Appreciating the Awareness of Challenges – Episode 11

Appereciating the Awareness of Challenges - Episode 11

We enter the first core principle of Friendly Mind—an awareness of life’s most challenging feelings and situations. Friendly Mind subtlety grounds and benefits us by looking at this awareness in a neutral or positive light. This episode explores this principle, which is the underbelly of all the other Friendly Mind principles. If we don’t stay grounded with clarity of the specific challenges we face in our daily lives, we limit our capacity for fulfillment, inspiration, and personal evolution.


Resources related to this episode
Robert Strock Website
Robert’s Book, Awareness that Heals
Free Downloadable Introspective Guides

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Announcer: (00:04)
Awareness That Heals episode 11.

Robert Strock: (00:07)
So the stakes are very high. If we’re not aware of our challenges, then they’re going to be there and affecting our lives and creating all kinds of mischief and more. If we’re aware of our challenges and we just stay stuck in them and we don’t look for what our best possible responses are, then we’re just going to be stewing

Announcer: (00:32)
Awareness That Heals is a podcast that helps its listeners become more at peace with all States of their mind. Your host, Robert Strock has practiced psychotherapy for more than 45 years. He’s coined the term awareness that heals to help you develop self-caring and the capacity to respond in an effective way to life’s challenges. Especially at times when you’re most prone to be critical or to withdraw together, we’ll explore how to become caringly aware of our challenging feelings and how we can use our friendly mind to respond and help care for these difficult feelings to live a better, more inspiring life.

Robert Strock: (01:11)
A very warm welcome again to Awareness That Heals. And this is going to be a very illuminating and inspiring episode. I hope to all of you and we’re going to be continuing our, our emphasis on friendly mind today. Both Dave and Shelley are joining us again, as you’ve likely heard before. Dave has been my long-term close friend for 50 years, co-president of Global Bridge Foundation. And Shelley is a very skilled therapist, a board member of the Global Bridge Foundation and a very close friend. We also may hear from Mark Spiro, who is the engineer, and happens to be a very real practitioner of friendly mind and more. So we just covered the lookalikes to friendly mind and how they aren’t the same as friendly mind, just to help clarify how we can utilize it, to really benefit our lives. We covered positive thinking where of course at times it’s helpful to use positive thinking rather than negative thinking that oftentimes doesn’t allow us to go into our challenges and we go over the top of our challenges.

Robert Strock: (02:34)
And then we took a look at conventional thinking where somebody asks us, how are you? And we automatically say fine. And of course, a large percentage of the time that’s, that is fine, but when we’re not feeling very good. And we’re w when we’re with somebody that is capable of being helpful, that cuts us off from having a deeper, meaningful conversation and could be a great support for us. And then there’s a third look alike. That is negative thinking where we’re imploring ourselves. What’s wrong with you? No, why can’t you do this? And we believe if we give ourselves a hard time, that whip is going to wake us up, but we explored how, when we whip ourselves in that sort of way, even if we make a slight improvement, it’s going to make us more tense. And in the long run, it’s not going to work out well.

Robert Strock: (03:32)
And the final look alike that we looked at was the fixer, which is most commonly a man who comes in and in relationship, feels like, you know what, I see you’re afraid, I see you’re angry. And why don’t you just be more rational or let’s have this simple fix. So you only have to deal with these feelings anymore. Or therapy, you know what, all you have to do is fall. Common sense, you don’t need therapy. And the fixer typically is well-intended, but underneath is frequently impatience. And that fixing is a very temporary effect. And again, that’s not the essence of friendly mind. So it’s very helpful to really see how we can, let’s say, think we’re on the right track, but we’re actually either suppressing the suffering or we’re giving ourselves a hard time or being more superficial with people that we don’t have to be superficial with.

Robert Strock: (04:36)
You know? And so it’s just really beneficial if we can stay aware of that. So today we’ll be looking really closely at the fundamental principles of family mind. And if we can grasp, if you can grasp these principles and integrate them into your life with practice, I virtually guarantee you, money back, that you will be able to respond to your challenging situations in a way where you’ll have guidance whenever you’re really challenged, invaluable guidance. And there aren’t any of us, and probably especially applicable for people that are older, that don’t have challenging situations from a range of little bit challenging, to very challenging, especially as we get older.

