Saturday, August 19, 2017

Transcript of EP 015 Phil Stutz and Barry Michels on The Tools

Phil Stutz and Barry Michels first came by to talk with me in 2015 about their first book, The Tools, based on the techniques they developed in their psychotherapy practices. These practices combine the depth psychology and visualization of Carl Jung with the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner and the rapid efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy.

You can listen to our first interview here, or through your favorite podcast site. For one reason or another, I don't think I ever released the transcript from the interview, so here it is. I will also be releasing the pdf version here at some point.

The new interview will be going up tomorrow on this site, also in transcript format.

EP 015 Phil Stutz and Barry Michels, Authors of The Tools

Scott: Hello and welcome to the Start-up Geometry podcast. This is your host, Scott Gosnell. Each week I talk to creators, innovators and explorers about how and why they do what they do. If you enjoy the show, please download us through iTunes. You can also rate, subscribe and comment on us there. Every time you do so, it helps us to find new listeners and to reach out to new people. Show notes can be found at or at

My guests today are Barry Michels and Phil Stutz, who are the authors of a very good book called The Tools. We'll talk about The Tools today and we'll look at some of the projects that they're working with right now. Barry and Phil send out periodic emails to their followers with stories, new ways to use the tools, and other messages that will inspire you. So after you're done listening to this, I recommend that you go over there and visit, which is their website. They have a real treasure trove of information you can't get anywhere else and they have a wonderful mailing list that I've been subscribed to for a while now. Hi gentlemen!

Barry: Hi Scott.

Phil: Scott hi.

Scott: I wonder if we could start, if you could just walk us through one of your favorite tools. How the process works, what the tool is for, and how you would employ it?

Phil: No one has never asked us that before.

Scott: I'm sure, it's a totally new question.

Phil: It's interesting. You go Barry, you're on the spot.

Barry: Well, you know, my favorite of the tools is the inner authority tool. Not so much because I'm afraid of public speaking, which is sort of the way we set up the tool in the book but because I love the whole concept of the Shadow. The Shadow is a subject that we could spend 15 podcasts on, but just to explain briefly, it's the part of your personality that you are but wish you weren't. It's basically whatever you don't like about yourself.

And you mentioned creativity earlier, Scott. The Shadow can either be a real boon to creativity or it can really get in the way.  If there's any part of you that you're ashamed of, it's very difficult to be creative because you spend more time criticizing and trying to hide your Shadow than you do actually creating new things.  For myself in my own life, I've gotten a lot of mileage out of working with my Shadow.

Phil: Yes, for me that's fine because the older you get, the easier it is to accept the fact that everything is imperfect and your most creative area, your most creative project is going to come back completely flawed. And for me at least the Shadow is a way of both reminding myself about it and utilizing the Shadow to get into more of a flow state. A good way to say it is flow is your ability to tolerate imperfection. The only difference between a professional and an amateur writer is that the professional can’t quit because he needs to pay his mortgage.

Scott: I’m just laughing because that's very true.

Phil: We have this motto for writers which is, "Keep writing shit, stupid." "Keep writing” has to do with willpower, "Shit" means, it's always going to be flawed, imperfect and you have to not only tolerate that but look at that as a guide post to forward  motion. And "stupid" means, nobody is smart enough to know either the quality of what they’re writing or whether it will be accepted or rejected. Our favorite book is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

Scott: It's a very good book.

Phil: Yeah, the interesting thing about that book is when he wrote it, it was a very short book. He said, “This particular book, I'm not going to take any money for, it's a little bit off what I'm doing. I have no idea how people will react to it,” and it became one of the bestselling books of all time, but for me the idea that it was a little bit off his professional track, opened up his unconscious and allowed things to pour out that I think that it ordinarily wouldn't have. So, that's it.

Barry: The bottom line is, when you're willing to be imperfect, that's when your unconscious really flows.  Think about the ego as the part of you that wants to be perfect.  The unconscious doesn’t want to be perfect, it just wants to flow.  So the more perfect the ego tries to be, the more it’s actually inhibiting the unconscious.  When the ego can let go and says, "I'm just going to let it all out," that’s when the unconscious starts to flow.  

