220: Mastering the Art of Bouncing Back with Barry Michels

By October 23, 2017Podcasts

 

 

Hollywood psychotherapist Barry Michels talks about dealing with failure and how to bounce back even stronger.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to identify and defeat your inner saboteur
  2. An approach to getting over energy speed bumps
  3. How to bounce back faster from failures

About Barry

Barry Michels has a B.A. from Harvard, a law degree from University of California, Berkeley, and an MSW from the University of Southern California.  He has been in private practice as a psychotherapist in Los Angeles since 1986.  He’s referred to as one of “the most sought-after shrinks in Hollywood.” His client list boasts top writers, actors, producers, CEOs, and other creatives. In his books and public events, he shares the same Tools they use behind closed doors with their clients.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Barry Michels Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Barry, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Barry Michels
Thanks so much for having me, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I understand you and I have a shared experience when it comes to having a book and receiving many, many rejection letters from publishers. Can you tell me about that for you?

Barry Michels
Yes, this was years ago. I think it was a couple of decades ago. I wrote a book on what our new book is actually about, it was about the life force, and I was kind of young at the time and I was really nervous about sending it out to publishers. And I sent it out and I think I got upwards of 30 to 35 rejections, just one after another after another after another. And, of course, it was awful on one hand. But on the other hand, I looked back on it actually as a turning point in my life because I had to learn how to bounce back. I just had to learn to be more resilient that I had ever been there.

And bouncing back is one of the qualities that my co-author and I regard as the most important qualities for success because we’re all going to hit setbacks, we’re all going to get rejected. Things are not always going to go the way we want them to go, and you have to accept that. The really important quality that’s necessary for success is being able to get over it and move on quickly.

Pete Mockaitis
Now you work with a lot of actors and actresses, right, in your practice?

Barry Michels
Yes, actors, writers, agents, it’s pretty much, yeah, whatever you do in Hollywood, that’s who I treat.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, I imagine that that is a world just full of experiencing rejection and ego wrapped up in it, and so you have an experience that serves you well, I guess, with this clientele.

Barry Michels
It does. It really does because, yes, you’re right, particularly for actors and writers, there’s a tremendous amount of rejection. In fact, if you haven’t been rejected there’s no way you’re going to be successful because you haven’t been putting yourself out enough. And it’s the ones who are most willing to tolerate rejection who end up the most successful because they learn to be tough and to be resilient and to bounce back quickly.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that’s encouraging stuff. And you share some of these messages in your newer book Coming Alive. Can you share with us sort of what’s the main idea of it and why is it important here and now?

Barry Michels
Sure. We called it Coming Alive after a quotation from the Irish novelist Oscar Wilde who basically said, “Most people don’t really live, they just exist.” My co-author and I have treated, over the last three or four decades, thousands of patients who all basically experience the same thing. They have this sense that they could be living a more joyful life where they’re more confident, more adventurous, and where everything they do feels more meaningful.

Now the thing is they’re right. It’s actually possible to really come alive, and they’re right to yearn for it. What they’re usually wrong about is thinking that it’s easy, and it isn’t and it doesn’t happen automatically. In fact, it’s a fight, and the fight is against something that we call an inner enemy, a kind of an inner saboteur that uses your worst habits to sabotage you.

If your habit is to procrastinate it’ll get you to procrastinate on a big assignment and won’t be as good as you wanted it to be because it was too rushed. Or it’ll get you to stay up drinking the night before a big presentation and so you’re kind of off. It’s not as tight as it should’ve been. The most common form that this inner saboteur takes that pretty much everybody can identify with is just that voice in your head that’s constantly putting you down, “You’re a loser.” “You’ll never amount to anything.” “Oh, God, don’t try that.” “You’ll just embarrass yourself.”

Now we give the enemy a name so that you can identify it and overcome it right in real time. Now we call it Part X. It’s Part X because it’s only part of you. There are other parts of you that can fight back. And it’s X essentially because it X’s out your potential. It’s always trying to diminish you. And if your listeners take nothing else away from this podcast, I’d like them to learn to identify Part X right at the moment it attacks them, just to say to themselves, “That’s Part X, that’s my enemy. I’m not going to give into it this time.” Just outing it like that over and over and over again goes a long way toward defeating it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Now, I’m intrigued. So enemy, Part X, inner saboteur, you know, these terms, it’s clearly a bad guy.

