“Stutz”: Netflix and Jonah Hill’s documentary on Phil Stutz and why his ten tools are the secret to life

On the 14th of November, 2022, a documentary directed by Jonah Hill was published by Netflix on the life and psychiatric methods of the world-leading therapist, Phil Stutz.

This was not a typical Jonah Hill movie where he crawls on all fours for a significant amount of time, drooling and mumbling with rounded spectacles and Leonardo Dicaprio in the background.

Instead, Jonah Hill felt compelled to direct and create this movie which is, in fact, a simple documentary and interview ultimately gaining Stutz a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and

What is “Stutz” on Netflix about?

The synopsis of “Stutz” is that Phil Stutz with over four decades of experience in psychiatric therapy had Jonah Hill as a patient for several years. Those years were so beneficial to Hill that he believed the world needed to hear the story of his therapist and have the privilege of learning his tools and teachings. too. 

Stutz is what I call a good therapist. Simply: a modern psychologist that focuses on working on the patient’s problems, and ensuring progress in the patient’s ability to cope with them. As opposed to working with the patient and making them and their problems feel ‘heard’.

Stutz, with his coauthor Barry Michels wrote the New York Times bestseller, The Tools, and its sequel, Coming Alive

You can watch Netflix’s trailer for Stutz here:

Hill asked Stutz what the first thing he asks a patient is:

Why are you here and what do you want?

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

Stutz comments that the average shrink will say ‘do not interrupt the patient’s process, they will come up with the answers when they are ready.’

That sucks. That is not acceptable. When I got into psychiatry the philosophy was to be neutral, to not have a dog in the fight. That’s a slow process and it involves a lot of suffering. If you know me – my reaction to that was ‘go fuck yourself, are you kidding me?’

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

Stutz follows this up by explaining his own approach, which I love, and believe most who suffer from real mental illness and have sought after therapy in their past and didn’t get the help they wanted will love, too.

If I am dealing with someone with severe depression I tell them to do exactly what the fuck I tell you. Do exactly what I tell you. I guarentee you, 100%, you will feel better. That is on me.

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

Jonah Hill replies with:

When I first sat down in therapy with you, you were like ‘here is exactly what you should do’. You gave me exact and instant actions and tools.

– Jonah Hill | “Stutz”

It’s imperative. I wanted speed. Not speed to cure this in a week. That’s impossible. I wanted them to feel some change. Some forward motion. It gives them hope. It’s like ‘oh shit this is actually possible!’

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

Jonah Hill humorously noted that:

people want therapy to tell them how to fix their shit and their friends just to listen. Instead, therapists just listen and their friends tell them how to fix their shit when all you want is for them to listen!

– Jonah Hill | “Stutz”

Stutz was adamant in his ‘anti-passive’ approach to aiding patients and even believed that, in order for therapy to work for the patient, they need to be instructed, led, and given ‘tools’ in order to see as much progress as possible in as little time as possible. 

The reasoning behind this was that, if you see quick progress from therapy, you gain motivation, which in turn becomes momentum.

Completely logical, of course. However, most therapy is simply a sit-down, open up and be-listened-to form of therapy. As opposed to a sit-down-open-up-be-told-what-that-means-and-what-to do-about-it form of therapy. The latter is, in fact, therapy. The former is simply a one-way conversation with an incredibly qualified psychotherapist with dozens of useful arms – in a straight jacket.

For Stutz to be effective in his aims of being effective, he shares what he calls his ‘tools’.

What are Phil Stutz’s tools he uses in therapy?

A tool is something that can change your state, your inner state, immediately, in real-time. It takes an experience that is usually unpleasant and turns it into an opportunity.

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

Jonah Hill, who was taught these tools and used them for several years in therapy with Phil Stutz comments that:

Stutz’s tools change your mood and then give you a sense of hope that that won’t be your mood forever. It’s basically a real-time visualisation exercise that you do in your head at that moment.

