November 21, 2023

Stephen Gyllenhaal – Navigating Uncertainty with Empathy

Thomas is joined by filmmaker and founder of the Identity Development Institute, Stephen Gyllenhaal. They discuss the pain of living during these uncertain and tumultuous times, and how having the courage to face our collective trauma can help us navigate this unprecedented era. In an interconnected world, things like violence, war, and mental illness are undeniable. And sometimes the institutions that are meant to address these problems fall short.

Stephen and Thomas explore the importance of surfacing our collective wounds, and resonating with them so that those who are suffering can maintain healing connections instead of feeling isolated and alone.

Share this:

Listen Now

“We’re not just resonating with each other, we’re resonating with the whole universe.”

- Stephen Gyllenhaal

Guest Information

Stephen Gyllenhaal

In 2017, after 50 years in the psychological sector, Stephen founded The Identity Development Institute helping people heal from the impact of trauma from conception through pre-verbal development. He’s also been an award-winning Hollywood director, primarily focusing on psychological issues, and in recent years has turned his attention to documentaries that explore social structures and early human development.

Learn more about Stephen and his work at stephengyllenhaal.com

Notes & Resources

Key points from this episode include:

  • The need for collective trauma work in “hot trauma” situations
  • How technology has allowed us to resonate with people across great distances
  • Understanding the universe as something profoundly positive and loving
  • How staying in touch with our feelings allows us to be more generous during a crisis

Episode Transcript

Thomas Hübl: Hello and welcome, my name is Thomas Hübl and this is the Point of Relation my podcast. Today, I had the pleasure to talk with Stephen Gyllenhaal, and we had an amazing conversation. It’s, I think, our third conversation, and Stephen and I dove deeper into the world of philanthropy, given his newest film, “UnCharitable.” But also we touched on trauma, resonance, and how we are all living in an interconnected universe and what kind of shuts down that perception or experience that opens it. As always, we had a deep resonance between us. I really enjoyed my conversation with Stephen, and I hope you will, too.

Stephen Gyllenhaal: I’m sort of open to whatever evolves in a way, I think I’m open to being slightly confused. Right now, about everything being comfortable with that. Being confused about how to relate to what’s going on outside. But I think being able to do that because I feel pretty comfortable with who I am inside. You know, there’s always things to refine, things to accept, things to I’m not sure I’d change anymore, but things to examine.

It’s a strange world right now. I was thinking about this before we came on, or maybe it’s always been a strange world. It’s always been a worrisome, worrying world, and the species has always been at war and done these things. But in a way, we’re more linked than we’ve ever been. We were talking before a little bit about resonating. And I think we do pick up whatever’s going on the planet in a way.

But now we have images, we have this whole Internet which really forces us to be much more aware of where the trauma spots are, where the hotspots of trauma sit. And in a way, I think that’s sort of evolution at work. That’s what I wanted to sort of explore with you a little bit. You know, you’re in the hot spot. And I almost wanted to interview you today. It was like going. Oh, I want to ask the questions. So I’ll throw that out as sort of a vague effort of a question, which is, are you confused?

Thomas Hübl: I feel that there is, of course, a lot of uncertainty and there is a lot of unknown that’s developing right now. We don’t know where this conflict or this whole war with this whole global situation is going to go. But I don’t feel confused in it.

I feel in all this movement and all the painful reality that, you know, a lot of pain right now and a lot of suffering. And I feel kind of called to be here. There’s kind of some sense of presence or some knowing that this is also the right place to be and to kind of walk my talk to all this, the work that we do, including, of course, the collective trauma work in a situation that really needs it. Where it’s hot, where it’s needed immediately. So, I feel a strong calling. So yeah, that’s a bit too short for description.

Stephen Gyllenhaal: I think maybe my question is wrong in a way because I don’t think the question was so much confused, although I’m glad I asked it because to say you’re not confused I think is valuable. I’m not exactly confused as much as I’m willing to be uncertain about how to respond, how to process what’s going on now.