Scott: Right and it's also that everyone has that inner-editor and there's a time and a place for that editor to intervene and to fix the problems that might be true in the work but if you have that editor going all the time then you'll never have time to actually spit something out. So you have to get that in the shitty first draft out and I think it was, Bird by Bird (by Anne Lamott)

Barry: Yes.

Scott: Which is a really, really good book on writing.

Barry: Yes.

Scott: It's just like, get the shitty first draft out and then you can always fix it later and take all of those critical voices, whether it's the teacher who said you could never write or your parents who said, “What are you wasting time for with your nose on the book all the time,” or whatever it may be, or you yourself and that sort of judgmental voice who just says, you know, “You're writing about sex. People are going to think you're some kind of crazy person,” and you sort of put them in jar and you turn down the volume and you go forward and you write. Yeah, is that a related method or is that...?

Phil: Well, it's your decision. It's related to the new book because... Am I allowed to say this, Barry?

Barry: I don't know what you're going to say, go ahead.

Phil: Okay, the new book is about we call, "Part-X" which is the destructive part of everybody. Everybody has got this built-in part that wants to block their progress, to keep them from reaching their potential. Self-criticism and judgment are commonly Part X out of control. We have a host of tools to nullify Part X.

For many people that come to see us, this is the first time they have ever been able to control Part-X. The classic thing is that their thoughts disrupt their sense of flow. It’s not just understanding X. You need a real time tool to nullify X right in the moment. The tool we were talking about is bonding with the Shadow.

Barry: Yeah, bonding with the Shadow or working with the Shadow, yeah.

Phil: In the book it's called, "The Inner Authority." Inner Authority may or may not be the best name for the tool, but it's very telling because most people give away their authority to other people. The way they do that is they let the other person judge them. They allow the other person to define who they are and obviously they want to try to please the other person. That's called Outer Authority. It's almost like you've made the other person into a Roman emperor who puts thumbs up or thumbs down, who decides what your value is.

Barry: Let me just jump in here because Phil, you talked about using tools and I just want listeners to understand what we mean – even if they haven’t read the book. A tool is a very simple five to ten second procedure that you use inside yourself and you use it at a difficult moment.  For a writer, often that’s the moment they actually sit down to write. If they can use a tool to bond with their Shadow at that moment, they're more likely to go into a flow state. They might also use it in the middle of writing if they're suddenly getting self-critical or blocked for any reason.  And typically, they’d also use the tool after they're done writing.  Whenever they’re finished doing anything creative, most people usually beat themselves up for whatever they didn’t get right.  They don’t realize it, but they’re really beating up the Shadow, which makes it less likely to show up for the next writing session.  So that would be another time to use the tool. 

Phil: Yeah, that's well said. But the next session begins the moment today's session is over. You're already prepping yourself and your first task is not to beat yourself up or destroy yourself over what happened today. And that creates flow because it connects one day with the next. That's probably the best way to say it.

Barry: If you think about it, you’re giving the Shadow an experience it rarely gets, which is constant positive feedback from the ego. 

Phil: Right.

Scott: So, the fundamental underlying issue is that a lot of these problems that we have are caused by being out of balance with either different parts of our self or with outside situations or interpersonal relationships or something but there is an imbalance in these what you call "forces" and the tools are a way or a solution to those problems in which you are creating very quickly actions or thoughts or manners of interacting among those various forces and pieces of yourself. Is that accurate?

Phil: Yeah, that's very accurate. Let’s just say both of us are very independent minded.

Scott: Okay.

Phil: At the moment there's a problem, whether the problem is worry or the problem is fear, whether the problem is a phobia or the problem, insecurity doesn't matter. You have to do something right at that moment. That doesn't subsume all the therapy. Of course it's important to get to the genesis of the problem and where you’d like to end up.

But all of that adds up to nothing. Both of us believe that unless you give the person something to do right at the moment, he will go back into X and stop growing.

Let’s say Part X is causing worry. That tendency to worry has to be attacked at the moment. What you say to Part X is, "I'm not going to let you take over my psyche, take over my life. I'm not going to let you determine my view of the future." And you have to do something right at that moment. One of the tools in the first book is called Grateful Flow, which is a very good antidote to worrying. But philosophically the idea that you can do something in the moment tends to be a revelation for a lot of our patients.

