Host Robert Strock and guest David Knapp discuss the value of learning to identify our own challenging feelings, questioning them, and continuing to grow and develop as a person. Each of us must learn that outside standards don’t have to define us. It takes time to develop the autonomous self that can name, question, and grow. Self-rejection keeps us from realizing the autonomous self because we get caught in a reactive mode where we identify with what we’ve been taught.
Developing awareness requires exploring the things that you say to yourself. Strock and Knapp use case studies and personal experiences as examples. This process works for those who may have chemical or neurological issues that contribute to their challenging feelings, and those who don’t. In either case, asking introspective questions identifies the difficult feelings, names them, and determines the thought process around them. We can each learn to ask important, introspective questions—Am I ready to be honest with myself? What is holding me back from compassion, from happiness, from being a better version of myself? The process of asking these questions leads to continual progression and personal evolution. Each of us can stop self-rejection when we find the will and the curiosity to individually inquire inside ourselves.
Note: Below, you’ll find timecodes for specific sections of the podcast. To get the most value out of the podcast, I encourage you to listen to the complete episode. However, there are times when you want to skip ahead or repeat a particular section. By clicking on the timecode, you’ll be able to jump to that specific section of the podcast. Please excuse any typos or grammatical errors. For an exact quote or comment, please contact us.
Awareness That Heals, Episode 22.
Robert Strock: (00:04)
So, remember every time you see self-rejection and you have that shifting of gears to move toward self-acceptance, there’s a fulfillment of our potential. There’s a meaning. There’s a purpose 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.
Robert Strock: (01:02)
A warm welcome again, to Awareness That Heals, Bringing Heart and Wisdom to Life’s Challenges, we’re going to continue to deepen our conversation about something that is what we’ve already acknowledged as very subtle and almost all cases hidden. And the effect on us is insidious because when we’re unaware of our challenging feelings and how we reject ourselves, it’s like we’re held in a pretzel, like, like our body is almost like having rigor mortis set in on a minor level around these certain difficult emotions when they arise. And we don’t have a way of softening this hardening of our inner life. And that’s going to obviously come out to everybody that we talked to in one form or another. And the theme of course, that we’re dealing with again, is the normal reality for most of us, which is that when we’re really challenged, we don’t like it. We hate it. We’re aghast at ourselves, not consciously, but we don’t like feeling anxious or depressed or helpless or inadequate, inferior, competitive, jealous. And so, we then that not liking leads to self-rejection. And so, we’re really going to explore the roots of it and it may sound repetitive and some of it is, but in each episode we’re deepening different nuances. I’d like to start with introducing Dave, my longstanding partner through life co-president of Global Bridge Foundation. Dave thanks for joining us again.
David Knapp: (03:00)
Thank you for the invitation as always. I am so happy to be here and participate.
Robert Strock: (03:08)
So, it’s really important to see that most commonly the original cause of what we think created our feelings is outside ourselves. Society, our parents, peer pressure standards, goals, ideals, it’s a setup for self-rejection because they made us feel this way. We were just following what we were told we should be like, telling us when we’re supposed to get married, how we should feel about money, how important it is to be having self-esteem and be validated. Having kids being a good looker, staying young as possible, looking young. But the truth is that we are individuals that don’t have to just be carbon copies of what we see around us. We have the capacity to think for ourselves. We have the capacity to look for ourselves. We have the capacity to see that all these standards, yes, they affected us, but they don’t have to define us.
Robert Strock: (04:35)
And the more we develop this autonomous capacity to witness what’s going on without challenging feelings with our self-rejection and moving towards self-acceptance. The more we develop this autonomous self, we go through a process that might be called, we identify, we’re identifying or identification with feeling like we have to be a certain way. And if we aren’t, we’re failing, then we feel bad to then gradually disidentify it because we see that those feelings almost always are based on unrealistic ideals. And we want to be grounded in what we truly believe, but we’ve got to take the time to say, what are our values? What do we truly believe? And then we’re starting to disidentify. And then that allows us to move toward self-compassion, tolerance, acceptance. And if we don’t do that work, as we’ve seen in our society and our culture, we’re going to be scapegoating other races, other countries, other religions.
