Host Robert Strock discusses and uses examples of how developing our self-inquiry can help move us beyond the conditioning of our past. Many of us get caught in the emotions and the experience of our challenges. We may try to give it our best efforts but often aren’t aware of our essential needs, actions, or qualities that are necessary to guide us. It is very helpful to download the free The Introspective Guides at AwarenessThatHeals.org to more clearly see what is needed to develop. Strock uses examples from his personal life and years as a psychotherapist to show that when people discover their most essential needs, access their self-wisdom, and seek for ways to emotionally support and show kindness to themselves and others, they are able to accept challenging feelings and persevere to core needs.
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Awareness That Heals, Episode 35.
Robert Strock: (00:05)
In my attachment to outcome, I am not living my potential. I don’t want to be attached to outcome that I can’t control.
The Awareness That Heals podcast helps its listeners learn to develop the capacity, to have a more healing response to emotions and situations rather than becoming stuck. Your host Robert Strock has practiced psychotherapy for more than 45 years. He wrote the book, “Awareness That Heals: Bringing Heart and Wisdom to Life’s Challenges,” to help develop self-caring and the capacity to respond in an effective way to life’s challenges. Especially at times when we are most prone to be critical or to withdraw together, we will explore how to become aware of our challenging feelings and at the same time find alternative ways to live a more fulfilling and inspiring life.
Robert Strock: (00:55)
Welcome again, it’s a pleasure to have you be joining us on the program. And what we’re going to be talking about today is something that is so central to living a fulfilling life and breaking free from the conditioning that each of us has. And we all have conditioning. We all have loads of conditioning from our parents, from our culture, from our movies, from our friends. So, none of us are really liberated from having a direction in life where we’re, it’s like a tidal wave moving us, that we need to really develop our capacity to think for ourselves and to question for ourselves and to listen to what the answers are. The guidance is to be able to counter that tidal wave or more accurately coexist with the tidal wave. And this is not something, as we’ve talked about that virtually any of us have been taught to do so, please don’t get caught and feeling discouraged.
Robert Strock: (02:07)
And again, more or more accurately expect being discouraged, and give yourself friendly mind, while you’re discouraged and let that free you to be able to move into the inquiry and the wisdom guidance. It doesn’t come cheap. This is not something that is just an insight. Insight is not close to enough. This requires a daily reconstruction of how we think, how we question, how we breathe, what we ask, what kind of person we are. And the good news is we get to make up our own view of what’s most true in order to really be our self. We need to think and be guided by our own intelligence, our sensitivity and our caring heart, our inquisitive nature, that part of us that asks these questions and listens to the answers and responds to it clearly will guide us to our best life and our best self. I’d like to introduce Dave, my perpetual partner in the Global Bridge Foundation and endless other levels of life for the last 50 years. Dave, thanks so much for joining us.
Robert, thank you for the invitation to be here as always, uh, these conversations, uh, explorations, um, are just so vital, so important. And thank you.
Robert Strock: (03:52)
So, it’s important to recognize that in most of the situations in our life, and it may be, if it’s not most, it’s certainly many we’re trying to change. If we are generations, in many cases, it’s millennia of conditioning and habits. We think it’s just our parents, but if we really let ourselves open our mind, we’ll see that the motivations to move in a certain direction in life toward power, toward wealth, towards success, towards sexuality has been almost universal, way before our parents. So, we might think, well, you know what, my parent was like this, my other parent was like that. What do you think their parents was like? So, it’s really good to get a feel and to get a deep knowing that not only our parents went through a whole life of conditioning, but it goes on generation after generation after generation. So, we have the chance of actually looking at that, seeing that, and then developing all these capacities that we’ve talked about that can move us toward wisdom guidance.
Robert Strock: (05:23)
And it definitely requires a lot of patience, self-compassion, humility, and courage because our impulses are invariably going to take us in very traditional directions that will conflict with our wisdom. And we’re taught to compete. We’re not taught to cooperate in general. We’re taught to be preserving our own wealth. We’re not taught to have significant generosity. We’re taught a certain way of being, maybe in some cases, we’re taught to be angry at the wealthy class and really have all of our energy going into the wealthy class. I have a friend who came from poverty and is still dominantly just angry at people that are wealthy. And isn’t really focused on how do I really take care of my family situation? That’s occurred so much that it’s limited our friendship because she’s a gorgeous human being. She’s a mother earth, but she’s still mother earth, meaning that she’s caring and nurturing, but she’s still really, really angry at people that are wealthy.
