Join Robert and Dave as they take a deep dive into the process of containment. Many misunderstand the word. Containment is not suppression. It is feeling as fully as possible in a safe place where it does not hurt anyone, including ourselves. It helps us not to become paralyzed in withdrawal or lost in a wide realm of expressing feelings that have fight as an element inside them. Containment requires us to have the self-control to pause in the midst of uncomfortable feelings. Anger, for example, if we do not misuse it by dumping it on others, or by suppressing it, can have a great vital energy. It gives us passion. It gives us intensity. It gives us juice to live our lives. To move into a state of containment we must break free from being trapped in conditioned reactions that each of us has to automatically express or repress.
If we can remove ourselves from the situation and let ourselves really be present with our intense feelings we can learn to use them in positive ways. While we are feeling raw emotion we can also ask ourselves some inquiring questions. What vulnerable feelings do I have that are also underneath this? What is it that I really need that this anger is showing me? What is it that we need to do to best take care of ourselves and the significant others with us while we are in this state of anger? Containment is the 3rd step of a 7 step process. Stay tuned as Robert will be covering each step in future episodes.
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Awareness That Heals, Episode 65.
Robert Strock: (00:03)
Go to your anger, go to your resistant emotion and appreciate that you’re aware of it. And then appreciate that you wanna move in a direction that is going to care for you and hopefully others as well.
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: (01:01)
Thanks so much again for joining us at Awareness That Heals, it’s truly a pleasure to have you be joining us on the program and what we’re gonna be talking about today is something that is so central to living a fulfilling life and breaking free from where we’re trapped in conditioned reactions that each of us have, and whether we know it or not, we all have deep conditioning. And we think we’re just acting normally. We have loads of conditioning from our parents, from our culture, our movies, friends. So, none of us are really liberated from having a direction in life where we’re naturally following ourselves, where we would have a selection of what we’re exposed to that we choose to align with.
Robert Strock: (02:02)
Normally it’s like a tidal wave moving us that we need to really develop our capacity to pause and think for ourselves and to question and to listen to what the answers are. The guidance is to be able to counter that tidal wave or more accurately to coexist with a tidal wave, and keep asking what’s true to me, what really matters. What’s the next step I wanna take in life, what’s most important today, and this is not something that virtually any of us have been taught to do so please don’t get caught in feeling discouraged or more accurately, again, if you are discouraged, let it just be one part of you while you’re continuing to develop what’s true to you. It’s a bit like a lobotomy for most of us in the beginning because we’re so identified and we think our conditioning is who we are. So, I’d like to start today by introducing Dave, my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation, 50 year best friend, actually, it’s more than 50 years, Dave, thanks so much for joining us.
You had to say it was more than 50 years
Robert Strock: (03:34)
You had to really go there. You had to age me and you, okay, I’ll accept it. Great to be here. Uh, this is a, uh, a subject matter that’s, uh, you know, for better or for worse, and usually for worse, one that’s very, uh, intimate and close to my experience, especially earlier in my life, but certainly in and out of different parts of my life.
Robert Strock: (04:05)
You didn’t mean that intimacy was worse, did you?
I meant that, um, the experience of being identified with anger and things of that nature is, uh, both intimate and a great suffering.
Robert Strock: (04:24)
I’d also like to, as we have in the last couple episodes, introduce Mark Spiro, our engineer, close friend. It’s so important that all of us break another conditioning taboo that when we’re facing serious illness, as Mark is, that we find a way to be with what our feelings are and recognize we’re still very much alive and we can make the very best of it. And Mark, out of love, out of courage, out of honesty, out of sincerity, has joined us. And I’m very, very grateful Mark that you’ve not only joined us in the engineering but joined us on the show.
Mark Spiro: (05:23)
Thanks so much, Robert and Dave. Thank you. I, I’ve said it before this, what’s happening on this channel, on this podcast to me is, is, priceless. It’s a coming together of, of great minds and great, great spiritual thoughts. Great, just humanitarian efforts. And I’m just so lucky to be part of it, and that’s the way I feel. I feel like showing up is easy. So, hopefully you’re hearing it out there the way I’m hearing it in here, um, and are receiving the blessing of, of these really, really good people. And thank you. Thank you, Robert, for letting me be part of it.
