Lori Gottlieb, Joel Stein: “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” | Talks at Google

excited to be here with Lori, who I’ve known
for, like, 20 years, 20 or so. LORI GOTTLIEB: Long time. JOEL STEIN: But every time
I read something of hers or see someone interview her, I
am more confused and impressed by you. Because there’s some
other entire career you’ve had that I
didn’t know about, like going to medical school or
being in television production, or now you’re a therapist,
and you’re also– I know you mostly as a
journalist and a writer. So I’ve only done
one thing, which makes me feel very insecure
when I talk to you. So let’s do some therapy for me. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] LORI GOTTLIEB: You
know, I thought we were going to do
group therapy, actually. You guys didn’t know
what you were signing up for when you got here. JOEL STEIN: I think that’s
what they’re hoping for. To be honest, they
look a little tense. [LORI LAUGHS] This is the first
time they’ve looked up from a screen in
many, many years. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] Congratulations on the book. LORI GOTTLIEB: Thank you. JOEL STEIN: It’s been
on “The New York Times” Best Seller list for six,
eight, how many weeks? LORI GOTTLIEB: Eight. JOEL STEIN: Eight weeks. You and Michelle
Obama are the only– that’s amazing. Congratulations. LORI GOTTLIEB: Thank you. JOEL STEIN: Yeah. And the book, which I’m
sure you’re about to read, is amazing, the concept
being, if you don’t know, you talk about both
being a therapist and then going to therapy. LORI GOTTLIEB: Right. So in the book, I follow the
stories of four very different patients. And then there’s
a fifth patient, and that fifth
patient is me as I go through my own therapy during
an upheaval in my own life while I’m helping other people
with their own struggles. JOEL STEIN: And one of the
interesting things to me– many interesting things–
about being human is that you kind of
know what you’re not supposed to do as a
patient, ’cause you’ve seen people front in different ways. You’ve seen all the
mistakes that people make. And then you go and make
those mistakes yourself when you see a therapist. LORI GOTTLIEB: Yeah, yeah. So I think it’s interesting. When you’re training,
you go to therapy as part of your
hours for licensure. But it’s very different. You still feel like
a patient then. You’re just an intern. You don’t really know anything. And then once you’ve been
practicing for a while and you go back, it’s a
very different experience. It’s very hard to take
off your therapist hat and just be a
person in the room. So I do with my therapist
all the things that I end up seeing my patients do with me. I want him to like me. When I leave and there’s another
patient in the waiting room, she looks so nice
and put together. And I wonder, does
he dread my sessions and look forward to hers? One night– since we’re at
Google, I should mention this– I Google him. I should mention that the
reason I got into therapy– I landed in therapy– at
that moment in my life was I was planning to
marry my boyfriend, and we were planning
this life together. And he tells me
that he’s decided that he can’t live with a kid
under his roof for the next 10 years. JOEL STEIN: And Lori has, yeah– LORI GOTTLIEB: That kid
was my eight-year-old. And my eight-year-old had
not been hiding in a closet the whole time we were dating. So this came as quite
a surprise to me. And my version of the story
when I go to therapy– and I really want to emphasize
my version of the story, because we’ll talk a little bit
about what people bring to you and how there are lots
of other perspectives that they might not
be sharing with you in those initial sessions– is that he’s a sociopath,
because who would do that? And my therapist doesn’t
agree with that assessment. So one night, when I’m
obsessing over the boyfriend, and my therapist
says to me, “You need to stop Google
stalking your boyfriend,” because he would post pictures
of salads in restaurants, and that meant to me, well, I
didn’t mean anything to him, ’cause he’s going
to restaurants, and he’s enjoying salads. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] So my therapist says, “You
need to stop googling him. So when you have the
urge to Google him, do something different.” So I’m sitting
there at my laptop, and I think, OK, I’m not
going to type his name into the search engine. And so I’m going to do
something different. So I type in my
therapist’s name. And that’s what I do instead. And I ended up going down
the Google rabbit hole and finding out nothing weird
or creepy about my therapist. But just all of a sudden, I have
information about my therapist that I didn’t before. So I’m very much– I do what my
patients do with me. And I know that they Google
me, because inevitably, they slip up. They’ll say things
like, “Well, you know what it’s like to raise a boy.” And I’ve never told
them I’m a parent or that I have a son
or anything like that. JOEL STEIN: I think it’s
important to not know much about you. I’m sure most people
Google their therapists. I mean– LORI GOTTLIEB: Well,
so you say that, right? I mean, I don’t know. Show of hands. [LORI LAUGHS] How many of you have
googled your therapists? There we go. OK, so you’re right. JOEL STEIN: Wait, wait. How many of you have therapists
that you haven’t googled? So it’s like 50-50, right? No? I’m not good with math. Maybe we should get someone
else here to do this. LORI GOTTLIEB: Yeah, I think
all of you can do that. Yeah, so some people do,
and some people don’t. JOEL STEIN: Interesting. I can’t imagine having
any human interaction where I don’t Google
someone beforehand. Do you know what I mean? LORI GOTTLIEB: Wow. JOEL STEIN: I want to know what
I’m getting into if there’s information to be had. But the argument that
you make in the book is that a therapist, in essence,
is kind of a blank slate? LORI GOTTLIEB: Well,
I think that the point is that nobody wants to go
and talk to a brick wall. Nobody wants to go
talk to a robot. And so the irony is that I say
at the beginning of the book that my most important
credential is that I’m a card-carrying
member of the human race. My humanity is my greatest
tool in the therapy room. And yet people don’t really
want to hear about it. I talk about in the book
that I had a colleague who– she had been trying
to get pregnant and had had a really tough time. And she finally got pregnant. She was standing
in a Starbucks when her OB called and said that
the pregnancy wasn’t viable. And she burst into tears
standing in that Starbucks. And a patient happened to walk
in, saw the crying therapist, left, and never came back. And so I think
there’s that tension between wanting your
therapist to be a real person and also not wanting
to see their humanity. JOEL STEIN: So you want them
to have enough life experience where they can give
you advice, but you don’t want to know that
they have emotions? Or what is it, or that
they have trouble? Or what is it that
googling your therapist– what’s the damage it can do? LORI GOTTLIEB: So for example,
when I googled my therapist, I found out that his father had
died at a relatively young age, middle-aged. But he had been a
marathon runner, and he had suddenly
died of a heart attack per the obituary I found. And so I had been waxing
