical, irrational, unreasonable, unhelpful, or unhealthy beliefs about our circumstances—when we truly let go of the control we think we have, though never actually had—we will suffer less.
I think it’s important to be honest upfront. I want to manage expectations so that people understand reality (what is) and are not deceived by irrational hope (what they think ought to be).
Not all tools taught by Stutz will work for all people, just as not all REBT techniques will work for all people. Herein, I’ll briefly highlight some notable considerations.
I appreciate how one source openly states, “Therapy is like working out with weights in a gym. You see results over time – not instantly. Like working out with weights, therapy can produce a better, healthier you – but you’ll have to do the work in order to get the results.”
Quite often I encounter people who have deceived themselves into believing there is some overnight cure to their problems. Certainly, I’ve observed misinformation and disinformation through social media posts supporting this bullshit.
I don’t shy away from informing others about what one source advises, “It is estimated that as many as 15 % of patients get worse following treatment.” As a separate source states, “[T]here are over 600 approaches to psychotherapy, and some are going to be more effective than others.”
Would it surprise you to know that in a study said to be conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, one source maintains, “It turns out that only 24% of the patients got well and stayed well”? Reader, what does this suggest about your expectations for mental healthcare?
Suppose I told you that a separate source reports, “Counselling is associated with significantly greater clinical effectiveness in short-term mental health outcomes compared to usual care, but provides no additional advantages in the long-term.” What meaning does this have to you?
And if I told you one source highlighted “a study that evaluated data from UK [United Kingdom] counselling services, found that, in a sample of 26,527 people with depression, 53% did not make any reliable and clinically significant improvement in their symptoms after receiving a course of counselling,” what then?
If you knew that one source proclaims, “Psychiatrists have the highest suicide rate of any profession,” what might you make of this proposal? How about if I repeated what a separate source claims, “A significant proportion of therapists have contemplated suicide at some point”?
Are you dismayed to discover that people suffer in life? I’m not. Are you concerned to know that therapy isn’t effective for many people? I’m not.
Perhaps if I told you that one study found that CBT was among the most effective approaches to psychotherapy, how might this impact your view? I’ve chosen to practice a form of therapy that serves me perhaps far better than any other clinical intervention I’ve tried.
Will REBT work for you? Who knows? Will Stutz’s tools work for you? Who knows? What I can state with some degree of confidence is that perhaps doing something is more important than doing nothing at all.
Having a set of tools you can use outside of a therapy session affords you an opportunity not to establish a codependent relationship with your therapist—mistakenly believing you can only feel better when working with someone. I’m more focused on helping clients get better, not to simply feel better.
What is relates to the fact that we all suffer and sometimes, for some people, there appears to be not much that can change this experience. What one believes ought to be impacts the fabric of reality very little—unless one chooses to self-disturb with such irrational expectations.
It may be reasonable to question Jonah Hill’s motivation for making the Stutz documentary. I certainly have my speculative skepticism for what I perceive his intentions are. Still, I think it’s important to hear an explanation in the actor’s own words.
Hill states, “I made this movie, because I love Phil, because I love the life these tools allowed for me to have. And it doesn’t matter what people think about the movie. It just matters that we finished it together.”
I dig the notion that it doesn’t matter what Deric or anyone else thinks about Hill’s intentions. Hill found tools which are useful to him and it appears as though he wants to share them with the world.
Overall, I enjoyed Stutz. While a number of his techniques were familiar, and some tools aren’t for me, I hope Stutz’s message is able to contribute to the betterment of whoever needs to hear it.
When speaking with Jammies about the documentary she described it as life changing, even though she’s had access to my blog entries cited herein. Still, I’m aware that I’m not a proficient writer and I don’t deliver concepts as charmingly as Stutz.
I’m truly at peace with this fact.
I’m not the sort of therapist who maintains that the only psychotherapeutic modality worth considering is the one I practice. REBT isn’t for everyone. As well, I don’t have an irrational need for people to embrace my personality or delivery style.
Nonetheless, for those who are curious about therapy and would like to know more about what mental health tools are available, I appreciate how Stutz offers a noteworthy contribution to the cause. Not everyone enjoys written information, so I think the documentary is a helpful medium to spark interest.
Though my blog isn’t designed to substitute the quality clinical relationship one may form with a therapist, much as I imagine this condition applies to Stutz, I find it meaningful to provide free information so that people can make well-informed choices about the future of their mental healthcare.
If you’d like to know more about the types of tools I practice with clients, I encourage you to review posts under the Tools section of my blog. If you have any questions, concerns, or comments, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to build tools for your proverbial toolbox, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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