Barry Michels
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
It serves of something, it’s intriguing. I’m thinking about this in terms of when you’re dealing with it, I guess there’s a number of approaches. I think some might say to just notice it and let it go. Others might fight it or try to sort of starve it out by never giving it any attention. So, what are some of like the most effective ways to, I don’t know if the right word is to conquer or overcome or dissipate, but whatever, triumph, one way or another, over this force? You said one key thing you can do is just, right there and there in the moment, identify it as Part X and sort of get some perspective. What else do you recommend?

Barry Michels
Well, what we do in the book is we give tools. Tools are basically weapons with which you can fight Part X. They’re very brief five- to ten-second procedures usually involving some visualization, but a very quick kind of visualization that you can use in your mind right at the moment Part X is attacking you. And Part X tends to attack the qualities that are most important to your success. And my co-author and I have identified three qualities that are really crucial to anyone’s success no matter what it is that they’re doing.

The first is high energy, which I can talk more about in a moment. The second is resilience which I talked a little bit about before, just that ability to bounce back when you have a setback. And the third is the quality of self-control essentially, being able to control your worst impulses. It might not seem like controlling your impulses, when you’re at home, off the job, are important to your work ethic but they are incredible. What you do when you’re not at work really affects the kind of energy you bring when you are at work.

So these are qualities that you can work on not just at work but when you’re at home, when you’re out with friends, basically all the time. And you’ll see that Part X tries to undermine them consistently.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so now I’m intrigued and certainly want to really dig into the tools here, and five to second procedures sound great. That’s so quick.

Barry Michels
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, maybe before we dive right in, if maybe there any sort of skeptics in the crowd, like, “Okay, we got a Hollywood-trained guy with his fancy terms,” you know, can you share anything that might provide a little bit of underpinning associated with the, efficacy or validity or success stories?

Barry Michels
All I can tell you is that – God, this sounds like bragging, and I really don’t mean to sound that way – but my patients very frequently come to me and in the first session leave saying, “You have given me more in one session than I’ve had in three years of psychotherapy previous to this,” because both Phil and I, my co-author and I, are very good at getting really to the core of what’s holding you back. Whether you want to call it Part X or your inner enemy, we don’t really care about language.

But whatever it is that’s holding you back, we’re very good at identifying it and we’ve very good at giving you very specific tools, procedures, to overcome it. Now it’s up to you to then go out into the world and use those procedures. We can’t make you do that and we’re not going to follow you along at your job. But someone who’s willing to listen and take in what we say and use the tools, literally I’d say 100% of the time comes back and says, “Wow! That really helped.” Now they’ve got to keep it up over time. There’s no magic to this but anecdotally I’ve never seen a therapy that is this effective before.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, maybe before we jump into the tools, can you share a little bit of how do we go about doing some of that identification of the Part X to begin with?

Barry Michels
Sure. Well, let me talk about these three qualities – energy, resilience and impulse control. Energy is a really important quality for success. What makes people shine at work isn’t what you’d expect. It’s not IQ, it’s not the college you went to, it’s not the family you grew up in, it’s not even the number of successes you’ve had. More than anything else it’s the level of energy you have.

The most successful guy I treat basically runs the entertainment industry in L.A. He went to a college I’d never heard of. He never thought that he was smart and he suffered a million setbacks. But this guy does more before breakfast than most of us do in three months because he’s so high energy. So the question for a therapist becomes, “How do you increase someone’s energy?” And anyone can increase their energy.

The answer is, “Every single day take small steps that you would not ordinarily take because they require energy you don’t think that you have.” Let me say that one more time because it’s a long sentence. Every single day take a small step that you wouldn’t ordinarily take because it requires energy you don’t think that you have.

So examples. It’s the end of the day, there’s always a difficult telephone call or an email that you don’t really want to send. It’s the end of the workday and you’re tired, and normally you would leave. Take the phone call. Send the email. When you get home, and you would normally zone out in front of the TV or spend very little time with your spouse or your kids, you’d make kind of a quick exit. Instead focus on your spouse and your kids.