And I think I feel the same as you, that we are in an amazing moment in human history because there is a connectedness on so many levels that is new. For instance, the Internet, all these images. For instance, an iPhone or a phone or a cell phone can deliver information immediately all around the world. That’s a big difference from what it was when there might have been a war going on on the other side of the world. And we could all be fine, even though I think we were resonating with the pain inside. We could bury it as I think we bury so much of our own pain.

I mean, we’ve talked about the work that I’m doing and the work that has really shaped me, which is understanding that when we are very small, even in utero, that whole period of time when we’re so fragile and then through really pre-verbal development around four years old, we’re so, so fragile and so vulnerable.

Even with the best of intentions, parents can profoundly traumatize their children. I know as much as my parents loved me, I think as best they could, I was profoundly traumatized because I went back to that period of time, and biologically, we learned how to suppress that and bury it and move on with life.

So we are all carrying very personal, I think, pain, and we know how to keep it held down. So we’ve been able to not have to experience the pain that’s all around us. And I think when we can’t experience the pain all around us and inside of ourselves, we can’t really have empathy for what’s going on. We avoid empathy not just for the horrible things that are going on in the world but for the things inside of ourselves. That it seems to me to be bringing to the surface and being conscious about, you know, what’s going on in Israel, what’s going on in Ukraine, what’s going on in the ghettos all over the world, and the pain inside of ourselves. It’s sort of selfish and selfless at the same time. That make sense?

Thomas Hübl: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense, especially as to how when we bury or kind of anesthetize the pain that we carry inside, we become more absent among them, and then we cannot resonate with. And I think our conversation the last time I was around resonance and I think that’s something we both are passionate about: resonance and responsibility, the ability to respond from the rhythm and nervous system, from a resonant body emotion mind system. Yeah. So it just makes a lot of sense to me. And it also shows how much so on the one hand, the collective dimension of pain needs to get in them because it becomes overwhelming.

I feel like the interconnectedness that you spoke about, on the one hand, lets us learn a lot, but also triggers a lot of that pushed-down pain all the time. And I think that’s something we need to learn how to deal with in a different way, as this makes a lot of sense to me.

Stephen Gyllenhaal: I think my experience in the work that I’ve done is that you want to develop the adult part of yourself. You want to develop a maturity. But unless you go down and find the immature parts of yourself that have been frozen and buried. You’re just spending all your time keeping that buried. You know, it’s sort of like being a parent. When your child is in pain and you go, “Oh, it’s okay. They’re not really in pain.” As opposed to going, “You’re in pain, and I’ll be there with you. I don’t exactly know what to do. I’m frightened, too.” You just cut your arm and you’re bleeding. And I got to get you, and you’re scared. And I’m scared. But I want to be with you during that. Or it’s even the psychological pain that children go through. They all go through it. That to begin as well as possible to evolve an adult being. Which I think comes back to being able to be comfortable in uncertainty. That you really don’t know what to do, and when it really gets bad with your kids or whatever, you kind of fall back on what your parents did, which is a really bad idea. Almost always, you know, it’s like, Oh, I’ve got to do this differently.

It’s like my nine-year-old son got a bee sting today. And was really in pain, but was kind of also playing the pain card a little bit. So how do you deal with that? How do you both be empathic? But also, I was trying to try and talk about today. How do you let the feelings come up? But don’t let the feelings, like you were saying, a little bit overwhelm reality with the child’s over-wrought fear of something. A bee sting is not the end of the world. It hurts. It’s going to go away. I’ve been through this a lot. It itches later. That’s a drag, you know. But you don’t know that at the time.

So this idea of trying to become an adult is something I’m trying to work on. I am 74 years old. I’m trying to figure out how to be an adult, you know? And it’s like still trying to stay really open to that. I’m uncertain how to do that. I think what you’re talking about, about pain. The capacity to feel pain, to develop a capacity to feel pain and not run from it seems to be a really important piece of this, and not overreact or underreact but just feel it. I feel pain a lot.

I was hoping when I did this work at the institute that the pain would go away. You know, that always wanting to be happy and gentle and loving and spiritual and enlightened. And what I’ve found is almost the opposite. There’s more pain. There’s more pain than there was, but I seem to be able to face it, you know?