poetic in my therapy sessions about my close relationship
with my own father, who was about to turn
80, and he was ill. And I was so glad that I
had this time with him where we could say goodbye and really
have these important moments together. And I didn’t know this about my
therapist until I googled him. So now, when I went back to
therapy, I was editing myself. I felt like, well,
I don’t want to talk about this beautiful
relationship that I’m having, this goodbye
that I’m having with my father, because it might
make him feel bad. And the problem with
editing yourself, of course, is that you can’t feel
free to talk about anything that you want to talk about. And he noticed it. He noticed that I
was editing myself. He didn’t know why,
but he noticed it. And I eventually
confessed to it, and all the air
returned to the room. And we had this incredible
discussion about my father on a completely
different level that we couldn’t have had if I’d
been hiding that information. And I think the other
thing you mentioned earlier is that people
often keep secrets from their therapist. So there are the secrets
that we keep from the world and from the people that
we know, and then there are secrets we keep
from our therapists, and then there are secrets
we keep from ourselves. And Carl Jung called
secrets psychic poison, because secrets are
really corrosive. But they’re also
all about shame. And so when people come in and
they tell me their stories, I’m listening to
what I like to say is the music under the lyrics. I’m listening to their
story, but I’m also listening to what they’re not telling me. What is the sort of underlying
pattern or struggle that got them there in
the first place that maybe they have
some shame around? And so they’re telling the
story in a certain way. And I’m listening for,
what are the parts that they’re not telling me? JOEL STEIN: I’m avoiding
giving away anything in the book, ’cause it really
reads like a story or a couple stories, and they
have real arcs. So I know I’ve talked to
you in the past in front of an audience and
almost gave stuff away. But what kind of things– it shocks me that people hide
things from their therapist, ’cause to me, the thrill
of going to a therapist is to tell them all the junk
I won’t tell anyone else. LORI GOTTLIEB: Well,
I also think there’s a gender difference there. So men will come in, and
they’ll say, “You know, I’ve never told
anyone this before.” And then what they
tell me is so mild. It’s like, there’s this
thing with my neighbor. It’s like, what? That was the thing you’ve
never told anyone before? Women will come in, and they’ll
say, “I’ve never told anyone this before, except for
my mother and my sister and my best friend.” So they’ve told some people. And the thing that
they have been holding, the thing that feels
very private to them, is usually a lot
deeper than you know. I can see why they
have shame around it. With men, I think it’s
so hard culturally for them to be
vulnerable on any level. So it’s interesting that
when you say, why do people keep secrets, again, I
think it has to do with, if I tell you the truth of
who I am, you may not like me. You may lose respect for me. I may be shunned. And the reality is that
the truth of who they are is what draws me toward them. And I think that’s the glue. That’s what draws people
toward one another. It’s where we see
ourselves in each other. It’s the connections
that we make with each other
comes from revealing the truth of who we are. So the irony is that the
performative aspect, where people come and they want to
kind of entertain you and be funny and all of
that, that bores me. That’s what I’m
going to get bored. But if you actually
show me who you are, I’m going to be very
interested in your story. JOEL STEIN: So have
you been listening to any of the Howard
Stern interviews, ’cause he has a book, actually. LORI GOTTLIEB: Yes. JOEL STEIN: So he talks
about how therapy just changed his life as a
human being and even as an interviewer and the show. But he talks about when
he first went to therapy, he started doing his
show for the therapist and imitating his parents. And the therapist was not
laughing and not amused. And that’s kind of a
heightened version of what you’re talking about, right? LORI GOTTLIEB: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think that so many
times we come to therapy, and we think, I’m going to
make this person like me. And it’s a way of not
talking about what you really need to be talking about. JOEL STEIN: Oh, is that– I’m wondering why people want
their therapists to like. Is it because you’re going
to show so much of yourself that if this person
doesn’t like you, you suck? Or why is it that you want
your therapist to like you? It’s someone you’re
paying and not seeing outside of this room. So why do you care? LORI GOTTLIEB: Yeah. JOEL STEIN: Do you
know what I mean? LORI GOTTLIEB: You don’t want
your therapist to like you? JOEL STEIN: You know, I’ve
never been to two more than two or three sessions in a row. [LORI LAUGHS] So I’ve never had a
therapist that way. LORI GOTTLIEB: Right, right. JOEL STEIN: I’ve gone for
issues or for dumb reasons. So you want your
therapist to like you because you want everyone to
like you, or it’s special? LORI GOTTLIEB: Well,
I think that we have sort of a natural human
need to want to be liked and also to want to
be understood, right? JOEL STEIN: Those are
different, though. LORI GOTTLIEB: And so we’re
giving– well, they’re different. But when you share your story– so I’m listening not
just for the story that someone is
telling me, but I’m listening to their
flexibility with the story. So often, somebody
is gunning for you to validate their
story, as I was when I went to my therapist. My story was clearly that
my boyfriend is missing some marbles, because
who does that, and how did he not
know that earlier? And that was my story. And I wanted validation. And I talk a lot in the
book about the difference between idiot compassion
and wise compassion. So idiot compassion is
what our friends do. Yeah, he’s a jerk. Yeah, your boss
shouldn’t have done that. Yeah, your coworker
was like that. But wise compassion
is what a therapist does, which is they
hold up a mirror to you and help you to see
your reflection in a way that maybe you
would choose not to. So my therapist, his
question was, “Well, how did you not see this? What was your role in this?” And I had to be willing
to look at that in order to see this story
more accurately so that I wouldn’t repeat
that kind of thing again. And it’s really
important that we listen to the wise compassion. It’s very hard to do with your
friends or with your partner, because they have agendas. Partly, they want to help you. But the other part
of their agenda is, but if you’re
change in this way, you will make my life
less difficult, right? And so we’re very
averse to change– the wise compassion– when
it comes from our partners or our friends. But when a therapist does it,
they don’t have an agenda. And I think sometimes
we’re more open to that. JOEL STEIN: And the
idiot compassion is what we should practice
with our partners? Like, you should not
attempt wise compassion with your partner, right? LORI GOTTLIEB: You know, I
think there are ways to do it. I think that people welcome
that kind of feedback. But I think it has to be done