Robert Strock: (06:53)
She’s gifted at being able to give to anyone that is coming from poverty, which is a gift, but it’s also a limitation. One of the really important things that we’ve touched on, but repetition is so important in these areas is that when we have started to go for friendly mind and bringing our heart and our wisdom to our life challenges and developing the ability to recognize when we’re rejecting ourselves and learning how to develop self-compassion or inquiry that we spend some time, and it probably only takes 15 seconds at a time, but it’s like, it’s a good for you. Or I’m so glad you’ve reached this place in your life where you’re not just, as my mother would say when she saw somebody living a life that was pretty much just following a carbon copy of where they’ve been, you might as well just mail it in, put it in the mail, video, it, send it in the mail.
Robert Strock: (08:01)
You don’t know who you’re sending it to, but just send, it’s no point in living because you’re just basically playing out what was there and you’re unhappy. So, it’d be one thing, if you came from a family where you were just grateful to emulate them and there, that happens occasionally, but it’s probably one out of a hundred. So, it puts a lot of opportunity and capacity in our lap to realize we can be empowered. We can be who our best self is. If we keep our focus on that, using whatever tools most work for you, in addition to the ones that I’m presenting. So, it makes me think of a client very recently that was going in for a mammogram and she had a spot and it looked like it was probably cancerous, and I just asked her, how can I be most supportive to you while you’re going through this?
Robert Strock: (09:13)
And of course the normal answer was there. I don’t know. You normally are so well, I’m just really saying at this moment, and then the same question asked in another way of how can you be most supportive of yourself and how have you been least supportive of yourself and how can I, and how can we tune in together to what you need and especially stressful while she was waiting for results and the kind of comments, which is very important to register. You may even want to write them down because they’re not intuitively obvious is of course you’re nervous, you care about your health and your quality of life, and you see it as threatened. So of course you’re frightened. And the question is not, are you frightened, but can you care for yourself while you’re frightened? And if you can’t care for yourself, or you’re frightened, can anybody care for you while you’re frightened?
Robert Strock: (10:20)
And if nobody can care for yourself, when you’re frightened, do you at least have a friendly mind? And I don’t even want to say, at least, do you have a friendly mind that will support you while you’re frightened and being kind towards yourself for going through that universal challenge of our health being threatened. We might say to ourselves, stay as present as possible and keep developing resiliency. And courage reminds me of when I went back 21 and a half years ago and had a kidney transplant and my prayer weeks before I went, while I was there, while I was going through two rejection episodes in the hospital was twofold. One is, if possible, may this kidney work. And the second one was, if it doesn’t work, may I have the courage and the resiliency to persevere with the thoughts and the actions and the attitudes that are going to best take care of me.
Robert Strock: (11:40)
Now that second one, isn’t normally the one that we think of, but it’s something that you could take note of, again, you might write this down that it’s good to have two levels. Of course, we always want things to go the way we want things to go. But we also wanted to develop, I believe when we have our best self, how we best take care of ourselves, if things go exactly the opposite of the way we want them to go. And that secondary part allowed a peace, because just staying focused on, oh my God, I want it to be this way. Oh my God, I want it to be this way. It’s going to create a tension because not even down deep, right on the surface and down deep, I knew well, I wasn’t in control. And we all know we’re not in control when it comes to life and death and it comes to illness. And so being able to focus on our resiliency, on our perseverance, on our gentleness, on being able to ask for help, being able to be resourceful with other people is such a big part of both inquiry and wisdom guidance.
Robert Strock: (13:05)
So, one of the examples that happened in my practice was a client, really intelligent client, whose brother was in a rehab center and had been in and out as being suicidal for years. And my client was really miserable and he was thinking, what can I do to make my brother be okay? And he kept getting overwhelmed with these feelings of hopelessness and despair, because he knew from all of his interactions with his brother, his brother was marginal. Whether he cared about living he knew he didn’t have control. And so he needed to work more with himself than with his brother, because he knew how to say, is there any way I can be helpful to you? What’s the way I could be helpful to you. That was pretty easy for him. He was a smart, sensitive guy, not so much toward himself. So, he redirected the questions of, can I find a way to be okay, even if my brother committed suicide.
