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Interview With Dr. Phil McGraw

Aired February 27, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, finding the true you. Oprah's get- real expert, Dr. Phil McGraw, he's back! We'll take calls and deliver a swift kick if you need it next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We rarely do this, but we have brought back a very special guest. Dr. Phillip McGraw, the author of the -- a couple of "New York Times" No. 1 best sellers. He has a new book out called "Self Matters: Creating Your Life From the Inside Out." He is, of course, Oprah's resident expert on human relations, appearing every Tuesday on that famous show. And this September, he will launch his own national TV show. By the way, do you have a title for the show?

DR. PHILLIP MCGRAW, AUTHOR, "SELF MATTERS": Well, right now, it's just probably "Dr. Phil".

KING: That's a good title. That's what it is.

MCGRAW: I thought it was kind of clever, you know, since I'm going to be the one doing it. But, no, we don't. We have got a lot of people working on the show right now and a very different experience for me to do that. But I've got the greatest team around me that you could ever imagine.

I mean, think about starting a television show and you got Oprah Winfrey standing at your elbow saying, OK, here's how we need to do this. I mean, how much better does this get than that? And then you've got Paramount, who is putting the show together and doing all of that. And, I mean, what a lineup over there. And you know some of the people over there, Joel Berman and Greg Midell (ph) and Terry Wood (ph). And we have got an executive producer from "Entertainment Tonight", Carla Pennington, who, you know, you talk about a home run.

So we have just got an unbelievable team putting this together. And it's -- I seem to have a knack in my life, Larry, for getting in situations where somebody does all the work and I get to stand up and take all the credit.

KING: That's the way it works in this business.


You get the right crew.

MCGRAW: Absolutely. Somebody will work a week, I mean, 12 hours a day for a week putting a show together and I step up and do it for an hour. And they don't get to see all that hard work, but it's there.

KING: Can you give me a concept of format? What's the show going to look like?

MCGRAW: I can. It's starting to really take shape at this point. What we're going to do is, you know, you've heard me say I think we're living in a fast-paced world that is running faster and faster every minute. And my goal is to do some of what I think Oprah has done for so long with her show, and that is to provide people a moment of sanity in a crazy world.

I mean, if I can -- I'm looking for appointment television. I want people who can say, you know what, at 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon, I can sit down, turn on the television and there's going to be somebody there that's going to make common sense, that's going to talk to me in plain language with common sense, and talk to me about things that matter in my life, my family, my marriage, my career, my world and hopefully come away with some things I can do. So this is -- you don't have to be boring to do that. I mean, we're going to have some fun. We're going to have some entertainment involved.

KING: One hour?

MCGRAW: It's going to be an hour.

KING: You said 3:00, 4:00 in the afternoon. Are you going to be on against Oprah?

MCGRAW: Oh, absolutely not. My mama didn't raise a fool.

KING: Is that part of the rule, you can't be placed on a station...

MCGRAW: When we decided to do this, Oprah has created the show, of course. So there's no sense in us working at cross purposes. So if she's on at 4:00 in the afternoon, I'm generally on at 3:00. If she's on at 3:00, I'm on at 4:00.

KING: You'll be on a lot of her stations.

MCGRAW: Some, but I'm on a lot of different stations in the same market.

KING: But will you tell them not to play it against her.

MCGRAW: Yes, that's been done. You know, Roger King, he's awful good at pulling that together, which is the other player in the deal, which is -- how much better does it get than King World?

KING: Studio audience involvement?

MCGRAW: Studio audience. We're going to have, you know, 200, 300 people there because I think it's important to talk to the people and hear what they have to say and take their questions, as you do on your show, and make it highly interactive.

KING: Why do you -- "Self Matters", best selling book. Why do you think you do what you do? Sounds like a Dr. Phil question.

MCGRAW: It does, but at least you're gentle with that.

KING: OK, why do you do what you do, Phil!

MCGRAW: There you go. Now listen, I am doing it for a reason. And I had really moved away from psychology in my life. When I started it as a career, I didn't like it. I didn't feel right in the role. And so I had really moved away from it. And I think every one of us, and this is the focus of "Self Matters", I want people, not in some general or cosmic way but in a very down-to-earth way, to find out who am I as defined by what gifts I have, what skills and abilities I have.