in a certain way that maybe sometimes, when people are doing
it because of their agenda, it doesn’t come across that way. It doesn’t come
across in, I really want to help you see something. It comes across as, when
you do that, it bothers me. JOEL STEIN: Mm-hmm. And the wise compassion,
a lot of that is just seeing other
people’s perspective, right? LORI GOTTLIEB: It’s
seeing yourself in a way that you aren’t able to. I think a lot of what
happens is become to therapy, and we want someone to
say, “Yes, you’re right. Yes, this is what happened. No, you shouldn’t talk
to your mother-in-law. Here’s what the situation is.” JOEL STEIN: Do
people really have problems with their
mother-in-law in this day and age? Is that still an issue? LORI GOTTLIEB: First
of all, I think a lot of people come to
therapy with the sort of Sartre philosophy of
“Hell is other people.” “Help me manage these
other people in my life.” And I think that,
yes, the world is filled with difficult people. We all know them. A lot of them share
our last name. Nobody goes through life and
doesn’t meet difficult people. But sometimes hell is us. Sometimes we are the
cause of our difficulty. And sometimes I think that
we all have blind spots. And there are ways that we
shoot ourselves in the foot over and over and over and end up
in the same place repeatedly. And that’s when we
have to say, you need to see something
about what you are doing. It can’t just be that
all of these other people are problematic. They might be problematic. But how are you
responding to them? And can you have more agency
over the way that you respond? And can you make
different choices so you’re not stuck or trapped? JOEL STEIN: Yeah. My favorite character
besides you in the book is the guy who just
keeps bellowing “Idiot!” at everything. And it just cracks
me up every time. Everyone is doing
something wrong, and he’s just trapped
in that mind frame. LORI GOTTLIEB: Yeah. JOEL STEIN: And then he has
a secret that he’s really hiding from you. LORI GOTTLIEB: Right, because
it’s too painful for him to face. And this is a person who’s
very successful in life and from the outside looks– he’s a very
high-achieving person. But he has a lot of
trouble interpersonally, because he thinks that
everybody else is an idiot, and he knows better. And sometimes he
does, by the way. There is some truth to that. He’s very bright. But there’s also a way
of going about and moving through the world that protects
him so he can keep everybody at bay. He can keep everybody
at a distance. It’s very hard for anybody
to get close to him, including his wife
and his children. And there’s something
that– there’s a lot of– there’s a tragedy in his life
that’s revealed in the book that I don’t know
about at first. JOEL STEIN: How long does it
take for you to know about it? LORI GOTTLIEB: It’s months. I mean, I’ve been seeing him for
months, and there’s this huge– JOEL STEIN: Once
a week for months? LORI GOTTLIEB: Yeah. JOEL STEIN: Yeah. LORI GOTTLIEB: Yeah. And he’s very
condescending to me. What people do in
the therapy room is sort of a microcosm of
what they do out in the world. So he can be very
insulting, very abrasive, and he does that to people
out in the world, too. JOEL STEIN: He likens your
relationship upon first meet as you being
his prostitute. LORI GOTTLIEB: Yes, yes. He’s charming when
you first meet him. He’s a real charmer. But actually, he’s
the person, I think, that for those of you who have
read the book, that people come to love the most, I think,
of all the people’s stories that we follow. Because once you see
who he really is, he becomes so human
and so lovable. And I end up developing
a deep affection for him, and I think the
reader does, too. JOEL STEIN: OK. When people are withholding
secrets from you through, possibly, months,
what are the buckets those secrets fall into? LORI GOTTLIEB: Oh,
they can be anything. I mean, I think I’ve
heard the gamut. I think that secrets keep
people trapped, though. I think, eventually, they
start to realize that they’re going to have to talk about
the things that are hardest to talk about. My own therapist had this
great analogy one day. He said, “You know, you
remind me of this cartoon, and it’s of a prisoner
shaking the bars, desperately trying to get out. But on the right and the
left, the bars are open.” And he was trying
to explain to me that a lot of what I was
complaining about was– there were ways for me
to get around those bars, but that I preferred the bars. I preferred the position
of, like, I’m trapped. I can’t get out. The problems are all
circumstantial and situational and out there. Because if we walk
around the bars, we are free, and with
freedom comes responsibility. And a lot of times, we don’t
want to take responsibility for our own lives. We would rather let other
people make decisions for us, and then we can blame
them when things go badly. And I think a lot
of the time, too, we don’t want to see
the opening there, because we don’t want to change. Change is really hard,
because with change– even positive change– comes loss. You have to give up something
very familiar to you, even if the familiar thing
is miserable or unpleasant. So we resist change. We resist it mightily. And that’s one of the things
that we do in therapy, is we always like
to say that insight is the booby prize of
therapy, meaning you can have all the insight in the world,
but if you don’t make changes out in the world, the
insight is useless. So a person might come in,
and they’ll say, “Well, now I understand why I keep having
those arguments with my wife,” right? But then they go home, and
they do the exact same thing. It doesn’t matter that you
have the insight if you’re not going to change what
you do out there. JOEL STEIN: And what is
the trick to making– I mean, not the trick. What is the process– better– of making that change? Because I find in my own
life that I can sort of make the change, and then the
willpower kind of runs out pretty quickly by
the second or third time it happens, and I get
back in the same fight. LORI GOTTLIEB: Yeah, exactly. It’s really hard to
change what we’re doing. We’re neurologically
wired in a certain way, and you have to
rewire those pathways and do something different. So in therapy, it’s not
like you come in every week, you talk about stuff,
you gain some insight, you leave, nothing happens
during the week differently, and you come back. That’s a waste of the
work that you’re doing. You have to be both
accountable and vulnerable when you come to therapy. And those are two– they sound like two
very different things. But you have to be vulnerable in
the room and then accountable, so that when you come
back next week, well, how did you use
whatever insights you gained out in the real
world in tangible ways? And I think that
a lot of people, they’ll say to me when they
find out that I’m a therapist– well, either they’ll
run away, like, if I’m in a barbecue
or something– JOEL STEIN: Oh, really? LORI GOTTLIEB: –they’ll
run run away, yeah. JOEL STEIN: Because
they feel like you’re going to see into their heads? LORI GOTTLIEB: Yeah, like you’re
going to psychoanalyze them. Which is the weirdest
thing, because it’s like if I said I
was a gynecologist, nobody would be like, “Are you
going to give me a pelvic exam right now?” JOEL STEIN: Right. LORI GOTTLIEB: But
