Come for the personal information.

Take the therapy insights with a grain of salt.

I can’t really tell you whether you’ll be intrigued or bored by “Stutz” because it’s very hard for me to watch TV alone these days. Unless Felice is glued to the screen too, I keep checking how many minutes are left, wondering if I could make better use of my time. It’s not that I need to check my e-mail or social media feeds, it’s just that when I watch TV alone I start to squirm, I find it hard to sit still, it takes all my power not to shut off the presentation. Now there are exceptions, but they are rare. These are riveting streaming programs, but if they’re that riveting Felice wants to watch them too. However, she does have a limit when it comes to violence, so I’m on my own when it comes to those shows. I did watch all three seasons of “Suburra,” but I have not been able to bring myself to watch the original movie upon which the series is based. And the reason I watched “Suburra” was because “Gomorrah” was temporarily unavailable. Yes, the Italian Mafia series that had real life consequences was owned by the Weinstein Company, but when that imploded it took a long time for the series to reappear, on HBO, and people rave about it, and I want to see it, but it’s just too violent for Felice. I did watch one episode, but I haven’t gone beyond that. And I was doing a podcast with W. David Marx, all about his book on status, and he started talking about this experience, how others had it too, how they couldn’t finish movies, and then I did not feel so alone. And one thing is for sure, we want to feel connected in today’s world, and I’m not talking the internet pipes, I’m talking the people who use those pipes.  Bottom line… I started “Stutz” a few times and ultimately finished it last night, but I won’t say it was easy. How much of that is me as opposed to the film? A lot.


The subject interested me. What we’ve got here is Jonah Hill making a film about his therapist. Hill wants the public at large to be exposed to Phil Stutz’s tools.

Therapy, there are no shortcuts. I wish there were. But you’ve got to put in the time to get results. I tried the other way, it does not work. Cognitive behavioral therapy will get you over the hump, it will allow you to cope, but it does not address the underlying issues. However, behavioral therapy is the only thing that works for OCD, you can do conventional talk therapy ’till the end of your life, it will have no impact, if you’ve got OCD, seek out a behavioral therapist who specializes in treating this condition.

And in truth, I was anxious about watching “Stutz,” because I went through a really bad thing in the nineties. And having read no self-help books previously, I started to devour them. It didn’t help much. And ultimately I was told by a shrink to put my faith in a single psychiatrist and to stop reading, paying attention to self-help and other therapies.

That’s mainly why I was trepidatious about watching “Stutz.” You see I’m easily influenced. There are those who are confident, who can brush off insight and criticism. I am the opposite. I always see my own flaws and am open to ways to fix them. However, forgetting the charlatans, self-help books are not individualized, what works for others may not work for you, probably won’t. So you need one on one live therapy and I must tell you, you get what you pay for. And it’s expensive.

Anyway, Jonah Hill was depressed…

This is what makes “Stutz” interesting. Jonah had all this success, but he was still depressed, he couldn’t figure out why. No therapist could help him break out of this depressive cycle until he met Phil Stutz.

Now whatever works, I endorse. As long as it’s not looney-tunes, as long as the therapist does not become a guru who changes your basic behavior.

And what helped Jonah was…

Stutz says he wants to give everybody hope at their first session. So he talks about life force. Do you know your purpose in life? Or maybe you did and now you don’t. And you’re ready to work 24/7, but you’re wary of spinning your wheels, and you’re depressed. Stutz has a pyramid to address this, which he reveals immediately, both in treatment and the movie. First, at the bottom, you must exercise. This is absolutely true, it completely changes your mood. It may take a ton of effort to get off the couch, but you need to. It’s hard to explain, but when you’re done, you’ll be high, feel better for hours, if not more. The second level is all about interacting with people. This is the problem with depressed individuals, they get too isolated, they give up hope. Stutz says to make the effort, not to wait for others to do it, make plans, talk to people…you get a high just from doing this, but also you feel part of humanity, part of the fabric of life. And the third part of the pyramid, the top, has to do with your body and what you eat and… I delineate the three levels of life force treatment because I believe in each and every one. Most definitely the first and second levels, exercise and interaction. If you’re depressed right now and are not in therapy, watch “Stutz” and follow his prescription, it will help.