Robert Strock: (05:38)
So the first principle of friendly mind is one we’ve covered quite a bit, but it’s always the ground, which is being aware of our present challenging feelings or situations that are most effecting our life. Now, there are many people and maybe many of you that are listening that think, well, this doesn’t really apply to me. I’m not really having challenges. I’m really happy. I mean, I’m just a happy person and you won’t necessarily look at the inquiry of where are the most challenging feelings, even if I don’t think they’re a big deal, which is really a mainstay of recommendation for friendly mind to be developed. Because if we’re not aware of our challenges, we can’t grow. And the deeper we are psychologically, spiritually, maybe even on a humanitarian level, the more we’re going to be aware that we’re living in a world of challenges, and we’re also living in an inner world of challenges.

Robert Strock: (06:52)
So it’s incredibly beneficial in our lives. Obviously we want to feel as good as possible, but to simultaneously really respect that we can stay aware of or become aware of what it is is challenging us the most. So, as I’m speaking, ask yourself, what would I pick out as the one or two or three greatest challenges that are for me, or that are happening to me today or during this point in my life. And don’t just listen to me, me speaking is only meant as a catalyst to wake up something in you or catalyze something in you, so that you can identify the challenging feelings and that gives you a ground to work for. And one of the key things, when we discover our challenging feelings is not to just dwell in them. That’s not the point, but that gives us a chance to make our very best efforts to move in a direction toward healing toward soothing, toward peace.

Robert Strock: (08:15)
And please take careful note that I’m not talking about moving you to peace, or I’m not talking to myself to say, Oh, I want to move to peace. This is a relative gain. There are only the superficial things that we can solve. The deeper issues in life we can move toward helping ourselves if we’re 65 years old and we’ve lost our ability to walk a certain way and we have to limp, or if we’ve lost part of our site or we’ve lost any capacity, we want to move toward thoughts that are going to help guide us to befriend ourselves, rather than either abandon ourselves or reject ourselves. So the stakes are very high. If we’re not aware of our challenges, then they’re going to be there and affecting our lives and creating all kinds of mischief and more, if we’re aware of our challenges and we just stay stuck in them and we don’t look for what our best possible responses are, then we’re just going to be stewing. We’re going to be like on a pot on the stove, except it’s not good food. So the importance of combining this awareness or our challenges in a very personal individual way, which again, I’m hoping you’re identifying and asking yourself, which is the beginning of the principles of friendly mind. How can I think about this in a way that’s both going to support the emotion that I’m going through and also the action I can take? Or perhaps at times it’s the action I can avoid taking so that I can best take care of myself and maximize my sense of peace.

David Knapp: (10:34)
Dave here. And thank you so much again, for the opportunity to participate and be here with you. Um, and Shelley and Mark. Um, I want to, I want to raise something. In fact, it’s just occurred to me as you were speaking, that just yesterday, the, the identification or, or what, facing what we’re really challenged by for me started with a feeling and it’s like, I’m feeling something I’m not even sure what it relates to. I got enough going on, or, you know, it might be, I mean, it just kind of identifying what, what is connecting me to what situation in my life for what internally, externally, externally, physically, uh, I have, I have choices, uh, when I, when I look at my life of what a feeling may relate to or combination of circumstances. So it, for me, it seems to, uh, as far as friendly mind goes, it it’s a relationship to my feelings. Largely a lot of the time for me, it’s a relationship to, um,

Shelley Pearce: (11:47)
You know, can I, can I just say here that, I think it’s incredibly important to see that here you, Dave are a therapist, 50 years, having a very sophisticated, psychological communication, like your whole life, you’re dedicated to that and feeling something and not necessarily immediately connecting it. And I think that’s sort of the subtlety that, I mean, that Robert’s speaking to, and it’s just, it just it’s so, um, elaborate jelly. Yeah. Well, I mean, that’s all, that’s all I had to say. And I was just, I just want, you know, as far as . . .

David Knapp: (12:27)
I, I, I mean this dialogue between you and I, Shelley, I think is very important. I, I, a hundred . . this is a lifelong quest, uh, from early in my life having no capacity really to identify, you know, even know I had feelings even I will all outward looking to awareness, I had feelings to, what do I do? What are they, how do I identify them? It, it is, it has been a lifelong quest and it’s still with being a therapist with yes, a very long time, uh, refining and looking and refining and looking and unwinding and going deeper into the onion unpeeling.