Robert Strock: (06:13)
Yeah. And as you can hear, uh, Mark is, humbly receiving this as a gift, and I do believe it’s, as is true in any gift, it’s very hard when it’s done sincerely to say who the giver and the receiver is. And Mark is giving all of us an example, kind of like being a little bit more up and close to what’s happening in Ukraine or with COVID of what it’s like to face our mortality and the advantages there can be in living a full life and being able to coexist with our fears and our grief, even if it’s not to do with mortality and really respond in the best way we possibly can. So we’ve talked in the last episodes quite a bit about the structure or the ways that we can deal with anger and have it work for us rather than against us. And just to go over the basics to catch us up with where we are now, it starts with being aware of any part of you or us that is dealing with anger or any kind of resistant emotions that are like impatience and tolerance,
Robert Strock: (07:48)
Sarcasm, frustration, and learning to really be aware, ah, this is me and not to believe our story about, oh, you caused it in me and get distracted from the fact that our experiences are experience and we need to start there and not justify it and say, you made me angry and stay with that normal justification. And what helps do that is the second step, which is there’s an intention to care for ourselves, an intention to heal, an intention, to move toward well-being, which makes us wanna be more honest about our reaction and be able to not have it just be acted out or suppressed. That is the anger or the frustration. Ah, I really am that, I am reacting, and I wanna find a way to care. That’s particularly powerful if we can put those two together, which leads us to what we’re gonna focus on today, which is containment. And containment is really the third step of a seven-step process that we’re gonna go through in the future episodes.
Robert Strock: (09:03)
And containment is one of the key elements that requires us to not only have the awareness of our resistant emotion and this intention to care, care for ourselves, but also it, what requires us to have the self-control to pause, to not just react and act it out and not to suppress it, but to recognize that anger is actually, if we don’t misuse it by either acting it out or suppressing it, it’s a great vital energy. It gives us passion, it gives us intensity, it gives us juice to live our lives, but we need to move into the state of containment, which means if we can, we remove ourselves from the situation and we let ourselves feel it, if anything exaggerated.
Robert Strock: (09:59)
And while we’re doing that and feeling the raw emotion of whatever resistant emotion it is, we’re also asking ourselves, and I’m asking you to ask yourself this, as I’m speaking, look at your anger or resistant emotion that’s most prevalent in your life. And then ask the question, what vulnerable feelings do I have that are also underneath this and get a glimpse of that. And if you get more than a glimpse, let yourself feel it. Whether it’s fear, insecurity, grief, hurt, sadness, let yourself experience that too. And then asking yourself another question, which is what is it that I really need, that the anger is showing me, but the anger’s angry that something didn’t happen or something happened that we didn’t want. So, what is it that we need to best take care of ourselves and the significant others with us while we’re in this state of anger?
Robert Strock: (11:18)
Now that’s a mouthful and we’re gonna go over this slowly, but do your best to stay aware of your anger, have that intention to care for yourself. Miracle when you can get that far and lead yourself into containment and how you can ask yourself these questions of what are my vulnerable emotions and what are my needs. And it would very likely be helpful to help be literate of what vulnerable emotions and what emotions you are having, what resistant emotions you’re having and what your key needs are that will support you while you’re having these difficult emotions and go to AwarenessThatHeals.org and on the top line, there’s a free download of the Introspective Guides where you’ll see two charts, one that has 75 challenging emotions, both the resistant emotions and the vulnerable emotions and the second chart that has the essential needs. That would be really guidance for how to care for ourselves while we’re there.
