Skip to main content /TRANSCRIPTS



Encore Presentation: Interview With Dr. Phil McGraw

Aired March 23, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: He tells it like it is. You ready to listen? Oprah's go-to guy on getting your life together, Dr. Phil McGraw, on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Thanks for joining us. This weekend, we're giving you a double dose of Dr. Phil. Trust me, it's good medicine. Dr. Phil recently spent two hours with us, talking about his number-one best-selling book, "Self Matters: Creating Your Life From the Inside Out." The straight-talking Texan has a way of making sense out of confusing emotional stuff. And he's about to get a new place to do that, his very own television show.


KING: Oprah's producing this?

PHILLIP MCGRAW, "DR. PHIL": Oprah's creating it. Paramount is producing it, and King World is distributing it. So what a line-up, right?

KING: You got them all, yeah. How did you feel about that?

MCGRAW: Oh, I'll tell you, it's -- it's a daunting thing ahead of me, but I'm excited about it. You know, to get to do something totally new at my age, I mean, you know, hell, free-fall.

KING: Do we know the format?

MCGRAW: I'm going do to do a lot of what I've done on "Oprah." I mean, you know, you got to dance with who brung you, as they say. And some I'll be dealing with a lot of traditional issues -- marriage, family, just self management and motivation, things of that nature. But we're also going to deal with the topical issues in America. If something's happening that is relevant to the viewer, then we're going to be there dealing with it. So it's certainly not typical talk show fare.

KING: Well, there's a lot to talk about. We're going to delve into this book. But how did you find Oprah or Oprah find you?

MCGRAW: Well, I have a day job, Larry, as...

KING: You do? MCGRAW: ... as you may know. I have, like, a real job, where you actually have to go to work and do something. And it's -- I have a company that I co-founded with my partner, Gary Dobbs (ph), in Dallas, called Courtroom Sciences, which is a litigation consulting firm. And we work with lawyers to take complex cases and strategize how best to present them to a jury so they can be understood. And we do a lot of work on 1st Amendment-type cases. We work with the networks and different network anchor people and news folks. If they get sued for slander, libel, things of that nature, then we step in to help them defend not only what they've said but their right to say it.

And Oprah got sued by the cattleman up in Amarillo, as you know, the "mad cow," case, as it's called. And so they contacted us and asked us to help in her defense. That's how...

KING: That's how you met her?

MCGRAW: That's how I met her. I worked with her about a year leading up to the trial. And then, gosh, we all lived together in a bed-and-breakfast out on the edge of town for about two months during the trial. So you really get to know somebody when you live with them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And I mean, what a great lady.

KING: Had you -- oh, yeah, she's tremendous. Known her a long time. Go back to Baltimore with her.

MCGRAW: Well, she thinks the world of you. She speaks well of you often, so...

KING: Did you -- had you done, prior to this kind of work, psychological help with people?

MCGRAW: Well, I did. My dad was a traditional psychologist. And so I grew up in a shrinkly home, as they say. And so I was in private practice for a long time, but I didn't much take to it. You know, you just...

KING: Really?

MCGRAW: Yeah. You know, you get -- that's -- you're either cut out for that or you're not. And I wasn't even almost cut out for it.

KING: Didn't like it?

MCGRAW: Well, I didn't have the patience for it. I mean, my idea is figure out what's going on, make a plan and pull the trigger. I mean, do something. Get it in gear, jack it up and change what you're doing. And you know, the traditional model of therapy relationships and that sort of thing were a little protracted for me.

KING: Why, then, did you major in it?

MCGRAW: Well, interesting question. Probably because -- I'd love to give you some great story about how I was going to save humanity and was -- was moved to do it. But my dad went back late in life and studied psychology. And I can read really fast, and so I used to just read all of his books. And when it came time to go to college, I thought, "Well, you know, what I know the most about's psychology." So I took the easiest thing I could...

KING: You'll get A's.

MCGRAW: And then it hooked me. You know, then I got hooked.

KING: So you liked it?

MCGRAW: I absolutely love it. I don't like the therapy model that we have in America, but I love figuring out why people do what they do and don't do what they don't.

KING: Now, you're not telling people not to go to a psychologist.

MCGRAW: I think it's a very meaningful part of people's lives, whether it's a pastoral counselor or an individual counselor, but I think you need to ask some hard questions before you do. There are some great therapists out there that make a huge difference in people's lives, and God bless them for doing it. I'm glad they have the temperament for it. But people do need to ask questions because there are a nutty people out there doing therapy that hang their shingles out.

I saw a study one time that said -- asked a bunch of psychology students, "Why you get into psychology?" And the number-one answer was, "i had personal problems, and I thought I could figure them out." Follow-up study said, "Did it work?" And they said, "Not even close." So you got a lot of people that got into it for personal problems and never fixed them, and that's who we've got doing a lot of therapy.