So here’s my question to you: How do we do that? Now I’m interviewing you now. How do you do that? You’re in the middle of the hot spots, and you’re also speaking to so many people. If I’m right, how do you do it?

Thomas Hübl: I think it’s a combination of what you said, the combination of being willing to feel the discomfort because I think if you can feel more and more on discomfort without looking at it as now something is wrong. Because often you think, oh, in this discomfort something is wrong. And then we create this, what you said before, this illusionary reality, Oh, I will work through this and then I will be in a life that’s just going to be good. And we all know that we are living in a world that carries trauma. We don’t know what’s going to happen in our life. You know what’s coming towards us. So use it in something else. Yeah, sometimes the pain even gets stronger, but we have a higher capacity. And I think that’s like being willing to just turn towards pain with that attention. That is already pretty mature.

Stephen Gyllenhaal: Do you know the Aeschylus quote that I quoted before? So it’s interesting because it’s Aeschylus, it’s the Greeks. It’s a long, long time ago. So while I believe in evolution and I do think we’ve come some distance – Here it is: “In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, (makes me cry) against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

Yeah. I mean, sorry, but that’s what it seems to be. It’s been interesting I’ve had to face because I’ve been dealing with some of my in utero experiences now. Because I’ve been able to go back with this work to what happened to me when I was in the womb, which sounds crazy, you know, sounds like it’s impossible. But then people used to think the world is flat and it couldn’t possibly be round. I think we’re moving into a whole nother era.

What I realized after being deep in a couple of sessions, I dug up and realized that my mother had been reading this book when she was pregnant with me, called “The Fountainhead.” I don’t know if you know the book by Ayn Rand, which is about an architect. It’s kind of a fascist book, actually, about a superhero, about an architect based on Frank Lloyd Wright, who was the most amazing man, who did amazing things and lived outside the box and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and the great things. I think it’s what allowed me to survive in utero. I realized it really was what I was taking in this book. And everyone a lot of people now talk about the in utero time when you play Mozart, you know, it’s good for the kid, whatever. I think these things are all true because the connection is so deep, resonating and biologically there’s this connection.

I realized that I’m not sure I want to be this character that she was reading about. And in fact, his name was Howard Roark. And my mother named me, my middle name is Roark. So that was what I was supposed to be. I’ve thought about what I have done with my life. Yeah, I’ve been living this life, but is it really my life? And then is that exactly what I want?

I don’t think it is. But then it’s what happened. So it’s like and for all of us – How much are we living our own lives? How much do we have to slowly, gently, lovingly, respectfully, and even take apart things that were given to us that we didn’t really want? I think it allowed me to survive, but I don’t think it necessarily now allows me to do what I think I need to do, I think what you need to do, I think what we need to do, which is become our full selves sort of the way I think nature or God or whatever one wants to call this. And I have definitely become we’ve talked a little bit about spirituality. I mean, if two years ago the people I work with heard me talking about spirituality now, they would think something really weird has happened. And it has, that I’ve really found.

If you’re looking at the universe and what’s going on, you have to come to believe it. There’s too much evidence that it’s something profoundly positive and loving, because at the core, that’s really who we are, even though we’re so lost. And I certainly got lost, I don’t know where I went. So you have to pull me back to what I am trying to say. But I think I’m going to leave it there wherever I left that.

Thomas Hübl: Yeah, I think the multiple things that you said that I want to come back to, one is just to respond to the first question because I think there’s something about like when the Tao Te Ching – Stephen Mitchell’s translation and it says when the master runs into difficulties, she stops and she gives herself to it. I found that’s wonderful framing and so I think that quality of how we have enough inner space and presence that we can give ourselves to what we feel or experience is difficult. And by slowing down, (she stops) we actually slowed down to feeling more. We come in touch with that, which is really difficult for us. And then there’s a way to melt that or resolve to integrate that I think is really beautiful.

So it’s actually learning and I think it shows me where I’m not in resonance with the universe, where there’s more numbness or absence that I can’t feel the universe. And I think also in the work that I’ve been involved in many, many initiatives and volunteer in the trauma center, it’s amazing when we feel that in a crisis we allow ourselves to feel and at the same time, we stay with our agency that can contribute with the resources, the agency, and contribution is that in crisis to be generous.