Shelley Pearce: (13:14)
And, and it’s, it speaks to so many men. I mean, just that’s how men are in cultured, you know, it’s, it’s, I, I’m just, I think the fact that you are, um, so practiced and still that gap exists at times, um, is, is important for everyone to understand that, that these principles that you are sharing Robert are, that’s how to get there.

David Knapp: (13:49)
I, I agree with that. I also have a response to Shelley and I want that. I want to say, and I, I like having a little dialogue between us too. I think it’s good.

Shelley Pearce: (13:59)
Dave, what I think is really important, um, for everyone to understand is that here you are a therapist for 50 years, I believe, right? Yeah. And, uh, at high levels of executive, uh, corporate communication and deeply involved in this kind of work, this, you know, as sort of psychological sophistication and still after all this time, you, you have a feeling and you can’t quite precisely and immediately identify it. It’s it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s really, I mean, and, and so, so how is the, the common man, as it were, going to have a sense of this. It’s like, it leaves the nuances that, that you, Robert are, are highlighting here are just such an important practice to actually get to what we all need to get to.

David Knapp: (15:00)
I have a relatively small comment. And then Robert, I know that’s also addressed to you. I, um, first of all feel, never do I feel like I’m a failure for not being able to identify that is not the sense of it. It, it is always feeling like it’s, uh, going endlessly deeper. Yes. Can it be frustrating? Yes. Can it seem like, Oh, here, this is again, I’ve identified this pattern in one form or another for, since I’m 19 and now I’m 72. Sure. But it’s not with a sense of failure. I feel it is it’s with a sense of, okay, discovering something that is going to lead to more wholesomeness, more fulfillment, um, again, along with frustration. Oh, here it is. Again, especially if it’s a repeat, a pretty direct repeat of a pattern that I thought I learned already something about, and wouldn’t repeat, but I think it has to be taken that way. And I also will say to you, in my experience, I don’t know that many people that are that interested.

Shelley Pearce: (16:15)
That’s a good point. That’s a really good point.

Robert Strock: (16:18)
Yeah. And thank you so much, both of you for that. And Dave, first in response to what you said about not feeling like a failure, that’s a testimony to your growth. Because most people, when they can’t identify a feeling, it’s like, Oh, I don’t even know what I feel, you know, or, uh, just some kind of immediate suppression cause they get frustrated or for that matter, they’re unaware that they’re even feeling something. So it can’t be emphasized enough that just this very first step that seems so obvious to some people is not obvious to probably 95% of people. And so it can’t be highlighted enough. And it’s for that reason that on the Awareness That Heals website, we have a list of 75 challenging emotions, for free, that anybody can go to that site at and have that list. And there are now thousands of people who have that list and use it on a regular daily basis to help them identify the feeling they’re in because those 75 aren’t the golden list.

Robert Strock: (17:46)
There is no golden list, but they cover an overwhelming percentage of the challenging emotions. And it’s very, very helpful to have specificity, to know whether it is that you’re jealous or you’re insecure or you’re angry, or you’re a combination of all of them, because then it makes it easier to ask that question of what would friendly mind say to me about the feeling itself and what would family mind say to me as to how I can respond in the environment that I’m in. Because you’re going to respond very differently if you’re with a close friend or you’re at a party or you’re meeting somebody at a business meeting. So friendly mind has the capacity because it has wisdom in it to notice where you are. If you’re by yourself, of course you can think openly. And if you’re with close friends, of course you can speak more openly, but otherwise you’re going to want to be much more internal. It’s not a matter of blurting it out to the public. It’s a matter of, I really want to make my life be the most fulfilling, content, peaceful and maybe even inspiring as possible. Or on the other side, I want to suffer as little as possible knowing I can’t completely eliminate the suffering, but I sure would like to mitigate it.

Mark Spiro: (19:20)
Hi, I’m Mark. Um, I’m the one person in the room here that’s not a therapist. My question, and I have kind of an answer to it for myself, my question is how do you access friendly mind specifically? One of my challenging things I’m going through this last year is I’m, I’m depressed. I’ve been dealing with depression that I’ve never experienced in my life, uh, before at all. And this is pretty overwhelming. I wake up and I’m feeling sad. And usually like around one o’clock in the afternoon, it starts to lift and the cloud is gone and I feel better. But in those times in the morning, what I do, I sit at my couch, I breathe in and I say, friendly mind, what do you want me to do? How can I, I feel like the sadness isn’t, isn’t really even definable. It’s just, it’s just there.