KING: Again, to our audience, we'll be taking calls early, so you can get in early, and we'll start to go through calls early. Dr. Phil has helped hundreds and maybe thousands of people.

How do you know if your psychologist is right for you?

MCGRAW: Well, you got to ask the hard questions. I mean, first find...

KING: They're the customer, right?

MCGRAW: That's right. Exactly. And sometimes we get in there and people can be timid. You got to ask, you know, first off, "What do you know? Where did you go to school? How is your life working?" Because you got somebody in there that their life's a train wreck, and they're going to give you advice on yours? I kind of like to know. It's kind of like a financial adviser. "How much money you got?" So I like to find out...

KING: Good thinking. "Yeah, I'm broke."

MCGRAW: Exactly. That's right. I like to find out whether somebody knows what they're talking about. So I ask the hard questions. "Where'd you go to school. What do you know about what you're talking about? How's your life working?" And I think it's good to get recommendations, references from other doctors, physicians that may have referred.

KING: Might you be described, Dr. Phil, as a behaviorist? That is, "What's your problem? Here's the way to solve it," as opposed to what did your father say when you were six?

MCGRAW: Absolutely. Look, in America, I think we've gotten too much into trying to come up with excuses for why our lives aren't working the way they are. And I'm real big on accountability and I'm real big on results. You know, I think you have to look at intention, but I think you also have to look at results. If you're doing something if your life that's not working, change what you're doing. Don't go blaming somebody. Change what you're doing. There's one person in this role you control and that's you. You can't control your wife or your husband, your mom or your dad, your boss, your co- workers. What you can control is you. And I think you need to look at you on a results-oriented basis.

KING: Why is that so hard to do?

MCGRAW: Well, because we've gotten...

KING: Sounds so logical.

MCGRAW: Yeah, it does, Larry. But I'll tell you what. We've gotten into a mentality in America of not wanting to own the results in our lives. And I think that it's hurt us. I think we went through an era where we got into this, you know, "Look into yourself," and you know, "What's your inner child doing?" and all of that sort of stuff. And what it did was it gave people an escape hatch to say, "It's not my fault that I'm rude or abusive or arrogant with people. I was treated badly as a child, and therefore, you know, what can you expect from me?"

You know, we hear that most child abusers were abused children. Statistically true, but it damn sure is not an excuse. They make the choice, and I think life is about choices, and we need to get back to making them. I don't always tell people what they want to hear, but I will tell them the truth as I see it. I don't ever ask people to substitute my judgment for their own, but I will tell them the truth as I see it, and they need to weigh that.

KING: One of the definitions of insanity was repeating the same behavior, expecting a different result. Why do we keep repeating -- in other words, if you know that the fire burns, why put your hand in the fire?

MCGRAW: Well...

KING: Common, everyday occurrence.

MCGRAW: Well, it's a great question. And it is the number-one reason that I wrote "Self Matters," the current book that I have out, because I want people to answer the question, "How have I become the person I have become? How did I get here?" As I sit here with this personality, with this attitude, with this statement I make to the world, with this way of interacting with people, like you and I are doing right now, that came from somewhere. How did you become the person you sit there as today? Who is that person? And I don't mean "Who are you" in some cosmic sense, like who am I in the scope of the universe. I mean, what do you believe? What do you value? What are your skills? What wisdom have you accumulated in your life? Who are you in that regard?

And once you know that, then ask the question, "How'd I get here? Did I inherit this? I mean, is this kind of what I was assigned, or is it what I chose?" And boy, when you start answering those questions, it unlocks a whole lot of information that you didn't have available to you before.

KING: Dr. Phillip McGraw, Ph.D. The book is "Self Matters: Creating Your Life From the Inside Out." We'll be including a lot of phone calls tonight, of course, with Dr. Phil. His own new television show, a daily show, will premier this fall.

We'll be right back.


MCGRAW: If you want to know how you became who you are, you want to know what your self-identity truly is and how you got there, you can reduce it down to three major categories.

OPRAH WINFREY, HOST: OK. I love this. Go ahead.

MCGRAW: And you can reduce it down to ten defining moments, seven critical choices and five pivotal people. All of the rest...

WINFREY: Isn't that exciting to know? Ten, seven, five!



KING: Dr. Phil McGraw is our guest.

Do people ever get angry at your toughness?

MCGRAW: Well, people don't like to hear sometimes what I say. But you know, the way I look at it is if you really care about somebody, you're going to care enough to tell them the truth. You know, it's easy -- it's -- anybody can say, "Oh, you're fine. Really, it's not your fault. You're fine." It takes a lot more energy to step up and tell somebody what they don't want to hear. I mean, it's just easier not to.

And you know, what I've found, Larry, is that most of the people that I deal with know when I'm dealing with them that there isn't anybody in the room working any harder for them than I am. I am very direct. I do ask hard questions. I don't take non-responsive answers. And I don't have all of the answers. I think what I have is a whole lot of good questions to ask people, and so that... (CROSSTALK)

KING: ... know the questions.

