The baseline of the majority of people throughout history, barring many of the indigenous peoples of the world, has not significantly prioritized how to live a connected life to both our planet and those less fortunate than us. This baseline definition of normal has meant serving society’s main values and standards such as success, wealth, taking care of family, being popular and having some fun. It has not prioritized taking care of the ground on which we live as a whole or supporting the most disadvantaged. Mostly support is kept very much relative to those closest to us.
Robert and Dave are attempting to provide a contemplative bridge from our normal conditioning to find a deeper fulfillment, rather than just satisfaction as a possibility. Although our current state feels natural, there is another level that has to do with interconnection with the world, interconnections with people that are suffering, and awareness of what we each consider to be our best self. The Introspective Guides are a great place to begin to access a more nuanced literacy to taking care of ourselves and others when faced with life’s challenges. By extension, this process enables a greater capacity to be present and open to a more meaningful connection with your inner circle and the global community to increasing degrees. This is a particularly vital time when we are facing global warming, potential nuclear war, terrorism, and shootings.
The recognition we want to care for where we are, and then also we want to care for others is really the foundation of the Awareness That Heals process. We hope that you will download the Introspective Guides if you have not already and that you’ll see this as a way to move your life from a limited kind of caring to provide for new levels of fulfillment.
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Awareness That Heals, Episode 72.
Today, we’re gonna be dealing with the most simple in concept yet profound linkage that each of us has, that can make a connection between our challenging feelings and the needs, thoughts, attitudes, and actions that can help us to bring greater peace and fulfillment to our lives.
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.
Very warm welcome again, to Awareness That Heals. I really can’t convey how much of a pleasure it is to be able to be in a place to convey what so much of my life has wanted to convey and to have you 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 I say a fulfilling life really to contrast unfortunately, ordinary life. It really does give the potential to reach your heart in a way and so I ask you as you’re listening to the episodes to really apply it to yourself, because it’s not about learning something just in the mind, it’s really about applying it to your life. And it’ll be very evident, through these episodes in particular, how you can do that. And what we’re attempting to do is to break free from where individually we, or you, are trapped in condition reactions that you have and what makes it so insidious is the condition reactions that we have feels like it’s just us.
And so, what we’re attempting to do is create an altered way of experiencing those reactions and being able to see that they can be a way to really launch our lives and learn how to think for ourselves as to how to take care of ourselves. And we all do have conditioning, and we really do think we’re acting normally. And this conditioning comes from our parents, from our culture, from our movies, our friends, our classmates. So virtually none of us are really liberated from having a direction in life where we’re not in a situation, where we’re being pulled in various directions, where we’re able to have an actual selection of what we’re exposed to. And we choose to align with that ability to have a selection or a choice means that we need to be slow enough to pause and actually say, is this really the way I wanna go?
But how many of us actually are present enough to realize, oh, I don’t just have to automatically be angry or automatically withdraw, I can actually tune in and say, ah, this is what I’m experiencing. How do I wanna move? So normally it’s like a tidal wave of feelings that all of us have, maybe one at a time, and it moves us and we really need to develop our capacity if we wanna be fulfilled, to think for ourselves, to question for ourselves and to listen to what the answers are and then to respond. And the guidance is to be able to counter that tidal wave or more accurately, allow it to be there, see it for what it is, and then have a response. And this is not something that virtually any of us have been taught how to do so please, at the beginning, especially, and even in the middle, don’t let yourself get lost in being discouraged or feeling like, oh, I can’t do this, this is too much.
Recognize that it’s a bit like a lobotomy. And so, we need to be resourceful and respectful that we’re attempting to be more aware of where we are when we’re struggling and then find a place inside us that can guide us in a direction that’s going to serve our lives. So today we’re gonna be dealing with the most simple in concept, yet profound linkage that each of us has, that can make a connection between our challenging feelings and the needs, thoughts, attitudes, and actions that can help us to bring greater peace and fulfillment to our lives. Now, I know that’s a mouthful. I don’t want that to slide by too fast. It requires being aware of what we are feeling when we’re challenged and then have a place inside us that can actually contemplate, ah, how do I take care of myself when I’m there?
Now, if you just got that piece in this whole episode or any episode, the pausing to ask, uh, how do I take care of myself when I’m in this state, then you’re reconditioning yourself. You’re awakening yourself to realize you’re not a slave to what you feel. So, discovering and learning about and following our needs is a central way we can break free from how others in our past, our culture has defined for us what they think we need or the values we should hold. By going to awarenessthatheals.org, you can receive a free download of the Introspective Guides, which identify two very different charts. One of them is really listing 75 of the most challenging feelings that we have. That by being more specifically aware of them, we have a chance then to navigate ourselves in a direction where we’re not owned by them.