– Jonah Hill | “Stutz”

On his tools, Stutz says

It’s not that shrinks don’t want to help you, it really isn’t. I just always felt that something was missing. Tools, for me, are the bridge between what you realise the problem is and the cause of that problem to then actually gain some control over the symptom. It all has to do with possibility. Not a bullshit definition of possibility, though. Possibility means that you genuinely feel yourself reacting differently. It sounds trite but it is actually the truth.

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

Phil Stutz’s therapy tool number one: your Life Force

According to Stutz, the classic thing that happens when someone depressed visits him in therapy is that they say something along the lines of

I know my habits are shit. I know I am undisciplined and lazy. But if only I knew what I had to do – what my life mission was – it would be like I was shot out of a gun. But, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing so I’m just going to be lazy and do nothing – from this, comes the depression.

– Phil Stutz on what depressed people say to him in therapy | “Stutz”

He says that there is something that will apply to you which leads to you not knowing what you should do next.  The answer to this is that you can, and should, always work on your Life Force. 

The only way to find out what you should be doing and who you are is to activate your life force. Your life force is the only part of you that is actually capable of guiding you when you are lost. There are three levels to it. It’s a pyramid.

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

Working on your Life Force is about passion. Passion for yourself and connecting to you. Passion about getting better and moving in the right way. If you just do this – everything will fall into place.

The three levels to your Life Force pyramid are:

  1. Your relationship with your physical body
  2. Your relationship with other people
  3. Your relationship with yourself

Life Force: the relationship with your physical body

Stutz says that when starting therapy or in general when one starts out to get better, the ‘body’ area of your Life Force amounts to about 85% of your initial progress. Your relationship with your body is based on your diet, exercise and sleep. Almost always, when someone goes to Stutz for therapy, they are not exercising, they have a poor diet and their sleep is off.

Hill says that

When I was a kid, diet and exercise was framed to me as ‘there is something wrong with how you look.’ Never once was it framed to me as it is something that you can do to improve your mental health. I wish that was presented to people differently because for me that caused a lot of problems. Even with my Mom, when my weight and image was presented to me I responded with a ‘fuck you!’ because I took it as being told there was something wrong with me and they way I looked.

– Jonah Hill | “Stutz”

Life Force: your relationships with other people

Stutz believed that people, as you are one, are the glue that holds you to the world. He states that:

When one gets depressed, it’s not that they end their relationships, it’s more like it’s a ship that sails over the horizon and it’s hard to pull it back. At the same time, relationships are like the hand holds on a mountain that you need to hold onto to stay safe and be able to get up. Relationships let you pull yourself back into life. The key, though, is that you need to take the initiative. You cannot wait for your relationships to improve, start or spark back up. You need to organise and go for that coffee with someone that is boring. It doesn’t matter, it will affect you anyway, in a positive way.

Just one person represents the whole human race for you symbolically.

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

Life Force: the relationship with yourself

This is the highest tier in your Life Force. It involves getting yourself into a relationship with your unconscious.

nobody knows what is in their unconscious until you activate it.

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

An easy way to do this is to write. Writing is like a mirror that reflects what is going on in your unconscious mind. When you write, things will come out in your unconscious that you didn’t know were there, and you are forced to address them. Why? Well, you’ve just written it down right in front of your own eyes. Yes, YOU. You wrote down THAT. Now process it and deal with it.

Stutz says the reason he came up with the Life Force tool and the reason it works is that he believes once someone walks into his office for the first time and then leaves it, they should leave knowing they have a plan and actions that will allow them to see improvements quickly. Working on your Life Force does just that.

Phil Stutz’s therapy tool number two: Part X

You directly face Part X when adversity comes. It is the judgemental and anti-social part of you. It’s an invisible force that wants to block your progress and potential. It’s the villain in your story.

Part X wants to fuck up your shit. Part X gives you a continual and very specific dossier about who you are and what you are capable of – it creates a primal fear in human beings. Specifically to Stutz, Part X tells him that he is “wasting his time. All the things he has done and created are great but will never spread deeply enough and do anything.