Mark Spiro: (20:22)
And when I say the words, what would you have me do? I get an answer? And, and, and that answer is usually let go, or, or you’re not alone, a myriad of things, but a feeling of belonging, feeling like someone’s taking care of me. And I think some people would think of that as a higher power. Some people might think of it as the universe for me, it’s, it’s friendly mind and I don’t have an answer for this, but it’s, it’s the right side of me. It’s, it’s the one that knows more about me than I do. It’s the one that’s more friend to me than I am to myself. And that’s the friendly mind to me. But I’d like to hear from, from you guys on, you know, if I’m everyday Joe, and I am everyday Joe, and I’m walking down the street. And I feel like, you know what, I feel like the world’s just not fair to me. I feel like I’m not providing for my family well enough or all these kinds of feelings can come into me. How specifically do you access friendly mind?

Robert Strock: (21:33)
Well, first of all, Mark, all I can say I’m extremely moved, honestly, that you would just expose the depressed feeling until the early afternoon and not let the shame or the embarrassment or the, uh, the self-image overwhelm you and have the courage to speak to the audience and normalize those kinds of feelings that we all go through underneath the surface, in different, in unique ways. But the first thing is it really is an issue of memory that we have to remember, or we need to remember that friendly mind is my best self reminding me and guiding me how to respond no matter what difficult situation I’m in. But if we don’t have the memory if it’s not like a Pavlovian response, every time we feel lousy, friendly mind, friendly mind, friendly mind, what would friendly mind say to me? So it is a memory issue because it’s not, it’s not intuitive.

Robert Strock: (22:46)
We were never taught about it. Psychology doesn’t directly teach about it. So that’s the first thing. The second thing, which was really wonderful that you included is we’re not trying to start a new religion here. Friendly mind can be, uh, our ancestors talking to us. It can be God, the voice of God, it can be a number of other either understandings or semantics. But the idea is, is the wisest part of us or the wisest part beyond us that comes to us that wants to care for us and wants it to be tangible. And as we go through the six principles, it will help make it more effective, more pragmatic, more realistic. It won’t be giving guidance. That’s impossible. It will be dealing with a president in the near future, but the idea of remembering it and then realizing that it’s not just one thought or even one question that oftentimes is, you remember, let’s say, Oh, friendly mind, friendly mind.

Robert Strock: (24:06)
And it says, uh, something like, well, you’re not doing this to yourself on purpose, are you? And then when you recognize, you know what, I am innocent, I’m not being depressed on purpose. And then it might say, I see how hard this is for you. Can you hear me? Can you hear me? And then probably if you’re really astute, you’ll say my mind can hear you, but my depression, even though I can hear that you’re saying that you care about me. It isn’t lifting it’s still there. And then, so you might say back to the front of the mind, thank you for telling me that, but it’s still not lifting and friendly mind will say something like, it’s almost impossible, especially if there are chemical inductions or traumas or other things that are there to expect it to lift, but I can guide you. Even if you have depressed feelings, you are not the depressed feelings as your central identity.

Robert Strock: (25:13)
You have depressed feelings, but you are also the capacity to be friendly mind. And that friendly mind be more important to you than the feelings themselves, which is a tremendous lobotomy in the brain, because we’re so identified with being what we feel, not our wisdom. And I’m using the word wisdom as a part of friendly mind. And I’m wanting to distinguish that from, well, my head understands it, but I want to give it a sense of soulfulness or sacredness that friendly mind is a part of the sacred. It always is interested in well-being. And I could say your well-being and that’s true at the first level of the mind is always interested in your well-being. And then when you’re doing the best you can, it’s also interested in the well-being of others. And so once you get that, that it’s not as simplistic.

Robert Strock: (26:23)
Oh, I’ve got to, got to get a one-time question. I’m going to get a one-time answer and that’s going to move me toward feeling better. No, it’s going to be, how much can you hear me? And then friendly mind will say, I wish I could reach you deeper. I just want you to, even though I can’t, I know I can’t, I’m not, I don’t want you to feel pressure, but yeah. It always answers me with the feeling of it’s going to be okay. Yeah, that’d be okay. Yeah. I can still be a little sad, but I know it’s going to be okay. And that comes from, from listening and being able to hear. Yeah. And at another level, it’s also going to say to you, your really okay, as you are now, you don’t feel okay. Don’t get me wrong, but it’s redefining. Okay. It’s okay to be wherever you are, even though it doesn’t feel that way.

