Life: Turds and All

Sometimes the most elegant ideas are the simplest.

My favorite bit of psychiatry that I have read in recent years if from Barry Michels a psychiatrist and Phil Stuz, a psychotherapist, who were the focus of a great piece in the New Yorker and have recently written a book called The Tools.

When I first read the piece with them in the New Yorker, they discussed their process in working with some of Hollywoods writers, directors and actors and how they got them to push themselves to overcome whatever was holding them back in their personal lives and their careers.

While they certainly found their market, working with some of the most neurotic and creative in California, their tools are actually quite wonderful and their simplistic way of looking at life and it’s curveballs is comforting.

My favorite is the diagram above.

This is the most perfect explanation of life I have seen, although people know I am partial to a stick figure.

I will let Barry explain this diagram to you in his own words.

The Realm of Illusion is depicted above the line. The stick figure is you on a quest for the perfect life (symbolized by the square with the dotted line). This realm is just an image. It has no more depth or movement than a still photograph.

Real life is below the line. Each circle represents an event (one project, one confrontation, even one day). The black dots inside each circle are turds. That means that no event is perfect; pain, uncertainty, loss are always with us. But, whether vou consider an event a success or a failure, life will keep moving and produce another event. lt’s this constant movement that gives life its creative power.

Look at the picture every morning. lt reminds you that the Realm of doesn’t exist. No one’s life is without turds, no matter how successful people appear to be. Practice projecting yourself into the illusion at the top and then forcing yourself downward into the flawed (but alive) reality at the bottom. You’ll develop the following strengths:

1) You’ll become more accepting of yourself and stop judging yourself against an impossible standard.

2) You’ll deal with difficulties calmly and rationally as a natural part of life.

3 You’ll begin to feel a sacred kind of wisdom in events even the bad ones. This builds faith.

The Tools is available on iTunes.

The article on them in the New Yorker is here.

Their therapy drawings are here.

Have a sane Tuesday.

 

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