Barry: Yeah, what we're saying is that human beings are creatures of habit.  But in this instance, the habits are not behavioral, like smoking or overeating. They're internal, emotional and cognitive habits. We think in repetitive ways, and we feel things repetitively.  To change a habit – you have to intervene. Understanding how you developed the habit won’t make it go away – you have to take action.  Again it's not action in the outside world, it's action inside yourself.  But that’s actually a good description of a tool:  it’s a way of intervening inside yourself when you’re about to fall prey to a bad habit.

Scott: Okay, excellent. How do you set up the triggering of these tools? You may or may not have a good feeling for when particular problems are happening. Is part of therapeutic process to heighten that experience or to identify or recognize that feeling and then to trigger the tool?

Phil: Yeah, definitely. We call that a cue.

Scott: Yes.

Phil: So we just talked about worries. Here's the problem, you have to train a person when they start to worry, and you’ll say, "We have to deal with that." And he’ll say, "What do you mean deal with it? I'm afraid I can't pay my mortgage, I'm afraid my kid won't get in to private school, I'm afraid I won't sell this script.

So basically what they're saying is, "I have a good reason to continue to be neurotic, right? I have a good reason to let Part-X take over, I have a good reason to worry." The idea of the cue is, this is the key of the whole thing, the cue says... So let's say I start to worry: The moment that happens, whether it's at 4:00 in the morning when you wake up, whether it's in the middle of your day, whether it's in a session with your shrink, it doesn’t matter.

Right at that moment, you have to use the tool, which in this case is called "The Grateful Flow". There always seems to be a good reason to be frightened, worried, hating someone. You’re teaching someone to function in a psychological way that they’ve never experienced before. Its focus is purely on the present. It’s not ignoring the past, just making the present key.

If you were a quarterback and all of a sudden there's a blitz coming... and the quarterback has under three seconds to change the play, something like that. So he does so many reps in practive that he can just do it automatically. That attitude is what we’re trying to instill. We've got a lot of tools – we put five of them in the first book. The next book will have another four or five but this transcends the specifics of the two. Barry?

Barry: Yeah, what Phil is saying is so important and so well said.  I know to the average listener it probably sounds impossible, like "Oh my god, I have to be watching myself every second."  But the truth is, the effort it takes actually makes life easier.  Once you get used to using seeing a cue and using a tool, you start to feel a kind of freedom most people don’t feel.  There’s a real sense of liberation at being able to stop yourself from worrying, or at getting yourself to do things you’ve procrastinated on forever.  Most people are a little intimidated at first, but once they get used to it, it's like, "Oh my god, this is such a better way to live."

Phil: Yes, the other thing is that something else happens besides the tools removing your symptoms. No matter what you use them for originally – you start to develop a different version of the world.

After a while you actually use the tools just to change your state and get up in to that higher world or whatever you want to call the world of flow. This whole philosophy starts with symptoms but actually transcends symptoms and it becomes psychological and spiritual philosophy and actually a way to live and Barry who's, as far as I'm concerned is the best, most disciplined user of tools.

Scott: What do you use them for? What do you need them for?

Barry: Oh god, all kinds of things. I mean, I already told you, I use the Shadow constantly in order to get myself to be more creative and come up with stuff that I didn't think I could come up with. I use the “Reversal of Desire” tool because, like every writer I've ever known, it’s hard to get myself to sit alone in a room and come up with new stuff. 

The Reversal of Desire is a tool that gets you to do things you tend to avoid.  To understand how it works, you first have to understand what you’re avoiding.  You think you’re avoiding a phone call, or a difficult confrontation, or writing, etc.  But what we’re really avoiding in each of these instances if the pain associated with these things.  There's a little bit of pain associated with pretty much everything that we have to do – even if it’s just the pain of making the effort to do it.

The tool is called “The Reversal of Desire” because our normal desire is to avoid pain and the tool reverses that. It gets you to embrace pain and move through it which then releases an enormous amount of potential and energy that would otherwise be spent avoiding the pain – and keeping your life small.  The truth is, life is filled with pain and you can’t really avoid it anyway.  In fact, what we find is that people who use the reversal of desire over and over again actually live with less pain.