And for me, when I started looking at what can I do and what can I not do, we all have strengths and weaknesses. Weakness for me, I can't add two and two. I mean, I got to take off my shoes to make change for a 20. I just am not good at math. But I'm very analytical. I can analyze situations quickly and it's very clear to me. I mean, it's very clear to me when I look at a situation. I saw that as one of my characteristics and I'm also very competitive. I mean, I'm very, very competitive. And in psychology, there's no clear outcome, oftentimes. You know, you work with somebody for a while, you're better, you're worse, depends on what kind of mood they're in. There's not always a real clear outcome criteria.

So I gravitated into the litigation world and started using psychology in the courtroom through Courtroom Sciences, which is our consulting firm. We would strategize lawsuits and do mock trials and other things of that nature.

KING: No, but I'm talking about this aspect of your life.

MCGRAW: I understand. I'm headed there. I'm just going around the long way. But I found something that was both analytical and met my competitive edge, and so that was good for me. But as I got away from it, something was missing. Something was missing. I want to feel like I'm making a difference. I want to feel like when I'm through with this life and I look back on it, I'll see some tracks back there where I said I impacted this person's life.

And I had greatly underestimated the power of television. I mean, I know you know it because you've been in it forever. And, you know, when you're in front of so many people in so many different states and countries around the world, it's a powerful platform. And you can truly make an impact and have a difference, and that appeals to me.

KING: How about those who call it pop psychology?

MCGRAW: Well, I'm not sure what pop psychology is, but I don't like it. What I think it is, I don't like it. And I can tell you, on the Oprah show, which, I mean, what better platform can you have than the "Oprah Winfrey Show." I mean, it is the best of the best.

But, Larry, we don't think that we're doing eight-minute cures on that show. We don't think that we're getting somebody on there and coming up with some glib recitation of what you ought to do or not do to improve your life. What we're doing is giving people a wakeup call. You can get someone on there that's fighting a particular problem, whether it's a marriage problem or an addiction problem or a personal problem, and if I can be an emotional compass for these people, if I can point them in a direction where they can find answers, then I think that's worth doing. The real work starts when they get through with the show. We're not trying to cure anybody in eight minutes with some pop psych answer. What we're trying to do is heighten awareness and point them in a direction.

KING: We'll include some phone calls. We'll also ask about Dr. Phil's relationship rescue tips and myths about relationships. The new book is "Self Matters." We'll be right back.


MCGRAW: You know, the problem is when you're talking men and women, you're usually talking relationships. And as I've said before, when it comes to relationships, there's a general rule, men don't get it. You're either going to get real about that or you're going to get real fat. This (UNINTELLIGIBLE) my dad used to say, boy, don't let your alligator mouth overload your hummingbird ass.



KING: We're back with Dr. Phillip McGraw. The new book "Self Matters, Creating Your Life From the Inside Out." He's Oprah's resident expert. His new TV show starts this fall. Check your newspapers for time and stations. Wonderful thing to say. Member of Federal Deposit Insurance. Things announcers love to say. Check newspapers for time and stations.

MCGRAW: You might have missed your career. You may have been a good commercial guy.

KING: Staff announcer.


KING: Let's take a call and then we'll go on with more questions. Summit, New Jersey, for Dr. Phil.

CALLER: Hi. I'm calling because I'm a little distraught. I was wondering, what do you do when you feel like your life has gone nowhere and you almost feel like you're dying?

KING: How old are you, ma'am?

CALLER: I'm 32.

KING: Wow, a little young to feel that way.

MCGRAW: Yeah, a little young to feel that way. But you know, the first thing I think you have to do is probably not what you're going to expect, but the first thing I think you have to do is ask yourself, is that true? I mean, is your life shut down and is it going nowhere? You know, I think what people try to do when they encounter someone that's kind of down is the first thing they want to do is say, oh, it's going to be OK, you know, you're all right. If there's somebody sitting around saying, you know, I'm just a lazy slug, my first question is, "are you?" Are you a lazy slug?

KING: So you're saying to this woman, are you?

MCGRAW: Is your life shut down and is it going nowhere?

KING: Is it, ma'am?

CALLER: I feel like it -- I'm not lazy. You know, it's just my situation and my current circumstances that make me feel as if it's going nowhere.

KING: You've hit a block.