MCGRAW: Well, that's right, because that will lead you to the answer. And you know, I'm very spontaneous in the way I deliver the things I say, but tell you what, I weigh very carefully what -- you know, you and I were talking off-camera about television. Very powerful medium. I understand whenever I say something, it may be that millions of people are listening.

KING: Around the world.

MCGRAW: Around the world. And a lot of folks are likely to take what I say -- I put a lot of verbs in my sentences. You don't have to guess what I think you ought to do. And so I think a lot of people are likely to react to that, and so I weigh very carefully what I say to people.

KING: Are most of life's misfortunes self-made?

MCGRAW: I think they are. Not all. I mean, you can't...

KING: 9/11 was not.

MCGRAW: Certainly not, and 9/11, for example -- you know, we talk in the book about the 10 defining moments in your life. That's the first time I have ever seen a collective defining moment because it...

KING: Affected all of us.

MCGRAW: It affected all of us. It affected people around the world. And you know, a defining moment is something that you're one way before it happens and another way after it happens in a lasting way. It's not something that just kind of gives you a little hiccup for a while. It changes who you are in a lasting way, and that certainly happened on 9/11.

And I saw -- I saw tremendous reactions from people of every walk of life, and it didn't matter -- certainly, it mattered if you were in New York because it was a personal affront, I think, to people at that point. But I don't care whether it was El Paso, Texas, or Eugene, Oregon, people felt that at that point, and it was a collective, defining moment.

KING: A term all interviewers have heard in talking to psychologists is it's not the event, it's how you react to the event. Your house could burn down, you could look at it as, "Boy, I get a chance to get a new house," or you can go, "Terrible." Is that the same with 9/11?

MCGRAW: Well, it is. We -- you know, we all have...

KING: That's how we react. MCGRAW: We have an internal dialogue, and some people reacted with anger and bitterness and aggressiveness. Some people reacted with pain and sorrow, and a lot of people in the middle. And that is a function of what we said to ourselves about what happened. And you know, people talk so much about, you know, "Will this change us for a short period of time, and then we'll drift back to who we were?" And it -- it will be acute for a period of time, and then we will begin, as they have in Israel and other countries, where they really become somewhat callous to what's gone on. But that doesn't mean that it has any less gravity, that it hasn't changed us any more than it seemed to in the beginning.

KING: What, Dr. Phil, though, does fear do to all your good teaching? Has to affect it?

MCGRAW: Well, of course, it does. And I -- you know, I think fear is something that's managed. Everybody has fear, and I think it can be a good warning for us. And I believe that we've seen fear. I've felt it. I'm sure you've felt it. Everyone has felt it since that happened. And we -- but it's something we live with every day.

I mean, I have two children, Jay (ph) and Jordan (ph). Every time they're gone, there's just that little bit of fear in the back of my mind about, you know, what -- every time the phone rings, every time a parent hears that siren out there -- it's something that we've learned to live with. It's part of life, and I don't think we should deny it. I think we should pay very close attention to it because it may be telling us something.

KING: Give me a definition of what we mean by "Self matters." Isn't that obvious?

MCGRAW: You would think it would be. I mean, people -- in fact, people talk about our society being selfish, that we've just become selfish and that we think the universe revolves around us. The truth is, I think we've become a selfless society, not selfish, but selfless, because back when we were younger -- think of how the world has changed.

We have seen the biggest shift in lifestyle in the last generation or two than ever between two generations, certainly, since the Industrial Revolution, because when I was a kid -- I was born in 1950. When I was a kid, we had one telephone in the kitchen, on the wall. And if you wanted to talk to your girlfriend, you had to wait till everybody got out of the kitchen. Then you got under the table and talked to your girlfriend. We had three TV channels. You got to watch "The Ricky Nelson Show" or "Gunsmoke." And now we got 500 TV channels. Everybody's on the Internet, a word that wasn't even in our vocabulary when I was in high school. There was no such thing as the Internet.

And we're so busy now. We're living in the laser lane. We don't have or take time to focus on who we are or how we've become the person that we are. So I think we've lost ourselves.

KING: So how do you change that? Aren't you pushing against the tide?

MCGRAW: I am pushing against the tide. But what I'm saying is, "Wait a minute. Slow down and ask yourself an important question. Are you doing what you're doing today because it's what you want to do today, or are you doing what you're doing today because it's what you were doing yesterday?" You don't want to do -- just what you were doing yesterday.

You're caught up in the flow of life here. We're born into a life chain. I mean, think about it. If you're born into a family of coal miners, what's your most likely occupation? It's going to be a coal miner. Whether you are equipped to be a concert pianist or a brain surgeon, you're likely to be a coal miner. If you're born into a family where all the women are stay-at-home moms, you're likely to be a stay-at-home mom.

