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Tales From the Hollywood Power-Therapist Couch

Good morning! Happy Monday! Wonderful mood over here, and it could be yours too! Just go read The New Yorker profile of the Hollywood power therapist Barry Michels and his mentor, the psychiatrist Phil Stutz. They're a pair of highly successful, "maverick" Jungians with an A-list clientele, dirty mouths, and a very unique practice. These men help writers, actors, producers, and agents pull themselves together by deploying mantras like "THE HIERARCHY WILL NEVER BE CLEAR" (nope, they are not Scientologists), retrofitted Jungian theories, common sense ("Sometimes, with agents, Michels starts by prohibiting them from bringing their BlackBerrys into their children’s rooms when they are putting them to bed"), and some real insight into the simultaneous insecurity and megalomania of Hollywood's citizenry. Let's take a closer look at their work!

Here are just a few of the anecdotes contained within this piece. Adam McKay (Step Brothers, The Other Guys) went to see Michels because he hated red carpets and talk shows so much he would start to visibly shake when he had to appear on them. "Michels gave [McKay] an index card bearing the mantra 'YOU ARE MARKED TO BATTLE THE FORCES OF JUDGMENT' and one with a drawing of a stick figure radiating arrows to symbolize the internal seat of authority, which McKay keeps in the visor of his car. Michels taught him a tool called Cosmic Rage, which entailed his shouting 'Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!' in his head to a roomful of faceless critics." This worked.

Michels and Stutz, who have many Academy Award winning patients, have developed an entire coping strategy for awards season. One is called the "Stutz 96-Hour Academy Awards Principle, which postulates that by Day Four life sucks again and no one knows who you are, so you might as well get over it now. His credo for writers is 'KEEP WRITING SHIT, STUPID.'" Alternately, "Patients are told to visualize things going horribly wrong, a strategy of 'pre-disappointment.' The tool for this, which Michels and Stutz teach to those who are hoping to win an award or who are about to submit a script for approval, involves imagining yourself falling backward into the sun, saying 'I am willing to lose everything' as you are consumed in a giant fireball, after which, transformed into a sunbeam, you profess, 'I am infinite.'”

Michels also works with patients on their "Part X," which is the "deeply primitive dimension of the personality he identified after he began to work with show-business patients; its characteristics are petulance, rage, arrogance, hypersensitivity, a sense of victimization, and, above all, a resistance to process." So, in other words, think Entourage's Ari — or, if you'd rather, think Sharon Stone! According to Michel's client Bret Easton Ellis, when Michels came up at a dinner party he was at with Sharon Stone, she exclaimed "Barry and Phil and all that Shadow shit, all that Part X shit. I love my Part X, I’m not letting go of my Part X. Fuck Barry!"

There is so much other great stuff in here — truly! — but we'll end with a blind item. What Academy Award winning screenwriter, and Michels's client, is being discussed here?


The writer was in despair. For a year and a half, he had been trying to write a script that he owed to a studio, and had been unable to produce anything... Michels also told the writer to get an egg timer. Following Michels’s instructions, every day he set it for one minute, knelt in front of his computer in a posture of prayer, and begged the universe to help him write the worst sentence ever written. When the timer dinged, he would start typing... A few weeks later, the writer was startled from his sleep by a voice: it sounded like a woman talking at a dinner party. He went to his computer, which was on a folding table in a corner of the room, and began to write a scene. Six weeks later, he had a hundred-and-sixty-five-page script. Six months after that, the script was shot, and when the movie came out the writer won an Academy Award.

Guesses welcome in the comments!

Hollywood Shadows [NYer]

Photo: Sharon Stone: Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images