Or let’s say you go home and you don’t have a family but you’d normally get takeout. Actually prepare a meal. Now I know the average person is thinking, “What does that have to do with my job?” What it has to do with your job is that if you do small things that you don’t normally think you have energy to do, it expands your energy system. And the more expansive your energy system becomes the more successful you are at work.

Our assumption going into these things is that our energy is finite. I know it sounds woo-woo but our energy is not finite. It’s infinite. It’s like we think we start the day with like ten marbles worth of energy and we’ve used nine and we’ve only got one by the time we go home, and we got to hold that last marble or anything. But the truth is we’ve got an infinite number of marbles. And I challenge people to test this out. Do things you don’t think you have the energy to do. The more you do them you’ll get more energy from it.

I experienced this myself again like 20, 30 years ago when my kids were really small and I was seeing as many patients as I could possibly see, far more than I could see now. I mean, I was seeing 10 to 12 patients a day, so you can just take a moment and imagine what it’s like to have 10 to 12 people complaining miserably at you all day long. You go home exhausted. And I always felt bad because I wanted to bring the best I could to my family just like I had to my patients.

And what I decided to do, just to literally test out this proposition of limitless energy, is to act as if I had all the energy in the world. And the strangest thing would happen is I would walk through the door and I would pretend I had a lot of energy, and within five to ten minutes I actually had more energy than I ever thought I had. So it made me a better parent, it also made me a better therapist. And there’s a specific tool in the book by which you can increase your energy that way.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now I love it and let’s go there in just a moment. So I guess I’m thinking back to a previous guest we had, Brad Stulberg, and he sort of shared that the general growth formula, whether it’s in energy or fitness or capability of all sorts, was stress + rest = growth, and I thought that made sense to me. And so it sounds like you’re kind of emphasizing the, what you might call the stress side of take one more step, do something you don’t think you can do, a little bit of pushing yourself, act as if you have all the energy in the world. And so I just want to think about this for a sec from like if there’s a go, go, go, go, go sort of ambitious side, which I’m subject to as are some listeners, what’s the thought with regard to the rest side of the equation?

Barry Michels
Well, I’m glad you asked that actually because I’m 63 so I’m getting to the age where I do not feel like I have unlimited amounts of energy. But what I still do when I get tired, and I get physically tired sometimes during the day, it’s not just like avoidance or anything, is I still push myself a little bit. I use something called experimentalism which is I find a really effective tool.

Experimentalism is an attitude. It basically says, “Part X is telling me I don’t have any more energy, and maybe it’s right, maybe it’s wrong. Let me do an experiment because I never want to be absolutely sure about anything until I’ve tried it.” Okay? The experiment is essentially – and it’s usually writing that I have to do because I’m a writer. So what I will do is set a timer for 10 minutes, I will write for those 10 minutes and try to put myself into it as much as I possibly can. And if, at the end of the 10 minutes, I’m still truly exhausted, I’ll close my computer and take a nap, and that’s absolutely fine with me.

But what I do find is that, I’d say 70% to 80% of the time, just the overcoming of that block, just the willingness to try, it actually brings more energy up from my unconscious and I get really involved in what I’m writing. The timer will go off and I’ll keep writing for another hour. So, believe me, I’m not saying that people should overdo or stress themselves out or, God forbid, really break down their body. You don’t have an unlimited amount of physical energy.

If you need to sleep, you need to sleep. But at least test the assumption that you have because, in my experience, most people assume that they have no energy when they really do. And if you can get over that hump, often you find reserves that you didn’t know you had.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. That’s great. So you already shared some tools there when it comes getting more of that energy, sort of taking one more step that you wouldn’t have taken, experimenting and giving it a 10-minute trial, see how it goes, we’ve got that acting as if. So, then, you said you had another one.

Barry Michels
Yes. The second quality is resilience, that was the story that I told about the getting rejected 30 times. Resilience is simply the ability to get back up when you’ve been knocked down, and it happens all the time. An idea that you proposed gets rejected, or a rival gets promoted over you, or suddenly you’re good at public speaking but you get tongue-tied in a meeting and you kind of sound like an idiot.

Most people in our experience are really bad at recovering from these things. And the reason is we don’t like to think that we’re going to fail sometimes. It’s almost like we’ve embodied the old Vince Lombardi quote, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” And in a certain sense it’s a terrible philosophy because if winning is the only acceptable thing, that leaves us completely unprepared for the inevitable which is you’re not always going to win.