What I want people to do is stop and say, "Is that what I choose?" And I'm not saying it's all about you. If you don't like it, don't do it. I mean, part of maturity's learning you don't have to like it, you just have to do it sometimes. But you do have to ask yourself, "Is this a life that I have chosen, or is this a life that has been assigned to me?" Hard question.

KING: Our guest is Dr. Phil McGraw. The book is "Self Matters: Creating Your Life From the Inside Out." We'll be including your phone calls. We'll start to do that right after these words.


KING: His television show dealing with human relationships and current everyday problems as they develop, events that happen in the world -- right, you'll be reacting to them -- will premiere this September. His new book is "Self Matters."

And we'll take a call from Haverhill, Massachusetts. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Hi, Dr. Phil.

MCGRAW: Good afternoon.

CALLER: After the shock of September 11th, Doctor, how can people go on with their goals, their priorities? And really, how do they go on with their lives now?

MCGRAW: Well, that...

KING: They think they're not going to be around tomorrow, I guess.

MCGRAW: Well, that's right. And that's a good question. And listen, I'll tell you, you don't -- before 9/11, you didn't know whether you were going to be here tomorrow or not, either. I mean, that just brought it to kind of a white-hot point of focus.

But you know, the thing I want people to understand is we don't get to choose, or at least, we shouldn't be choosing how and when we die. But we do get to choose how we live. And what I want everybody to understand is that things did change in an undeniable way. I heard a lot of politicians and others stand up and say, "We need to defeat these terrorists by getting back to normal." And the truth is, we have the new normal now. You've got to create a new normal. You can't get back to normal.

We need to be more vigilant. We need to do some things we weren't doing. There was a death of innocence, at that point. And the fact is, we're probably safer today than we were before it happened because of the vigilance, because of the attention of people.

So you know, you say, how do you get back and get on with your life? My question to you is, how do you not? I mean, if you're not going to live and do what you are put here to do...

KING: What's the point?

MCGRAW: -- what's your alternative? You know, futurists tell us if we're alive in the year 2010, that our life expectancy's 125, OK? Now, think about that. You know, I'm 51 years old. That means -- do the math -- I got about another 75 years here. Now, that's a long time to sit on the sidelines and wonder what's going to happen and what's going on. You can't predict it. What you got to do is say, "Life is managed, it's not cured. You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to get up tomorrow and do everything I can."

KING: Ellijay, Georgia. Hello.

CALLER: Yes. Dr. Phil, I absolutely loved your book, "Self Matters." And my question is, I got from the book that following your passion is the key thing to success. Did I derive the right conclusion?

MCGRAW: Oh, boy, did you ever. Following your passion is the key to success. And you know, I hate...

KING: Also logical. Who wouldn't follow their passion?

MCGRAW: Well, of course -- who wouldn't?

KING: Yeah.

MCGRAW: A whole lot of intelligent people wouldn't, including yours truly. I spent years doing what I didn't want to do because I was thinking that it was expected and I needed to please my parents to do it. My dad wanted me to practice with him. You know, father/son doctors, side by side. I didn't want to do that. It was in a town I didn't want to be in, doing a job I didn't want to do. So I wasn't following my passion. I was instead giving in to expectancy.

And I think what you have to do is realize that if you aren't following your passion, you're not living an authentic life. And it's, like, you can do it. I did it for 12 years. It was like pushing a boulder up a hill. And once I started doing what my passion was, it was like rolling that same boulder down the hill. And what I want -- when you say, "Is it true," one of your takeaways is you've got to find that passion and live it and follow it. That is definitely the goal. You got to find what lights you up, what gets you excited. And a passionless life to me is gray. I mean, you're just going from one day to the next. And before you know it, days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, months turn into years. And then you look back. And let me tell you, this is no dress rehearsal. This is it. This is our one trip through this world.

KING: If your passion drives you, and -- but can there be a negative, in that it might take away from your children?

MCGRAW: Well, here -- this is...

KING: In other words, your passion is you love selling and you love being on the road and those kinds of things.

MCGRAW: And let me tell you -- speaking to the men we that we're talking to now because men are bad about that. And people ask me, they say, "Boy, you sure seem to know a lot of stuff. Did you go to school forever?" Well, the truth is, I did go to school a long time. I got more degrees than a thermometer. But I don't think that has a whole lot to do with what you figure out in life. I think what I figured out is by doing every dumb thing you could possibly do. So don't do what I say -- don't do what I do, do what I say.

Here's the mistake men make. Men misunderstand this income thing. They get to thinking there's one kind of income, monetary. You know, men like to gather up money and stuff. "Look at all the stuff I got over here. Look at all the money I've gathered up." And they say, "I'm a rich guy. I'm successful" because they measure success one-dimensionally.