they’ll be like, “Are you going to analyze me right now?” Why would I do that
at this barbecue? JOEL STEIN: Yeah, but you
are silently doing it. LORI GOTTLIEB: I’m not. JOEL STEIN: But kind of. LORI GOTTLIEB: Although I did
have a funny incident where this couple started talking me. And they said, “Well, do
you do couples therapy?” And I said, “I do. A significant part
of my practice actually is couples therapy.” And then this couple
proceeded to get into a fight right in front
of me at this barbecue. JOEL STEIN: On purpose? LORI GOTTLIEB: No,
it was like she wanted him to go
to couples therapy, and he didn’t want to
go to couples therapy. And they got into
this argument, and I excused myself to get a drink. JOEL STEIN: Wow. LORI GOTTLIEB: But people do
have weird reactions when you say that you’re a therapist. JOEL STEIN: And so the
other one is to run away or to start–
obviously, if you’re on a plane or something,
people tell you their problems, I assume? LORI GOTTLIEB: I read. JOEL STEIN: ‘Cause if
you were a gynecologist– LORI GOTTLIEB: I read. JOEL STEIN: –they probably
wouldn’t say anything. LORI GOTTLIEB: I
have earbuds in. JOEL STEIN: Oh, you do. LORI GOTTLIEB: Yeah. JOEL STEIN: But people– LORI GOTTLIEB: I
say I’m a writer. If people say, “What
you do?”, I generally will say I’m a writer,
because it’s easier. I won’t get into
those conversations. JOEL STEIN: Do
people recognize you? ‘Cause there’s no photo in
the column in “The Atlantic,” right? LORI GOTTLIEB: There is. JOEL STEIN: There is? So Lori– this was
in the introduction– you write this awesome column
for “The Atlantic” called– LORI GOTTLIEB: “Dear Therapist.” It’s kind of a non-advice advice
column, which sounds useless. But it’s kind of like
when you come to therapy, so many people want advice. “Just tell me what to do. What would you do?” And I can’t tell people what
to do for so many reasons. And one of them is
that the version of the story that
they’re telling me is mediated through
their perspective, right? They’re sort of gunning for
me to take a certain position. I don’t have all
the information. And I might give them
really bad advice, because I don’t have the whole story. So A, my advice
might not be good. B, I want them to learn to
make their own decisions. We want to encourage
people’s independence. We have the worst business model
ever, which is, from the day you come in, we’re
thinking about, how can we get you to
not need us anymore? JOEL STEIN: Most
people don’t know that. LORI GOTTLIEB: They
don’t know that. I think that people have this
misconception about therapy that you come to therapy, you
talk about your childhood ad nauseum, and you
never leave, right? People are laughing at
that, because that’s your misconception. JOEL STEIN: Or
that the therapist doesn’t want you leave, ’cause
they have a monetary interest in keeping you there. LORI GOTTLIEB: Right. I think if the
therapist is good, that they’re not worried
about filling their slots. JOEL STEIN: Right. But do you make that clear
at the beginning, like, we are going to try and– this isn’t permanent? We’re going to end
this at some point. Or how does that discussion– LORI GOTTLIEB: I think
we talk very early on about, what are your goals? Why are you here? What are you
wanting out of this? And those goals might shift,
right, as time goes on and we learn more
about what’s going on. But our goal is to encourage
people’s independence. It’s like raising
a child, where you want your child to be able to
not need you in the same way anymore. So I think that
when people come in, and they say, “What do I do
about this problem, and then what do I do about
this problem?”, you’re not helping
them, because you want them to be able to
problem-solve on their own and to trust themselves and to
make better decisions than they have in the past. And that’s part of
what they’re doing, is, as you guys
know here at Google, right, when you make
mistakes, you learn from them. So if they make a decision
and it doesn’t work out, well, what do you learn
from that experience? What can you do
differently next time? Why did that decision
not work out? And that’s what we’re
helping them to do. JOEL STEIN: As a
journalist, I was just thinking about something
you said a minute ago. How much of you, when
someone tells you their story from
their perspective, and they’re only seeing it
through their perspective, how much do you want to just
bring some of the other people in the story into the room? LORI GOTTLIEB: Well, that’s the
beauty of couples work, right, is that you get to see both
sides of what’s happening. And so we don’t do sort of,
like, argument of the week. A lot of people like to
do couples therapy, which I think is a complete waste
of time, where you come in, and then you try to parse
the argument of the week. And then you kind of
solve that problem. And then they go
home, and then they’re going to have another fight. And then they come
in the next week, and then it’s argument
of the week again. That’s a waste of time. I want people to see, well,
what are the underlying patterns where you guys
keep getting into arguments? What are you really
arguing about? ‘Cause we talk about the
difference between content, which is sort of up
here, and process, which is what’s happening down here. And what’s happening
between them in process is what’s causing the
arguments up here. So we talk a lot about
process as opposed to the content of, well,
yes, the laundry and this and that and– JOEL STEIN: Wait,
that blows my mind. This is causing that? ‘Cause
the way I think about it is this, hopefully,
most of the time, the content is
somewhat irrelevant. And it’s just– there’s
always going to be content. There’s always going
to be conflict. LORI GOTTLIEB: Right. JOEL STEIN: And that I
would just like my wife and to fight better. But I don’t think
of it as, like– LORI GOTTLIEB: See,
I want to avoid the fight in the first place. JOEL STEIN: Maybe
not fight– resolve– deal with conflict better. LORI GOTTLIEB: I want
to avoid the conflict. So why do you guys keep getting
into conflict about this? What is it really about? And depending on
the couple, it’s going to be about
different things. And that helps them
to not fight so much and not get into
conflict so much. JOEL STEIN: Let me throw this
out, ’cause my wife found this. This is not– LORI GOTTLIEB: As a consult? We’re doing a consult right now. JOEL STEIN: No, it’s not. It’s not. It’s going to sound
like it is, and it is. But it’s not. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] I’ll be on tape saying this. I was watching– LORI GOTTLIEB: So
you said it wasn’t going to be therapy, but it– JOEL STEIN: No, ’cause
it’s not about me. It’s just like, I’m
going to throw out an opinion that’s offensive
is what’s about to happen. LORI GOTTLIEB: OK. JOEL STEIN: And you’re
going to tell me– LORI GOTTLIEB: And I’m
going to agree with you. JOEL STEIN: Probably not. But you’re going to
tell me why it’s wrong. So I was watching
the TV show “Barry”, and this actress on
the show is acting out physically abusive husbands. And I was watching
her act this out. And I was like, you
know, most arguments have the same general arc
as what I believe a physically abusive
husband is like, which is that someone
says something that goes a little bit
above, maybe on purpose, to get out their emotions