If you’re prepared for the occasional failure, the occasional setback, you’ll actually recover faster. So I like the quote from the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius who said, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, it’s in rising whenever we fall.” So this really speaks to the difference between real confidence and false confidence.

False confidence is this kind of unconscious belief that bad things won’t happen to us. Real confidence is the certainty that bad things will happen to us and the certainty that we will recover because we’ve recovered so quickly and so many times in the past. So resilience is another incredibly important quality in terms of success. And, again, that’s something that you can practice all day every day. It doesn’t have to just be at work.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, then, in terms of picking yourself up and rising and having the certainty and expectation that this is going to happen, is there anything else to do or think or say

Barry Michels
Well, in the book we actually teach a tool called the mother tool. I don’t have to go into all of the details of the tool, but when you think about it, just think about a toddler falling down and starting to cry. At that moment it needs love and support to get back up. Now a toddler gets it from his mother or his father. As an adult, we don’t want to rely on our moms and dads anymore, they might not be alive, but what we can rely on is what Carl Jung, the father really of psychoanalysis, called the archetypal mother.

The archetypal mother is not your mother or any real person, it’s just the essence of mother energy, meaning that there’s a source of love, unconditional love in the world, there’s someone out there who loves you as you are, with all of your strengths and all of your flaws, and who believes in you unreservedly. She says your potential even when Part X has convinced you, you don’t have any.

What the tool teaches you to do is to visualize the archetypal mother and feel her smiling at you confidently, and that’s what allows you to get back up again and keep going. Again, it may sound woo-woo. You don’t have to believe that any of this is real. Just try the tool and see if it helps, because 90% of the time it actually helps. And if it helps you that’s great. If it doesn’t, fire us. We’re not here to win converts.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, it’s funny when you say converts, because what I’m thinking of is, “Oh, yes, I’m familiar with that concept, and it’s God,” I guess from a Christian Catholic perspective of which is my background here, it’s kind of like that’s the idea, is that God and the Trinity is an eternal exchange of love, and that’s just what God is.

Barry Michels
That’s exactly what I’m talking about. And, again, people sometimes object to the word God or higher power or whatever. We’re really not dogmatic about the kind of language we use. But when you’re able to rise back up again, often it helps to feel like there’s something greater than you helping you get back up. And to the extent that you can visualize and really feel it, it becomes real to you.

Pete Mockaitis
So, let’s see. Now I’m looking at some of the terms you’re using. So did we cover the vortex when it comes to the energy piece?

Barry Michels
No, that’s the tool for energy, for increasing your energy, and it works.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s hear it.

Barry Michels
Yeah, and it works essentially on two symbols. The symbol of the sun, which, after all, is the symbol for abundant energy. The sun is going to last virtually forever, and the symbol of the number 12 which is the symbol for completion. There are 12 hours on the hands of a clock, there are 12 months in a year, 12 apostles, etcetera.

What you do with this tool is you visualize a circle of 12 suns over your head and you silently direct a plea for help to those suns. And you imagine that pleading for help starts the circle spinning and that creates a kind of a gentle tornado-shaped vortex. It’s just like the tornado in the Wizard of Oz but it’s not violent, it’s not destructive, it’s gentle. You, then, relax and just allow the vortex to lift you up through that circle into a world of infinite energy.

And once you’re above that circle, you feel yourself growing into like a giant size with unlimited energy. It’s almost like you’re filled with helium, you get so large, and you move through the world without friction or resistance. Now, again, that whole visualization takes five or 10 seconds, and again, you may feel skeptical of it first, many of my patients do. But once I get them to try it they can actually feel themselves elongating and getting stronger and getting filled with this kind of energy that then allows them to take the next natural steps that they wouldn’t normally take. And if it does that, we’ve done our job.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So we’re imagining 12 suns, and they’re spinning, they’re rotating, and then so doing it forms a vortex which sort of transports us kind of like a tornado in the Wizard of Oz, and that’s the visualization.

Barry Michels
That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you’re right, it’s something I have not done before. It’s intriguing, but you’re right, if it’s 10 seconds and has the potential for high impact it’s certainly worth a shot.

