Host Robert Strock explores how a growing awareness around our own confusion affects self-rejection during serious health or medical changes. It’s inevitable to feel loss, emptiness, or fear during drastic life changes. We need to learn to acknowledge our feelings around these challenges. Otherwise, we will increase feelings of depression or agitation rather than deepening acceptance, understanding, and forgiving ourselves. There’s a process of learning to see our own expectations and realizing that they’re so often unreasonable. When we go through drastic changes, we are going to change how we think and function physically. It is incredibly helpful to realize that anyone going through a similar situation with extreme change and hardship will face similar challenging feelings.
The hardship can lead to confusion that, if not faced with greater self-compassion and questioning, lead us to become more judgmental, depressed, or empty. The problem isn’t the confusion itself but the rejection of it. We can train ourselves by leading our awareness to our true intention to heal, where we see our confusion as an opportunity for deeper inquiry and purposeful introspection. The more we look at our confusion with reverence, the more capacity we have to live a courageous life.
Resources related to this episode
Robert Strock Website
Robert’s Book, Awareness that Heals
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Awareness That Heals, Episode 26.
Robert Strock: (00:04)
Nobody instinctively likes confusion, but if you look at it from a more contemplative place, you’ll see the confusion arises when we have something deep that we don’t know.
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: (01:00)
I’d like to welcome you again to Awareness That Heals, Bringing Heart and Wisdom to Life’s Challenges. As we’ve been talking about, the subtlety of self-rejection is so much that we can’t be reminded enough that when we have our most serious rejecting feelings that are difficult for us, we really hate it in general. And when we hate it, that’s what self-rejection is or when we don’t like it. And it’s hard enough to stay aware of our difficult feelings, but our reactions to it, that’s really subtle. And if we don’t see that reaction, that inner hatred, we’re either going to be contracted or, or lose our energy and be withdrawn. So the stakes are very, very high and the theme today will be to go deeper, subtler, and broader in ways that we’re challenged, in ways that we reject ourselves and how to move from this rejection toward self-compassion. We’re winding down in this crucial area today, as we finish up this moving from self-rejection towards self-compassion. First like to start off by introducing Dave, my closest friend for 50 years and partner at the Global Bridge.
Thank you for the introduction. Uh, I am, I am happy to be here and continuing to be here and, um, let’s dive in.
Robert Strock: (02:49)
Ready to go. So one of the areas of self-rejection that is, again most, pardon the expression deadly, is dealing with medical challenges that when we are feeling sick, have a chronic illness, have noticed that we have a test that we have to take, or that we should take that really is scary for us. And that fear, oftentimes, we don’t like that fear and so we get avoidant of even going to the doctor or even thinking about it, goes into our fleeting awareness and leaves us scared, makes us lose energy. And sometimes it makes us more agitated. So it’s a very good example, and going to start off with one, with something that happened in a men’s group that I’m part of. And there was a man named Fred who was an avid golfer, and he had a prostate issue, major prostate issue, and had some kind of beams that pinpointed taking a large part of his prostate out.
Robert Strock: (04:07)
He was radiated. And that was in the background, not something that we had been talking about. And then suddenly he was talking about fact that, I don’t know at all. I’m, I’ve been playing golf for 50 years and I’m hitting the golf ball 40 yards shorter than I’ve ever hit in my life. I don’t know what the fuck is going on. And he was really pissed off. So I started laughing, you know, and in a sort of a friendly type of laugh. And he said, what’s so funny. And I said, do you really think that you in radiation for all that time and being as exhausted as you have been and losing 40 pounds as well, that the changing conditions of your body and what you’ve been through, not even to mention part of the psychology possibly. Do you really think that that physicality hasn’t led you to hitting a golf ball shorter. And the whole group laughed and it was, it was hysterical, you know, that, that everybody glimpsed, not only him, but also how we all might do that in a situation when something major changes in our life.