Phil: I think somewhat uniquely, we delve into the forces that are in the unconscious. Our most common desire is to avoid pain. So I procrastinate, I avoid, I'm passive, I let my dreams get, you know, thrown away, etc., etc. What we do is we take that same force and we turn it upside down and say, “I will transmute it.”

It's more of a tradition in the ancient world, in the primitive world where for them there was no real psychology. The forces were absolutely real and you can see it on Greek mythology where the forces were personified through gods and demigods, etc. About 1400 or 1500 alchemy became very popular in Europe. The superficial interpretation of alchemy was you can make a base metal into gold. You're going to get – but that wasn’t really what it was. It wasn't known in public but alchemy was really the trans-mutational process of your own soul forces and for a human being to be able to turn this desire thing, to flip it upside down and use it for your own benefit. That was a secret; it was considered a sacred ability. They weren’t eager to let the public know about it.

Scott: Yeah, sure. Sure.

Phil: The point is what we're doing now is taking that tradition and let's say modernizing it and connecting it to everyday problems. So the everyday problems becomes the cue to use the tool is also a trigger for this alchemy so that your soul-force changes. At first it's hard to believe that actually happened. Most people don't really believe change is possible anyway, but we have, I think without question, proven to our patients that it is. Which is very, very important.

Barry: I just want to relate what Phil is saying now to what he said earlier.  The truth is, problems stir up these primal, lower forces (like the desire to avoid).  But the positive purpose of those problems is to give you an opportunity to transmute those forces into something higher and discover potentials you never knew you had.

Phil: Yeah.

Barry: And when a person can really get that, not just as an academic, philosophical idea but as an actual experience, they start to feel a kind of ascendance, a kind of elevation that's really irreplaceable.

Scott: I've seen this in Tibetan Buddhism as well. Where there's a phase where you say, "Okay, if you are a person with a lot of anger." This process will transform this anger from just generally hurting people into an anger that is directed at obtaining justice. If you are greedy then we will transform this greed into a hunger for knowledge. So you'll become wise.

And become truly fulfilled and you go through all of these phases and they sort of sort people out and they say, "Whatever it is that you're spending your psychological, your cognitive and your emotional energy on. We will take this and we will turn it into something which is instead of being a problem for you is a feature of your personality. It is an additional (resource), and you can polish it up and turn it into this beautiful jewel that will be something that can give you energy and can give you the drive to move forward."

Phil:  Yes, I agree. The only difference what we're doing here, because we're doing it. We're here to practice some psychotherapy. That's it's not a uniform training program, in other words, but I mean….Life itself is going to present you with a problem. The problem is going to be different for each person. You need tools because you have to do something in response to the problem and that’s what transmutes your energy.

It's a very different view of problems than traditional psychotherapy has taken. Look, it doesn't mean when someone comes here and we're going to tell him, "We don't give a shit about your problem or how much you're suffering. We only care about using it and transmuting it." It’s not fair. Everyone wants relief and they’re entitled to it.

Scott: So you get the relief but then you don't have to settle at zero. You can continue on from having something that's negative to going beyond and having positive psychology or additional capability or you will have learned something through having solved the problem.

Phil: Yeah, 100%. We don't even think of it as problem solving. It's just, you get the problem, you use the tool, you feel a little better. Two weeks later or two years later the problem comes back then use the tools again, you'll feel better again. It has a cyclical quality. Hopefully each cycle takes you a little bit higher than the cycle before. Everyone is ceaselessly immersed in this world of problems and ultimately means we're ceaselessly immersed in evil, the acceptance of that is key.

So this is going to be a lifelong crisis. It's not really about cure, it's about continued work. There's a tremendous desire in our culture for what we call exonerations. So exoneration just means somehow you've reached a point because you're famous enough or rich enough, you went to the right school or the right spouse. Whatever it is, you reach a point where you don't have to work anymore and we call it the realm of illusions like at that point you take the perfect life, which is an insane joke.

Because I'm 68, a lot my patients are older. I had seven, they're all male, seven guys, all of whom quit working. They wanted to “rest”. Of those seven guys, two have died, one had to go to a mental hospital for very serious depression.