Barry Michels
Exactly. And all of these things, interestingly enough, have mythological antecedence. There was a race of gods prior to the Olympian gods that most of us are familiar with, like Zeus and Hera, etcetera. They were called the Titans and they were mythical beings that were not governed by physical forces, like the force of gravity, so they grew to enormous size.

Atlas, if you’ve ever heard of him, was a Titan and he held up the sky. So you can almost think of the Titans as pure life, beyond anything we can imagine, and they were conquered by the Olympian gods and thrown into the deepest pit in the earth called Tartarus which is really a symbol for our own unconscious.

So what Phil and I like to think is that the Titans live inside our unconscious, and the tool is essentially getting you to identify with the Titans and feel that titanic energy coming up from inside of you and making you grow tall like the Titans were. Again, you don’t have to believe in any of this literally, but if you can feel the mythological antecedence of it sometimes that actually helps you use the tool.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s see, we’ve covered the energy piece, we’ve covered the resilience piece, you mentioned the self-control as well.

Barry Michels
Exactly. Now, we’ve become a society that is unbelievably impulsive. We eat out of control, we drink out of control. I see people who can’t stop themselves from updating their social media. When my phone pings indicating that I have a text or an email, I’m like Pavlog’s Dog, it’s hard for me to resist, even if I’m doing something important that I shouldn’t interrupt.

Now, why does that matter? It matters because when you indulge your impulses without realizing it, you are essentially organizing your life around self-gratification. You’re organizing it around what you can take in rather than what you can give out, and that’s not going to make a very happy life for you. It’s also not going to make for a very productive life.

When you give out more you do better at work. I mean, I have a perfect example of this. I treat a very hard-charging Hollywood agent, but when I first met him…

Pete Mockaitis
I’m just thinking Ari Gold from Entourage right now.

Barry Michels
Exactly. Exactly. He used to stay out late every night drinking, carousing, I mean, just wild kind of life, and it was affecting his work. And I got him to cut down and go to bed earlier on week nights. He didn’t have to quit drinking entirely but he really got it under control. And you know what happened, is within weeks, people at work started to tell him, “What happened to you? You look so much healthier. You don’t realize it but you always used to come in here looking like you were hungover.” I mean, he was mortified at the realization that he wasn’t hiding this. Everybody knew what was going on.

The other thing that happened to him was that he became much, much more confident. As he began to control his drinking he became better at public speaking, he became better at networking with his superiors because he didn’t have this like shameful secret inside of him. Confidence, again, we don’t really understand confidence very well. You cannot be confident if you can’t control your urges. Think about it. If you can’t control your urges then you’re living a life that could go off the rails at any moment.

Self-confidence is the knowledge that you don’t have to gratify yourself. You can live through the pain of depriving yourself. So, just to give you another quote, Lao Tzu, who’s the founder of Taoism, said, “He who conquers others is strong, but he who conquers himself is mighty.” That’s the sense that you get when you can control your own impulses.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s valuable, and especially, I think, in this age of distraction in terms of it can really be quite debilitating to be awesome at your job if any sort of email or text message ping is enough to derail you from focused work. So, then, what’s the five- to ten-second tool here?

Barry Michels
The tool is called the black sun and it’s a fascinating tool. Let me explain the philosophy behind it. So think about this for a moment, if you crave something outside of you, whether it’s ice cream, a cigarette, you’ve got to read the latest news, you’ve got to answer that text, then think about it. Something must be missing inside of you, right? If there weren’t some emptiness inside you wouldn’t feel impelled to fill it in the outside world. You’d have more of a take-it or leave-it attitude.

Now sometimes you can control that with sheer willpower. It’s like, “I want to answer the text but I’m not going to. I want to. I’m not going to. I want to. I’m not going to.” And that’s good if you can control it with willpower but the problem is it keeps the focus on the outside world as the source of what’s going to fill you up inside.

So what would happen if you gave up on the outside world ever filling you up, since it never really has, and instead pay attention to that inner emptiness? Now this is something most of us have never done and it takes some courage but that’s where the magic starts. If you can stare into this empty void inside of you and just stay calm the nothingness turns into somethingness. It turns into something that can fill you up.