And the other list is 75 of the most common needs or qualities. And it includes actions and thoughts that will guide us to deal with whatever our specific challenging emotion is. Hopefully, as I say, this, you’re flashing on what is my challenging emotion? How does this apply to me? And the idea is not just to hit your head. The idea is to have it go inside your awareness and then to recognize, ah, I’m somebody that as we talked about in the last episode that suffers mostly from anxiety or depression or fear or feelings of inadequacy or worthlessness or aloneness or withdrawal, or there are so many, too many to mention. It’s so simple in concept that in my experience, elementary kids are actually even more able to understand, in simple language, what it is we’re talking about as to what do you feel and some version of what do you think would be good for you to do now that you feel this?
Now that’s more kids’ language, but it’s the same thing. I don’t even need to repeat it cuz you, as adults, will understand that language, but applying it when it matters most is where it’s all at. So we’re talking about when we’re afraid, how do we move in a direction towards safety or courage or when we are feeling weak or inadequate, how do we support ourselves towards strength, courage, and wisdom. These lists can be the beginning and ongoing catalyst to give clarity and direction in the moment or even the next time as it’s so obviously, and, and maybe not obviously, but it’s so elusive. This is not something that most of us have a deep literacy in to be able to identify all of our challenging emotions. And therefore, it’s immeasurably helpful to have access to these lists even as you were listening to the podcast, but even more importantly later in your life starting right away.
Because when you can identify very clearly what you feel, it becomes a catalyst. If you learn how to actually care for yourself when you’re not feeling good, and sometimes you can only care for yourself in your mind, by the way, that’s enough. And then that will guide you to help identify what the needs are or the actions are what the thoughts are that can move you in a direction that’s gonna care for yourself, but it’ll be key in there, which we’re going to be deeply going into is once you’re feeling, whatever you’re feeling. To remembering to have that insert, that is largely a question that comes from recognizing I do wanna care for myself. And so, it’s a question of how do I care for myself when I’m in this feeling? So that’s what we’re gonna be going deeply into. And we’re gonna try to stay with one or two or three simple feelings so that you can choose, uh, feelings that will really represent what you go through. And I’d like to start by introducing Dave, who is my dearest friend for forever and also my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation.
Robert, thank you. And I just wanna acknowledge today of all days, uh, I have another layer of things happening with a mass shooting in the town I grew up in, in Highland Park, Illinois. Um, I don’t know if there are people that have been hurt, killed, injured, etc. that I know. I have spoken to friends, uh, one or two that were at the parade. Uh, so that is happening. That brings up a variety of feelings, from vulnerability to anger, so it’s kind of a full range. Of course we did a series of podcasts on weaponry and things related to it that, uh, I’m glad that we did. So I will do my best to be here. And one of the things I would like to ask you to clarify, which in your opening you mentioned is, what is normal and what has become normal, and is “normal” healthy.
Well, I appreciate, and I really am horrified as so many of us in the country are by the fact that this is now part of, part of the expression, “normal life.” And I wanna get into that in about two minutes, but I want to introduce Joel as well, uh, and then come right back to what you’re asking. Uh, Joel is our new engineer. He has taken over for Mark. It’s not clear yet whether that’s going to be a permanent takeover because Mark, for those of you that were following, who’s been, our engineer, has also contributed various times. He’s a dear friend, he’s in his third round of chemo and immunotherapy. Uh, he’s gone through, uh, periods where he’s hallucinating, and fortunately his health seems like he has a really decent shot at making it through it.
Uh, but we’re staying very, very close. And I know some of you, I’m guessing developed a fondness for him through the shows and through his utter transparency of sharing his emotions, and still wanting to do the show with us. And Joel is an extremely unique individual. And Joel I just wanna say it’s been a joy, uh, to start off with you. I couldn’t ask for anything more and I want to invite you to jump in if at a given time you have a question that whether it relates to you or whether you feel like it’s furthering the audience, I want you to feel free as well to jump in and be a part of the show.
Thank you so much, Robert. I really appreciate what you’re doing here, and including me is very generous of you. I appreciate it, I’m learning a lot, and I will definitely, uh, come in and be a part of it when the time comes right from me. And thank you so much.