Stephen Gyllenhaal: That’s interesting – “In crisis to be generous,” because I think I find every once in a while, like, for instance, when I’m angry at somebody or something. Whenever I give in to that anger and I’m not generous, but I’m like, it never works. It never works, And the only reason I’m much better at it now, I was saying, and just be generous. The only reason I’m better at it is not because I’m wise, but because it’s gone wrong so many times.

Don’t put your hand on that oven another time. It’s going to burn! It’s just experience. Don’t do it. Something in me goes, “You are wrong and I’m going to let you know,” which is really a defense in this ugly, ungenerous, so the issue of being generous is critical.

There’s nothing else you said that I’m realizing: there’s two paths I’m sort of dealing with right now – feel good and do good.

Now, feeling good doesn’t mean feeling wonderful. I think it can at times and it does but it’s feeling the goodness, which may be in pain, but feeling good, which is sort of what my institute’s about, and doing good which is what “UnCharitable” has been about, and what the documentaries that I’ve been making about the charitable sector, I’m finding that you can’t do good if you don’t feel good. So many people in the charitable sector, for instance, you know, we all know them, don’t feel good – they’re out doing good, but it doesn’t work very well. You have to go deep into yourself to feel good, but you can’t just go and feel good. You got to do good. It’s like you have to be connecting inside and outside. That’s, I think, what I’m feeling more and more. So yeah, generosity is key and it’s sometimes tough stuff.

Thomas Hübl: That’s interesting. So maybe we talk a little bit about that film and those experiences, because I’m curious as far as I can see it, and I see only a small window into the philanthropy world, but I imagine that many, many people in the philanthropy world really have an amazing motivation to do good. And I think what many organizations come up against is actually the forces of collective trauma that are not yet recognized.

That creates a lot of stagnation, fragmentation, depletion, all kinds of symptoms that in trying to deal with certain issues, we actually run into kind of an invisible net, making it seem like it stops us or it’s hard to go through it. It’s like a struggle.

I think enough collected topics are that were very painful and are still very painful, that sometimes not recognizing those symptoms creates a lot of depletion or not feeling good. And I’m wondering what you think about that, given that you have now such a kind of an open window into this world, if that resonates with you, with your experience or not?

Stephen Gyllenhaal: Totally resonates with me. The interesting thing about being a filmmaker and I’ve now become a documentarian, really a filmmaker is that you get the privilege to really look into a world and really see it from an objective point of view. And I think that this sector in general is very traumatized, very, very traumatized.

Part of it is because of this sort of donation structure in which there are people who have money, maybe not even a lot of money, but some people have a lot of money and they give the money to someone else.

And there becomes a kind of either conscious or unconscious master-slave relationship. That’s what I certainly experienced making the movie, was that as opposed to being in the for-profit sector when I made a movie, I got paid well. I expected a lot of things. I was tough. But when I got into this movie where it’s all about donations – I had no power. Whatever the person who had money. And in this case, since the movie costs quite a bit of money. There were people with money. I had to be a different person than I’d been. I had to be sort of selfless. I had to sort of be whatever you think.

Now, behind that, there’s a Hollywood part of me. I could be tough as nails. And I would behind the scenes, do whatever I had to do to get the movie made. So that’s why the movie worked out finally.

I think why so many people get caught and things don’t work out because they think they have to be self-sacrificing. They think I’m doing something good, so I have to be good. I have to be gentle. I have to be quiet. I can’t get angry.

Because sometimes I think we want to get angry and then use that anger to navigate properly, which is not to get screaming at somebody. Something I’ve done at times, but I think so. I think that relationship, number one, that relationship is a problem.

Number two, there’s another problem, which is the people who have the money. You know, in this case, we could use billionaires as an example of who I was dealing with in the movie. You sort of have to deal with those people. I have a lot of respect for some of them. Not all of them. I have a lot of respect for everyone else who, you know, doesn’t have money. It doesn’t really matter.

But when someone gives you something, it’s hard for them, it’s not so easy to give. And I think in terms of people with a lot of wealth, they don’t really want to give away much of it. I’ve been sort of saying it’s like philanthropic constipation. Just give it away.