Robert Strock: (14:20)
Now that doesn’t mean one dimensionally okay. Of course he’s going to suffer, but can he, can I recognize my own best efforts? Can I recognize in his case, I paid for him to go into the facility and I gave everything I possibly could, which unquestionably would bring out grief with, if he stayed sensitive to himself, with a certain amount of trust, which his inclination would be just to stay with the grief. Another word, or series of words that are very helpful for all of us, especially if it’s not putting frosting in garbage and we’re really doing it. I trust you’re making your very best efforts. You can’t possibly do anything more. And then asking a question, can you hear me? Can you hear me? You’re making your best efforts. Now, the odds are very high, the answer is going to be no. When I mean here, I don’t mean here are the thoughts.
Robert Strock: (15:25)
I mean here emotionally, can you actually feel some degree of inner peace because you were doing everything you could. And so asking that question over and over again, and especially asking it in a way that’s kind, seeing, is the question being asked, not in a pat routine way, kind of like you’re in a, you know, it’s an old classic Catholic church lesson, which I now have a bit more respect for where repeat on the blackboard a thousand times, write this over and over and over again until you get it. I always felt very critical about that until I realized that’s actually kind of the right method. It’s just the wrong attitude. It’s gotta be one of, and when I say it’s gotta be, I mean, it’s so much more humane to be saying, do I realize I’ve made best efforts? Instead of something like I made best efforts, I made best efforts. I made best efforts. I made best efforts. So, the tone is as important as the acknowledgement and combining those two together where you’re acknowledging yourself. And the tone is one of increasing sweetness, increasing trust, increasing warmth, and seeing that maybe it’s not, maybe you’re someone who’s never been able to give that to yourself. And if that’s the case, it’s time to try to find someone who’s going to be able to give it to you. And most people need that.
I just want to reflect a little bit about a circumstance in my life. And I’ve had, I’ve had several, this one is particularly, uh, relevant to what you’re saying and that I had, uh, and this is now in the early eighties and in the time of HIV where the, it wasn’t even recognized what it was, and then there were no medications. Uh, and, and through a, uh, a 20 year time frame where, uh, this type of approach would have really, really helped me. And instead what I found was, and I think this is the important part for me, of what I want to say about what I went through. I didn’t have doubt about making my best efforts, but unfortunately I felt like a failure because I was attached to the outcome and the outcome, uh, was, and it, it really fast forwarded to other circumstances in similar ways was impossible for me to control. And yet that’s how I viewed feeling good about myself. It was not, it was disconnected from doing my best and connected to an outcome that I didn’t realize in reality, I had no control over and it was terrible. It was suffering.
Robert Strock: (18:47)
And really what you’re talking about, which I think would be helpful to elucidate because it shows the stakes, the outcome was death. And, and you innovated for, I can’t remember, it was 10 years, 12 years, you know, hyperbaric oxygen and about five other treatments that were not . . .
That was 20.
Robert Strock: (19:10)
20, sorry, 20 years of keeping someone alive from early middle eighties, which was absolutely unheard of. So, you couldn’t have a situation where on both levels and actually makes me teary, because I remember how overwhelmingly devoted, not only you, but your sister worked your brother, uh, putting, putting them in your backyard and taking them to treatments, but not only doing the right things, but being love, being caring, being nurturing.
He was housed in the backyard, by the way.
Robert Strock: (19:52)
You’d saved him from the almonds, that’s great. That’s good. I’m glad to hear it. Yeah. So sorry about that. Um, but, but the combination, as you listen to this, you see the other extreme of frankly, what I’ve never seen as being such a, a family devotion for such a long period of time in such a hopeless situation. And even more beautiful was not only was your guys’ energy good, but he was able to experience it. He was, he was able to still be fun and funny, a large percentage of the time when he wasn’t, uh, having his many severe episodes that you were able to hold hands, you were able to laugh. You were, you were able to connect and still, as you said, you failed. And that is such a great example for all of us to see that when we do everything right, and we even do it with the right attitude and we even persevere and are even creative, we can still be left with failure.