Two of them lived but had various types of Leukemia, etc., etc. Now the ones who are alive they were back working, not initially working for money but the idea is the illusion that can be an end point where you stop. THIS IS A DAMAGING BELIEF. WE’RE IN A SALES, CONSUMER CULTURE AND THIS BELIEF IN EXONERATION IS VERY DAMAGING.

HERE ARE THE THREE LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE. Number one, pain never goes away. There may be different kinds of pain. Number two, uncertainty never goes away. No one really knows what's going to happen in the future. Number three, the need for constant work and effort. Which is what we're just talking about. ANYBODY THAT SAYS YOU CAN BE EXONERATED FROM THESE LAWS IS LYING.

Barry: And in our society, nobody comes out and says that.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  Advertising is constantly selling you the idea that “if you just buy our product,” you’ll get beyond those three principles.  Just look at the way we view celebrities – essentially we view them as people who have somehow garnered enough fame and money that they are beyond pain, uncertainty, and ceaseless effort.

It’s funny, when we were writing the section on exoneration in book one, I actually watched advertising with a more critical, observant eye.  One evening this advertisement came on:  "You want to lose weight? Buy this treadmill. We guarantee you will lose weight."  I’d heard that ad a thousand times before, but because I was writing about exoneration it suddenly struck me:  it’s such a ripoff.  Sure, you can buy the treadmill.  But most people don’t have the willpower to get themselves up on a treadmill; they can’t even get themselves out the front door to take a walk. That’s how ubiquitous this sense of exoneration is:  deep down we really believe there’s a way we can consume ourselves out of pain, uncertainty and ceaseless effort.  Or maybe we can get on a reality show and join that club of special people that are exonerated from … go ahead, Phil.

Phil: It's so well stated. Reality shows are now weak compared to the effect of the Internet. Now anybody with a computer can become famous and that's just more of the poison. I believe that a lot of the social economic imbalances in this country are accepted by the populace because of this hope for exoneration. In my generation, they'd be on the streets, burning shit down. Not necessarily for the right reasons but people don't care as much about that because they're looking into an illusionary future and the present doesn’t matter.

Barry:  Phil and I in a unique position.  We treat a fair number of pretty famous people and we can tell you with absolute assurance:  not a single one of them has that magic exemption ticket.

Scott: I think there was one of the diagrams that they have that was with the New Yorker article that you did a few years ago talked about the realm of illusion as this static picture on the wall and you say, "If only life were like that – but instead life is like a string of pearls or something, each of which contains a little turd.” It's constantly moving, constantly dynamic and there's always something that's unsatisfactory about it, right? And you have to kind of keep turning and working at it and that's the sort of the only happiness you get, is the little bite size happiness.

Phil: If you talk about it that way, it's just a little bit of happiness, but that’s not what really happens.  Because what actually happens if you stick to it for months and even years and even years, you might not define it as being happy in the conventional sense which a lot to do with pleasure but you become deeply satisfied and the reason you do is everything starts to be more meaningful. The more meaningful things are the more you feel connected to a larger Whole or something bigger than you are.

Part X doesn’t want you to know that; it tells you there’s another way, you can avoid doing this for life. You can’t.

Barry:  The bottom line is, life has rules and they're immutable. Part X is the part of you that seduces you into an exoneration fantasy.  But the only way to really feel any enduring satisfaction is to play by the rules. That's how you fit in to life.

Scott: Yeah.

Phil: You sound depressed.

Scott: It could be worse, I think we all want think that there is some way where you could finally cross the finish line, as you say, "I'm being exonerated" but that doesn't happen. I'm one of this people who is an epic procrastinator and I am one of the people who can procrastinate so much that back when I first heard about you, I was writing a book and I've manage to procrastinate that book away for years and years, nibbling away at it but in the meantime have written three other books and translated three books and written a screen play and done everything else. So while that thing is sitting there procrastinated and in stasis, everything has had to be worked on. That's my solution to my procrastination.

Phil: Do you still, like, work on that book?

Scott: Yeah, I still do. And it's still coming along, it's just that happens to be the thing that got stuck in the slot to be procrastinated. So now I have to find something else that I can procrastinate about while I work on that.

