Boston-based guest blogger, Kim Shippey, devours books from many fields in his regular job as a staff editor for the Christian Science Sentinel.
I have recently read a book by two psychotherapists with a combined 60 years of counseling experience, Phil Stutz and Barry Michaels. It’s titled The Tools (Spiegel & Grau, New York, 2012), and their purpose, as the subtitle explains, is to transform the everyday problems everyone faces into “courage, confidence, and creativity.”
Stutz and Michaels identify several fundamental issues that “keep people from living the life they want to live.” They provide readers with the main “tools” their professional lives have shown to be highly effective in achieving such goals, and explain how their tools connect us to a “higher force.”
The authors illustrate their findings with dozens of case histories, including several drawn from their own experience. These personal stories, understandably, are especially convincing and gripping.
However, some readers might be disappointed that Stutz and Michaels don’t explore more fully the “higher force” they embrace. There’s no more than a brief mention of traditional religious beliefs which, for many of us, are much more than a “higher” force. They are fundamental to our mental and physical health.
Stutz and Michaels recommend that we
- get out of our “comfort zone” and act on something we’ve been avoiding because it’s painful for us
- use “active love” to get out of the maze in which we’ve been trapped by feelings of anger toward another person, especially those who appear to have been unjust toward us and should be confronted
- overcome an irrational sense of insecurity so that we can “be ourselves,” and face others with inner authority regardless of what they seem to think of us
- at all times, clearly identify things in our lives we’re grateful for, resist negative thinking, and let in the “power of infinite giving.”
For readers coping with problems ranging from addictions of various kinds, to unpleasant childhood memories, to prolonged illness, to loss of self-confidence, I think the encouragement of these therapists will have a transforming, even healing effect. As the book says, apply these tools, and obstacles will become opportunities. Readers will find fresh courage, embrace new disciplines, develop unanticipated self-expression, and deepen their creativity.
Yet, as I see it, the tools described are essentially pointing to the spiritual tools essential to our everyday lives. I’ve found guiding principles in two books: Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (Mary Baker Eddy) and the Bible, which Eddy described as her only authority: “I have had no other guide in ‘the straight and narrow way’ of Truth” (p. 126).
Daily prayer based on a study of these two books has led me (and my family) to overcome several of the challenges listed by Stutz and Michaels, and has undergirded decades of healthy living and joy-filled days.
These “tools” have been much more than emotional game-changers for me.
They have confirmed the enrichment that comes through unplanned and even undreamed of spiritual adventures.
They have explained that God is the source of “active love.” We don’t have to generate it; just be a conduit for its steady flow into our lives.
And they have clarified the “power of infinite giving” in passages like this: “Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more. Gratitude is much more than a verbal expression of thanks. Action expresses more gratitude than speech” (Science and Health, p. 3).
But whatever the source of your inspiration in achieving healthy minds and bodies, and spiritual growth, I suggest that all these tools are worth exploring with an open mind and a receptive heart.