Robert Strock: (12:43)
So most importantly, apply this to yourself. Don’t let this just be a conceptual thing where you’re understanding it. Abstractly, go to your anger, go to your resistant emotion and appreciate that you’re aware of it, and then appreciate that you wanna move in a direction that is going to care for you and hopefully others as well, and recognize that you want to find what it is that is really vulnerable underneath it and what it is that you need. And one of the elements of the anger is recognizing that you don’t wanna create harm. You don’t wanna create harm to yourself and you don’t wanna really create harm to the other. Even though there might be a nasty part of us or a vengeful part of us that feels like we’ve been so violated, I’m just gotta give it to ’em. But when we realize the long-term effects, if we look deeply enough into it, we see that we might get a temporary relief of giving it back to ’em, an eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth, but then we see the long-term consequences of the power struggle of the withdrawal or the fight that comes back and forth and how that leads to the real loss of intimacy in the world.
Robert Strock: (14:16)
The loss of peace, because we’re not able for example, to deal with on the worldly level, our distrust of another nation. So, we turn our fears and our angers into distrust, and then we act it out in war, or we go back to relationships and we have an emotional war. So, the stakes are really high.
Robert Strock: (14:44)
And the stakes, the only way it’s gonna be addressing the stakes is if you, you apply it to yourself in real life. So keep looking, or if you found it, just stay there for the resistant emotion, that’s most prevalent in your life and likely to continue to be most prevalent. And when you see it clearly see how you normally would say, yeah, I’m angry because you, or I’m feeling frustrated because you take it inside, feel it fully and see what it is that you need and what you feel that’s really vulnerable. And the reason why it’s important to feel what’s vulnerable is cuz it makes it easy to, easier to discover what you need.
I just want to ask you and I, I, I am positive. You’ll discuss this later on, but you, you mentioned you went back and forth between things between nations trust, creating wars, and then the, the more personalized version of that. And my experience, in our world right now, is that there are real untrustworthy players of significance. And so can you relate to that in the sense of what to do. Truly, truly destructive forces?
Robert Strock: (16:12)
Yeah. Great question. So, when we talk about looking at what we need, it doesn’t mean that we’re gonna be merging with the truly untrustworthy people or nations that are out there. So, for example, in that list of needs, we have things like independence, boundaries, and it’s very clear when you’re dealing with a person or a nation that’s acting out and not reachable they’re truly incorrigible or much worse, hateful, genocidal, abusive, then it’s gonna be very important. The needs you’re gonna be focusing on are independence, boundaries, discrimination of how do you set international standards to be able to deal with a Putin-like character. So, the world needs to evaluate how many children need to die. How many women need to be raped? How many tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of that has to happen before we really have international agreements that will, in a meaningful way, give us the best chance not to have a nuclear war and to cut off any violator of human rights at that level. So, there’s a combination of discrimination, boundaries, and then really contemplating, what is the discernment that the world needs to take, or I need to take in my relationship to be able to have the best chance of a sustaining peace and not a nuclear war or not a torturous war between myself and a loved one. I hope that answers your question there, Dave.
I think that question is gonna be, um, much more elaborated on as we go on. Uh, because it’s, it’s, it’s complicated it, is this time, in this part of history that I’m living in and we’re all living in has brought up a lot of, uh, reverberations in my personal life, uh, because of losing, you know, significant number of my family members in concentration camps, so it’s, uh, everybody has their own story and own relationship to the things that are happening and that some of the, some of the things, the unspeakable things you just described.
Robert Strock: (19:03)
Yeah. And just to quickly relate to that, which is another angle, like you’re saying we will be going into is when you’re angry at something that has already happened and you, and you can’t control it. Sometimes you need to turn inward and the need is developing acceptance, or maybe it’s tolerance or may, or maybe it’s forgiveness, or maybe it’s discernment that okay, in my relationship with my brother who’s passed, all I can do is remember the love that I had and have an acceptance. So with death, there’s a strong encouragement to remember the love and the beauty that you did have with someone you’ve lost and come to a mature tolerance and acceptance, which is particularly hard for us in the Western world, because we’re so sheltered from death. And, you know, that’s a big part of the gratitude I have for Mark being on this show, where instead of withdrawing and stepping back and being like most people would be just feeling fear or concern or confusion, loss, grief, instead of just feeling that I’m not saying he doesn’t feel that he’s also reaching out and he’s found the, and, and I can be moving in a healing direction in other parts of my life, while I’m in some uncertainty about what my diagnosis is.