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

In response to Jonah Hill’s question “how do you defeat Part X?”, Stutz says:

You can’t. That’s why you have three aspects of reality that nobody gets to avoid:

  1. Pain
  2. Uncertainty
  3. Constant work

Phil Stutz's three aspects of reality you can't avoid

These are things you have to live with. No matter what. If you could simply banish Part X, there would be no progress. In your story – if you could just get rid of this villain Part X, there would be no hero and therefore no story. In Hill’s words:

“there would be no change, no bravery, no courageousness. We need the negativity of Part X otherwise we would not grow”.

– Jonah Hill | “Stutz”

What actually makes you happy in life, Stutz says, is learning how, and dealing with, the three aforementioned inevitable aspects of reality. And, if you teach someone to do that, you can change their whole life.

The highest form of creative expression for a human being is to create something in the face of adversity. And the worse the adversity, the greater the opportunity.

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

Phil Stutz’s therapy tool number three: String of Pearls

The necklace of pearls, he admitted, is a weird concept.

Phil Stutz's string of pearls tool

We need to know, Stutz said, that “I am the one who puts the next pearl on the string.”

This is the only form of motivation that really matters.

Each pearl on your string matters. Equally, too. Each pearl, to you, is each thing, ever.

Each success. Each failure. Each setback. Each time you get out of bed. Each time you make a meal. Each time you turn up. Each anything. All you need to know is that

I am the one who puts the next pearl on my string.

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

Stutz believed that true confidence lies in moving forward. Note: this should not be, although commonly is, mistaken for moving upwards.

In order to move forward you have to be willing to:

  • Take a risk
  • Act with some degree of faith
  • Eat up any consequences that may come from acting
  • Simply work the cycle, complete the iterations and put your next pearl on the string.

In every one of those circles (the pearls), there is a smaller circle. These were coined the ‘turds’ by Stutz.

In every little thing you ever do, it will not be perfect. Everything you think is perfect, or even good will have something bad in it.

This is also a key concept to understand and accept in any realm of human endeavour. Whether that is in business as I aim to do with my company 18.agency or with innovation as Becky Downing of neu21 says here.

To be trite: without the rain – we would not appreciate the sun. Without chaos, there would be no order for us to create. This is a constant rule.

This is why you always have to act with some degree of faith.

You have to admit – with every action you take, constantly – ‘I am not sure if this thing I want to do, and that I am going to do, will work. It might also just not work, or work and be bad or not what I wanted. But, I am going to do it anyway.’

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

Therefore, the winner and the happy man are the same in their actions. In that, they are the people willing to take a risk.

“I am the one who puts the next pearl on the string.”

Da Vinci would call this ostinato rigore. Modern English speakers would call it rigorous persistence. Regardless, do it.

Phil Stutz’s therapy tool number four: The Shadow

There are three truths with The Shadow.

  1. Everybody has a shadow.
  2. Everybody’s shadow is different.
  3. At the same time, everybody’s shadow is the same.

Your shadow is the part of you that you are ashamed of and hide from the world.

To work on your shadow – you need to see it, you need a visual of it. To do this, Stutz takes Hill through his visualisation method:

Close your eyes. Visualise a time in your life when you felt inferior, embarrassed, rejected, despondent, and ashamed. A part of you that you wish you were not, but you are, and you can’t get rid of.

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

Whatever your brain conjures up, the question is – what do you do with that image in the present moment?

Well, talk to your shadow and ask him how he feels about you and how you have treated him.

For example, Hill states that his shadow says

you denied my existence and felt shame at it. You made me feel angry, hurt and upset.

– Jonah Hill on his shadow | “Stutz”

Stutz believes the shadow needs attention. Not attention from the world – like an academy award. The only being whose attention matters to your shadow is you.

The next step is to ask your shadow what you can do to make up for not giving any attention to him for such a long time.