Sure. And I’ll correct you in the sense that it’s not really generous, it’s actually positively self-centered because I know you’re someone that will contribute to the show. I know you now well enough to know that you’re very sensitive in every phase of the word. And so, I have complete faith in your ability to contribute to the show. So thank you for that. So Dave, coming back to your question, when I’m referring to normal, I’m really referring to the baseline of conditioned people throughout history that have not really thought for themselves as to how do I live a fulfilling life to any significant degree. I don’t mean they haven’t had thoughts about it. Of course, all of us have thoughts. But largely, normal means to me, and as I’m using it, it’s the society’s main priorities, which is success and wealth and taking care of the family and being popular, having, some fun, and living in your own world and not really being deeply connected to the whole world.
And it’s particularly important at this time where we’re facing global warming and we’re facing potential of nuclear war, terrorism shootings, like you’re just talking about right now and we’re, and in a way we’re trying our best. When I say we, I mean, as a culture, we’re trying to help democracy survive. We’re trying to have fulfillment rather than just satisfaction be a possibility, but normal as I’m describing it, doesn’t involve deep interconnection with humanity as a whole, or the earth as a whole beyond a separate unit that is sort of a smaller group, which for many people might be their wife or might be their kids. It might be their original family, but that’s normal. And it’s not that it’s not okay, it’s not that it’s not natural, it’s not that it’s not even at times great. It’s that in my experience, there’s another level which has to do with interconnection with the world, interconnection with people that are suffering interconnection with poverty, interconnection, with homelessness, and for people that especially have some extra wealth or some extra time to recognize that interconnection is a big part of fulfillment.
Generosity is a big part of fulfillment outside the family system and into the world system because normal results in, if we’re looking at, let’s say the normal wealthy families throughout the world, hundreds of trillions of dollars being saved for the family and really preserving those generations, which freezes the world in the poor staying poor. So we have policies, let’s say, as a country, we have two parties in the country, but neither party is saying, well, you know what, in our party, we’re, we’re tithing or we’re giving 20% of our net worth to people that don’t have opportunities. We’re giving them an opportunity to work and unwittingly people that are living that life are losing some of the potential for a deeper fulfillment and inspiration and creativity and connection and warmth. And when they’re walking by people, they’re naturally wanting to say hello and to share and give energy.
And when they’re in the store, they’re naturally wanting to just do everything from the smallest things to the biggest things. And when I say normal, as it applies to people that are in survival struggles, I have a lot more respect for normalcy. The normal person that is in a survival struggle is working very, very hard to survive. And that has tremendous dignity and in a certain way that has very frequently ironically a generosity. And going over to India as we did and we, you see the normal person in villages of 500 or 5,000, there is a sense of community in the survival struggle, and there is more of a banding together and they really don’t have the capacity to do more than that. So in that normal, it’s actually a different normal that is in my mind, oftentimes a fulfilling normal, it’s it’s an innocent normal, it’s a caring normal, there’s a connectedness you can feel.
And it’s oftentimes different in other countries where they aren’t so close to wealth, so there isn’t a jealousy. And so they really are openhearted and doing everything they can from day-to-day life, whereas in America, there’s an awful lot of the poor class that understandably feels angry and neglected because they are. And so there’s a much more complicated feeling, living in a wealthy country in being normal, uh, and feeling why wouldn’t you give us more opportunities? You know, we’re hearing right now rumors that the court might be taking away affirmative action, might be taking away some of the opportunities that people have that are less fortunate. And from my vantage point, and our vantage point, and so many people’s vantage point, we need to give opportunities to the people that don’t have them and transform the definition of normal into something that is going to be more interconnected.
And it makes me think back to our original conference in 2000, at UCLA, that was named “Being the Difference That Makes a Difference.” And it was really highlighting 50 high school kids with three or four kids from each school where they wanted to make a difference in the world. And they were not the normal kids. They were the kids where that resonated. And so we, in that time, I remember the way we did it, which is kind of similar is we were redefining what it means to be successful and that success, maybe we need to take a look at success and see that ordinary success, normal success means taking care of yourself, taking care of your family. And that, to me, unwittingly robs people of, of the greater heart opening and inspiration and creativity and fulfillment of being more interconnected to the world as it is, and opening our hearts, which most of us were not taught, those of us that had more opportunities.
Thank you for that. Um, and I can’t help reflect on with this shooting incident become normal. Normal is not healthy in this context. Sometimes normal can be better than abnormal, but it may not mean healthy. And we have so many areas that you just mentioned, uh, from a Supreme Court that seems to be taking us backwards in so many places. And you mentioned one, but it could be many, many more things than one, uh, to the, the amount of people, uh, that have guns and that are using them and states that are saying fine to use them. As you said last week, when we were doing other podcasts, uh, would you get surgery done by a doctor that’s not been trained? Would you fly in an airplane with a pilot that doesn’t know how to fly an airplane? And so we have weapons in the hands of people that have never been trained, uh, with the other part of what you’re talking about, which is the conditioning, which is the abnormal stacked upon abnormal.