Robert Strock: (20:59)
So again, Mark, thank you so much for that.
Mark Spiro: (21:03)
Thank you too. And I can easily go to sliding down a really ugly rabbit hole of why this, how come me, I don’t deserve this, fuck everybody, I’m leaving. Um, there’s a lot of ways for me to punt, and I know if I come see you, I won’t.
Robert Strock: (21:23)
Speaker 5: (21:24)
I’ll understand. You know what I’m saying? I’ll get clarity about it. We’ll talk it through. That’s human relationship. That matters, I think.
Robert Strock: (21:31)
Well, thank you. I like the word punt.
Mark Spiro: (21:34)
Got it. Yeah.
Robert Strock: (21:38)
So, many misunderstand when they hear the word containment, which is what Mark is doing, has the anger, my life is threatened. Fuck this. And we’re all gonna have a level of that. Some of us might not be as focused on anger. Some of us might move to grief, but it’s gonna be a difficult emotion. Containment isn’t suppression, containment is feeling it as fully as possible in a safe place where it doesn’t hurt anyone, including yourself. It helps you not be paralyzed in withdrawal or in fight. And it helps you be where you are, but not paralyzed by it, looking for the, and when you’re ready. Now there be moments when, of course there’s not an and, it’s not like it has to be an and all the time, there’s no have to. It’s that you have the possibility of discovering, how can I be needed as well as need, which is a particularly advanced way of being able to deal with anger. But again, not to be made a standard where you have to feel pressure and then you’re gonna feel guilty. And then you’re not gonna give yourself permission to feel it. No, it’s finding your unique balance.
Robert Strock: (23:05)
Now I’ve had quite a few times through the years where people have told me, don’t try to take away my anger spontaneously. I like it, gives me a relief, gets it out of me. It’s not what I was taught in therapy. Who in the hell are you to say that I shouldn’t be expressing my anger and what my response is, is of course you feel a relief. We all feel a momentary relief. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it, but I’m asking is for you to contemplate and see does it work for you long-term? Does it actually end there and like the other person’s just a sponge. Ah, I got it out, they’re perfectly okay and now we’re in perfectly good shape. I don’t think that’s the way it works very often. Usually anger begets anger, and it keeps going and then it’s either withdrawal or anger and you feel distance and gradually it can deteriorate a relationship or sometimes suddenly.
Robert Strock: (24:11)
So, take a look at when you actually have been the one that has your version of anger or frustration or intolerance or impatience, and look at how you normally deal with it. Not be, to be ashamed of yourself. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite, to be proud of yourself that you can just look at it. And at, at these moments, give up the story as to why, and just let the raw emotion be there and appreciate that. You can see it and recognize if you were asked. And I do this sometimes as a, as a sort of a joke with clients. Would, would you rather care for yourself? Would you rather not care for yourself? Tough question. Now, most people, 99.9% of people, and it’s truly a masochist that wouldn’t, well, of course I’d rather care for myself. And usually the reason the person says it, well, I just can’t, it’s just hard.
Robert Strock: (25:15)
Say, well, if you contemplate it more and you see that it keeps leading you to stab yourself, do you think that might be enough motivation? And that almost inevitably, at least creates a moment if not a change in life, in relationship to anger and resistant emotions. So, I’ve had plenty of struggles in my personal life. Like everyone, where I feel angry, I feel irritated. I feel impatient. I feel incredulous. I feel arrogant and it’s strong and especially at these times where I have a Republican friend who believes in Trump and I, and I wanna just rip his head off. I wanna say, well, what about the insurrection? What about this? What about that? And it’s very hard not to do it and I’ve slipped up for sure. And I’ve blown up one relationship and partially brought it back through, through containment, but have had to go through a process. So, this is not something that we get over. Ah, now I understand it. So, I’m now applying it a hundred percent. My life that’s a dream. This is a life-long practice. So hopefully as you hear it will wet your appetite to go more deeply into containment and more deeply into the process of discovering what we really need rather than focusing our life, our energy, our thoughts, our actions, resisting what we don’t like. So, thank you for your attention and look forward to you joining us in future episodes.
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