And the truth is, there's many different kinds of currency. There's financial currency, monetary currency, but there's also psychological currency, emotional currency, spiritual currency, social currency, family currency. And you may be very rich in the monetary category, but if you are bankrupt or zero balance in family, health, spiritual, emotional, psychological, than overall, you're not a success at all.

KING: Your passion's misguided.

MCGRAW: Your passion is misguided. You got to have balance. That's the key. Find your passion and apply it in a way that is balanced to you and those you care about.

KING: Reisterstown, Maryland for Dr. Phil McGraw. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Phil. This is Phyllis. And I'm really glad to talk to you. And I see you on "Oprah" all the time. My question is, my husband and I have been married for 32 years, and we've obviously had a lot of problems, him with finances and job and mine with health. And every time we get into an argument or something, which is often, he doesn't want to, like, solve the problem or attack it in any way or address it. You know, he seems to just want to say, "Let's be nice to each other, and that's going to make it all better," you know -- you know, and being nice. And I want him to face what he's done to me and talk about it and feel the hurt, you know, along with me. Can you make him see that just being nice isn't going to solve it?

MCGRAW: Can I make him see that being nice won't solve it?

KING: Shake him.

MCGRAW: Yeah. Bring the boy down here and I'll straighten him out, all right?


MCGRAW: No, listen. Listen, every relationship is negotiated. I mean, it really is. And we do teach people how to treat us by the way we react to what they do. Now, there are extreme examples where that's not true, and I always want to make that clear. If you're in a situation where you're being mentally or physically abused -- and I know, Phyllis, that's not what you're saying. But if you're in that kind of situation, that's not your fault. You don't own that, and you did nothing to provoke it, and there's nothing you did that justifies someone doing that to you.

But in terms of whether people speak to you or don't, whether they pay attention to your needs and your wants and your sensitivities, we do what works. And if we get away with it, I mean, if it's just like we can pretend nothing ever happened, then -- and it kind of glosses over, then you teach them, hey, that works. You don't have to deal with and solve the problem.

But what I want people to understand is in relationships, they are negotiated. And the negotiation never stops. What you've always got to come up with is a win-win situation where both of you get as much of what you want as you possibly can. You come up with a plan that both of you can be excited about. And if you'll approach men that way and say, "Look, we need to reopen negotiations here" -- men understand negotiations. You say, "We need to reopen negotiations here. I got some needs you aren't meeting."

And I've said that the formula for success in a relationship is this. The quality of a relationship depends on the extent to which it meets the needs of the two people involved. And so if you've got needs and they're being met, and you got a wife and her needs aren't being met, she's going to have a very low experience of the relationship, and you're going to be just fine. That's why men are so surprised when they come home and there's a divorce petition laying on the counter.

And men, let me tell you, do not assume you know what your wife needs because you don't. You don't know what your wife needs until she tells you.

KING: How do you find out? MCGRAW: Well, I tell men that all the time. I say, "You need to meet your wife's needs," and they always say the same thing, "Yeah, I know what she needs, and I'm going to give it to her Tuesday night." Well, let me tell you, that ain't in her top 100, you know?

KING: I've got to break. We'll be right...

MCGRAW: I hate to shake you up, but it's not.

KING: We'll be right back with Dr. Phil McGraw. The new book is "Self Matters: Creating Your Life From the Inside Out."

You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: What a pleasure to have Dr. Phil McGraw as our guest tonight. He's seen every Tuesday on "Oprah." It's called "Tuesdays with Phil." I like that.

He won't be able to do it much in the fall.

MCGRAW: I'll be there when they let me, but I'm going to have a few fish to fry out here.

KING: And that show will start in September. And his book is "Self Matters: Creating Your Life from the Inside Out," and the caller is from Seattle -- hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Hi, Dr. Phil. My name is Lisa. I'm in my mid-30s, I'm single. I've never been married, I don't have any children. I tend to date a lot, and I feel that I have a lot to offer. But I can never seem to take a casual dating relationship to the next level. I can't seem to get a guy to make a commitment. And I'm not sure if it's something I'm doing, if there's a pattern. This is something that's been going on most of my life.

MCGRAW: Well, I'll tell you, one of the things that I talk about right at the very top of "Self Matters," is that every one of us has what I call a personal truth. And this is really, really important. And I have to tell you, when I wrote "Self Matters," it was the most transformative experience I've ever had.

KING: Really?

MCGRAW: It is. Because when I wrote "Life Strategies," my first book, I wrote down my philosophy. I wrote the 10 laws of life as I saw them. It's what I knew, it's what I live. When I did "Relationship Rescue," I wrote what I'd learned about relationship therapy, and what you do in relationships. I wrote down again what I learned.

"Self Matters," is a process book. And I wrote down the process of defining who you are and how you got that way, and I put myself back through the process. You know, it's kind of like if you build a toy and you're going to sell it and you write the directions. You ought to sit down and do it once, and see if you can get the thing together.

KING: Cathartic?