I said to one billionaire at one point, I said, look, you’re really good at making billions of dollars. Maybe not the best way to do it, but you’re really good at making some more billions. Take the billions you’ve got and give them away without strings. Without I mean, be careful. You need to deal with impact. You need to deal with all these things. You want to work with organizations that are effective. But most charities are quite potentially effective but they are not functioning well. So the whole idea of the movie was to begin to crack that all open and get a dialog going. And that’s happening. That’s been really interesting.

So a little like what happened when I made the movie “In Utero,” the same thing happened where it cracked open a whole series of things and then the people in the sector could do the dialoguing. I didn’t have to do it all, but I think I think it is a sector, the charitable sector is not functioning very well at all. And it could and it really, really could.

I think it’s in it for me, it’s sort of a slightly because I want to talk about the other movie too, “The Universe Sings” because I wanna be very careful in my life to go, I’m a filmmaker. That’s what I do. I’m not like a politician. I’m a terrible administrator. You know, I should do certain things I should not be doing. And I’ve had to do it with this documentary. I had to be the producer, too. I will never be a producer again. I’ve been angry with producers all my whole life and done all different things. Every producer out there who’s worked with me. If anyone’s watching this, I apologize. I apologize. I apologize. It really is a hard job, you know, really, really a hard job.

So I think that nonetheless, I was able to see this world and I’m hoping now that the film and probably another film after this, I think they’ll be another UnCharitable 2, which I may do, but I’m not sure, and a TV show that keeps cracking this open, but it’s not where my major focus is. I’m kind of going, I’ve done this. I’ve been privileged to do this. I’m very proud of the movie. Very, very proud of it. Because it’s an emotional movie. It’s not an intellectual movie. And that’s why it’s a movie. Not like an intellectual documentary. It’s more of an emotional experience, which I hope brings hope.

But the other documentary that you and I started talking about, which is “The Universe Sings”, I think has the potential for even bringing on more change that can really change things. They really can change. The way people think and they can. And how they really feel.

And that’s about the idea that everything is resonating. Everything. Even the rocks, everything is energy. This is what’s so interesting about where we sit now and why I think more and more that we’re in a quantum age. We’ve entered the Age of Aquarius. I never really quite understood that except there was a fun life for me when I was younger. And it was like, Age of Aquarius you get good music and all that stuff. But I never really understood. I think it was a precursor. It was all about love and everything and was a precursor to the quantum age, which is energy.

Energy that’s the foundation of the universe, as far as we know now, is that really just love? Is it really binding together? Is it a dynamic of what we call love? Or is it even bigger and more complex than love? I think it probably is because we’re just experiencing it as human beings as best we can. So what I’m fascinated by and very excited about is this documentary in which, first of all, I can use every kind of music everywhere and anywhere, I can use Indigenous music. I was talking with Coco about it. Indigenous music, You know, I can use a baby singing to herself. I can do Mozart, I can do the Beatles, I can do Imagine Dragons. We can make this a symphony of music.

Also one of the things I discovered is the James Webb telescope they have now with a way to record the sound that’s coming from the universe. And it is music.

Also, I’ve read about how I’ve seen an article about how you can put a thing on plants, this little thing they clip onto plants and it has music.

So if we begin to think of this as music, we can then begin to understand how we’re communicating with each other in a much less intellectual way, although it can be then so in my experience with the work I’ve done I don’t really want to explain it with too much theory. I want to just go it works that you can feel, that other people can feel your wounds. If the method is right (And I think the method that we’ve been using is really right,) I know that you say to somebody: What do you want? Put it in a sentence. Pick three words out of that sentence and give three people the opportunity to feel what those three words mean. And by doing that, you know, the organism, the human organism is doing all different things. How are they educated? What do the words mean? Blah, blah, blah. But what finally happens is you begin to find the blockages that usually are very, very early. We feel it all. It’s like every single person is emanating a symphony, which to me is awesome. You know, it’s poetry.