Robert Strock: (05:59)
And we’re going to be caught in a reactive mode, identifying with what we were taught and, in a sense, victimizing ourselves by staying unaware, obviously unwillingly. So, I’m going to start with a case study that is all too common. And again, if you have something parallel, but it’s different, go with yourself, don’t go with me. And this is somebody that was quite dear to me, that from childhood had a chemical, neurological depression, dominantly, but some anxiety. And if it was just look at society perspective, oh, he’s defective, poor guy, no he’s inadequate, he’s kind of bit agitated. And that would be him. And what we’re encouraging is the ability to see no, that’s not him. That’s his chemistry. That’s not his fault. He didn’t earn that. He has something in his DNA or something in his body that’s going to make his moods be that way, unless he’s enlightened enough to be able to pursue other chemistries, to balance the chemistries, see if there’s a possibility of therapy can help.
Robert Strock: (07:27)
And in his case, he shared a lot with me and a few others that this is how he felt. He identified his challenging emotion. And he also went on to say that he hated it. He hated being more uptight than everybody around him. He hated being anxious all the time and depressed, couldn’t stand it. And my response was to congratulate him for his awareness and that his awareness was a very hopeful sign. And he was a little bit disoriented at first. And fortunately, I have enough friends that further supported that same message, and that led him to pursuing therapy and to pursuing psychiatry and medication.
Robert Strock: (08:24)
And over a period of three or four years, he went from somebody that hated himself that was agitated on a regular basis because he couldn’t tolerate feeling depressed and anxious, which is all too common, and took a couple of medications to help him sleep. That helped him be more relaxed during the day, but he still felt anxious and especially depressive, I wouldn’t say depressed. So, he still had a lot of work to do. So, we went on to, what do you say to yourself when you feel depressed? And at first he said, well, really not much, nothing. Yeah. Then he went, but I don’t really like it. So, what do you think you have feelings inside that don’t really like it, but you just aren’t saying anything. And he said, yeah, I, I find myself being contracted or irritable still even after the medications. So, do you think there’s another possibility?
Robert Strock: (09:33)
Can you see how innocent you are that you have a hero’s journey ahead of you? If you choose to take it, which is you’re the responder, you can be the responder to this very difficult state. And that’s a lot harder than just being born. We feel relaxed and it’s easy and you feel loving. You have a chance to be an example of someone that can live more from your wisdom and guide yourself from your wisdom that’s saying, I’m not doing this on purpose. I inherited this; this isn’t me. This is my chemistry. Yes. It results in feelings, but I can’t change the feelings. I’ve done my work with professionals, and I’ll continue to do my work with professionals, but it’s not going to get an eraser and just erase all my feelings. And so, we explored, what kinds of things could he say to himself?
Robert Strock: (10:35)
What qualities did he need to lean into to be able to be like, what we talked about in the last episode, be like a car where, how could you shift a gear when he was noticing that not only was he in the challenging feeling, but he was maybe already reacting in irritableness or just cathartic, you know, in general, or going on long monologues, which he would do at times. And he was saying, I can just admit that to myself and to those people that are more trustworthy, I can tell them that I’m feeling anxious and I’m not a cripple. This doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with me. As a matter of fact, it means kind of like an illness. I have something that I’m suffering with, but I actually am identifying more and more with the one that’s the responder that can say in spite of feeling anxious, I can put out a decent vibe.
Robert Strock: (11:40)
I can admit this to myself, and to those that I trust and I can be disciplined at work. I don’t have to be rebellious. And to me, this is a very moving example. And as you are looking at yourself, whatever level you might identify with this, that’s a very heroic awareness. Especially if you follow the steps and do everything you can do. Two nights ago, I was doing a workshop with teenagers and first three or four were talking about really serious stuff. Anorexia, bulimia, one of them had had three suicide attempts and had gotten to a psychiatrist and was 48 days since they’d done anything destructive, they were counting the days. And then the fourth person came up and she said in kind of an embarrassed way, gosh, I don’t identify with any of you. And it’s like, yeah, I’m sorry to say, I don’t mean to put you down, but I feel good now.