Now, to construct an actual tool we had to come up with a symbol of that somethingness, and we came up with the symbol of the black sun. A black sun just looks like the sun at the moment of a total solar eclipse. The sun is a symbol of infinite potential and warmth and life that can fill you up inside, but we black it out to remind you that you’ve obscured it by constantly going to the outside world to try to fill yourself up. So the outside world has eclipsed your inner strength.

Pete Mockaitis
In practice, how does one look at the emptiness or nothingness inside?

Barry Michels
Yeah, let me just walk you through the tool and you’ll get a flavor for it, and anybody who’s listening can use this at the same time as long you’re not driving because you’ve got to close your eyes. So think of a specific situation where you typically give in to an impulse – you overeat, you drink too much, whatever it is.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Barry Michels
Great. Now step one of the tools is imagine that you cannot have what you want and feel the deprivation of it intensely. You can’t have it. It’s painful not be able to have it. Now, let go of the thing that you wanted. It’s almost like it no longer exists.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m imagining it crashing to the ground. But when you say let go, what do you mean?

Barry Michels
I mean, let it go. Let it crash to the ground.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. There’s a bottle of delicious wine shattering in the kitchen. Is that what we’re going for?

Barry Michels
Perfect.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Barry Michels
That’s perfect. Now what I want you to do is go even further and imagine that the entire outside world disappears, it’s no longer a source for you, and instead I just want you to turn inward and look at the emptiness inside of you. Just imagine is as a void or a vast empty space, and all I ask you to do is breathe, stay calm, stay still, and face the void. In fact, be curious about what’s down there.

Now, from the depths of the void, just imagine this black sun ascending very, very slowly and gently. Its energy is warm and it’s limitless, and it just keeps on expanding inside of you until it completely fills you up inside. Finally, turn your attention back to the outside world and let the black sun energy overflow and surge out of you. And as it enters the world it becomes this pure white light of infinite giving. You’ve essentially become the sun. That’s the black sun tool.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Barry Michels
You’ll notice what we’ve done with that tool is the arc of the tool reverses your flow of energy. We spend most of our time trying to take things in from the outside world, but at the end of the tool, what you’re doing is you’re giving out, and that’s really the solution to craving and to impulses. The need to get is cured by giving more.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, I’m picking up a difference, I suppose, in terms of desire.

Barry Michels
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
So I think I’m picking up a difference and I think that when it comes to the visualization, my hunch is that it probably has more pronounced effects over multiple trials as you’re able to sort of see things all the more clearly as well as have developed a history of association with the mental images and the effects of them

Barry Michels
Definitely. Definitely. The more you use the tools the more familiar you get with the symbols, the more real they feel to you, and the more effective they become.

Pete Mockaitis
We’ve also got the tower. Can we hear that one?

Barry Michels
Yes, absolutely. So the tower is designed to – let me put it this way. One of Part X’s favorite tactics is to get us to fall into a state where we’re sulking. We’re obsessed with something that someone has done to us. We call it a victim state. None of us likes to think of ourselves as victims but everyone falls into this state at some point, everyone throws themselves, what they call in AA, a pity party essentially.

And the difficult truth is life isn’t fair. If you keep wallowing in something that someone has done to you in the past, even if it’s the immediate past, you can’t build a fulfilling future. So what the tower tool does is it gives you the power to get over injuries, to let go and to move forward. You stop demanding life be fair, which it isn’t, and instead demand that you always move forward no matter what happens to you.

Pete Mockaitis
With that in play, I guess that seems a little bit more straightforward, or there’s like a series of images that…

Barry Michels
Yeah, I can teach you the tool. Let me explain to you how the tool works first and then I can go through the tool if you want. You know, when you get hurt physically, you let your body repair. Let’s say you stubbed your toe on a curve. So you might sit down, walk it off, but pretty soon you’re on your way. But when your feelings get hurt you do something very different. You relive it again and again, “How dare he say that to me? That was so unfair. I would never treat anyone like that.”

Essentially, you’re going back to the curve and re-stubbing your toe over and over again. That’s what we’re calling a victim state. What you’re saying is, “This shouldn’t have happened to me.” Now think about that statement for a moment, “This shouldn’t have happened to me.” If you step back, it doesn’t matter whether it should or shouldn’t have happened, it already did happen. You should be focused on getting over it, but Part X makes it very hard to let go because letting go means your opinion doesn’t matter. There are forces in the universe that are stronger than you, and that’s essentially what we call an ego death.