So in a way, to be 74 which I thought when I was younger, 74 means you must be dead. Hahaha! No, it’s not over at all. It’s just getting going, you know? I got so many movies that I want to make, you know, and books I’m working on, finishing this memoir and dealing with all these things to sort of try and capture the energy that has sort of been released, which is to try and do it in a mature way. But also maturity means being a little kid sometimes. Being a curious little kid. So anyway, it’s your turn.

Thomas Hübl: First of all, it’s lovely to hear you speak, the exuberance or the energy that you spread, to feel your agency and creativity and how it calls you, feel your calling when you speak very strongly. And I think that’s also exactly what you speak about, the resonance of actually being in resonance and even noticing when we are not in resonance when we don’t feel certain things. I think that it really has the power to change our world. That kind of awareness process that we begin to see, feel, and know reality through those resonance patterns. I think that’s a deeply embodied process that gives us access to so much information all the time here.

And I find this very exciting. I mean, we talked about this already, and I find this deeply, deeply illuminating and exciting and I think important and also as part of the paradigm shift that releases a bit from this kind of over-mentalization or for many, many theories, but many of them we can’t live because the information doesn’t go “in.” Information here and not information because we feel intimate with the universe.

I speak often about some parts of the Tao Te Ching in my teaching, in my classes. And so last time I saw the news reminded me of our conversation. Another part of Tao Te Ching – Stephen Mitchell’s translation says when people follow the Tao, the law will be written in the heart and the universe will sing.

Stephen Gyllenhaal: Hmmm. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Thomas Hübl: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And this is so amazing. It’s like when we really opened up to the Tao, to the deepest foundation of the universe. That is so beautiful. Then the law is not externalized law. It’s not law in the law books, it’s the ethical movement that is included in our actions. It’s written in our hearts versus externalized as law books.

And I find it beautiful how often we live in this separation, like in this separate, externalized world, which is a consequence of trauma and how the integration brings the law back into our hearts. And then it’s not the moral. You should behave like this or you should take care of climate change. It’s kind of resting in our actions anyway. We want to do it. I find this amazing.

Stephen Gyllenhaal: I also think about what I am finding as I do this work with other people and with myself is that you find everybody knows what’s right and wrong. The body knows what’s right and wrong.

If you’ve done something wrong and you’re trying to bury it – you’re doing it at your peril. You may die early. Or you may be sick your whole life, or you may live too long and be miserable. I mean, it’s like you get out of resonance with the Universe. I see it over and over and over again with people.

It’s like pain. I don’t want to get too much into the definition of pain. But pain is certainly a message if it’s internal. Hello? Hello? Something’s off. Something’s off. Come down here because we are good organisms. We are good organisms. We are Goodness. And this is off. And I think trauma is what sent us off through all of this.

Talk about uncertainty. I don’t understand how the universe works. I don’t know, it’s like all multiverses. I’ll go there for a little while because then it could be anything at all, you know? Hey, it’s sort of interesting to get into quantum, we’re sort of looking at it, But why is there so many evil things going on? I don’t know the answer to it, except I think the degree to which, as you say, we can get synchronistic with the universe. Just breathe. I find myself breathing just now. And slow down, like you said. And be with what’s going on now? The word dissonance comes to mind for the moment. To feel the dissonance, which is a form of music, too. It’s not pleasant music. I think music is really important. I don’t even understand exactly how which is part of what the movie I think is going to explore, too. But music is resonating, isn’t it?

Thomas Hübl: Music is also in order to listen to a tune or to match to tune with your own voice, to feel it in your body, you’re always riding a wave. So music is like attunement, that’s also going to really connect our nervous systems. This to be “I feel you feeling me,” we are beginning to ride each other’s wave. And it’s a moment to moment to moment to moment attunement or musical process. And that’s why I think it’s so amazing, I mean, you speak about the music because I think that’s what we do all the time.

Stephen Gyllenhaal: I sort of realized what Alan Watts said: The planet Earth peoples – that’s what it does. It creates people. It’s a people thing. And you can’t disconnect people from Earth. There’s no way if you take the earth away, there aren’t any people. And so this is going a little bit like the 21st-century Alan Watts. But it’s sort of like you go; it’s a people in place. So if you and I are resonating and connecting, we can’t disconnect from being on planet Earth and you can’t disconnect planet Earth from the rest of the Universe. It doesn’t make any sense to go, there’s just this here.