Robert Strock: (12:58)
I, yeah, I don’t have these kinds of problems. And there was a bit of arrogance, nice person, but a bit of arrogance. And I sensed that she was suffering from the exact opposite, which was a superiority complex. And when I said it to, I said, you know, I think your challenging emotion might be that you feel superior. And she was absolutely shocked because she knew that for years she was saying that to herself, I feel superior to you. I feel superior to you. I feel superior to you. And she was busted because she knew she wasn’t really superior because she was smart enough to see that that was her challenge. It wasn’t her gift. As I said to her, if you, you know, I think, you know, if you were really superior, you’d be compassionate. You wouldn’t be superior. You’d be feeling like, how can I help if you really have extra?
Robert Strock: (13:57)
So, she went on and was kind of thrilled to out it cause she hadn’t seen it as being a challenge. And she was also able to see that the results of the superiority led to a form of self-rejection passively in that she withdrew from a lot of people, and she felt alone. So, withdrawal and aloneness where some of the self-rejecting feelings that she wasn’t aware of because she wasn’t even aware of the superiority to start out with. So again, that’s why it’s so important to be able to track where your challenging emotion is, because it could seem like it’s a good thing. You may be identifying it as, as something like superiority and really believe that you’re, you know, part of the chosen race or the chosen person.
David Knapp: (14:50)
Just want to say in both of those stories and situations, um, brings me back to when I was about 20 and they started way ahead of me, in the first case, somebody aware of their challenging emotion. Uh, when I was that age very early, I, I feel I was vacant. I was put in a situation just by chance in a psychology class at school where people were sharing stuff. And like your second example, I had nothing. The difference was in this circumstance, everybody had something to share and there was no, no room for approval of my having nothing. I, when I said I had nothing, it was like, I was full of shit and I was hammered and really depressed and really out of sorts and really like, well, what does this mean? I just have no clue. I don’t. I had no language inside to see what was going on inside of me.
David Knapp: (15:58)
I was an external person moving through life feeling what was going to please other people. I was a pleaser. And I know I’ve may have mentioned this pattern. And I think anybody listening throughout these podcasts is going to get to know me in this way, but it’s such an advantage to be aware at least of your challenge. And I didn’t even have that until it was hammered home to me in a very devastating way. And my reaction to it was also very devastating. My reaction to it was to, well, I guess I better be the opposite. I guess I better be selfish. I guess I better learn how to be upset. I got, you know, all these other things came in a very confused time in my life.
Robert Strock: (16:43)
Yeah. It’s a great, a great example. And, interestingly enough, I had a session before we did today’s podcast where a man was saying that he, he’s been a pleaser with his wife. And I said, even the word pleaser is distorted. It’s really more accurately a dependent and, and not really operating from a place of independence where you’re going to take care of yourself. You got to take care of others and you know, if you’re really independent, that’s what you’d be. So even the word pleaser becomes a confusing word because it sounds good just like superiority, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m better than they are. You know that it sounds good, but it has a trickiness to it because the word itself can be so, uh, beguiling, or let’s say leading you in the wrong direction.
David Knapp: (17:42)
And I just want to amplify that point by saying I was so vacant at that time. In retrospect, I see that I was a pleaser, but at the time I had no clue. This is just, as you said before, the adoption of the conditionings, the way I was brought up, other things, no clue, no clue. Just how I operated and moved through life.
Robert Strock: (18:09)
Yeah. And what, and one of the really important things of what you’re saying is for those people that feel like, well, I don’t really identify with this because I don’t have anything that’s challenging. There’s a very good chance that you’ve adopted one of the conditions, standards of life like, oh, I’m very successful and I have three houses. And so, I’m happy. And the success has blocked the more challenging emotions because you’re living off the egoic identity of being successful. And you might be a bit of an ass a father or as a husband or as a boss, or you might not be able to tolerate two days of being alone without feeling very, very empty because you’re living so much on your success and the validation you’re getting from somebody and in a certain way, you’re a dependent on culture and you’re dependent on the validation you’re getting and you’re not even aware of it.