Phil: Did you consider that book very important? Like more important than the other stuff that let you grow?

Scott: Yeah, I did and the curious thing about it was that this was a book that looks a lot like the tools but applied over to the world of entrepreneurship. So there are all of this techniques and situations and transformations that you can do on the creative work that you would do, that help it work better and help you find your way to the creative work that you actually wanted to do.

Phil: Yeah.

Scott: And it's all stuff that I do in my consulting work and then I talk about it in my daily life and it's transforming all of that, sort of chaotic stuff, down to something that isn't black and white. This is very difficult.

Phil: Yes.

Scott: I'm sure that you two have done this long enough that these books just pop out of you very, very rapidly. Am I right about that?

Phil: No.

Scott: Or no.

Barry: You're dead wrong.

Scott: I guess so, all you have to do is sweat blood onto your keyboard and the words will appear.

Barry: Now look, it's axiomatic that anything that really means something to you that really is an expression of your deepest soul is going to be the hardest thing to write because it puts you on the line in a way that other stuff doesn't and there's a peculiar kind of fear and pain associated with that, that is difficult but we want to say not impossible to overcome. A great tool for you to use, Scott, is the reversal of desire to write that book, to work on that book a little bit at least every single day.

Scott: Yeah, it's like rick climbing but you'll get there eventually and I will certainly try out the tool a little more often now. The one that I use the most often actually is, "The Grateful Flow" It's one that is very direct and it's very easy to see it work and feel it work and in a previous life, I did a lot of neuroscience research and it literally hard wired in to you that you cannot both be grateful and worried at the same time.

Barry: Yeah.

Phil: Yeah, as you have said.

Scott: And it's literally at the neurological level that you can't have both of those things happening at once because the two little centers that control each of those on an emotional level are connected and they're both trying to fend the other one off and only one of them can win at any time. That's my endorsement anyway but yes, I should try the, "The Reversal of Desire" more often and will certainly do at the next time I sit down to write.

Phil: Scott, do you have a picture of your Shadow?

Scott: Yes, I do.

Phil: The best way to get yourself to write a book that’s particularly important to you is to give the whole project over to the Shadow. That means three, four, five times a day, you tell the Shadow to do it the way he wants it. You’re here to serve him.

Barry: Yeah.

Phil: But if you find it interesting, in fact maybe you can do it and then in six months or a year we will have this discussion again.

Barry: Yeah, I was thinking about that. Just to pick up on what Phil said, it's really good to think of yourself as just an amanuensis. It's like, “I'm just the guy who's taking dictation from the Shadow. Whatever he wants me to write down, I'm going to write down. The farther from the subject I think it is probably the better, because it's just unlocking the secrets he wants to tell.  It's a very humble attitude to take.  It’s also an attitude that encourages flow – because you’re willing to put out whatever comes up.  Obviously it has to be related to what you want to say.  But if you put the Shadow in charge, it tends to take over and supply you with the most important ingredient that the ego can’t supply for itself:  inspiration.

Phil: Yeah.

Barry: The feeling of, “Yes, this is what I really wanted to write.”

Scott: Yeah, so the Shadow becomes your muse basically.

Phil: Yes.

Barry: Very well said.

Scott: We'll see if that helps.

Barry: We're going to hold you to it.

Scott: You said that right now you're working on book two of The Tools and that, that's going to focus some of the things related to Part X?

Phil: Yeah.

Scott: I wonder, have you ever read Steven Pressfield's, The War of Art?

Phil: Yeah, it's good.

Scott: It's very good, very useful. For the audience, highly recommend it. Really good book about overcoming this part of you, which he calls the Resistance that will critically take apart or interfere with whatever the work is that you're trying to do. So what else is next for you?

Phil: Well, we feel the Part X thing is very, very, very, very important. Our next task, I suspect in the next couple of years, you know, when the book drops and then we go around talking about it and also we enhance our social media presence. Our goal is to introduce this concept to the public. Now you might say "Well, I'm sorry but this has been introduced a hundred years ago." Which it has obviously. Most notably by Freud, but we feel, the way you introduce it is very important.