Hill responds

he says to include him in my life. Share my life with him. Celebrate with him. Be proud of him. Like in a social setting where you’re not acknowledging someone exists. Not only do I know to acknowledge that this person exists, but that they are a beautiful part of you.

– Jonah Hill on his shadow | “Stutz”

“Okay Jonah, now open your eyes.”

This tool is good for confronting things. Whether you need to make a presentation, prepare for going on a date, have low self-esteem or self-image or something along those lines.

The goal is to use this tool to uncover things and tolerate whatever happens. It’s the process of relating to that which you need to pay attention to.

The idea of being in sync with your shadow allows you to become whole.

I don’t need anything else – I am whole the way I am.

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

Phil Stutz’s therapy tool number five: The Snapshot (the realm of illusion)

This tool ties in with Part X. In fact, Stutz says that Part X actually creates the ‘perfect snapshot’.

It’s simply an image in your mind. The issue though is in that the image is ‘perfect’.

Whether it be the perfect job, the perfect wedding, the perfect family, or whatever you’re aiming towards at the moment.

Stutz asks Jonah to think about what a snapshot actually is: a still image that has no depth. Well, that’s what our brain creates and ultimately cripples us with.

People tell themselves that they cannot do the thing they want until their snapshot is perfect.

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

Remember the three aspects of reality that we cannot change?

1. Pain will never go away

2. Uncertainty will never go away

3. There is no getting away from the need for constant work.

No matter what, everybody has to live like this. 

And, to deal with this fact, people work towards or stay crippled by their perfect snapshot.

And, even if you do get there, perhaps earlier than you expected, too, you don’t feel good for doing so. As you realise the snapshot wasn’t perfect and was indeed a still image with no depth.

Phil Stutz’s therapy tool number six: The Maze

The Maze is yet another project of the infamous villain in your life Part X.

Stutz says that Part X always wants ‘fairness’. Therefore, The Maze always involves other people in your life.

A classic example is when somebody only wants to think and talk about another person. What you are telling yourself is “I will move past this once they make up for whatever it is they’ve done to mistreat me.”

That quest for ‘fairness’ puts your life on hold and Stutz says that:

Time is fleeting and we don’t have enough time for that bullshit.

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

Jonah Hill, on The Maze, says:

“I feel like I spent my whole fucking life in The Maze. Being stuck on not being paid back on something I felt was unfair. Wasted hours, days, months, years of my life that I can’t get back.”

– Jonah Hill on The Maze | “Stutz”

The average person wants to have been paid back and to have made everything fair and balanced. But, you’re not going to get it from anyone else.

The only way in your control that allows you to feel like you’ve been paid is through Active Love.

Phil Stutz’s therapy tool number seven: Active Love

Here we go guys – another close-your-eyes instruction from Phil Stutz.

“Close your eyes. Imagine you’re surrounded by a universe completely made out of love. I know it sounds nuts but just shut the fuck up – do what I tell you and don’t prejudge. Let me paint the picture. It’s just a world full of loving energy. Feel yourself taking in all of the love in the universe. Now gently but firmly place all of the love in the universe in your heart. Right at that moment, you are the principal leader of love in the whole universe. Now – you want to see this one person that you feel all of your anger resentment and hate towards and send all of this concentrated love towards this person. Hold nothing back. Give everything. You don’t just see this – you must feel all the love enter them, from you. At that moment you should think ‘if I can become one with this bastard, I can become one with anybody.'”

The Active Love tool isn’t for you to love somebody you hate. Or even forgive them. It’s not for the other person at all. It’s to make you feel whole and free you from The Maze and be able to move forward.

Do you want to be right or do you want to move forward? Life is moving forward. If you want to waste your days in The Maze, that’s fine, but you can’t get those back.

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

Stutz ends his explanations on his tool The Maze by stating that all his tools and methods revolve around a variant of “hey schmuck, take action, no matter how frightened you are.” 

Which, consequently, reminds Jonah Hill about another tool to segway into… 

Phil Stutz’s therapy tool number eight: Radical Acceptance

Stutz’s tool Radical Acceptance is about ‘squeezing the juice.’ By that, he means finding something meaningful in everything and ultimately moving away from any reflex or reaction that is negative. 