MCGRAW: It was for me. I sat back down and did everything that I ask the reader to do. And one of those things is to write down, what is your personal truth? What is that set of beliefs you have about you, when nobody else is looking, nobody -- it's not when you got your mask on. You're not putting your best foot forward. You're not out there selling yourself. It's what you really honest to God believe about yourself.

And if it's negative, it can be the most limiting thing you can ever imagine. Maybe it's in a relationship like you're talking about, where it gets ready to go to the next level. That personal truth will jump up there and say, "this isn't going to work for you. Why would anybody be interested in you?"

KING: You believe she is creating that?

MCGRAW: I don't think there's any doubt about it. Because what's -- you know, our caller said, every -- I date a lot, and every relationship ends up the same way. Well, what's the common denominator among all those relationships? The only one that's there for every one of them is you. So, I mean, that's the first place I'm going to look, and see whether or not that's making the difference or not. And I think you find it is.

KING: Fairfax, Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Hi, Dr. Phil. Just wanted to know if you had a formula for stress management?

MCGRAW: Well, if you've got a life without stress, if you've got a job without stress, then you don't have a job. So the idea of -- everybody thinks that stress is necessarily bad. And that's not true. What's bad is distress. And you can have stress without distress. Stress is just your body's reaction to demand.

And we're all going to have it. We're going to have it when it's time to come do this show. We're going to have it when you have to drive home at night. You're going to have it when you're raising those kids, and they seem, at young ages, to go absolutely deaf for a period of time. You know what I'm talking about.


MCGRAW: Just all of a sudden, they can't hear. And that creates stress in our lives, and that's not necessarily bad for us. What you got to do is say, what kind of toll is it taking? And, again, as you said, we react not to what we are experiencing in our life, but instead to what we're saying about it.

And you know, most people tend to use what I call very catastrophic language. I mean, I -- when I used to see patients, they'd come in and they had an argument at work, and they said, "oh, it was just horrible." I'd say, wait a minute. Was it really horrible? To me, "horrible" is like being burned over 80 percent of your body and laying up in the burn unit. That's horrible. Don't tell me what the lady next to you said at lunch was horrible. So, I mean, let's call things what they are.

So, we create a lot of stress with our symbol system, with our language system. And, you know, the second half of "Self Matters" deals with what I call the internal factors. Your internal dialogue, the labels that you use. And you've got to turn your ear inward and start asking yourself, what am I saying to myself here? Is this true? Is this accurate? Is it in my best interest? And start testing what you say, because we do lie to ourselves and create a lot of stress.

KING: How do you use a book like this? Do you read it on an airplane in one sitting? Do you read a chapter a day? We've often thought about self-help books. How's the best way to use the good ones?

MCGRAW: Well, someone told me recently this is like -- "Self Matters" is like getting a part-time job.

KING: Work.

MCGRAW: There's a lot of work in there. Because when you say. OK, if I'm going to say, all right, Larry, how did you become who you are, and the first thing I want you to do is identify your 10 defining moments in your life, those 10 moments in your life that wrote on the slate of who you are, and changed you in a lasting way, you've got to go back and say, you know, grade school, adolescence, teenage years, early adulthood. What are the things that happened to me that changed who I was, that shaped my personality, that shaped my sensitivities or lack thereof? What are the seven critical choices that you've made in your life?

These are not things that you think of easily. They're not things that are -- you know, you're just kind of walking down the street or driving home. Things you need to write down and say, what was this critical choice?

KING: And how does it help me?

MCGRAW: It helps you because you understand where the characteristics that you present to the world, that define you in your life, what is their origin. And that gives you something to focus on. It's your to-do list. For example, one of the questions I ask about choices is I ask you each time you made a critical choice to say, "what motivated the choice?" Because there's a hierarchy of needs that motivate your choices.

Some people make choices out of pure fear. Whatever they choose, it's pure fear. They do not play the game of life to win. They play it to keep from losing. It's like, I don't care if I win. I just don't want to lose. I don't want to hurt. I don't want to lose where I am right now.

And I want people to look and say, why did you make that choice? Did you make that choice because it was intellectual or spiritual fulfillment? Or did you make that choice because you're playing the game of life with sweaty palms, and you were scared, absolutely, to death?

KING: The book is "Self Matters," the guest is Dr. Phil. We'll be right back.


MCGRAW: He's smart. He can go do some good things. But on the con side, we've got selfish, don't trust him, he's got poor judgment, he's willing to hurt me, he might be marrying me for money, I don't like him anymore and he's wearing me flat out. Now, it suggests to me that if you are going to get married -- and I'm not even saying you shouldn't...


OPRAH WINFREY, HOST: You shouldn't get married!



KING: Dr. Phillip McGraw is the guest. The book is "Self Matters: Creating Your Life From the Inside Out." Brampton, Ontario, hello.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Hi, go ahead.