In other words Part-X is a way of introducing the basic inherent self-destructiveness in all of us. Our concept is simple, workable, and profound at all times. We also have some new ways in which Part X presents itself. Imagine you want to buy a big screen TV, the latest. You eagerly take it home but when you open the box, the screen is cracked. You bring it back and the guy says , "Oh of course, we'll give you another one." You take the next one home, open it up, the screen is cracked. You do it so many times you realize they’re all broken. That’s how you come into this world. The cracked screen is Part X. The “crack”, the evidence of Part X’s presence, becomes the stimulus to use the tools.

This is where the tools are crucial. They must be effective or X will take advantage of you. There’s no middle ground. Barry, which idea do you relate to the most?

Barry: It's probably the idea of intensity. But in order to explain it, let me back up to Phil’s analogy. What he said about the cracked screen is true but it doesn't completely capture the flavor of Part-X because it's a dynamic force – attacking you in your head and in your heart.

The question is, how seriously do you take that?  Is it just an intellectual idea?  Or do you actually feel it as a cunning and devious enemy trying to sabotage me every moment of every day?  If you take it seriously – like you would an enemy in your life attacking you – it’s going to trigger your instincts for self-preservation.  You’ll feel aggressive, resolved, determined to fight back for yourself.  That’s what we call “intensity” and it’s the precondition for fighting Part X.  What we’ve found is that if you fight back with intensity, you feel more alive, regardless of whether you win or lose any one battle.

In other words, you could lose five battles in row with Part-X, and you’ll still be ahead of the game because you fought back with intensity.  This is a complete re-visioning of what we think of as the life force. It's given to you, but it's something you can increase by fighting for it.

Phil: When you live without intensity you do things without really doing them. You try without really trying. I played basketball in school and there was always the issue of running back on defense once your team has lost the ball. From the stands it’s hard to tell who’s really playing hard and who’s faking it.

But if you’re playing with them it’s harder to be fooled with those who’re faking it. Even if it’s the end of the game and they can hardly breathe, those with true intensity will still run back on defense as hard as they possibly can. Most people live like the guys who don’t exert themselves when they run back on defense. These people walk through their lives. Then you have a select few who bring intensity to everything. Barry is a good example, he is obsessionally intense. This also inspires other people.

Strangely, I’ve never heard anyone in the field mention the need for intensity. Life coaching has filled that gap; it deals with certain areas which psychotherapy won’t touch.

Barry: This was a revelation to me when I was a young shrink coming out of school. I didn't know any of this information and I wouldn't have even used the word “intensity” in connection with psychotherapy.  But I knew that something was missing from the psychotherapy I’d been taught in school.  When I met Phil, what made him different from any shrink I’d ever met was that he had so much intensity.  Frankly, it intimidated me at first, but I was also drawn to it.  This was a guy who was so determined to help you with your problems he was willing to pretty much say or do anything to get you to change and that...

Scott: Can you give me an example of that? A specific example?

Barry: Yeah, I’ll never forget. I think it was the first seminar of his I ever attended.  He asked us to go around and identify the problem we wanted to work on. My problem, at that time was that I felt like a complete failure.  It was completely irrational – I had graduated with honors from Harvard College, graduated from one of the best law schools in the country, practiced law for three years, etc.  In no way could my life be called a failure but despite my accomplishments I saw myself and felt very much inside like a failure as a human being.  So I stood up and tried to describe these feelings of failure … and at the end I laughed sort of self-effacingly and said, "You know... I even felt like a failure describing my problem just now. Like I don’t think I described it very well." And Phil looked at me in a way that no one's ever looked at me before, with the utmost seriousness, and he said, "Don't ever do that again."

And I knew what exactly what he meant.  Putting myself down like that.  I said to myself, "You know what? That's right.  I'm not going to do that anymore." It wasn’t his words, it was the intensity with which he said it.  What he was really saying was “You’re in a war with Part X and at that moment –  you sided with the enemy against yourself.”  It was a very powerful experience for me.

Scott: Phil, maybe you could tell me a little bit about your favorite chapter in the new book.

Phil: In the new book?

Scott: Yeah.

Phil: I'm writing it now. My favorite chapter is “Goodness”.