MCGRAW: Well, and the whole point that I try to get across to everyone is this: If what you're doing is not working, do something different. I ask people all the time. They'll tell me, they'll say something, here's what I'm doing in my life. And then my question is frequently, "how's that working for you?" And if it's not working for you, hey, tell you what, let's get a pad and pen and let's make a list of things that we want to cross off and stop doing and the things that we want to change, new things that we want to start doing.

If your life is shut down, if you're in a situation that's not working for you, then you've got to change something. You've got to change your pattern. I mean, change how much you're investing in your health, change your weight, change your job, change the things that you control and see if you can create a different result.

But what happens is we stagnate and we just sit there and wait for our lives to change instead of changing our lives. So my question to you would be, what can you do to change your situation?

KING: Do something, right?

MCGRAW: That's right. Do something. Take action. The world rewards action. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. If you want different, do different.

KING: Let's discuss some of the relationship myths from your relationship rescue. "A great relationship depends on a great meeting of the minds." That's a myth?

MCGRAW: Oh, man. See, here's the thing -- people don't -- listen, I think that marital therapy is a good thing if it's with a qualified person who understands the real world. But the truth is that research shows that if you've been in relationship therapy for a year, two-thirds of the couples are worse off or no better after that year.

So that tells us what we're doing traditionally is not working. And so what I've tried to do is expose the myths that we have been teaching about relationships. First one, you got to have a great meeting of the minds. We have gotten couples into therapy for years saying, OK, husband, you need to be more like your wife. You need to be more sensitive, you need to be more intuitive. And wives, you need to be more like your husbands. Connect the dots here, be logical.

And so we send them out each trying to do that, and there's no way in the world they're able to pull that off, because we are different. We're different by design. Don't try to force yourself to see things through each other's eyes. It just doesn't work.

KING: You also say it's a myth that a great relationship demands a great romance.

MCGRAW: Now, I'm going to get in trouble here, but let me tell you: When I say that that is a myth, I mean romance the way it has been glamorized through the media and the movies. I mean, I've looked at some of these self-help books that are out there, and they say if you want to have a great romance, write a love letter, sprinkle rose petals down the hallway at night, and your wife will appreciate that.

Let me tell you, at my house I go sprinkling rose petals down the hallway, she's going to be right behind me saying, "you spread 'em out, you pick 'em up." Because I mean, the truth is, we're out there trying to get things done in our lives. We've got kids to get up and get dressed and get off to school.

KING: So how do you keep -- romance is important, isn't it? Or not?

MCGRAW: It is important, but it's not about rose petals and love letters. Romance -- people always say -- one of the other myths that goes with it -- I'll mention this one at the same time -- is that sex is not important to a relationship. That's a myth, that sex is not important to a relationship. If you think sex is not important to a relationship, just ask the one who ain't getting any.

KING: So sex is important but romance isn't?

MCGRAW: Well, what I'm saying is that they go hand in hand. I believe that what most women tell me they consider romance is somebody that cares how their day is going, somebody that listens to what's happening in their world, somebody who will take the trash out so they don't have to, somebody that will do something to lighten their load, to care about them in some way that they can see palpably. That's what they consider someone that is romantic, somebody that will invest in their quality of life. Talk is cheap. What are you doing to make my life better to show me that you value me?

And all of the rest of the relationship flows from that. The sexual relationship, the recreation, the sharing, the caring. It all flows from somebody who is willing to invest some energy in the other person's quality of life. That's what romance is. That's what sex flows from. That's what really makes a marriage work or not work.

And there are a couple of things we can talk about. There's one thing in particular -- if you do this in your relationship, I can predict you're going to have a divorce in a short period of time with 90 percent accuracy. If there's one thing you do in your relationship. And there's one good rule that you can use to set it up for success. And those are two important points that we should talk about.

KING: And we will. We'll come right back with Dr. Phillip McGraw right after these words. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Dr. Phil. The book "Self Matters: Creating Your Life From The Inside Out." OK, what's the one good thing you can do and the one bad thing you shouldn't do?

MCGRAW: And it all flows from "Self Matters," the whole idea that I try to get people to understand is that the most important relationship you'll ever have is with yourself. And think about this, when you're in a fight with your partner and people do argue, an that's OK.

