When you sit in the chair across from therapist Lori Gottlieb, you are the most fascinating person she has ever met.
The honor and respect with which Gottlieb approaches each of her clients is something our hurting world desperately needs more of. Her recent discussion with Jay Shetty was centered around how emotional health and wellbeing play a vital part in the overall well being of a person.
The therapist shared profound insight into the value of talking to someone and learning to take ownership of one’s own story. Her insight and words of wisdom are crucial for living well, especially in these trying times.
When The Big Screen Doesn’t Cut It
How does a woman with a budding career in television end up in the therapist’s chair? The one thing television and therapy have in common is the power of a story. Story is what brought her to work on the set of fan-favorite shows like ER and Friends.
Despite the allure of fiction, however, she couldn’t shake the pull of reality. The urgency of real-life struggles led her to medical school and on to a graduate degree in clinical psychology. A brief stint in journalism, again drawn by the power of a story, rounds out her skills.
“I feel like I went from telling people’s stories to helping people change their stories in the therapy room,” Gottlieb told Jay Shetty. “My writing background is so useful because I'm almost like an editor in the therapy room. People come in with these faulty narratives, and I help them to rewrite them.”
In Gottlieb’s new book, Maybe You Should Talk To Someone, she builds credibility by sharing her own stories within its pages. As she shares her experience with the transformational power of therapy, Gottlieb powerfully tears down many walls and misconceptions about therapy and emotions in general.
“I think that the reason people are responding to it and seeing themselves in these stories, is because we're all so real in the book,” she said to Jay Shetty.
One of the reasons she was able to be so open and honest was that she didn’t think the book would amount to much. Had she known millions would read it, she believes she might not have put so much of herself out there.
“I let it rip,” she admitted to Jay Shetty. “I mean, I do not come off well. I'm just very, ‘Here's what happened’ and I just let it go. So I'm really glad that I didn't clean myself up because I think that if I had, people wouldn't have read it.”
Jay Shetty marveled at her ability to admit she doesn’t have it all together, something he assumed would be difficult for an expert therapist.
“The reason I did it is because I really felt like if my patients were going to be so vulnerable, I felt it would be disingenuous to be the expert up on high when I was going through something in my own life,” she explained to Jay Shetty. “We all struggle. I say at the very beginning of the book that my greatest credential is that I'm a card-carrying member of the human race.”
Gottlieb’s goal was to show that deep down, we’re all more the same than different.
Maybe You SHOULD Talk To Someone
What is it about Gottlieb’s openness and expertise that is causing droves of people to flip through the pages of her work? In some sense, it is the ticket to freedom they find penned within. More than anything, she wanted to give people the freedom to be honest about their struggles and emotions. She also wanted to give them permission and empowerment to rewrite their stories.
Gottlieb believes the stigma surrounding therapy and authenticity in our culture today makes it easy to create assumptions about what it means to show vulnerability and emotion. Navigating the waters of honesty and empathy can be a tricky journey, especially considering we live in a society that thrives off social media, filters, and the appearance that we have it all together.
In the midst of that, Gottlieb’s work paves a different way forward. Pushing past the filters, she encourages readers and those who visit her practice to be honest about where they are in life.
“‘Maybe you should talk to someone’ doesn't mean we should all go to therapy, necessarily,” she said to Jay Shetty. “It means we all need to talk more to each other.”
Tackling the art of talking seems easy enough. Gottlieb and Jay Shetty agree that most of us have no problem coming up with something to say, but are we really listening?
“In fact, a lot of the time, we're kind of using our friendships to download our problems,” Gottlieb said to Jay Shetty, “but we're not actually listening.” Gottlieb said her job is not to narrate or tell the stories of others but to empower them to unpack and craft their own story.
“We're helping them hear themselves more clearly,” she told Jay Shetty. “If we talk for them or if we talk over them, they can't hear themselves because we're talking over their internal voice. Simply listening to them allows them to hear themselves.”
First, she said, they have to drop the act. For her, truth is more fascinating than a fabricated existence.
Authenticity and Truth
“So often people come in and they have a mask on,” Gottlieb explained to Jay Shetty. “They want to entertain me. They want to be liked by me. They're afraid that they're boring. And I always say that if you show me the truth of who you are, I will be fascinated by you no matter what that truth is. But if you're like, look over here, look over here as a distraction, I'm going to be so bored.”
Gottlieb believes lack of authenticity has paralyzed us as a society. While we’re so busy hiding behind filters and manicuring our lives for Instagram, we seem to have missed the beauty and transforming power of authenticity. She also believes true community and vulnerable dialogue is vital for emotional health and wellbeing, and it only comes about through authentic connection.
“We have to connect,” she insisted to Jay Shetty. “We have to belong. You can't be alone or you will get eaten by, you know, whatever, wherever you are. So you have to have the tribe around you. The problem is that it's not an authentic way of having the tribe around you when you're pretending to be something you're not.”
Gottlieb urges people to take a hard look at their relationships and pour into the ones that bring authentic growth and honesty. Relationships built on honesty and authenticity are life-changing.
Wiping Away the Dust
While Gottlieb will never negate the power of connection that comes through normal conversation, the client who sits in her chair is challenged to take it further.
“They think the content is the story, but what I'm listening for is sort of the music under the lyric,” she told Jay Shetty, “The music is what the underlying struggle or pattern is that is getting you into the situation you’re in. Once you can see that, it can translate into everything that happens in daily life.”
Jay Shetty likened it to cleaning off a dusty mirror.
“We need to unknow and unlearn,” he said. “All you see is dust, and that's kind of like our experience of who we are. When you start wiping away the dust, it can actually be a painful process in the beginning. The dust comes in your face, and you cough a little bit. It gets in your eyes. But then slowly, you can see yourself.”
Gottlieb agreed. Clearing away the layers of dust we’ve accumulated is like doing the deep work of therapy. She warns that it takes work that can sometimes be challenging, but the end result is worth it.
“Part of getting to know yourself is getting to unknow yourself,” affirmed Gottlieb to Jay Shetty. “It's to let go of those limiting stories that you've been telling yourself over and over so that you can live your life and not that faulty narrative that you've been telling yourself about your life. It opens you up to so many more possibilities.”
The process is easier said than done. Gottlieb states we often use stories to make sense of our lives. The problem is, we’re unreliable narrators who only see a narrow, limiting part of the story
Therapy helps people push past the limits and offers new perspectives that help craft how the story should be told. This brings enlightenment to the actual narrative. People are then able to release the story they came in with to embrace a better, more authentic one.
“I have to recognize that my biggest job is helping them sort through and rewrite their story, not change it,” she told Jay Shetty.
Be Kind, Always
The biggest thing Gottlieb wants people to walk away with is a greater sense of their self-worth and purpose. She also emphasizes the need to be kind. In a world where everything is manicured, men shouldn’t show emotion, feelings are minimized, and social media is a constant, the pressure to perform can be great. She says that people are so hard on themselves as they strive to meet the status quo or make themselves better.
Her best advice? Take a deep breath and a step back.
“Self-flagellation never enhances our growth,” she said to Jay Shetty. “People think, “I'm going to be tough on myself and I'm gonna hold myself accountable, and then I'm going to grow and change.’ Self-compassion is how you grow and change.”
Gottlieb penned her own experience with this transformation in her book, and she invites others to join the journey.
More from Jay Shetty and Lori Gottlieb
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “How To Deal With Difficult Emotions During Tough Times To Support Your Family & Friends Effectively” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.