CALLER: Yes. I was wondering, is this Dr. Phil?

MCGRAW: Yes, it is.

CALLER: Oh, hi.

MCGRAW: Who were you calling?


CALLER: I'm just surprised that I really got through.

KING: You got through.

CALLER: Thank you. Yes, I'm going through menopause, and I find that now that I am going through menopause, I take things so much harder than I did when I was younger. And I have a lot more fear in me than I did when I was younger. And I -- things are like magnified so much more than when I was younger. And I was just wondering what could I -- is there any -- anything to ease that? What can I...

MCGRAW: Sure. And you're asking a very good question. And I want to answer it both specifically and generally. Larry, you had asked a similar question earlier, and that is, how much of what we encounter in our ups and downs and the mood swings and all of the different feelings that we have, come from chemical sort of problems, as opposed to social problems or just pure psychological problems.

KING: Something purely not our fault.

MCGRAW: That's right. And the answer is a lot of things can. But that doesn't lessen your responsibility to manage it. It just means that you need some other resources. You need some other tools. You need some professionals to intervene.

When you're going through something like menopause, which I obviously have never experienced, but have talked to a lot of women who have been through it, it is truly a biochemical phenomenon that is not just a matter of be tough or keep a stiff upper lip. It is a major shift in important hormones and chemicals in the body.

And I am very anti-medication. I think we medicate too many people for too many things, too quick, too often and too long. I think it's the easy thing to do. I don't want to talk to you about it, just take this. When you run out, call me and I'll give you some more. I think it's been too indiscriminate in our society.

But I think there is a clear indication when you need it. And that is when your body has stopped manufacturing something that it naturally and normally should be manufacturing, or it is overmanufacturing something that it should not be. If you need medicine for biochemical replacement therapy, then by all means, get it, to replace something. Menopause is a great example of when you need to have those sort of supplements.

You can also do things, dietary-wise and other sorts of things. But you do need to go to your physician, you do need to get help.

KING: But then the question is, does the -- forgetting menopause for a moment -- does the depressed person, let's say, chemically depressed, necessarily know they are?

MCGRAW: Well, oftentimes they do not, and don't recognize it. They may think they're tired. They may just think that they're kind of going through a rough spot. But if you find that there are some clear indicators of that, and one is that it's chronic. It's long- lasting. It hangs in there independent of what's happening in your life. And you'll often find, if that's the case, you need to start asking some hard questions of your physician, to find out whether or not you have begun to develop something, that you're missing an important chemical.

And so often, you know, there are different kinds of depression. For example, there's endogenous depression, which is chemical. There's exogenous depression, which is reactive to something that happens in your life. And ask the simplest question first. If something tragic has happened in your life and you're feeling really down and blue, I mean, look at the cause and effect and say, that's probably the cause and effect.

But if it just sets upon you without a clear event that triggers it, very likely, you may have begun to have some biochemical imbalance. Perhaps your brain is not generating enough serotonin or epinephrine or norepinephrine levels, get out of balance. And so you need to get those things checked. And it's easy to do. People just need to ask the hard questions. We are too passive, as a patient population. We need to ask the doctors the hard questions.

KING: Haven't these wonder drugs prevented a lot of suicides?

MCGRAW: Absolutely they have. And we see a lot of criticism of some of these drugs. But the truth is, they have created a huge improvement in the quality of people's lives, that are missing some of those chemicals. So I'm not saying don't use them. I'm saying, be discriminate. Ask the question.

Because if you start taking something you don't need, your body typically will stop manufacturing it, and now you are dependent on it. So you need to ask the hard questions. And use your common sense! I mean, if you dog dies on Monday after 12 years and you're feeling kind of low on Wednesday, I'm going to look to the demise of the dog before I'm going down there saying I need a bunch of chemicals. Ask the simple questions.

KING: And in this book, you deal with things like, what if there is a you that's never seen the light of day, or has never gotten to say what about me? What if there's a you that you've never even met, or certainly never permitted to just be, without fear of judgment or condemnation? I gather with all these "what if there was a you" questions, your thinking is that a lot of us don't know who we are.

MCGRAW: I think that's right. I actually was inspired to write this book by a conversation I had with Oprah during the trial in Amarillo. We were driving down a country road, heading into the courthouse. All the roads in Amarillo are country roads, which is a good thing. It's a very peaceful community.

But we were driving into court one day and she was talking about the fact that of all the celebrities she's had on the show over the years, that not all of them are the best adjusted people you'd ever want to meet. Some are, but some aren't. And I said, well, they just forgot who they were. She said, "no, you know, when you get that far off base, you never knew who you were."

Because if you know, you don't get into searching for something to define you. Everything I've treated in the last 30 years, in the mental health profession -- anxiety, depression, divorce, drug addiction, alcohol addiction -- all of those things have one common denominator. And it is that the people never knew who they were to begin with. And so they started looking for something to define them.