and to bring themselves down. They throw out something
very mean and heated. Then, in the abusive
case, they hit. In the non-abusive
case, they don’t. And then they apologize, and
the other person comforts them. LORI GOTTLIEB: Mm. JOEL STEIN: And I was
like, the abusive version seems to have the
same arc, just way more dramatic with violence. Is that wrong? Is there something completely
different about the abusive? LORI GOTTLIEB: Some
couples do fight like that. But some don’t. Some have a totally different
dynamic to their conflict. JOEL STEIN: Like, some people
just get cold and shut off, and there’s a lot. LORI GOTTLIEB: There’s all
kinds of ways that people fight. JOEL STEIN: Like how many? LORI GOTTLIEB: As many
different variations as there are people, right? JOEL STEIN: That’s beautiful. Like, we’re snowflakes
in the way we fight? [LORI LAUGHS] LORI GOTTLIEB: No,
I mean, I think that people bring– you
have to remember that, so many times, what
people are fighting about is not about the person
in front of them. It’s only partly about that. It’s about their histories and
the beliefs and the narrative that they’ve been carrying with
them throughout their lives. And I think it’s
really nice that I’ve been a journalist
and a writer before I was a therapist, because I
work a lot with the stories that people bring in. I almost feel like
sometimes, as a therapist, I’m an editor, where I’m
editing their first draft. Here’s the story that they’ve
been carrying around with them. I’m unlovable. Nothing ever works out for me. In the case of that person we
were talking about earlier, I’m better than everybody else– whatever the story is that
they’re carrying around. And often, it’s a
faulty narrative. Often, it’s the
lens through which they see every interaction. And so when they’re
fighting with their partner, they’re seeing it through
the lens of I’m unlovable, I’m unworthy, nobody
understands me, whatever it is,
whatever their story is. And so we have to
understand, what is the history that
you’re bringing to this? And then what’s happening
sort of historically, and then what’s
happening in the present? And those can be two
very different things. JOEL STEIN: And how
long into therapy can you usually
see someone’s lens, like the rough outline of it? LORI GOTTLIEB: It depends. I think with couples, I think
you see it much more quickly, because you’re actually
seeing it in vivo. You’re watching an
interaction happen, as opposed to somebody
narrating an interaction that already happened. But I think in therapy
with individuals, you see it pretty quickly. You can see what
they’re doing and how they’re interacting with you. And I think people forget that
the relationship in the room is so important. So I think it’s not like, well,
I’m going to pay this person, and this person is going to
provide a service for me, and then I’m going to leave. But you’re actually
having a relationship with your therapist in the room. And it’s so important
that– study after study shows that the most important
factor in the success of someone’s therapy
isn’t the therapist’s training or the
modality they use or the number of
years of experience– although, of course, those
things are important– but it’s the relationship
that the person has with the therapist. So whatever somebody
does out in the world in their relationships,
they’re inevitably going to do in the room with
me, just like with my therapist, I very much did whatever I did
out in the world in the room with him. And I write about
that in the book. JOEL STEIN: And
then having found what sounds like an amazing
therapist for yourself and seeing so many patients,
is it just a feeling you have when you know it’s
the right therapist? Or do you, usually,
you guys have a lot in common and
similar demographics? Or what is it that makes that
relationship work, if there’s anything besides a feeling? LORI GOTTLIEB: It’s
chemistry, right? It’s a feeling of, I feel heard. I feel understood. This person is going to call
me on my bullshit, but in a– I like to call them
compassionate truth bombs. This person will deliver some
compassionate truth bombs. Because you don’t
want to just go to somebody who’s going
to agree with everything you say or just empathize with
you every week, but to say, I” want you to look at this. I want you to look
at sort of what’s going on from this
perspective that you might not have considered before.” So I think if you go
to a first session– and I think a first session
really is a consultation. It’s not, you’re signing
up for the long term. It’s to say, I want
to see what it’s like to be in the
room with this person. And if you leave that session,
and you feel understood, and you feel like this
person was easy to talk to, I would go back for
a second session. JOEL STEIN: Do you find that
people in the tech industry have specific issues or come
up with the same issues a lot? LORI GOTTLIEB: We’re
going to send out a survey after this talk. I think that there are
certain issues that I see in certain industries. So we’re in Los Angeles. So if I see people in the
entertainment industry, I might see some patterns. But I also think
everybody is unique. I see people in
the tech industry, ’cause there are a lot of
tech companies down here. There are certain
common problems that they might experience. But I also feel like,
again, how you grew up and how you think about
the world is going to be the most
influential thing in terms of how your problems manifest. So I think about that in
terms of diagnosis, too. A lot of people ask
about diagnosis. And I address this in the book,
where, like, that one patient we were talking about, does he
have narcissistic personality disorder? Maybe. But I think that you can lose
a person through a diagnosis, that you lose what’s
unique about them, and you start to see them as a
diagnosis and not as a person. So I think that diagnosis
is useful in terms of maybe understanding
how to best help them. But it’s not useful
if you look at them as, oh, here comes the person
with narcissistic personality disorder. You have to just see the person. It’s like, John is just
John, and he is what he is, and he’s multifaceted. And that’s how you
have to look at people. JOEL STEIN: Do most people
want to know their diagnosis? LORI GOTTLIEB: No,
I don’t think so. JOEL STEIN: Interesting. LORI GOTTLIEB: I don’t think so. I think most people
want to feel better. I think most people
come in, and they want– I think a lot of people come
in, and mostly, they’ll say, “Help me to change these
other people out there,” or they’ll say– and they
don’t say it in those words– or the other thing they’ll
say is, “Help me not to feel. Help me not to feel my pain, my
sadness, my anxiety, my grief. Help me not to feel.” And what I try to help
them to understand is that you can’t
mute one feeling without muting the others. You can’t mute the pain
without also muting the joy. And also, when you
kind of push down or try to suppress
your feelings, they get stronger,
because feelings need air, metaphorically speaking. And I think that has
to do with the way that we look at
our physical health differently from our
emotional health. So with our physical well-being,
if something feels wrong, if we’re feeling pain somewhere,
if you’re feeling chest pain, you’re probably going to go
see a cardiologist before you have a massive coronary. But if you’re feeling