Exactly. And when you look at a shooting, it is an incredible irony, and it will help me point out that I am not cloning normal in general because of the different semantics that it can be used as, as being unhealthy. I am saying generally speaking, it is unhealthy. But for example, when we penetrate into the shooting or forest fires or floods, normal is almost always healthy. What happens is people start to see, oh my God, we’re gonna, we, we all came so close to death and there are so many people in trauma. And so many people normally become connected in a way that they aren’t connected. Like my guess is your friends that you talk to will be opened in a way where their heart’s open and they wanna try to help other people. And in that kind of normal, that’s compassionate, that’s generous, that’s empathic, that’s feeling the sorrow and the, and the insanity of this kind of senseless murder and injury. So there’s a, there’s a kind of normal in a tragedy that actually opens up the qualities that we’re talking about in the 75 Introspective Guides that have all the qualities like compassion and kindness and truthfulness and empathy, and wanting to hold somebody that’s shaking and completely traumatized. So, I’m guessing that you touch some of that healthier end of normalcy that is not really normal in our daily life.
And to put a fine point on that, which is all true. I think circumstances like loss, like this insanity brings us to access, brings us to a place where the kinds of healthy ways to relate to each other and to the world, and to the inclusivity–the feeling for each other–happen. And one would aspire, I hope, and I hope everybody listening would aspire to not have to have a crisis to get there.
Exactly. And, and so using the model just to stay with this understanding, cuz we, we’re gonna wanna keep repeating this over and over again, because even though it’s simple to understand, there’s a real danger of the understanding of the process, just being compartmentalized in your mind. And the intent of these podcasts is to have this be a central part of who you are. And so, the identification of the people that are in this parade and suddenly the parade is just shot up with bullets flying everywhere is you’re in a state of terror, you’re traumatized, you’re feeling helpless, you’re ducking. And then when it’s done for those that are applying the process, they’re aware of their feelings and they know as we’ve talked about, they want to move into a state of caring, caring for themselves and caring for the other people, which we’ve identified as the intention to heal or the intention to care.
And so whenever you are in a state that is difficult, of feeling that is difficult, that you remember to say, I want to care for myself and hopefully others as well. And that’s the, it’s like almost like the grammar or Pavlovian response where you have the awareness of the challenging feeling and you, you train yourself to ask yourself, how can I possibly care for myself and others that are in the situation. If there are others in the situation around me, how do I do that? And the moment you do that, you’ve, you’ve changed the whole conditioning reaction to just be traumatized. You’ve brought in the potential of healing into that situation. And then by asking that question, which we framed as inquiry of how can I care for myself and the people that are injured or truly shaken to their bones when that happens, your heart opens.
And there’s the potential of feeling an intimacy that is not part of our ordinary life. So, I truly thank you for bringing that in here today because unfortunately, almost every community in the country looks like it’s gonna be experiencing that over the next number of years, unless we’re really able to change our ways and apply this on a leadership level that the leaders are aware of. We’re in trauma and we need to set something up to have protection for the people to set boundaries for the people that are dangerous. So hopefully you identify with this, even if it’s in a much less severe way where you have a family member that’s sick and you’re aware that you’re feeling scared and you’re feeling insecure. And so you ask yourself, how can I care for myself and for them? So you might say to yourself, it’s natural that you feel insecure.
And I wonder whether they’re the type of person that would benefit more from silence, more from asking questions of how are you doing. And, and is there any way that you, I, can help you with how you’re doing? I don’t, I don’t wanna patronize you. I don’t wanna just treat you as like, you’re only a patient. I wanna treat you like you’re a full-fledged human being and what way can I really be if any of caring, even if it’s just to be silent with you and, and tuning into that. So that awareness of where we are, that recognition we wanna care for where we are and then we also want to care for others is really the foundation of the Introspective Guides. So, I thank you again for your attention. And I hope you’re applying this to your life. And I truly hope that you will download the Introspective Guides if you haven’t already.
And that you’ll see this as a way to really move your life from, let’s say a normal kind of caring, which by the way, there’s levels of normal, you know. Just caring for your family, sounds like it’s a throwaway, but actually if you’re really caring for your family, that’s great, and there is some fulfillment in that. But many families are just coexisting together and making the best they can and it’s not deeply fulfilling. So there’s levels of fulfillment that can happen within the family, and then there’s other levels of fulfillment that can happen when you make the family be larger than your blood family. So thank you so much for listening and I hope this is going in at an applicable level.
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