Robert Strock: (27:21)
And especially when you have a friendly mind guiding you to your best self. So it’s not only you’re going to be okay. You’re okay. Even though the feeling tells you, I don’t like this feeling and you might go to the next level, I don’t like this feeling and you then say, it’s okay. It’s understandable why you don’t like this feeling, but you know, you don’t want to dwell there because that’s not going to help you, but it’s also okay to have a reaction, but you want to have the primary inspiration-aspiration to have friendly mind become even more important than your feelings.

David Knapp: (28:02)
Um, Mark, I also want to say to you, I really am moved also. I really appreciate the vulnerability and the actually courage to put yourself out there that way. And you asked a question and I want to answer it for me. Um, and that is how do I access friendly mind? Um, and particularly when it’s really a tough emotional time, which again, for me typically has been anxiety or fear. And what I find is just at first, it’s a flash of awareness that I’m in that feeling. And it’s, it’s, uh, even if it’s a, a 1% part of me that isn’t the feeling, but it’s asking myself about the feeling. It’s the beginning of a space. It’s the beginning of a, uh, uh, a part of my universe of what’s inside of me. That is not just the feeling. And if I persevere it grows, it’s definitely not linear. I fall back into the feeling totally at times, uh, maybe even for many hours, uh, but with more awareness and, and more, more encouraging myself to be aware of what I’m feeling. And then it begins, for me at least, to lead to something similar to what you were saying is what, what can I do? What is, what is my best that I can do? What, what . . . and sometimes I get grandiose about that, which leads me to another problem, but sometimes I I’m aware of that and I say, okay, what realistically can I do? Especially when it comes to medical situations, but again, thank you.

Robert Strock: (30:00)
Thank you. Thank you. Thanks Dave. And then again, adding to that a little bit, what can I do and how can I be, what can I say to myself? And part of the understanding of friendly mind that’s not obvious either is that it’s an endless process. You know, I’m trying to do certain things with the foundation and running into a lot of roadblocks and I’m infuriated. I feel helpless. I feel discouraged. And then I say to myself, something along the lines of this sucks, and that’s friendly mind, it’s, it’s empathically identifying with it sucking. And what other alternatives do you have? Who else can you talk to? I’m sorry, you have to go through this. And I say, God, I don’t know if I’m ever going to really be able to break through at these other levels. And friendly mind will echo it back and will say, understandable feelings of discouragement. And, you know, you just want to keep making your best efforts. So what would be the things you can do? And I want you to know I’m with you with the frustration and the helplessness, and you don’t have to wait for the future to be okay. The most heroic time is when you feel like shit and you’re still remembering to guide yourself.

Robert Strock: (31:41)
So whether it’s depression or anxiety or helplessness or anger, and you have the character and the developed skill to know that you want to be your best realistic non grandiose step, as Dave was saying, cause friendly mind at the beginning can be very grandiose and think it has all the answers and very simplistic of black and white. But no, it’s very subtle. It’s like an arrow moving in a direction very gently. And then coming back to the present moment of what you feel and it’s giving you its best caring. It’s letting you see that you’re not inflicting this on yourself on purpose and that doesn’t magically dissolve it, but at least, you know, that you’re in the human experience and bringing an element of, call it wisdom, call it the divine, call it a version of faith with guidance, call it your wise angels that are speaking to you, call it friendly mind and respect to all traditions.

Robert Strock: (33:09)
And it’s so important that we drop in and we remember to ask, how can we be supported? So the slowness of going through the principles to me is very heartwarming because it gives a sense of how challenging it is to grow in a way that we haven’t been taught and to reverse habits that have gone for millennia. And when we feel bad to automatically have that response that wants to ask a question of how can I be my best self? How can I guide myself? How can I care for my feeling? How can I care for the situation? What can I do? What would not be good for me to do is a great beginning. So next episode, we’ll move on to the second principle. And I thank you all for your rapt attention and really ask again, ask yourself what is the most challenging feeling for you and what would friendly mind truly be saying to you and preferably see this more and more as a full time activity response, inner world growing and not as a hobby. Thanks so much for your attention.

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