Robert Strock: (05:28)
And we can’t think as clearly, we can’t do a sport as well. You know, we’re more emotional, we’re more withdrawn. And so what was very clear that Fred felt like a failure, inadequate, and he hated it. He hated that feeling, which led to a feeling of depression when he was there on the golf course, he had anxiety. He was sure he was going to hit his short again. And he didn’t have that voice that we’ve been talking about so much where it said, well, of course, you’re going to hit it shorter because you just went through hell for six months with being radiated and operated on and going through all of that. Not only stress, but bodily changes in absorbing your body being weakened. So we all need to look closely when we’re dealing with anything medical that we’re inevitably going to have some type of fear response or being bummed out, or feeling of falling, or loss, or emptiness.
Robert Strock: (06:43)
And if we don’t feel the feelings, inevitably, we’re going to become either more depressed or we’re going to become more agitated or both. And so if we track, trace them back, we can see God, why am I feeling so far from my heart? Why am I feeling so empty or, or depressive? And then you see, oh, I just went through a surgical procedure. Oh, I’m not hitting a golf ball as well. And then when you see that the idea isn’t to stay stuck with it, I mean one dimensionally, but it’s to be able to find a voice, it’s going to say to you it’s perfectly natural that this is happening. And in this situation, you’re going to recover a lot through time, as you get farther and farther away from the radiation and be reassuring. And I’m so sorry, you gave yourself such a hard time while you were there.
Robert Strock: (07:46)
This is the hardest thing any of us have to go through. And it’s so important that you remember these words. And if at all possible the reassuring tone that allows you to feel safer, to feel more accepting, to feel more trusting, to feel more peaceful. And that’s not to say that it gets an eraser and makes all these feelings go away. It just means you have a vacillation between feeling a loss and feeling an acceptance, and certainly a tolerance. And maybe even once in a while, like happening to the group, you’d have some humor around it. You’d be able to laugh at how absurd it is that you have these expectations that even though I’m going through massive medical changes, I’m going to be the same person.
I’d like to add something in to what you just said. That as people who have been looking or excuse me, hearing these podcasts, uh, now I’ve had some, uh, familial wife medical issues in the last eight months that have been very significant and I am, and I don’t think this is true for everybody, but I think it’s true for a lot of people when people, uh, that I love that are very close to me are going through exactly what you described. Um, I am the kind of person, at least that identifies it, almost like it’s me. And what you described is it’s almost exactly I can identify with what you’re saying. And it was very hard for me to, and I’m glad you, you ended towards this point to change the feelings, forget about extinguishing that was not on the table, but even change them with the awareness that yes, this was in my case, fortunately, going to get better with my wife or, or things of that nature, it was, it was, it was still hard for me. Very hard. Yeah.
Robert Strock: (09:55)
And I think even the idea which I mentioned, but what I mentioned was incomplete of extinguishing the feelings or even lessening the feelings or even adding positive feelings may be way too grandiose. It may be that you just have these wisdom thoughts, as we’ve talked about in the past. They’re not just thoughts in your head, they’re thoughts to be revered, they’re thoughts to be guiding you to your next thoughts. When you say this would be difficult for anyone, of course, this is natural. It’s like, you may not be able to have the juice because you’re caught up in the, or I might still be caught up in the, in the fear, but the knack is really hearing, clearly saying clearly the perspective that’s true and really balanced, like, you know what the odds of this being so-and-so are so-and-so. So even if you can’t relax, know that, I know you rationally could be much more relaxed at this point.
Robert Strock: (11:06)
And then you’re satisfied that your wisdom is speaking while your feelings are in somewhat of a freak-out. But what do you do as you sit with that is you keep repeating the wisdom. So you want to repeat it hundreds of times, so you can get yourself more centered. And getting more centered in your wisdom doesn’t mean the feelings are going to be reliably changed. Maybe they will, if it’s not as serious, but if you’re dealing with something serious, like your wife and you’re dealing with a very serious disease, then it’s going to be more capturing of the emotions. But it’s one of those times where we need to learn that our wisdom is more important than our feelings. And I’ll say it again, because I know it’s almost impossible to learn this because we’re taught from a very young age, Well, how are you doing today?