One of the myths that I talk about in "Relationship Rescue" is that a good relationship is a peaceful one. That's not necessarily true, sometimes arguing back and forth can be a great tension release. If you argue, there are some benefits that can come from it. Makeup sex, for example. If you don't argue, you don't have makeup sex. That's a terrible thing to miss out on in relationships so you don't want to cut yourself out of that.

Now, I'm not saying go start an argument so you can have fun. That's not what I'm saying at all. But the truth is if when you're in an argument you fail to let your partner retreat with dignity and respect at the end, and you instead pursue them with character assassination, that one element predicts the demise of a marriage above everything else you can do.

KING: Doomsville.

MCGRAW: Doomsville. For example, you've had an argument and your partner is dead wrong and you're right, you must be a gracious winner. If they try to end this and your response is, oh, yes, you just want to blow it over. You are a worthless, no good, bop, bop, bop, bop -- I promise you, you are headed for the courthouse. Because nobody, nobody is going to listen to that for any period of time.

KING: All right. That's a bad thing.

MCGRAW: That's a bad thing.

KING: What's a good thing? MCGRAW: I'm often a little fuzzy on this good or bad. But that's one bad. The good thing is this, there's been some really interesting research that suggests that what you do with your partner in the first four minutes that you're together predicts how the entire rest of the relationship is going to go for the entire rest of the day. For example, you get up in the morning and walk into the kitchen, so often we won't even put enough effort and energy into it that we would put in at work. I mean, you won't walk in at work and just walk by somebody and go "huh." But you'll walk into the kitchen and not even speak to your partner or you'll grunt or grown in their direction. Or your mate, whether it's husband or wife, will come home and you're the first one there and you open the door and say look at all these bills, the plumbing is broke in the back, you set the cat on fire today. I mean just problem, problem, problem.

If all you ever deal with in a relationship are problems, you're going to have a problem relationship. The first four minutes, not the first ten -- the first four minutes -- how you interact during those first four minutes dictates how your relationship is going to go the rest of the day.

KING: Good morning, honey.

MCGRAW: Good morning honey, or a hug or how did you sleep, or I'm so glad you're home from work, tell me about your day. Finding some way to fill just four minutes here. We're just talking about 240 seconds, this isn't a life sentence. Come up with pleasant things that you can exchange with your partner -- it sets the entire mood.

KING: Cheshire, Connecticut. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, hello. My name is Laura and I just wanted to ask Dr. Phil a question. I've recently divorced my husband, I was married to him for eight years and we have two beautiful children. I'm just having a hard time with the betrayal. He left me and, I mean, I'm working full time and taking great care of my children and I'm in therapy. But I was just wondering if you have any advice as far as dealing with this.

KING: I have one question. Did he leave you for someone else?

CALLER: I believe so. He says that he hasn't but -- and I certainly want to believe him, but there's too many things that I discovered that would lead me to think --

MCGRAW: Why do you want to believe him?

CALLER: Because I trusted him -- I trusted him and I took my wedding vows very seriously.

MCGRAW: Well, but isn't what you want is the truth?


MCGRAW: I mean you don't want to believe one way or the other, what you want is the truth, right? CALLER: Right.

MCGRAW: All right. And once you have the truth and you find out whether he has betrayed you or not, then where are you?

CALLER: Well, I filed for divorce so I knew what the right thing was to do, and I know I will find someone else out there someday. But --

MCGRAW: OK. But the point is if he betrayed you, then he did and that's over and you've extricated yourself from the relationship. You've got one goal and one assignment. Now you didn't call up here to get some homework but that's what I'm going to give her, Larry.

The goal that I want you to strive for is what I call emotional closure. Because, look -- you don't want to have unfinished emotional business with this person. You don't want to be where you've got to get up every morning and open the pain book and hurt and be angry and upset over what he did to you. So your goal is you've got to try to get emotional closure on that. Let me tell you what your assignment is: Whether he did or did not betray you, the two of you have two children. And what you must do now is create a new relationship as the common parents of these two children.

You don't have the right to spend the rest of your life in emotional warfare with each other, because those children will pick up the tab for your inability to get beyond whatever has happened. Look, if he betrayed you and he has gone with somebody else, this will give you a good feeling. The chance of him succeeding in a long-term relationship with the person with whom he betrayed you, if he did, is less than 5 percent. Less than 5 percent chance that relationships that begin with infidelity will last. So now that he's going to get to do this again real soon.