Now they don’t even think the Big Bang Theory works anymore. This is the most recent thing. So that theory, which was kind of a bullsh*t theory, frankly, because it’s sort of like saying well, the universe started with the Big Bang, I’m going, well, isn’t that what happened when people had sex? There was a Big Bang and that’s where it started. So you can say, well everything started when I was conceived. Well, no, a whole bunch of millions of years took place before you were just conceived. You can’t disconnect anything. Everything is connected. And to think anything else is well, is delusional number one. And it’s actually traumatic because you’re breaking up the reality, now it’s almost beyond comprehension that you and I are sitting here talking, but we’re sitting here in a universe talking and it’s all connected.

So anyway, that’s going down a little bit of a rabbit hole. But I think you’re right that we’re not just resonating with each other, we’re resonating with the whole universe, really. We cannot separate from the whole thing.

Which then calms me a lot and I go: It’s all okay. It’s all going to be okay. Yeah, it’s very exciting to be alive. It’s very exciting to be just as attuned as we can be and important to look at where people are so traumatized. I mean, the children in Israel and Gaza, and the Ukraine and in the ghettos and the wars that are going on that we don’t really see. The wars in Africa, the little wars that take place – we have to stay awake to it and we have to do what we can.

I mean, I think making the movie is a step. I think working for the charitable sector, we can only do so much for the 8 billion people now just on this planet. This is the third-rate planet in the middle of nowhere, a little tiny galaxy with an eighth-rate sun. And what’s going on in the rest of the universe? The idea that we’re the only thing in the universe, it’s like, hello?

Thomas Hübl: Exactly. I was going to say, with the resonance and maybe also what connects resonance and “UnCharitable,” because I think and I’m sure you encountered it as well in your work when we sit with people, with groups and we touch accents, it looks like there’s no resonance. But if you touch numbness and absence, and we can stay present to it so it doesn’t prevent resonance, it’s just the absence of experience that was important for that person to numb that part or pull out of the body in order to shut it down.

Because you spoke about so many things happening, I think privilege is also a positive use of privilege for us. When you spoke about the children, consciousness implies that we go to look for the pain that is mute.

Stephen Gyllenhaal: Yes, yes, yes. And I think again, I find this when I’m facilitating sessions, for instance. That is when you come upon a part that feels dead. That’s just like, hurt. And it’s hopeless. And I want to die. What I’ve been trained and learned to do is you go next to that part as a facilitator and you say: Let’s repeat that: “I hurt and I’m in pain and I want to die.” This is the young part of someone you’re working with, a subject you’re working with. You don’t say to that part: “It’s all going to be okay. You’re going to live. You’re not going to die when you grow up. You’re going to be fine.”

No, no. You say: “You may not live.” Yes. We want to be with that part of you. We want to un-numb you. We don’t want to say, “You know, everything’s fine,” and it’s because it’s scary. But I also think that person is saying I’m in a state where I want to understand why I should live. I’m going to go numb. I’m going to watch television. I’m going to work too hard and I’m going to just just get through life. I’m just going to be brave enough to get through life or I’m too much of a coward or whatever it is, as opposed to going: Let’s go down, let’s untangle this. Let’s honor you. Let’s honor everything about you. And be there with you to take that numbness and feel it.

Thomas Hübl: Yeah, but it would definitely make sense that it’s often so scary for the one who hears that. Yeah, it might be a professional or friend so we pull away from feeling. And I think what you’re saying is how can I really hear you?

Because often this, Oh, you will not do this, like coming from our own defenses, but I think creating a resonance with the non-resonance creates a feeling of I’m being heard in my struggle and that part can start to communicate more again than to be more isolated by somebody saying what you should or should not do that isolates that more and charges it actually strengthens the defense. I think that’s important.

The other part I think that’s important is also that we are living in a time when I think that the individual psychotherapeutic lens needs to be opened up into an individual ancestral and collective lens, because many people that right now feel climate anxiety, climate depression and don’t feel an agency to live with where our nature is going, I think we are seeing individual, ancestral and collective processes kind of mixed up into an isolated individual. And that story of the separate individual who cannot continue that way.