Robert Strock: (12:03)
What do you feel? And what you feel is who you are. And as I’ve said at other times, terrible barometer for that being an evaluation of who you are. If you have your wisdom speaking to you that’s who you are more than your feelings. And when you look back your wisdom, isn’t going to just give you frosting, isn’t going to just give you reassurance when it doesn’t deserve it, it’s going to be objective. It’s going to be a true seeker. And so it’s important to give the value to the greater one that’s more accurate, truthful, observant, seeing things clearly. And it sounds simple, but when you’re in this altered hypnotic state of anxiety, or fear, you need to really teach yourself. I want to really speak out those words that are giving the accurate perspective of how much risk I’m really in. And I want to face that and I want to develop at least as much as possible empathic thinking.
Robert Strock: (13:07)
And that means you don’t have to feel the thinking, but the empath itself is thinking that way “is” your wisdom. So a second example that really captures something that is really a danger for all of us happened when a friend of mine went to a large workshop with Stephen Levine. And Stephen Levine is, or was a Buddhist teacher and especially a death and dying specialist. And I say that in very rare respect, because his Buddhist teaching didn’t come into play unless you were a Buddhist. You know, if you needed to be an atheist, he, he was going to be an atheist with you. If you need, if you needed to be a Christian and he was going to be a Christian with you, he was the real deal and had the greatest expertise of anybody I’ve ever seen in dealing with death and dying. So the client went to Steve and was listening to the group.
Robert Strock: (14:12)
And the group was, was talking about really feeling bad. Some, one member was talking about really feeling bad because they had cancer. And they knew somehow that they caused it and they knew they knew it was their fault. And they were trying to reconcile, what did I do that really caused my cancer? Was it when I was angry at so-and-so, what was it? When I didn’t express my anger to this other person, giving themselves a really hard time. So Stephen asked the group, and this is something that individually, I just can’t help myself, but do the same thing. But in this case, it was a group of a thousand people who believes we create your own reality. Who believes something like came out, which it had come out within the last year or two before a book called, The Secret. The Secret came out and it really expressed, yes, The Secret is, you can manifest whatever you want to manifest.
Robert Strock: (15:17)
If you want to manifest a Ferrari, if you really think about it enough, you’ll manifest a Ferrari, and you can certainly manifest your health and had this black and white picture of cause and effect and how much we could impact our own health. And Stephen says we have to be so careful when we hear something this stupid. And I just loved it. I just laughed. You know, the, the part of me that is so angry at all of these simplistic solutions was so happy to hear him say that. And he says, listen, if you created your own death, so as everybody who has ever lived in history, you know, we’re all bad. And therefore we die because we’re bad. And it’s the biggest, bad rap you can have. And the people that are proposing these grandiose statements that we cause what happens to us completely are really dangerous to all of us when we’re sick.
Robert Strock: (16:25)
And that impacts us, that general message, you know, something like so-and-so failed in his fight against cancer. Now that person might, might’ve completely succeeded in my standards by facing it straight on, being able to talk about it to the degree they need to do to be healthy, uh, being relatively, uh, compassionate with themselves of this is the most difficult thing I’ve ever gone through. I’m depressed or I’m anxious, or maybe I have some faith or whatever, wherever they’re distracting themselves, wherever they are. And so we can see how, when we feel this fear or even worse, this guilt that we failed, that that feeling of inadequacy, that feeling of being depressed is that unconscious self-rejection. And we so badly need to give ourselves our wisdom and, and really go into the question of, would this be difficult for everyone? Do you know anyone that this would be easy for facing themselves, having less than capacity and maybe it’s going to spread throughout their body?