Ego deaths are just as inevitable in life as real physical death is, okay? Now the god news is if you can let your ego die you can move on. Little kids’ egos aren’t as strong as adult egos so they process injuries really quickly. Like watch a little kid who wants a toy, and the parent says no. The kid cries passionately as if his life is coming to an end, and in record time he’s playing happily with something else. We all have that ability inside of us but for adults it requires a tool because our egos don’t want to let go of, “It shouldn’t have happened.”

Barry Michels
So think of a situation where you got offended. It could be something small, somebody used a tone of voice you didn’t like, or it could be big like a job where you just keep getting passed over by people who are less qualified than you.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Barry Michels
And once you’ve thought of that situation, close your eyes and just call up the hurt feelings, try to make them so intense it’s as if it just happened. Now, intentionally make the feelings even worse, almost like the feelings are attacking you in the heart, almost like a spear through your heart. And just imagine that the hurt feelings get so intense that they literally break your heart and you die, and imagine you’re lying motionless on the ground.

Now imagine that you hear a voice that says, “Only the dead survive,” and suddenly your heart is filled with light and it illuminates your surroundings, and you’re lying at the base of a tall tower that’s open on the top. Imagine now that the light lifts you up and, buoyed by it, you effortlessly float up through the tower and out the top ascending into a perfect blue sky and your body feels reborn.

How does that feel?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, it’s pleasant. I guess, maybe I should’ve thought of a more offensive scenario to begin with to get more of a before-after, but it is. It’s pleasant there.

Barry Michels
The key here is not the symbology or you could forget the three steps. The key is let yourself feel hurt, and let the hurt get so bad that you imagine it actually kills you. Because death, even this imagined death, is a real letting go of any power to resist. You’re letting the hurt go essentially, and you’re letting all of your opinions about it go, and that, ironically enough, is what allows you to recover from hurt feelings, from injuries like this because you’ve abandoned all your opinions, and you can just simply move on.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Well, that’s cool. So I’d love to hear a little bit more of your perspective because it is a little bit different and it’s a little, as all new things are, it could feel sort of uncomfortable or you might even just feel odd or silly just in the course of executing it.

Barry Michels
Totally.

Pete Mockaitis
You’ve been through this many times with many folks, what are the words of encouragement you offer for folks if they’re having some of those difficulties going there?

Barry Michels
Look, I met Phil Stutz 35 years ago, and there has never been anybody more skeptical than me. Trust me. Before I was a therapist I was a lawyer, so I was trained in skepticism, and I questioned everything that he said to me the way you’re questioning what I’m saying right now, and it was good that I questioned it, and I encourage people to question it.

But what I also encourage them to do is just try it. If it doesn’t work, throw away the book. Don’t believe us. Don’t listen to us. You know, it’s fine. But it’s actually amazing to me how, as I just simply use the tools over and over and over again, I began to have a different kind of knowledge, it’s almost like a wisdom as opposed to a knowledge, that these things were real and that they uncover deeper truths that I’d never been aware of before.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Good deal. Thank you. So then, well, tell me, Barry, is there anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Barry Michels
No, I think that’s about it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Well, can you start us off by sharing a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Barry Michels
Yes. John Milton, in Paradise Lost, said, “The mind is a place unto itself and can make a hell of heaven or a heaven of hell,” which to me is one of the most profound statements I’ve ever heard. What it says to me is that if you can begin to control your state of mind, everything in your life gets better.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And how about a favorite book?

Barry Michels
My favorite book is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Viktor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist who was arrested and interned in a number of different concentration camps in Nazi Germany. And I read it whenever I find myself complaining about life because I feel embarrassed complaining when I read about what he went through and about how brave and how inspired he was, and how, even in the midst of those awful circumstances where people were dying of disease, starvation, the gas chambers, everything else, he insisted on being of service to others. So it’s a book that just inspires me every time I’ve read it, and I’ve read it probably five times.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you. How about a favorite tool?

Barry Michels
My favorite tool is the black sun, the first one that we used and it’s not because I have that many impulses that are out of control, but because it just reminds me that I have everything inside of me, that there are resources inside of me that I’m usually unaware of. You know, we’re such an outer-oriented society that we tend to forget that we have resources inside of us that are enormous and creative and inspiring, and they can really bring change to the world in a good way. And so it feels like that tool really keeps me balanced in that sense.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And how about a favorite habit?