Barry: Plato believed that there was this higher world. He speaks about it in philosophical terms but we're trying to demonstrate to readers that it’s an actual place you can get to by using the tools over and over again.  He said there were three essential attributes of this higher world: truth, beauty and goodness.

He meant those terms in a way that's kind of different from the way we use them now and we're going to take great pains in the book to explain the difference.  For example, we think of truth as an intellectually correct statement. But he thought of truth as a force, something that hits you and changes you as a human being.  Phil is writing the “goodness” section in that chapter.

Phil: Yeah, so the reason it's my favorite part it's not so much the goodness part, the good has to be opposed by the evil. And what makes a person good? You can’t delve into it without a thorough exploration into evil. There are a few obstacles along the way. The first problem in our society is because of the cynicism and the belief in logic and reason and the worship of science, etc.

The second issue is that people no longer believe in evil as a real entity. It has no palpable reality. Since psychoanalysis began in about 1900: it’s the first time humans tried to live without the sense that evil was real.

What happened? The most vicious carnage, war after war and it’s still going on. So they try to replace the idea of good with the –isms: socialism, communism, Nazism, etc. It didn’t work very well. The reason it didn’t work is that evil is real. What’s needed is a modern, individually usable way to deal with evil. There’s a lot to that, but…

Barry: Let me interrupt for a second, Phil because that's what Part X is. It's a fragment of evil that's built into every human being because it's trying to sabotage your potential. Go ahead, I just wanted to say that.

Phil: Yes, that's well stated. By the way, just so you understand the exposure to evil. No matter what your theory is about it remember that it won’t go away, nor can you kill it. It has its own agenda and it's very expansive and proactive.

It's not just sitting there, it's not just taking notes, it's not just giving you a speech, it's getting underneath the skin of human beings and perpetuating its agenda. Its agenda basically is to prohibit the human race from reaching its potential and more or less, do anything it can to accomplish that. Most great literature circulates around this issue of good and evil.

Very few people would go to the movie where the bad guys win, put it that way. But here's the thing, the historical definition of good is the absence of all evil. So to be good, you have to expunge anything that's evil in you and then you become pure and good. That’s impossible. Every single human being walking on the earth has some degree of evil inside them.

I knew a lot of guys in my generation that went to 'Nam. They said that it was impossible before combat to predict who would do what. The guy who could do 400 push-ups would be pissing down his leg hiding behind a tree. What’s inside a human being is a mystery and we don't like to particularly face it. The idea we could just get rid of the evil inside us is reassuring but it’s false.

If you can’t get rid of evil, how do you become good? And the answer is, you have to deal with evil and transmute it. That means facing the evil in yourself and being honest about it. Not only do you have to do it, you have to do it again and again and again.

At that point the function of evil changes. Instead of being a pure obstacle, Evil  becomes a stimulus for your growth.

Scott: That's great. Okay, so that sounds like a really exciting book to read. When should we expect to get our hands on it?

Barry: Around the beginning of 2017 it'll be out.

Scott: Thank you guys for coming by today.

Phil: Thanks for having us.

Barry: Thanks so much.

Scott: And I look forward to talking to you again in six or 12 months and hearing some more.

Barry: That would be great.

Scott: Now where can we find out more about you on the internet?

Barry: Go to We're also on twitter and Facebook but the website has other podcasts and interviews you might be interested in.  And if you sign up for our emails, you’ll get all kinds of information.  Phil and I have so much information there's no way we're ever going to be able to disseminate it in our lifetimes. So if you sign up for the emails you're going to get all kinds of information that's just not available anywhere else.

Scott: Well fantastic, thank you for coming by again and have a wonderful day.

Barry: Thanks, you too, Scott.

Phil: Scott?

Scott: Yes?

Phil: When we meet again in six or 9 months?

Scott: Yup.

Phil: Show up with the finish manuscripts.

Scott: I will.

Phil: Okay, good luck.

Scott: Thank you, bye. Take care.

Barry: Bye.

Scott: Thanks again for listening to The Start-up Geometry Podcast. Again, you can download all of our episodes through iTunes. There you can also subscribe, rate and review them. For more information or to see our show notes, please stop by or Thanks again for listening.

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