As for the rest of what “Stutz” has to say…

I won’t say it’s wrong, but it supersedes the underlying issues. Maybe if you’re in therapy with Phil, you get more. But if you’re sitting at home and you just follow his prescriptions… Don’t. I won’t disagree with any of them specifically, I’ll just say the film almost gives a template, which you can follow…off the edge of the earth. All the tools must be employed in the context of your individual life. And…

I don’t believe in therapeutic prescriptions. So what do I mean by that. I mean I don’t believe in therapists telling you what to do. And Jonah addresses this, but… Let me just say I’ve had huge life consequences as a result of listening to what therapists told me to do. Whereas the therapist I’ve been seeing for a long time now will never tell me what to do, unless my life is in danger. I used to call shrinks in crisis, I never call my shrink today, because all he’ll say is…”Sounds like we have a lot to talk about in our next session, see you Tuesday.” And I always cope, but even better, and most importantly, all my decisions are my own. So I can look back at my life and I can never say this shrink told me to do this or that, because he never ever does. And isn’t that the point of therapy, to be able to stand on your own two feet, independently? Not that I believe therapy is a crutch, I believe everybody can benefit. But most people feel going is an expression of being less than, that you should buck up and handle your own problems. Or that your friends can guide you (don’t ever listen to your friends if you’re in a really bad spot). Going to therapy does not mean you’re weak, but that you’re strong! You will learn about yourself and how the world works. And you’ll be able to see your place in the landscape and ultimately behave in a manner that benefits you.

So back to Jonah. It’s a great example of how success does not make you happy. It’s striking. You think if you reach the goal you’ll be happy, but oftentimes this is not the case. Jonah cannot get over the stigma of growing up fat. He’s thin in this movie, but he still sees himself as fat, to this day it’s a burden, a chip on his shoulder. And he’s a public figure and people won’t stop commenting on his appearance, and even when they say he’s thin it doesn’t assuage his anxiety, because the raw subject of his physicality is an ever-present negative element in his consciousness.

But the high point of the movie is when Jonah’s mother comes to therapy. First and foremost, she looks put-together and young, not like the parents of my generation, even though she’s my contemporary. And she’s far from clueless. She’s got self-knowledge and she’s honest and you’ll enjoy what transpires.

But even more you’ll be fascinated by Phil Stutz himself.

Very early in the movie it is revealed he has Parkinson’s.

Okay, but deep in the film they get into it, when Jonah starts asking Phil about his own relationships.

Wow. Turns out Phil’s three year old brother died when he was still in single digits and it affected the family dynamic permanently, and all the hopes and dreams were put on Phil’s shoulders. He was told he needed to be a doctor, that that was the only worthwhile profession. This is Jewish life 101, even though he says his parents were atheists.

But Phil got Parkinson’s at a young age. And he’s never been married and he lives alone.

So what you’ve got here is a therapist who needs a shrink. And they address this, how the shrinks themselves can be just as screwed up as the patients. And contrary to common belief, therapy is not just someone listening to your story and giving advice, there are a set of tools and…yes, many shrinks are screwed up and go to therapy, but see that as a badge of honor, they’re trying to go deeper.

So how does having Parkinson’s at a young age affect your life?

Well, Phil never had children, could he have lifted them, been fully participatory?

As far as being in love… Phil says it happened once. Then he reveals that he’s in a forty year long on and off relationship! And ultimately…

Well, I’ll let you watch the movie.

But this is what makes the movie so intriguing, finding out who Phil Stutz really is.

Also, Phil goes on that he wants to get all his concepts, all his tools, down before he dies. But he also acknowledges that his tools don’t have much traction in the therapeutic community. So what do we have here? The lone pioneer trying to make his life have meaning, to be able to see it as worthwhile, because work is almost the only thing he has?

Wow… Who we are, where we are in the world, legacy…it starts to hit you when you get older. And in truth, if you have children you can see them as your legacy, irrelevant of what you’ve accomplished. But if you’ve put all your effort into work…

Jonah comes off really well. Honest. Not trading on his celebrity, but acknowledging it.

Phil? The more you watch the more you feel sorry for him, wondering if he can ever get out of his own way, how much he’s sacrificed.

The movie is very professionally done. The production values are top-notch. And one can thank Netflix for making it available. A film like “Stutz” would do very little box office, may not have even played on one of the pay channels of yore. And most people are not going to want to watch “Stutz,” but those who do can’t really get this stuff elsewhere. Also, being prominently featured on Netflix’s site, and being continuously available, there can be discussion about the film, virality.

Of course movies, just like albums, even by the biggest artists, can disappear in a day, never to be resuscitated. But “Stutz” has already had an impact on the culture. This is not some superhero flick, you’re never going to forget seeing the film, because it’s visceral, it’s real life.

So should you watch “Stutz”?

Ironically, the people who need to watch it most won’t. Because if you’ve never been to therapy, if you think you’re too healthy for therapy, if you think everything’s copacetic and you’ve got no problems…”Stutz” will open your eyes.

As for those who have gone to a therapist… You’ll definitely be interested, will you be riveted? It’s not that “Stutz” is soft and can be ignored, but does it draw you in enough that you don’t want to shut it off and do something else in this attention-based economy with endless options?

I don’t know. But there’s noise around “Stutz,” and last night I decided to finish it. And this is what I thought.

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