emotional pain, if something feels
off emotionally, instead of getting
it checked out, most people say, well, I have
a roof over my head and food on the table. And what do I really
have to complain about? And so they don’t go
get it checked out. And then they end up
in therapy if they’re having the equivalent of, say,
an emotional heart attack. And then they’re
really in crisis. And first of all,
it’s harder to treat if you come at that point. JOEL STEIN: Oh, really? LORI GOTTLIEB: It is. JOEL STEIN: Is that because– LORI GOTTLIEB: Because you’re
in the middle of this crisis now, and so much has
happened, and you’re not functioning in the same way. But the other thing is that
you’ve suffered unnecessarily for all of that time
where you didn’t have to. So I think this whole idea
that feelings are bad, that certain feelings are bad,
or we value certain feelings differently, right? So sadness– bad feeling. Get rid of it. Anxiety– bad feeling. Get rid of it. Our feelings are like a compass. They tell us where
to go, what to do. So if you’re feeling
sadness, that’s information. Well, what do I need
to change in my life? Where is this coming from? If you’re feeling anxiety,
what is that telling me? It’s good information to have. So if you mute that, you’re
also kind of walking around without a compass. JOEL STEIN: How many
percentage-wise of people you see or just notice in society
of men are channeling all their emotions into
anger in order to just– either ’cause society is
pushing them that way, or they don’t want to deal
with the other feelings? LORI GOTTLIEB: Well,
we talk about anger as being like, if you can
picture an iceberg, right, and so the part
that’s submerged are all the other sort of what
we’d call maybe more tender feelings. Anger is the easiest
thing to feel, right? It’s so cathartic. It’s all outward-directed. And so if you
picture, like, here’s sort of the watermark,
right, and here’s anger, the anger iceberg up here. You can see the anger. It’s the easiest thing. But underneath the anger is
usually something like sadness, anxiety, grief, those
kinds of things. JOEL STEIN: Even joy. You see men experience joy as
some kind of– like a baseball game or– it comes out like– LORI GOTTLIEB: There are
people who are afraid of joy. There’s actually
a term for that. It’s called cherophobia. JOEL STEIN: That’s beautiful. LORI GOTTLIEB: Chero means joy– I didn’t make this up– phobia,
of course, being fear of. And there are people who
are so afraid of joy, because their experience of
joy is that the other shoe is going to drop. Like, don’t get too complacent. Don’t get too happy about this,
because the piano is going to fall from the sky if you do. So they kind of downplay their
joy, because they’re so worried about, like, it’s like
this magical thinking that something’s going
to go terribly wrong. If I get this promotion, my
child’s going to get sick. Whatever it is, like
this magical thinking. JOEL STEIN: That
sounds OCD-ish, right? LORI GOTTLIEB: There is. It’s an anxiety
about– yeah, there’s an anxiety component
to it, absolutely. JOEL STEIN: Wow. Well, people like my socks. LORI GOTTLIEB: Oh, excellent. JOEL STEIN: Yeah. LORI GOTTLIEB: OK,
we’re starting– see, that’s important. It’s an icebreaker. JOEL STEIN: A gift
from my mother-in-law, who I am not upset with. LORI GOTTLIEB: Good. JOEL STEIN: Yeah. LORI GOTTLIEB: Good. This is why his therapy
only lasted two sessions, ’cause they didn’t
have family problems. JOEL STEIN: It’s really– most
of them are about my socks. I’m going to ask– LORI GOTTLIEB: I
like your socks, too, by the way, now that I see them. JOEL STEIN: Yeah, well,
it’s a little late. I’ve already got a
lot of love online. LORI GOTTLIEB: Sorry. JOEL STEIN: I know all the
terms online or texting. All right. I do have other questions
while people go– LORI GOTTLIEB: Oh, good. JOEL STEIN: Well, text it. Were you not paying
attention at all? Now I can see your face. All right. Go for it. AUDIENCE: As I said
before, I loved the book. LORI GOTTLIEB: Thank you. AUDIENCE: Some of the things
you kind of turned down that you mentioned in the book– like
your book deal and kind of like the things that you regretted– I thought that that was such
an interesting part of it. And I’m not quite done, so you
might address this in the book. But just thinking about how to
work through those decisions and regret generally,
like what’s your point of view on
that now post-therapy? LORI GOTTLIEB: Right. Right. So what she’s talking
about is I wasn’t supposed to write this book. I was actually– I had written a cover story
for “The Atlantic” called “How to Land Your
Kid in Therapy: Why Our Obsession with
Our Kids’ Happiness Might Be Dooming Them to
Unhappy Adulthoods.” It went viral, and publishers
wanted me to write that book. And by write that book, I mean
for an obscene amount of money. And I say that only
because I turned it down. I said no. And everyone thought
I was insane. How do you turn this down? It was a very easy book to
write because I’d already written the article. And I just– I couldn’t
get myself to write it because I felt like I
was just starting out as a therapist at that time. And what I was seeing was kind
of really meaningful things in the therapy room. And not that the piece
wasn’t meaningful, but that I really felt
like helicopter parenting books had been written. And whatever I wrote, I
wanted it to do a service. I wanted it to help
people in a way that maybe they hadn’t
been helped before. And so I turned it down. And I needed to write
a book because I was doing my internship. And so I wanted to
write about what was going on with the adults. And so the publisher
said, well, why don’t you write a book about
happiness, which I really didn’t want to write. Oh, by the way, they didn’t
offer me that kind of money to write the happiness book. So it was like the whole thing
kind of was a mess because you know, if I was going
to write something I didn’t want to
write, I should’ve written the thing that I would
have gotten paid a lot of money for. But I didn’t. And so but I did
accept this book deal because I thought it was more
consistent with my values and what I wanted
to say about what I was seeing in the therapy room. But the more that I
tried to write it, the more I felt like it just
wasn’t reflecting real life. I could cite studies, I could
write an interesting book. But it wasn’t really like– I wanted to bring people
into the therapy room so they could see the human
condition in a different way. But the problem was my agent
said that I already screwed things up with the kid book. And then if I got
out of this contract, I would never write
another book again. I would also have
to return the money. And it was just– and I
just felt like I should just write this book, suck it
up, and then write what I want to write after that. But I just couldn’t
get myself to do it. It felt so fraudulent to me. And so I would sit down every
day and try to write this book. And I was sort of like
the closet gambler who gets dressed for work every day
and kisses her partner goodbye, and then goes to the casino
instead of the office. So I would tell everybody,
yeah, I’m writing a book, I’m writing the book. I was not writing the book. I was on Facebook– sorry, guys. Sorry, Google. I was like writing fabulously