So if that gives you any comfort just know that he hasn't moved on to happy life, but your goal is this -- find out what you have to do to get beyond this enough to create a stable relationship so you don't put these kids in a tug of war. I mean, it's terrible that we decide that because we don't like each other or we've hurt each other that we're going to put those children in a cross fire. And you don't have the right to do that and, in fact, you have the responsibility not to.

KING: Good advice. You're going to move to L.A.?

MCGRAW: I have a home in Dallas and a business and life and all, and I am going to set up a home out here. Hopefully over near you, and --

KING: You're going to go back and forth?


KING: But your show will come out of California?

MCGRAW: The show is going to be on the Paramount lot, here in L.A. And I am really excited about that. It's pretty smooth out here, don't you think? You have pretty good weather and everything.

KING: If it ain't first, it's in the top three.

MCGRAW: And it's never boring. I've driven up and down Melrose a few times already. And, let me tell --

KING: You could set up shop on Melrose.

MCGRAW: If you can't see it or find it on Melrose, you don't need it.

KING: We'll be right back with Dr. Phillip McGraw. The book is "Self Matters: Creating Your Life From the Inside Out." Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Dr. Phillip McGraw. Let's get another call. Cleveland, Ohio, for the author of "Self Matters." Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Dr. Phil. I was just wondering if mental abuse is just as bad as physical abuse?

MCGRAW: Let me tell you that I make very little distinction between the two, and I'll tell you why. And let me preface that by saying that I've often been heard to say that we get divorced and leave relationships too easy in our society, and I do believe that. I think we need to work on them. But there are some drop dead deal breakers, absolute drop dead deal breakers and abuse is one of them.

KING: Physical automatic?

MCGRAW: Physical automatic.

KING: You would put them the same?

MCGRAW: Well, I do. And I can tell you that physical abuse is the more acutely dangerous because you can...

KING: Die.

MCGRAW: You can die. You can get hurt seriously. And so I don't mean to say that it is not more acutely dangerous, but emotional abuse is what I call a silent epidemic in America. And it doesn't leave a visible scar, but it creates what I call psychic disfigurement.

You have a psychological skin, just like you have a physical skin. And if your physical skin is burned, then, you know, the burn can happen that quick, just in the blink of an eye, you can be burned, but it can leave pain for a long, long time and it can leave you disfigured for the rest of your life.

The same thing is true with emotional abuse. If someone is attacking your worth, your value, your person, your dignity and your respect, that can burn your psychological skin and it can leave you psychically disfigured for a long, long time or forever unless and until you get away from that burn source and you do something about it to repair the damage that's been done to you. So I take it very, very seriously, whether it is parents abusing children or spouses abusing each other or employers abusing their workers. If someone is in authority or power over another person and they are abusing that, that is absolutely unacceptable.

KING: Are you telling this lady go?

MCGRAW: I'm telling you that if you are in a situation with emotional abuse and you have an inability to handle or control that on your own, which doesn't mean that you're weak. I mean, some of these people are absolutely, out of control outrageous. You need to get some professional help right now and that person either needs to agree to get into that professional counseling and stay there or you need to extricate yourself from the relationship.

KING: Good luck with that. Little Rock, Arkansas. Hello.

CALLER: Hi. I am from Little Rock, Arkansas. I'm 47 years of age. And I'm in the professional insurance business and have been for 17 years. And my problem is that I have just been laid off and don't know where to go from there.

KING: Ah, many Americans facing this in this time. Forty-seven, did you say, ma'am?


KING: Laid off at 47.

MCGRAW: And, boy, that is so tough. It is so tough. And we have so many things that are affecting us right now. The aftermath of 9/11, of course. But we have other things in our society that are affecting that as well.

For example, in the insurance industry, major carriers in the United States are failing to write new insurance and terminating insurance because of black mold and some of the things that they just can't afford to cover anymore. So we're seeing a lot of competent, energetic people that are left without gainful employment. And, you know, I've said that we have these defining moments in our lives and they often times lead us to critical choices.

And I think it is so important that you know who you are and what your skills and abilities are so you can decide what choices to make and what directions to take. The whole purpose, the whole premise of "Self Matters" is to say find out what your strengths are, find out what your weaknesses are, find out what your passions are, because if you're one of those people, all too few, that know who you are and what you can do and what your passion is, you will match it to something to do.