Why else would you take drugs? If you are totally happy with who you are, you don't need something to lift you up. You don't need something to social lubricate you so you can laugh and have a good time, why would you take drugs? I don't need that to be happy. I'm happy now. I'm peaceful now. I don't need something to calm me or elevate me, or change me in some way, because I know who I am and I'm comfortable with that. Then you're not subject to those things.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Dr. Phillip McGraw. The new book is "Self Matters: Creating Your Life From the Inside Out." His new TV show will debut this fall. Don't go away.


KING: Our guest is Dr. Phillip McGraw, the No. 1 "New York Times" best-selling author. The new one is "Self Matters." In "Life Strategies," one of the runaway bestsellers of all time, he had 10 laws of life in which some of them were life rewards, action, there's no reality, only perception. Explain that to me. "There's no reality, only perception."

MCGRAW: Well, you know, we've talked about that some already, and that is certainly something I live with in my day job in courtroom sciences, because when you go into a situation, people often don't know the facts. So what they do is rely on their perception of what the facts are. And man, are we controlled by the media and television in that regard.

You know, just, fantasies are created. Perceptions are created. And we don't test our perceptions. One of the things that I've always marveled at, is -- if you look at someone that is schizophrenic and someone that is -- quote -- "normal," whatever that is, they both reason very well. They're both very logical. The difference is the person that is psychotic has perceptions that are really bizarre, and they don't test them.

And what you've got to ask yourself is, what are you telling yourself? What are you perceiving in your life that you don't test, so you don't have any more idea than the man in the moon whether it's accurate and true or not. You may be telling yourself, you know, my mate just doesn't love me and isn't interested in me. Or you might be telling yourself they are. They love me and they're terribly interested in me. Well, test that out and see if that's true or not. I mean, is there a basis for that?

Start asking some of the questions: do I have evidence for this or not? Because the main problem we make in our thinking is that we have perceptions and we fail to test them against reality. And so it leads us astray. If I'm going to give you directions from here to Cleveland, and the first direction is to turn left and you go out and turn right, and then everything else I write down you do perfectly, you are not going to wind up at the destination, because you had one decision that you didn't test, and it wasn't accurate.

We just, in America, we just don't test our perceptions. We just believe stuff that people tell us and we believe things we tell ourselves. And I'm saying, we've got to start testing that and asking ourself, is that true or is it just something we're telling ourselves?

KING: Do you agree that people are more alike than different?

MCGRAW: In some respects, they are. But the truth is that every one of us has a uniqueness about us. I mean -- and I don't think many people would disagree with the following assumption I'm getting ready to make. But, for example, there is only one Larry King. There may be somebody else with the same name, but there has never been another person that is exactly who you are. Now, think about that. In all the history of the world, there's never been anybody with your particular personality, with your particular intellect, wit your particular style, with your particular way of being in this world. And that makes each of us unbelievably unique.

But do we have a lot of shared values? Do we have a lot of things that we have in common with somebody else? Sure, we do. But we are definitely unique individuals.

KING: Is the religious person better off, just by the nature of the fact that they have faith?

MCGRAW: You know, it depends on -- there's a difference between being religious and religiosity. You know, religiosity is when you go to the point that it can interfere with your ability to live the tenets of your religion. You know, we've seen that in what's happened with 9/11. That is not a representation of a religion. That is a bizarre distortion of a religion that has gone very far.

Now, personally, I think life without faith would be pretty scary. You know, I'm kind of a chicken. And I remember when I was young, I got baptized at a very young age. And I wasn't sure whether or not I believed it, but my thinking was, cover your bets, boy, because if, in fact, there is an afterlife, then you want to be on the winning team.

KING: But do you believe there is, and are you better for it for believing it?

MCGRAW: Do I believe there is personally? Absolutely, without a doubt. And I am distinctly better off for believing it, because it brings to me a personal peace for myself, and for my children, that would be missing if I didn't have that.

KING: And it doesn't run in the face of logic?

MCGRAW: Well, you have to say is there -- is there science that can prove that? And that's always the conflict between science and religion and psychology and religion. But the truth is, there are so many things in our life that we don't have empirical proof of, that we don't understand. You know, I don't understand electricity, but it comes in real handy. I don't understand everything there is about faith and about the spiritual world, but I tell you what, there are so many questions I can't answer without it, that it feels awfully right to me.

KING: Look forward to our next visit. Thanks.

MCGRAW: Larry, thanks so much. Enjoyed it.

KING: The book is "Self Matters: Creating Your Life From the Inside Out," Dr. Phillip McGraw. He's seen every Tuesday on "Oprah," of course, and he will start his own television show this fall, answering individual problems, collective problems, and dealing with world events as they affect the way we think and act. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: If you've enjoyed tonight, you wait until tomorrow. Another hour of Dr. Phil, be sure to watch. See you then. Good night.




Back to the top