The rules in the Radical Acceptance tool are that:

1. You are not allowed to make any negative judgements.

2. You are not allowed to tell yourself anything negative.

3. You need to find a positive.

‘Squeezing the juice’ requires some faith that there is indeed something valuable for you to find and also requires you to have the will to find it.

You need to look at all events as having value, if you can do that, then you’re in a zone of tremendous opportunity.

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

Jonah Hill instantly replies to Stutz that that was a ‘Stutz greatest hit’ and a ‘mic drop’. He then goes on to explain how he used the Radical Acceptance tool the night before they recorded the scene in mention. 

Last night I was having an anxiety attack and couldn’t sleep. Instead of having more anxiety about how I’m not getting enough sleep for the next day of work, I used Radical Acceptance to use that time to come up with more new ideas for the shoot today.

– Jonah Hill on the Radical Acceptance tool | “Stutz”

Phil Stutz’s therapy tool number nine: The Grateful Flow

Part X (that guy again) wants you to be negative.

The reality is that your reality is almost always wrong. Or at the very least not right. 

There is always the sun up there. Just sometimes Part X puts a black cloud in front of it and makes it seem as if it’s nowhere to be found.

Using Stutz’s tool The Grateful Flow allows you to pierce the black cloud with gratitude.

Gratitude allows you to always have the sensation and feeling that there’s something good up there, beyond what you can currently see.

Ready for another Phil Stutz eye-closing tool session? In 3, 2, 1…

“Close your eyes. Say two, three and at the most four things that you are grateful for. The smaller the thing, the better, as it forces you to concentrate your gratitude.”

Jonah Hill’s things he was grateful for in this Phil Stutz closed-eye session were:

  • “I’m grateful for my nephews.”
  • “I’m grateful for surfing.”
  • “I’m grateful for my dogs.”
  • “I’m grateful for you.”

Stutz says the next thing you should do is keep naming things in your brain. Keep that flow of gratitude going. Then, when you next go to create a grateful thought – don’t. Block it. And allow that energy to just sit. As it gets stronger, allow yourself to feel taken over by it and consumed.

That’s the Grateful Flow.

Hill said that after doing that he “felt everything slow down and a warmth of comfort.”

Stutz says that the key is to make it a creative act and not say the same things over and over. When you have to dig to find things – that process will transform you.

Gratitude is not thinking ‘well I’m lucky’, it’s the state you want to be in as often as possible because it breaks you through the cloud and takes you to a different world. Part X tells you constantly that you shouldn’t be grateful and that you’re screwed. The Grateful Flow cuts through this.

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

Phil Stutz’s therapy tool number ten: Loss Processing

People are obviously very bad at processing and dealing with losses.

Stutz’s tool, Loss Processing, is what it says on the tin – a tool that allows you to process a loss.

The goal is to get what’s called the ‘potency of non-attachment’. This means that you can still pursue something – but be willing to lose it or not have it entirely.

Stutz says the first step is to picture something, whatever it is, that you’re afraid to let go of or have something terrible happen to it.

Now imagine you’re grasping onto it like it’s a thin branch on a tree stopping you from falling. You’re afraid to let go. But, you do, despite your fear. What you experience is a fall that is actually kind of slow and gentle, to your surprise, but you’re still dropping down.

You have to say to yourself with genuine intent: ‘I am willing to lose everything’

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

And, as you say that, you hit the sun at the bottom of where you were falling which causes your body to burn up. 

Now – you have lost everything. You are just one sunbeam away from losing your instrument of possession: your body.

Now, despite losing that which you didn’t want to lose but accepted you will, you’re radiating outwards a loving sensation. Then you look around and see an infinite number of other suns, just like yours, radiating outwards too. Lastly, you hear the suns all say in unison “we are everywhere”.