Robert Strock: (21:11)
That’s a perfect example of moralism, of what I’m describing as moralism. It’s like, I think of the paper in the obituaries where it says something like George fails in his struggle to deal with cancer. And that whole emphasis is so painful, rather than he lived honorably devoting himself to doing everything he could to survive and to live a quality of life as did his family. And just being left in as a heroic state, as one could ever be, and to label that in any way as a failure. Now, all of us, if we look closely, that’s a very extreme example, but even in minor things, you know how we play golf, how we play on the basketball court, whether, whether our team won, it’s like we’re conditioned to identify with our team. Ah, we lost. And really the feeling is I lost. And so, we, it’s a lot of work to reverse that conditioning, to see that not only do they make their best efforts, but we can see, you know, what, in my attachment to outcome, as you said, I am not living my potential.
Robert Strock: (22:46)
I don’t want to be attached to outcome that I can control. I want to be, if anything, devoted to the process, devoted to the best intention. And then there is no failure. So again, to be able to, I know you have since then, to have that be, and I almost don’t want to use the word check, like a golden check of, wow, that was a time I live my life in devotion. I am really proud of that time. I love that our family, and it wasn’t just your brother and sister, it was your other brother, two parents, the whole family banded together. And so, it’s actually a form of joy at a level that differentiates itself, enormously from the grief that says, wow, what a, what a family. And, and for all of us that are dealing with smaller issues like that every day, focusing on our intention and our process and our moment-to-moment reality, and seeing that we’re not in control, just be like my client.
Robert Strock: (24:08)
It’s like, there are so many situations where we’re not in control makes me think of a, another client who was really, really in a situation where she absolutely could not control it. The fact that she was deteriorating in illness again, and I asked, well, what could you, what thoughts would be most helpful for you to care for your sadness while your sister’s going downhill. And there are thoughts like, and please remember these, because they may sound obvious while I’m saying them, but they’re not obvious while you’re in the middle of it. I so appreciate your love for him and your love for his innocence and your devotion to care. And after she died, how could my clients stay connected to her? And so, I encouraged my client to say, which he did, I love you, and I wish I could have protected you. And I’m so sorry, and grateful to you for all the love and tenderness you gave to me.
Robert Strock: (25:22)
And it stopped him from being bottled up in feeling like a failure and just feeling the loss and instead accepting the loss and also embracing the love that was given not only during that last period of time, but also during their life. So, maybe you can think of a current situation that is challenging. Maybe it’s present, maybe it’s recent past where you get caught up in the results, you get caught up in the outcome and really take a few seconds to really identify something concrete. Yeah, it may have to do with your wife or husband or your kids or your, your parents, your job, or money or sex. And what would be the current question and wisdom that you want to guide yourself with in that situation, when you normally would get caught up and just attached to an outcome you can’t control. Can you see yourself saying, I see you are making your best efforts, and then you might ask to your guts, can you hear me?
Robert Strock: (26:52)
Let me say it again. You are making your best efforts and whether you can hear me or not, I, your best self am proud of you. I am your wisdom-guidance. I am telling you, I see your best efforts. And I see your feelings are being run by an absolutely impossible goal. Can you hear me and let yourself stay in that dialogue. And again, as we’ve said all along, this is presuming that you’re making your best efforts and it doesn’t have to be something like life and death. It really can be, you know what, I watched the Lakers last night and I’m still bummed out. And then what would you do? Hopefully, if you’re really going to follow your wisdom-guidance, it’s going to say something to you like, oh, I can see you’re attached. This is your conditioning. Your conditioning is bummed out. Then it may last for another day or so, but maybe we can be bummed out and still care for the kids, care for my wife, take a walk, still live life, still have an independent self.
Robert Strock: (28:09)
Still recognize that wisdom can be activated. I don’t have to even get over the Lakers. I can be bummed out, it’s okay. I just don’t want it to be fixated and just completely dominate without having an inquiry and some wisdom to follow. So, whether it be the level of the Lakers of which I identify both the Lakers and the warriors, or whether it be something more serious. See if I’m gonna include myself, see if we can all move toward accepting the challenging emotions themselves, and then make our best efforts to listen to our guidance as to how we can be with it and how we can be beyond it. Again. Thanks so much.
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