Book of the Month: The Tools


In the spirit of self-improvement with the New Year, I chose a self-help book, The Tools: Transform Your Problems into Courage, Confidence, and Creativity as the first book on my book of the month reading list for 2017. I am not generally a self-help book enthusiast, but after I read an article by one of the authors, I was intrigued enough with the concepts developed in this book to give it a shot. I was not necessarily looking to make any huge changes in my life, but I think everyone always has room for improvement, so why not. The book is authored by two psychotherapists with impressive credentials and patient testimonials. The "Tools" were initially developed by the Phil Stutz to help his patients cope with some common situations holding them back in life. I will make the disclaimer before continuing my review that I do not believe these "Tools" will work for everyone. In my personal opinion these Tools will not work for the following persons, and then I will explain why: 1) atheists 2) those without personal insight 3) those with undiagnosed, under-treated, or untreated mental illness 4) general close-mindedness. First, the techniques behind the tools rely on the belief in " higher forces" albeit not necessarily religious, but still requires the person using the tools to have the ability to believe in something greater than themselves. For this reason, I don't think a true atheist can benefit from these techniques. 2) The authors present many different patient cases who have used the tools and had major life changes. The common theme with each of these patients was they recognized a behavior or thought process they wished to change and were already seeking help through psychotherapy for change. I don't think if a person is able to look at themselves and identify the need for improvement or change, the Tools or any other intervention for that matter will truly help. 3) I believe many of the problems addressed with these Tools could be symptoms of undiagnosed or untreated mental illness, such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, ADHD, etc. True mental illness should be addressed with a multi-disciplinary approach, including a medical practitioner or psychiatrist in addition to psychotherapy and other approaches. 4) These techniques outlined in the book are simple, but can seem cheesy. The tools will not work for someone who cannot be open-minded about trying this approach to self-change.

In a nutshell the authors, Barry Michaels and Phil Stutz outline five "Tools" which are essentially visual imagery exercises that are to be performed when triggered by a "cue" which is usually some form of negative thoughts. Barry Michaels becomes intrigued with Stutz's methods after he experiences some limitations to psychotherapy with his patients. Michaels found that although psychotherapy was helpful to patients in identifying root causes of behaviors and thoughts, it often was limited in the ability to stop irrational and negative behavior and thoughts in real time. The authors present a variety of patient cases who have used and benefits from these exercises as well as their own personal journey with these "Tools".

What I liked about their developed techniques are they are easy and quick to use. I do agree with Michaels that identifying the root cause of our problems is not enough, but that other interventions, such as these can be the catalyst for behavioral and thought modification. The belief in  "higher powers" may not be everyone's cup of tea, but has been proven effective in other self-change programs such as AA. The belief in a "higher power" does not necessarily require a religious affiliation, but simply a spiritual belief, which I believe can be beneficial for many people without a concrete religious orientation.

I myself have used these techniques as directed, and believe they can be effective. However, like anything it requires consistency, commitment and a readiness for change.

Women's March 2017

As the name of my blog suggests "left coast" I lean politically to the left, and I do not make this any secret. I was completely disheartened not only by the results of the election and the racist and sexist rhetoric spewed by Donald Trump, but more by Trump's  supporters willingness to overlook and excuse these damaging comments again and again. Today my family and I took to join the Women's March in Downtown L.A. with almost 500,000 other concerned citizens, which was truly an uplifting experience. Initially it was my husband's idea to go to the march, and I am so glad we followed through and got up at 6:00 am on a Saturday to participate in the march. It was truly inspiring to see so many men, women, children of all ages and races making their voices heard and to raise up from much of the doom and gloom rhetoric in the news etc. The election has brought uncertainty and fear into the hearts of many Americans, including myself, but events such as this reminds me that the majority of Americans around the country want to continue the fight for equality not only women, but for all. I was extremely pleased to see so many men marching with signs and shirts supporting equality for women.

I am so proud my whole family, and unborn daughter could participate in the march. It's important to me that our children see and participate in activism. The first train we tried to catch at 7:00 am was completely filled and so we had to drive to catch another train on a different line, which ended up filling to capacity with protesters. 

Our son loved the train ride to downtown. I spoke to a woman who had on one of the over 1.7 million knitted pink hats, who said "In my seventies I never thought I would be protesting the same thing as in my twenties."

Overall it was a beautiful hopeful day, although completely exhausting at 8 months pregnant!

2017 Book of the Month List and a Giveaway

As the New Year approaches I have resolved to review a book a month. I've compiled as list of a mix of 12 nonfiction and fiction I would like to finish and review this year. I hope you readers will read a few and share your thoughts with me as an informal book club. As a thank you to my readers and kick off to the New Year, I also am promoting an Amazon giveaway for one book on the list, How to Party with an Infant. To enter follow the link and then also follow me on Twitter @KitEliseNP. Happy reading in 2017!