Barry Michels
You know, it’s interesting. I write in a journal every day probably two or three pages. It doesn’t have to be that long. I’m a writer so it comes easily to me. I write down my dreams, I write down what I’m feeling, and then I always end with a challenge to myself for that day, “I challenge you to,” whatever it is, “to care even more about your patients than you normally do.”

Or, “I challenge you to be more blunt in telling your patients the truth about themselves even though they might not want to hear it because that’s your job,” kind of thing. Whatever the challenge is, I really try to pose it to myself. And then the next day, when I write in the journal, I try to talk to myself about how well or poorly I met the challenge.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And, tell me, is there a particular nugget you share in your practice or your writings that seems to really connect and resonate with folks such that they are kind of repeating it to you and saying it’s been super impactful? Are there any kind of Barry original quotes that really hit the mark?

Barry Michels
I don’t know if it’s an original quote but I’ve never ever failed doing whatever is scariest for me. Like I’ve been afraid of public speaking most of my life, and just in the last five years I’ve really gotten into to giving workshops, and I was terrified doing them. I’ll never forget the first like three or four of them. I’d wake up in the morning literally feeling like a condemned man going to the gallows. I mean, it felt that bad. Like, “No, please don’t make me do this.”

But I’ve done it so much now, and it’s so fulfilling and so inspiring to me that I realized that you can pretty much never go wrong doing the things that you’re really frightened of because Part X wouldn’t be trying so hard to scare you if it didn’t know better than you do that this is something that’s really going to fulfill your potential.

So I’ve actually, weirdly enough, learned to use Part X as kind of a guide in a strange way that’s working really hard to stop me from doing something. That’s the thing I figure I really need to focus my energy on. And it’s never gone wrong. It actually has become, in a weird way, a guide for me. You know, you mentioned that you’re Christian. Now, it’s always been interesting to me that the Christian name for the devil is Lucifer, which is obviously Lucifer is evil.

But on the other hand, the root of that word is two Latin words that means bringer of light. Lux means light, and fer means to bring. And so, in a strange way, if you can be aware of the devil working against you, you can actually attack the very areas it’s trying to hold you back in, and you can become yourself, you can fulfill your highest potential.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s a fabulous concluding note, bring some light and hope into perspective. So, Barry, thanks so much for this and for bringing a new set of perspectives, a voice that we haven’t heard here before, talking psychotherapy and it’s cool. So I very much appreciate you bringing your tips and tools which I think will be put to very good use. So can you share, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Barry Michels
To our website which is TheToolsBook.com and it’s got all kinds of tools and other information and newsletter you can sign up for, or podcasts that we’re doing, and all kinds of good stuff there.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. Well, Barry, thanks again.

Barry Michels
Thank you very much, Pete. I really enjoyed it.

One Comment

  • Pete,

    Love your podcast!! Have been an avid listener since 11/16 when I started my current job. Have learned so much from so many of your amazing and diverse guests, particularly those who tackle issues like conflict resolution, managing introverts vs extroverts, and improving interpersonal communication. While some of the experts may have different values, core beliefs, or worldviews than me, I find there is always at least one take-away “gold nugget” (like how I did that?) to glean. That is until Barry Michels. I found much of his content hokey, extremely “woo-woo” (as he himself called it), and almost eerie. As a medical provider with more than 20 years of experience, I am fully aware that positive self-talk and visualization can be effective tools for developing resilience. But when he was describing allowing “the vortex to lift you up through that circle into a world of infinite energy” and “growing into like a giant size with unlimited energy,” I kept waiting for him to say, “Just kidding!” If he is the psychotherapist to the celebs, that explains a lot of why Hollywood is the way it is. Maybe his message resonated with some of your audience, but just wanted to pass along my two cents.

    Thanks for all you do, week in and week out. I am in awe of your commitment to providing solid content for your listeners, and my 17 year old son would be so envious of your outstanding recording equipment (you set the bar for your podcasting colleauges when it comes to production). I feel I have received a year of career counseling for free! It has been a great nearly 12 mos for me, and I look forward to many years to come.

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