witty emails to my boyfriend. And eventually I ended up
canceling the book contract, not knowing if I would
ever write another book. In fact, I thought I
wouldn’t because that was what I was told. But then I thought,
you know what, I just want to bring people
into the therapy room, so that’s what I’m going to do. And that became this book. JOEL STEIN: And
now all is forgiven because it’s done well, right? LORI GOTTLIEB: Yeah. No, I mean, I felt
like I really– I think with
therapy, you can only work with one or two
people at a time. And what I wanted to do here
was give people the experience of what it’s like. I think so many people
have so many misconceptions about what therapy is and what
it can do and how it can help. And I’m not
proselytizing therapy. I think even for people who
are not interested in therapy, I wanted to give them the
experience of how can they see themselves differently? How can they learn
something about themselves that they might
not otherwise learn through any other experience? And that’s what I was
hoping to do in the book. And it’s been really gratifying
that for the people who’ve read it, that’s been their
experience in reading it. JOEL STEIN: All right. I do have– oh, does someone
else have a question? LORI GOTTLIEB: We have two. JOEL STEIN: And then
I have text ones. LORI GOTTLIEB: Let’s
start right here. JOEL STEIN: Pretty juicy stuff. AUDIENCE: Thanks
for coming today. It’s been great. So I know you’ve also had
a stint in entertainment, you did medical
school, you’ve written, now you’re doing therapy. And you haven’t abandoned all
of those things to do therapy. You still write and do all that. What guided sort of
that journey for you, and where have you
felt like you’ve made major transitions versus
sort of just broadening out a skill set? LORI GOTTLIEB: Yeah. That’s a great question because
I did things that at the time didn’t seem to make sense. So I started off working
in the entertainment world. I was doing film development. And then I moved over to NBC,
and I was a baby executive there when two new
shows were premiering. One of them– you may have
heard of these shows– one was called “Friends” and
the other one was called “ER”. And we had a
consultant on the show, on ER, who was an
emergency room physician. And I would hang out in the
emergency room a lot because– supposedly for research, but
basically because I loved it. It was fascinating to me. And what I loved about what
we were doing on the show was telling these
fictional stories, but they felt like
they were really about the human condition. I thought they were really
smart stories, rich stories, emotionally engaging stories. But when you go into an
ER, you see real life. It was very different. So I’m seeing the real stories. And at one point
this physician, who was a consultant on the
show, said to me, you know, I think you like it better here
than you do at your office. And I was like, yeah, well,
you know, it’s a hobby. He’s like, no, I don’t
think it’s a hobby anymore. I think you should
go to medical school. And I thought, well, no, I
can’t go to medical school. I was a French literature major. I have this job at NBC. That’s just not going to happen. And I really liked what
we were doing, too. We would like choreograph
the trauma bay scenes. And by the way, a little fun
fact about George Clooney, who was just new to the world then. Everything’s very accurate on
ER except for one thing, that in terms of wearing
a mask, sometimes we didn’t cover
George Clooney’s face when we should have because
people wanted to see his face. But anyway, so I did
go to medical school. I went up to Stanford. And when I got there, it was
sort of the first dot com boom, and then sort of the
bust that was about to happen. And it was also
this time of a lot of change in the health care
world, which was managed care. And I was really
interested in kind of being the family physician
who would guide people through their lives. And I realized
that that was going to be really hard with
the new medical model. And I left to become
a journalist, where I felt like I could really
delve into people’s stories. And I was happily a
journalist for over a decade. And then I had a baby. And I loved being a
journalist before I had a baby because you could go
out when you wanted to go out. You didn’t have to be alone
in front of your computer all the time. But once you have
a baby, I really needed adult humans to talk to. And so the UPS guy would come
with all the deliveries that come when you’re–you know,
diapers and all the baby supplies. And I would literally
try to detain him. I would be like, how
about those diapers? And how’s the weather? And do you have kids? And he would back away
to his big brown truck. And so I realized
I really needed to do something about this. So I called up the dean
at Stanford Medical School because I used to run her
mother daughter book groups, and I loved her. And I said, maybe I should
come back and do psychiatry. And she said, you’re
welcome to come back, but I don’t think
that’s what you want to do because
it’s basically going to be medication management. And why do you want to go
through all that training with a baby and
a toddler and all that when you could
get a graduate degree in clinical psychology
and do the kind of work, the deeper work
that you want to do? And that was the best
advice that anybody could have possibly given me. And so when you ask about my
path, I feel like at the time, people thought that these were
really completely– you know, I was either very versatile
or very confused or both. You know, like why are you
making all these jumps? But they were all related to
story and the human condition. I went from fictional stories
in film and television to real stories
in medical school to being able to tell people’s
stories as a journalist to be able to then– helping people change their
stories as a therapist. And so I think that
they’re all very related. And sometimes you can’t
see your path at the time. But if you follow your
instincts and you reflect on it, I think you will end up
exactly where you want to be. And I feel like all of
the things that I do now– where I still write, I
have my private practice, I write the advice column– I feel like they’re all very
much integrated and related in a way that I could never
have imagined when I was going from thing to thing to thing. AUDIENCE: So I’m very
interested in reading the book, and maybe you should
talk to someone. Well, when should
you talk to someone? Because therapy has been
stigmatized in popular media. And it’s getting
better, but for folks who don’t have an
experience with it, what are some of those telltale signs
that maybe you should go talk to somebody? LORI GOTTLIEB: What
people don’t realize is that you don’t have to be
falling apart to go to therapy. People come for all
different reasons. And I think if you’re
thinking about maybe just– you’re curious about
it, go talk to someone. You may find that it’s not
the right thing for you, but you may find that
there was a reason that you were contemplating
it, and that there is something to be gained by going. JOEL STEIN: I think asking
a therapist when you should go to therapy is a clear
sign that maybe now is the time, as a non-expert. Is there someone
else with a question, or should I go to
my text questions? LORI GOTTLIEB: Oh, you