Robert Strock: (17:41)
Is that really realistic? And we’re really talking about inquiring of what question would I ask myself that would lead me to the wisdom that I need, which is what we’ll be getting into in the next series of episodes, wisdom-guidance itself. But one of the questions I need to ask myself, to guide myself, to find the thoughts that will support me, like am I really making a big deal out of nothing? You know, with this, do I really deserve mercy? Do I deserve kindness? Do I see this as normal? And of course the response is going to be in the affirmative to all those questions. And just starting to ask those questions is really what brings you out of it. And when I say out of it, I mean, not completely out of it, but allows you to have a part of you that is still alive, is still centered, is still capable.
Robert Strock: (18:49)
At least some of the time of interacting with people that are important to you, that that might be in your family. They might be your closest friends. And it doesn’t mean the feeling’s going to go away. The feeling is part of reality, part of being human. And we all really need to, to ask ourselves those questions at this critical time that are designed to support us inquiring from the heart. So one of the other areas that we touched on in the last episode that is similar to illness, because of the way we deal with it, is when we’re really deeply confused and it’s vital. And the younger you are in listening to this, the more lucky you are, because it’s a little easier to understand when you’re older, that when we’re aware that we’re confused, that gives us a chance to not reject ourselves. Because if we look deeply at it, we’ll see the confusion is there.
Robert Strock: (19:58)
When we’re asking ourselves a deeper question, like, what do I need to do with my job situation? What do I need to do with my wife or husband’s situation? What do I need to do with my relationship to money? Now, if you stay just watching video games or you stay eating bon bons, or you stay in a superficial state, you don’t have to worry about confusion because you’re not asking deep questions. So it’s important to recognize when you’re confused. Hopefully there’s a statement that goes good for you. Good for you that you’ve deep enough to be asking this big question and recognize that oftentimes there’s not going to be a quick fix, but what you want is, what we want to change ourselves to is that when we have confusion, that means we need to give it more attention because there’s something important that we really innocently and sincerely don’t know.
Robert Strock: (20:58)
And when that’s there, we really want to make it an ally. And when we make it an ally, it helps reverse the chain of self-rejection. Because if we don’t accept the confusion and we see, you know what, I’m not sure whether I should leave my wife or my husband. And then we avoid it. We go, you know, life goes on and we, we keep feeling depressed or empty or judgmental, and we’re not really dealing with the underlying issue of the confusion. And it’s scarier sometimes to deal with the confusion or it’s inconvenient, or it’s enlightening because sometimes we see, you know, what I want to leave, but I don’t have enough money to leave. I don’t want to be homeless. I don’t want to be begging my parents and not sure whether they’re going to say yes or not, or a friend. So I’ve got to figure out what are my best options, and this would be difficult for everyone.
Robert Strock: (21:58)
And that’s the key thing. Nobody instinctively likes confusion. But if you look at it from a more contemplative place, you’ll see the confusion arises when we have something deep that we don’t know. So we actually want to be consciously as confused as possible with reverence, with respect, and then really deal with the issues. And at the very least we’ll reach if we stay with it, a merciful conclusion of, I don’t know, still, this is really hard. Now I deal with this. Almost every session I have with clients. I view it as if I don’t have confusion in a session with a client. It’s probably because I haven’t gone deep enough or they haven’t gone deep enough. So I’m looking for where’s the confusion and there’s tremendous dignity and confusion. The problem is not the confusion itself. It’s the rejection of it. It’s the avoidance of it.
Just want to amplify that and my situations. Uh, and I’m, I’m remembering one specifically where I had a, a part of my life that was absorbed in a certain, uh, work that took just absorbed so many hours of my day, my weeks and my years and confusion was there, but I hadn’t identified the issue. I hadn’t identified that was what was going on. It took me embarrassingly long to understand that was the route. That was what was going on. And it went and drifted into parts of my life because I naturally for me, wanted to understand. Well, for me, I wanted to understand, I won’t say it was natural, but it was uncomfortable. What was this about, so that I could get to it, and it was hard to identify
Robert Strock: (24:00)
And what was it?