KING: Can you find that at any age?

MCGRAW: You can find it at any age. I saw it with my dad. My dad passed away at age 74. He was a Ph.D psychologist. At age 72, he decided he wanted a new career, so he went to -- he went back to the theological seminary and got his masters of divinity because that was his passion. At that point, he wanted to be into the spiritual realm of things, spiritual counseling. And I never saw in him a passion and an energy and a vibrancy like I did when he was 72 years old.

KING: Thumbnail practical, what are you saying to this lady? Get up and go find something?

MCGRAW: What I'm saying is it's not something that you should personalize because being laid off is not a direct result of your efforts or energies or your lack of skill or ability. So you cannot personalize it and start beating yourself up because you're not gainfully employed. What you have to do is ask yourself, look, since I'm forced into redefinition, let me look at myself. Self matters. Figure out what your self is and how it's defined and use this time to find your passion and pursue it instead of just getting another job.

KING: And that is not difficult to do?

MCGRAW: It is difficult to do, but it's doable. It's doable because you don't have to evaluate your entire life. In "Self Matters", I try to give people a protocol, a formula to say find your 10 defining moments, find your seven critical choices, find the five pivotal people that have defined you and through that, see what your passions, your strengths, your abilities are. Who have you become and how did you get there?

And with that power, you become a guided missile. All of a sudden, you have a guidance system that you can use all of your skills and abilities to target in on what really lights you up instead of just kind of accepting what the world assigns you.

KING: We'll be right back with more moments, more phone calls for Dr. Phillip McGraw. The book is "Self Matters." Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Dr. Phil. We'll get a couple of more calls in, some more questions of course. His television show will start this fall. He'll be back with us again. We'd like to make him -- he's a regular every Tuesday with Oprah, we can get Larry for the night-time show, and we can cover him everywhere. You can pick up a morning show somewhere, he's set for life.

MCGRAW: That's what I need. And an all-night radio show.

KING: All-night radio show. You can go from Oprah to here, to all-night radio, to a morning show.


KING: Hey, it's passion!

MCGRAW: That's right.

KING: Hammondsport, New York. Hello.

CALLER: Hi. Dr. Phil, first of all, I'd like to say I really enjoy watching you. And I enjoy your honesty.

MCGRAW: Well, thank you for that.

CALLER: Yes. My question is this, a little over a year ago my husband died after a long illness. And shortly after that, his parents decided that they didn't want anything more to do with myself or their grandchildren. I've learned to deal with this rejection, partly because of time and because I just can't imagine what it was like for his parents to have lost their son. But my problem is my children. How can I better help them get over this double loss?

MCGRAW: How old are your children?

CALLER: They were 9 and 7 at the time. They're 11 and 9 now.

KING: How old was your husband?

CALLER: My husband was 39 when he died.

MCGRAW: Well, let me -- first off, let me tell you that I'm very sorry for your loss. I mean, that's terrible to lose a life partner and a mate at any age, but certainly at a young age like that. And you've got a full boat in providing leadership and care and guidance for these children.

I'm not going to presume to judge your in-laws, because I don't know what's driving their behavior. Maybe it's at this point too painful for them, maybe they see their son in those children. You just never know what drives somebody. But my dad used to say you need to spend 5 percent of your time deciding what you're going to do about something -- 5 percent of your time deciding whether something's a good deal or a bad deal, and 95 percent of your time deciding what you're going to do about it.

And you can't control these people. We can't control others. We can't control these in-laws, the grandparents of these children. I'll tell you, I would give you two very specific pieces of advice. Number one, I would say to them, either in letter or in person, however works best for you, that they are a significant omission from these children's lives and that the children feel rejected, that they feel alone, they feel an omission in their lives and that you would like for them to weigh very carefully if that's the impact they want to have on those young people, and that you would hope that they would not chose to do that any further.

But beyond letting them know what it is and how you feel about it, you've got to move on. Children are very resilient, they are very resilient at that age. And...

KING: But dealing with death is difficult.

MCGRAW: It is difficult.

KING: Especially at that age.