have some text questions. JOEL STEIN: I do. I do. LORI GOTTLIEB: Oh, great. OK. JOEL STEIN: OK. I’m just going to read it
straight with all the emojis. LORI GOTTLIEB: All right. JOEL STEIN: How to deal with
PTSD at work and teaching others how to handle
it without victimizing. And they’re referring,
in the PTSD, to work stuff, like a zillion
reorgs, bad perf, which I think is performance
reviews, without being warned, sexual harassment,
which is just thrown in at the end, et cetera. LORI GOTTLIEB: I like
these light questions. So I think it’s a
really good question. I’m glad– whoever asked
it, I’m glad that they did because I think
that sometimes people are so afraid to talk
about these things because of repercussions, or they don’t
want to be seen as problematic. And I think it’s really
important that if you’re experiencing something, to
be able to talk to somebody about it to understand it better
so that you can then say, OK, what can I be doing? Or is there something external
that I also need to be doing? So is there something
about me and my reaction to the situation that I
can be doing differently? Or is there something
going on here that needs to be called
out, and how do I do that, and what’s the best
way to do that? But I think doing
nothing is usually going to exacerbate the problem. And I think that– I know that you guys have
therapists on staff here. JOEL STEIN: And
there’s someone here, literally in the audience. Right. There’s someone here, I
think, who is– right. And I would really
suggest either talking to an outside therapist
to get a better handle on it, or to talk to somebody
here because I think that you will get a
better perspective on what can be done. It’s really horrible to
have to wake up every day and go into a situation
or an environment where you feel something
in the pit of your stomach and you don’t feel comfortable. And it’s really important
to get help for that. So I would say definitely reach
out to those various resources. AUDIENCE: You mentioned
modalities or disciplines within therapy. Related to your
question about knowing when is a good, time how do
you know the right discipline to be seeking out from
a therapist for what might work best for you? LORI GOTTLIEB: Yeah. A lot of people wonder
that before they go, and you think that you
can figure that out by– most therapists, if you say,
I’m going to go to therapy, you’ll probably
end up with someone who you’re talking to
who’s not doing CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy. But when somebody comes to me,
if I feel like they’re– say they have OCD, and maybe CBT
would be helpful with that, I will refer them to somebody
to get them to the right place. If someone comes to me
and I feel like they maybe need a medication
consult, I will refer them to a psychiatrist
that I work with, or any of the psychiatrists
that I work with, so that they can
get some information about whether medication
might help them. So I think wherever you
go, you will probably end up getting to the right
place relatively quickly. JOEL STEIN: When Howard
Stern was being interviewed, he continuously use
the word psychotherapy instead of therapy. LORI GOTTLIEB: Right. JOEL STEIN: What did he mean? Why was he saying that? LORI GOTTLIEB: Psychotherapy,
we use those terms interchangeably. Psychotherapy is usually
what people think of when they think of talk therapy. AUDIENCE: So as someone who is
pretty good at getting people to open up to you
about their problems, do you have any advice
together about how we can be more approachable to
the friends or family members in our own lives so that
they are more willing to talk about the things
they’re struggling with? LORI GOTTLIEB: Yeah. I think what prevents
people from opening up is a feeling that they’re going
to be judged or criticized. Mostly people want to be heard. And so if you’re really
curious about them, as opposed to wanting to
impart information to them– it’s kind of like a
good example might be in therapy, one
of the patients that I write about is this
young woman in her 20s. And she keeps hooking
up with the wrong guys and doesn’t understand why. She thinks the problem
is all the men. She ends up eventually hooking
up with somebody in the waiting room, and she thinks that’s a
step up because at least he’s in therapy. It’s not a step up. And she also drinks too
much, and she’s not aware that she has an
addiction problem. And if I were to say to her,
I think you drink too much, or in the first
session, here’s why you keep ending up in
these situations with men, she would reject that. She wouldn’t feel safe really
talking about what was really going on in her life. So I think if you want
people to open up to you, you have to be
curious about them. And it has to do
with really listening to them without judgment. We judge ourselves
so much anyway that the last thing people want
is judgment on the outside. We are so unkind to ourselves. We are so critical of ourselves. I had one patient
write down everything that she said to herself,
the voice in her head, for a few days. And she came back and
she said, oh my god, I’m embarrassed to share this with
you because I am such a bully, and I didn’t realize it. And if we said that
to our friends, we wouldn’t have any friends. So I think curiosity,
compassion. When you hear
something that you want to jump in and solve it or
fix it or offer them advice, they’re not looking for that. I think the way to get
people to talk to you is to want to hear them. I say to people– one
last thing I say to them in couples therapy
is often, somebody will say to their partner,
he never listens to me, or she never listens to me. And what I say to them is, how
well do you listen to them? If you want to be heard, what
kind of listener are you? If you’re a good listener,
somebody will want to hear you. JOEL STEIN: That’s beautiful. Thank you. And thank you for doing this, LORI GOTTLIEB: Well, thank you. Thank you for moderating this. And thank you all for coming
on your lunch hour here. I really appreciate it. JOEL STEIN: And thank
you for all the contacts, the Google contacts I now
have, so I can get a job here. Thank you all. Appreciate it. [APPLAUSE]

5 Replies to “Lori Gottlieb, Joel Stein: “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” | Talks at Google

  1. Everything from google is weird overly vaccinated nonsense trying to numb the mind to the genocide programs being carried out by secret nazi white coats…and all their childrens lives are burning in shot because they built their homes on unstable ground, and now all the rains how etched and moved the soils beneath…and foundations around the globe are crumbling…and the smells from all those oodle shits beneath begin to rise to the surface…now we see all the white coats scurrying for the hills because they haven't been healing, they know not how to heal…so now, we all must suffer liberations heel…just like germany…america is about to be torn asunder, and wiped clean from earth…but the notions of a once great nation will remain in the hearts and minds of those who cherished God love and life while they still had a pulse to believe in such things. The moneys root grew deep…and all those awash in blood of innocents will toil tormwnted so for the rest of their short lived days…

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