Noted director, actor and writer Troy Byer was recently interviewed by Los Angeles Wave about a variety of subjects, including getting away from Hollywood, her new career as a writer, her study of ontology, making a difference with people and how the Landmark Forum helped her establish a powerful relationship with her ex-husband. Landmark Education News has excerpts.
Asked and Answered: Troy Byer
by Leiloni de Gruy
After starring in 28 films (”John Q.” being among the most recent), writing four and directing two others, Troy Byer realized she was not living but just existing. Working in an industry that is the stuff of fantasies for millions, Byer decided to step away from Hollywood six years ago to study ontology, the nature of existence. She then took that knowledge and began coaching women in prisons, shelters and spiritual centers nationwide. Last month, she released the self-published book “Ex Free: 9 Keys to Freedom after Heartbreak,” in an attempt to teach people, particularly women, how to regain their identity in the aftermath of broken relationships. Pulling from her own tumultuous divorce and seeing the devastation her mother dealt with when she and her father divorced, Byer is a living testimony to of how you can survive heartache. But the questions still remain. Why ontology? Would she ever go back to Hollywood? In an exclusive interview, she answers all the questions.
Q: Why did you step away from Hollywood to study ontology?
A: I just got so burnt out with show business. I wanted something different and I knew that I loved being around people. I love human beings, I just think they are so interesting as a species and I wanted to learn as much as I could about us. I’ve always been intrigued by the way the thought process goes on in the mind and how something goes from short-term to long-term memory, then I started getting into past life progression and I thought I want to learn about human beings and that’s ontology–it’s the study of being human. It’s not the study of the human mind, it’s not the study of the human spirit, it’s actually the study of the design of being human.
Q: How are you using this knowledge?
A: I’m using the design of being human to actually support people in understanding why they make choices they make and why, in this particular case, when you’re in a relationship, you can’t let go. It’s actually part of the human design and so one of the things that is common knowledge is that you can’t let go if you don’t know you’re holding on.
Q: Tell me about your book “Ex Free: 9 Keys to Freedom after Heartbreak.”
A: In ‘Ex Free,” I’m actually showing them what their holding on to and why and how what their holding on to has really nothing to do with the guy that they were dating or the women they were dating, it’s just a part of the design. They click with the keys and each key opens another door that gets them closer to freedom. Some people get freedom at key two, which is, you’re not your circumstances. They collapse themselves with their circumstances, they think that if they’re feeling heartbreak then they are heartbreak, but I get them to see that they are no more their heartbreak than they are their headache. A headache is a circumstance, right? If you have a headache, you don’t manage yourself like a headache, you say ‘I have a headache, I have to deal with the headache,’ but that doesn’t stop you from being who you are and that’s what we’re working with in key two of the book.
Q: So, why do people hold on after relationships are over?
A: When we meet people there is usually something about them that we really like, there is something about them that we either want more of or we don’t have any of and so the admiration factor sets in and we are attracted to things we admire, so we see something about that person that we absolutely love. I call it the treasure–you want that treasure in your chest. In life, it’s like related ships. Relationships are ships that are related. So, we sail out to sea and we see someone like ‘Ooh that pirate has some fancy treasures,’ and so we reach for them and we take the treasure and put it in our chest and then when they leave we think that they take that treasure that we hunted so hard to find. Well, we’re still holding onto that, we think that they’re going to take that too, so if we let go of him then we let go of that treasure, but it’s not even about them, it’s about just having that treasure. What you learn in the book is that you don’t need them to have that treasure, you can actually have that treasure all on your own because you can’t miss what you never had. The only reason why you see it and you want it is because somewhere you had it but somewhere as a child you lost it, you let go of it or you threw it overboard because you got upset.
Q: What are some of the keys?
A: The first key is make pain your new best friend. We know that pain is excruciating and the first thing we want to do is stop it, we want it to go away but if it goes away how will you ever know where you are in the healing process? If you think about it, it’s what is called growing pains, it’s an opportunity for growth. Another one is your crutch. You have to know that your crutch is just your crutch. We all have crutches that we reach for when we become emotional amputees. Just like when you can’t walk, you reach for a crutch. In this case, it’s an emotional crutch. For some people it’s cigarettes, some people it’s wine, some people it’s music, some people it’s television, some people it’s eating. Whatever your crutch is, you have to know what it is and you have to own your crutch so that your not owned by your crutch.
Q: You were in an unhappy marriage with producer Mark Burg. What issues did you face?
A: It just was not a healthy relationship in any way. I wasn’t ready to be married because I was still incomplete with so many things from my past, and he wasn’t ready to be married. Then there was a lot of infidelity in the relationship, for him it was physical infidelity and for me it was emotional. I was withholding myself from him emotionally and then that sent him to start doing what he started doing and there was just a lot of cheating. I wasn’t happy; I was very sad and I was afraid. I had just had a little baby, I didn’t know where I was going to go; we were broke at the time. He had not had his success and I had a little bit of success, but I had lots of bills to pay so I moved into a crack house, basically. It was the crack house that Rick James used to live in when he got busted with that girl, that’s the house I ended up moving in with my son until I got it together and just got back up on my feet. It just wasn’t a healthy relationship, I cried all the time.
Q: It’s a bit ironic because with most people they believe that the marriage was wonderful and that the divorce was the most miserable part–but for you, you say that the divorce was the best part. Explain that.
A: I look at it as miserably married, happily divorced. Well, after we got divorced I started studying ontology right away, I did something called a Landmark Forum, it’s a three day seminar and it’s designed to put people who are just broke and stuck, and when I say broke I mean broken, I was so blown away by the technology and then I thought I can choose right now to have a happy divorce or a miserable divorce. I called my ex-husband up and I said ‘I am willing to forgive you for everything, if you’re willing to forgive me for everything so that we can be great parents for our child or we can just keep acting like a fool and keep going on this way. So, we forgave each other. We knew we sucked as husband and wife so we concentrated on being great parents. Our divorce was based on the foundation of parenting together for the sake of our son. He said sorry I’m cheated on you and I said I’m sorry I gave you a reason to cheat on me. Men don’t just cheat, women don’t just cheat, there’s always some sort of inspiration.
Q: What inspired you to take on this mission of helping others?
A: People have always been so great with me. I have been so lucky. If I were to live status quo, I should at least be a heroin addict or a prostitute or something. I grew up in the streets, my mother was on welfare, I have three brothers that are in jail. It wasn’t suppose to go like this but I had people at every step of the way that were just so amazing and just reached out and picked me up along the way. My social worker, when I was in foster care, was so great. I thought I want to be like him. Then when I was with my mom and we lived in the battered women shelter, there was a woman there who helped and she would come in and talk to us, and I wanted to be like her too. I think helping the women in prisons is because of my brothers. If I could talk to the men as well I would but that’s a bit challenging. I know what incarceration is like, with my brothers. I’ve seen it. You make a bad choice and there’s a big price to pay, so I like to create something different for them.
Q: Will you ever return to acting?
A: No, I don’t think so. If you see me acting, that’s because my books didn’t sell.