Robert Strock: (19:08)
And so, it becomes very important to not just see your feelings and hear what your mind tells you about it, because your mind is going to have a way of framing it in the positive for many people. So as an overview, and this may seem redundant, but if you really hear the whole thing, you’ll realize very likely you haven’t gotten there yet. So, it’s for emphasis to penetrate deeper. Firstly, do you get the importance of seeing the challenges emotionally or situationally as being the good news rather than the bad news that it gives you the opportunity? And do you see the importance of asking a question of, do you like yourself there? Do you care for yourself there? Because if you don’t, then you’re going to be fixated and you’re not going to see how you’re rejecting yourself. And then do you see the importance of following through with moving toward the healing qualities and actions and thoughts to support a direction in your life that’s going to serve you, those you love and hopefully well beyond that as well.
Robert Strock: (20:31)
This makes the whole process of inner looking optimistic. If, and only if you sincerely have a part of you that wants to do what’s needed to grow. Cause if you see something that isn’t good and you don’t want to change it, you still want to keep acting out. Well, then in that situation, I agree. It wouldn’t be the good news, but if you’re ready to be honest with yourself and really look at how you can be more caring towards yourself and then not let that challenge lead you to actions and inactions in the world that are harmful, then it’s all going to be good news. It’s really like a pregnancy where you’re pregnant with potentially great growth. And evolution is one of the reasons in our society, frankly, why aging is viewed as a bummer because you’re older and this and that.
Robert Strock: (21:35)
And this idea of continuing to grow is a theory. It’s a philosophy. Yeah, maybe a religion, but it’s not rooted in something that we learned in first grade. And is that as important as achievement and success, but there are quite a few cultures, indigenous cultures where they do recognize that because of this very thing that you can keep evolving as you get older, that those extra wrinkles have the potential to be extra wisdom. And I think it’s so important for us to, to embrace this so that we can start to see aging in a different way to that. My God. Yeah. By the time I’m 80, I’m really going to be really beyond. And yeah, at one level it’s a joke, but at another level it’s utterly sincere and serious. So, remember every time you see self-rejection and you have that shifting of gears to move toward self-acceptance, there’s a fulfillment of our potential.
Robert Strock: (22:48)
There’s a meaning, there’s a purpose to our lives. And so many of us are suffering from well, what’s, I can’t find meaning, I can’t find purpose. What that probably means is your feeling of meaninglessness hasn’t learned how to shift gears, purposelessness. And so, you need to look at that as one of your challenging feelings. So again, seeing that we are rejecting ourselves can be the great news when we are ready to look closely, be curious, kids are more than what I’m saying. I’m not only rejecting myself, but maybe I’m doing it in five different kinds of ways. And men may be, I’m also rejecting others because of it. Wow. It’s like, if you look at it on a fishing level, you can reel in the line and come back to your real self. Instead of being way out there as a flag line that’s probably nicked quite a few people along the way, including yourself.
Robert Strock: (23:52)
And so, what’s so important is when we see that we are rejecting ourselves and we’re having challenging emotions is to ask yourself, how can I support the caring for the wound or the effects of my challenging emotions and self-rejection. I’m going to repeat that again because I think it’s a really good, important question to leave and let percolate in your being, which is how can I support myself when I see the challenging emotions and the self-rejection. And if you get to that point where you’re sincerely asking that question, you’ll know that your life has more purpose. You’ll know that you trust yourself more and you’ll know that there’s a goodness and a wisdom inside you that you’re accessing and all of us have that potential, but we need to find the the will and the curiosity to individually inquire inside ourselves. And when we do there is a real payoff. So again, I thank you for hanging in with this. These areas are not easy to completely be honest about, but the rewards are immense and are immense right up through our death. Thanks again.
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