“This world is called a sun world. All you can do is give. You can’t take. You can’t hold onto anything. It’s impossible.”

Stutz says that you’re not trying to be non-attached, you’re simply working towards accepting non-attachment in the fear of loss.

Again, the theme here is on making yourself whole.

Stutz’s secret to life

Lucy Ford of GQ calls Stutz the ‘antidote to social media self-therapising‘. This review, amongst the dozens I have read, finds a way to irritate me. Perhaps due to the nature of any review taking something so perspicaciously impactful and coining it in a headline. Similarly, I cannot review Stutz in a headline, a sentence or even two, without deleting it or slapping myself. There are no words to describe the beauty and benefit that Stutz has and will have on the world of mental illness, psychology and therapy. Ask yourself: if everyone was taught the tools of Stutz and how to use them, would they be better people and the world a better place? Anyone who would answer no, please email me and we will do a podcast!

Jonah Hill concludes Stutz, incredibly emotionally and in retrospect after discussing these tools and the impact they’ve had on his life and therapeutic journey, that he’s accomplished a whole new outlook on everything.

In an absurd way – which actually made Phil Stutz laugh out loud – Hill claims that with Stutz’s tools, he now no longer thinks the people he looks up to are absolved of the exact same problems he has.

It’s important to remember that the people you look up to and the people who may seem or portray that they have everything together are not exempt from the things we deal with and are in the same battle of being human.

Stutz says that indeed is the secret of life.

The secret of life is accepting that you won’t figure it out, ever, and nobody else will figure it out, ever. Happiness depends on how you accept that and what you do about it. But, if you don’t accept it, your mind will always aim to get over it, under it or eliminate it, and you can’t.

– Phil Stutz | “Stutz”

At the end of “Stutz”, Phil Stutz asks Jonah Hill to introduce the movie and outro it in one take:

I’m making this movie because I want to give therapy, and the tools I’ve learned in therapy, to as many people as possible, through a film. I made this movie, because I love Phil, because I love the life these tools allowed for me to have, and it doesn’t matter what people think about the movie, it just matters that we finished it, together.

– Jonah Hill’s intro and outro to Stutz | “Stutz”

Stutz, then, in typical Stutz fashion, replies with an “I love you” rapidly followed up by an “I wish you’d stop dumping your shit on me, though!”

Reviews for Stutz:

“The film is tender, funny, and surprising – not only does Hill break the “fourth wall,” but at one point, breaks into a fourth dimension. It’s a magnificent work of art—made of crayons, perfume, and transcendence. A love letter to a beloved teacher, friend, and visionary.” —Jamie Rose, Tools coach

“A portrait of affection.” —Lisa Kennedy, The New York Times

”Easy though it’d be for Hill’s documentary to feel like a navel-gazing vanity project, Stutz ultimately lands as an earnest attempt to democratize the life-affirming tools he’s gained from therapy – and a tribute to his titular therapist.” —Shaun Munro, Flickering Myth

“Jonah Hill’s therapy documentary is raw, uncomfortable, and deeply moving.” —Anna Menta, Decider

“In a vacuum of so much vapid self-help entertainment, Stutz feels like the rare outlier that breaks through the noise and takes root.” —Cory Woodroof, 615 Film

“A calming and poignant documentary that in itself is a humorous, vulnerable, and ultimately therapeutic experience.” —Romey Norton, Ready Steady Cut

“This film has a worthy goal: to change the perspectives of people who might be hurting right now. For those willing to go with its flow, it has a real power.” – Noel Murray, Los Angeles Times

“Jonah Hill’s attempt at sharing a form of healing is an admirable one and he has a partner in Phil Stutz that is every bit the interesting subject as we become the listeners in the role of both patient and therapist ourselves.” – Erik Childress, Movie Madness Podcast

“If you need a shot of inspiration to pull you out of the blues, this is the film. Part biography, part therapy and lots of self-help combined with a likable yet flawed main character make this a film that will get you thinking, feeling and moving on.” – Julia Swift, My Champion Valley