MCGRAW: And they have enough to deal with -- with the loss of their father, and now they're also losing this extended family support system, but they are resilient. But I'll tell you, I would be very honest with these children, and I would say, you know, I don't know why the grandparents have withdrawn here. It's very difficult to lose their son, just as it was for you to lose their dad, and you know, let's be patient with them, and you know, let's not think bad things about them, but in the meantime we've got to get on with our lives and we've got to keep moving.

KING: Good luck. Annapolis, Maryland. Hello.


KING: Yes, go ahead.

CALLER: Yes, Dr. Phil, I'm wondering in view of September 11 if you might be doing a program on loss and heartbreak and grief.

KING: There's a lot of it.

MCGRAW: Well, there sure is. And on the Oprah show, she has done a number of shows, and together we have done four or five shows where we have focused on that. And as I've said, I believe that in the show that I'll begin in September we need to deal with things that matter to people. And this is a part of life. I mean, it's the absolute cycle of life.

And there is a process that people go through in loss and grieving, and I think knowledge is power. When people understand it, they understand that there is a beginning and an end, that it does get better and that there are things they can do to ease the pain and find some purpose to go on, that it can be very helpful and very comforting. So that is something that we are going to be dealing with, and it's just very much a part of life, so yes.

KING: Thank you. Are you going to deal with the toughest pain of all, loss of a child?


KING: Unexplainable, inexplicable, can't imagine how you could deal with it.

MCGRAW: I am. It is just so unnatural. You know, I have a 22- year-old, and I have a 15-year-old. Everybody has their Achilles heel, and I mean, I've often said if something happens to one of my children, you just have to take me to the dump.

KING: Me, too. Goodbye.

MCGRAW: It is the most intimidating thing that we can ever face, and each situation is different. But you know what, we can deal with it, we can get past it because people do it every day.

KING: Life goes on. But.

MCGRAW: And there's not -- I don't mean to say anything to trivialize it, but most certainly we're going to talk about and deal with those issues, because there are coping strategies for those that have to do it.

KING: A piece of you is gone forever, though.

MCGRAW: Oh, but and every time I see it and every time I get close to it, I just say but for the grace of God go I. And it is the most horrible thing I think we ever encountered.

KING: Have you had to deal with people who have had it happen to them?

MCGRAW: I have. I have been present with the loss of children in the hospital. I've dealt with that...

KING: How do you deal with it as a therapist?

MCGRAW: Well, it is so hard, but I think what you have to do is live in the moment and get that person through that moment. So often what's so overwhelming to people is how can I live the rest of my life with this pain? And the truth is, that's not the right question. The real question is, how can I get through this minute? How can I get through this afternoon? How can I get through tomorrow and keep putting one foot in front of the other and find a way to honor the life of that child?

Everyone faces the challenge of finding meaning to their suffering. If we suffer for no reason, if we can find no sense, no reason to our suffering, it makes us crazy. But if we can find a meaning, a purpose, a value to the suffering that we've had to endure, then it becomes endurable.

I'm not saying it's a good deal, I'm not saying it's a good tuition, but I'm saying we can find some meaning and purpose. And you honor a child. Perhaps they've died from a specific disease. Then let them be a rallying cry for that disease. Let them call you to action. Let them inspire others to do things and fight the disease. Whatever you have faced in your particular situation, create meaning and purpose, and honor that child's life.

KING: We'll be back in our remaining moments in this our second visit with Dr. Phillip McGraw. We hope the second of what will be many. His book "Self Matters, Creating Your Life From the Inside Out," his TV show starts in September. Back with more after this.


KING: We're back with Dr. McGraw. The book is "Self Matters." You not only pick the 10 most significant things in your life, but pick the five most significant people. How does that help?

MCGRAW: Well, because people impact us, and sometimes it's an easy choice, like a parent or whatever. And sometimes it's someone that maybe we've looked at from afar who has inspired us to something, who has touched us -- who have touched us in some way that they may not even know but they left an imprint on us in some way. And you never know...

KING: Is it someone you had to know or could it have been Martin Luther King?

MCGRAW: It could have been Martin Luther King. It could have been Oprah, by watching her on television and she inspires you to get up and walk out of your history and do something different. I read one of the most moving things I've ever seen. Our oldest son, Jay, is 22. And he has written two books himself, one when he was 19, which is a "New York Times" best seller called "Life Strategies for Teens" and his current one, "Closing the Gap."

