Lots of interesting connections and disconnections to be found in the New Yorker profile of Barry Michels, therapist to the stars. Michels is an interesting conglomeration of Jungian psychoanalyst, self-help guru, and Alcoholic Anonymous-style breakdown-inducing tough love. You have to slog through a fair amount of nonsense, but the stuff about judgment as it relates to creativity is particularly relevant, not to mention Michels’ insights at the end about death and rebirth. One can’t help but wonder how much Michels picked up from close family friend Rod Serling?! ht RJH:

One recent afternoon, Michels put on his glasses, pulled out a file, and began to leaf through a pile of yellow legal-pad pages. It was a difficult case—a writer who had been blocked for two years. He was a type Michels sees frequently: someone vacillating between thinking he is God’s gift to mankind and thinking he is garbage. “Mmm, now this is interesting,” he said, looking at his notes. “That voice, the voice that says ‘I’m [crummy]’ or ‘I’m above this,’ is going to increase in volume the closer you get to actually doing the deed. You have to anticipate it, label it, and reject it every time it comes up.”

The voice belongs to what Stutz refers to as Part X, a 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. Michels explains it by invoking the behavior of a two-year-old. “It’s the part that’s pounding on the table because nothing’s good enough,” he says. “They’re saying no to everything, even the color of the sippy cup—unacceptable. Most of us grow beyond the expectation that life will meet our needs in every instance. Some don’t. That’s the head of the studio, the head of the agency, or whatever, pounding his fist on a table and saying, ‘God damn it, somebody is going to pay for it!’ It’s the part of the ego that is so egotistical it believes it’s God, king of the universe. At every moment, the universe is telling him, ‘Sorry, bub, you’re not God,’ and he’s screaming, ‘No, you’re wrong and I’m going to prove it to you!’ ”


After a while, [the screenwriter] added, “I have such a knee-jerk reaction against authority.” He explained, “The selling of a script and the expectation that comes with it is a manifestation of authority. They’ve given me money, I have to satisfy what they think.”

“Here’s the secret,” Michels said. “You’ll stop rebelling against authority when a part of you—spiritually, we call it your higher self, but I don’t care what you call it—has so much faith in the breakdown-leading-to-breakthrough process (and it’s been through that process so many times) that it doesn’t really care that much about the external authority. In a sense, it has substituted the authority of process for the external authority.”

Michels tried his theory again. “There’s this cycle of death and rebirth even in the space of a single lifetime, and, if you can endorse the death, say, ‘Bring it on, I have to break down before I break through, I have to die before I’m reborn,’ then the process in a weird way actually gets simpler, because you’re not fighting.”

For some great Karl Jung quotes, check out this post from ages ago.