It was recognizing for me that economically I could retire from that part of my life and free myself and get off for me, what felt like, uh, a treadmill, a mouse running around a round treadmill, and that I could jump off of that and I could see what was in that gap. And that gap was frightening to me. And so I turned away from it.
Robert Strock: (24:31)
Really glad you brought that up, because that allows me to just give a little bit of a hope, inspiration for the many people that are in that situation. The fact that you even were aware of feeling disturbed before you got to the confusion is more than most people do when they’re in that situation where they’ve been lucky enough, or fortunate enough, or good enough to be able to be financially free. But they don’t recognize it, they go on and on and it becomes an addiction voided more and more and more, and it becomes a serious addiction. And it’s a big part of where the world is screwed up because the wealth, wealthy, want to become wealthier and wealthier and wealthier because they’re too uncomfortable to face the uncomfortableness. And then to unaware of the uncomfortableness to drop into the confusion and not dropping enough into the confusion to really engage it.
Robert Strock: (25:28)
And so staying depressed or guilty with oftentimes rationalizations that, oh my God, well COVID is here, so I have to protect myself and make sure I have extra protection for my kids and my family. And not seeing that by doing that, all of the millions of people that have excess money they are holding it to themselves and not taking care of the poor or, and not taking care of the world are contributing to the problem in the world. And so if the stakes are very high for our individual psychology, but they’re also very high for our planet and The Missing Conversation, the other podcast that I’m doing, that’s really what the whole focus is. So for those of you that relate to this, please go to The Missing Conversation because it’s, it really is dealing with homelessness, regenerative, agriculture, immigration reform, and something. I call Psycho-Politics and also Psycho-Economics, which really is dealing with this kind of confusion and the importance that we all really dive deeply into it.
Robert Strock: (26:35)
So virtually all of us have areas we don’t like whether it’s with confusion or with our health. And we usually limit this to our fleeting awareness and zip out. And so what we really want to train ourselves to, is when we have this fleeting awareness, we want to try to access, as we’ve discussed in earlier podcasts, the intention to heal and the courage to find that intention to heal. So we can stay with the underlying confusion or feelings of difficulty while we’re sick. And when we do this, it’s like a mini miracle. Every time it happens. And we need to recognize because if it doesn’t feel good, we don’t recognize it’s a mini miracle, we don’t realize it’s a path we don’t realize often, oftentimes most times for most of us that it’s paradoxical, the more we revere our confusion, the more we revere our fears of death or illness or loss of capacity, the more courageous life we can live.
Robert Strock: (27:42)
And that’s really subtle and requires a lot of humility and courage to really be able to bring that home. So empowering our inquiry from the heart and really asking it at our times of greatest need, when we feel these primitive fears or these primitive confusions is such a critical part of life and such a critical part of having a deeper life. So what my wish is for all of you is that you empower this kind of questioning from the heart, and it starts to lead you into wisdom. So you can see that your inquiry from the heart and your wisdom is really a more important part of life than your feelings, but it’s only going to happen if you activate it. It’s like having an idea in your mind of what you can do, but you’ve got to activate it when it counts most. When you’re in the feelings, this is a very evolutionary step for any of us to take.
Robert Strock: (28:54)
And if we don’t take it, it really pulls the plug on living an inspirational and fulfilling life. And when we do really take it on, it allows us to move from these areas of self-rejection toward self-compassion and wisdom, and my deepest prayer and wish. And the reason why this was whole episodes from self-rejection towards self-compassion, was spoken and written, was to empower us at the times of our greatest need to face the self- rejection with respect and dignity, even if we can’t feel it, even if it’s from our wisdom and really be able to use this awareness to transform our lives when we most need it. I pray for all of us, including myself, because I have no illusion I’m beyond it, that I can stay with this when I’m most afraid, when I’m most anxious, when I’m most depressed. And I do this investigatory process, and it leads me to my inquiry from my heart, for my benefit and for the benefit of all human beings.
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