We need to look at that deeper and not perpetuate all the philosophies around it. And I think that’s important because if the pressure cooker of the individual can open up and feel itself again in a wider space, the whole vessel, the whole container grows. I think many fears that we feel at the moment are collective fears that we are coming up against a lot of the collective detox process and a reflective way to deal with it is to shut it down. See that’s a problem because it disturbs me in my daily life. But finding a way to have skills, tools, and relationships that help us to detox that and really listen to it, I think that’s something also very important that we deal with all the collective stuff that is surfacing right now all over the world.

Stephen Gyllenhaal: Well, you know, it’s interesting. There’s an irony in that which is that I feel utterly alone and isolated because I am a part of the whole human race. It’s like you’re going, I am desperately alone because I am a product of a human race that has felt disconnected so, so often. The irony is you are connected to what you’re experiencing, it’s a connection with the pain. That’s why I think that “The Universe Sings” can begin to really explore because I really want to interview everybody cool on the planet. I want to start with everyone in this sector. I want to interview you, Gabor Maté again, I want to interview Dan Siegel, all those – but I want to get the neurobiologists. I want to get the astronomers.

I want to get everyone to say and I’m not quite sure what the question to ask yet is, but I think it is what do you think about the music? I’m not sure what it is. Yeah, I’m going to work on that piece of it. But it’s to get everyone to talk about what they’re doing. They’re brilliant people in all different sectors, you know.

I think I talked about Yo-Yo Ma, I hope I get to Yo-Yo Ma. I hope he’ll hear about this. So I met him at one point. And this is not the best way to tell this story. I was very, very depressed and I had a house in Martha’s Vineyard, Hollywood person that I am. I was very depressed and I just spent hours and hours and hours building sandcastles, which was just and I got really into it and created them. And I built the castles near the beach, near the ocean. So when the tide came up, it would become a big drama. It was like always a drama, and the kids would try and save it and we would create superstitions and then it would all get washed away. We would do it again. So it was a full day of distraction, frankly, from my own depression.

One day a guy comes up to me and says, (he came a couple of times,) said “I’d like to intern with you.” I said, “Sure you can. My name is Stephen,” and he said, “My name is Yo-Yo Ma.” We worked with him for a while like a little kid, and he loved all that stuff, but like, I’ve heard he’s very into music and resonating and all that. So I’m going after Yo-Yo, other musicians as well, you know.

Then we put together what is still wonderfully uncertain to me. But what is certain to me is that it’s all singing. It should be ultimately like, I don’t know, the Hallelujah chorus when it reaches its highest point, you know, this is the celebration. Enough of the celebration that we can look at the dark material and we can begin to move to the next phase of what it is to be a human species, which is I think we’re just at the beginning of it, you know.

Thomas Hübl: Very beautiful. Lovely. Also especially for this movie, I think being in the space that’s unfolding is actually walking the talk of the movie, letting the form emerge and having some inspirations and letting it emerge around that thing, that’s a very beautiful way. Yes.

So Stephen I see our time, time flies by. We’re getting into that just on a wave together, which I think is the resonance that I feel with you.

Stephen Gyllenhaal: Yeah. Ditto. Ditto. Ditto. Right back at you.

I’m realizing in a way, I’ve come to the Tao Te Ching when I was very young I had a friend who got me into the teaching and actually I just gave the thing to my granddaughter and I used to use it and I don’t know how that’s connected with all of it, but it’s as if I’ve sort of come in my own way toward everything you’re talking about with the Tao, because I think I’m going to have to do my homework a little bit more and do a little bit more work around the Tao, because clearly wherever there’s wisdom, even if it’s the people are long dead, but it’s there. It got written down. That’s where we want to go, where we can.

Thomas Hübl: Exactly. Very wise words for finishing at least this talk and I hope more will come.

Stephen Gyllenhaal: Any time you want to talk some more, I’m here.

Thomas Hübl: That’s amazing Stephen, thank you so much. And I actually feel creative and joyful. Thank you very much.