And, in "Closing the Gap", he talks about how parents and teens have moved so far apart because of the huge difference in generations and how we need to close that gap. And I got to read a letter that he received the other day from a parent and a son that wrote it together that had read "Self Matters" and had read his book. And this youngster who was 16 who was suicidal when they gave him Jay's book said, you are a pivotal person in my life.

KING: Without knowing him.

MCGRAW: Yes. And here's Jay, who's 19, writes a book, has never met this person and said, you're a pivotal person in my life because I'm still alive. So you never know who it is.

KING: So why does five help when you lay them out and write them down?

MCGRAW: Because you can then say, all right, what did this person write on the slate of who I am that causes me to behave the way I am today? People don't connect the dot, Larry. They don't understand that this teacher who humiliated me in front of the class in the fifth grade, I didn't realize that that person and that event causes me to choke or get nervous or anxious in a job interview now at age 47.

And when they see that they go, oh, my gosh, I've given my power away to that person. I need to take that back. I now know what I need to do to get past this problem. I didn't know where it came from. I didn't understand it. I now do and so I'm going to turn my attention on that. And maybe it's a positive person, maybe it's negative, and maybe it's a person that was positive at one time or negative at one time and they changed to a very different position.

KING: How do you enjoy fame?

MCGRAW: Well, you know, I don't feel any different.

KING: But people recognize you. You must besense it, so...

MCGRAW: Sure. I mean, you're not under the radar anywhere when you've been on shows like "Oprah Winfrey" and LARRY KING LIVE. I mean, you're in front of the entire world. I have found -- maybe it's because they don't want to get very close. I don't know.

KING: They back off?

MCGRAW: I have found that people are absolutely gracious. They come up and say, hey, love what you're doing, thanks for this book or that show or something like that.

KING: Makes you feel good?

MCGRAW: They're not intrusive. They move on. I really appreciate somebody saying, hey, you're doing a good job. And the ones that stop you are the ones that say, hey, love what you're doing. You don't get many people stopping you in the airport and say, by the way, I hate you. You know, they'll just leave that...

KING: Do many people bring you problems?

MCGRAW: They do, but most people understand I don't do individual counseling. But I listen enough to find out what the subject matter is because it might inspire a show that we might want to do or I might be able to guide them somewhere.

KING: Are phobias tougher to cure, fear of elevators, fear of heights, fear of airplanes?

MCGRAW: Interestingly enough, they're not. People suffer with them all their lives and it's one of the most curable disorders that we face.

KING: Really?

MCGRAW: And there's really only one phobia, and it's the phobia the fear of losing control. It can take the form of snakes, elevators, heights, open spaces or germs. But it all boils down to the fear of being out of control or losing control. But you can treat the specific topic and usually in anywhere from eight to 10, 12 sessions, you can eradicate a phobia that's crippling somebody in their life.

KING: Is there a toughest psychological dilemma? The chemical, obviously, is one.

MCGRAW: Certainly. I remember when I was in graduate school, a bunch of my smart-aleck friends wrote on a construction fence across from the psychology building, it said, help, the paranoids are after me.

So, I think the toughest thing that I've ever had to deal with is someone that had a really tough delusional system and pulled you into part of that, someone that really was paranoid, really felt that there was a conspiracy against them and it is very difficult to penetrate that. And if you're dealing with that in your life, for God sakes, get professional help with it. But those psychotic disorders can really be disruptive.

KING: Got less than a minute. Have you seen "A Beautiful Mind"? MCGRAW: I have not, but I feel like I have because I've watched the making of it and all. And I'm absolutely going to see it. It looks to me to be a very quality depiction of a very serious problem.

KING: What a pleasure.

MCGRAW: Thank you so much, Larry. We'll see you.

KING: Dr. Phil McGraw. We expect him back. He's the author of "Self Matters: Creating Your Life From the Inside Out." You see him every Tuesday on "Oprah", and his own show, which I think will be called "Dr. Phil." If it ain't called that, what are you going to call it?

MCGRAW: You have to come on my show, you understand. That's part of the trade.

KING: I have to give you my problem?

MCGRAW: Well, I'll find one. You can show up.

KING: It ain't going to be hard. Talk to the staff.

Thanks for joining us. Stay tuned for "NEWSNIGHT". I'm Larry King. See you tomorrow. Good night.




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