Cultivating Self-Acceptance and Balance – Episode 23

Cultivating Self-Acceptance and Balance - Episode 23Host Robert Strock and guest David Knapp dig deeper into developing self-acceptance and balance as we continue on a journey through challenging feelings. Misconceptions about self-acceptance can lead to causing undue harm to others, especially when dealing with anger. However, true self-acceptance comes when we express ourselves with sensitivity, thoughtfulness, and honesty. Part of self-acceptance means saying yes to negative emotions, embracing them, and tolerating them without hurting others. When you accept these difficult feelings, you can heal them. Do you accept yourself when you feel fear, anxiety, or anger? When we have feelings that we don’t want to feel, we can look inside ourselves and ask questions to make sure we’re caring for ourselves in the process of overcoming the unwanted feelings.

Children often better understand the difference between being kind to others and being kind to themselves. We have to learn to recognize areas of weakness versus areas of compulsion by asking what feelings I am aware of and want to change versus those I don’t feel like changing. This process requires developing balance between accepting ourselves and working toward developing into a self-compassionate and compassionate person.

Resources related to this episode
Robert Strock Website
Robert’s Book, Awareness that Heals
Free Downloadable Introspective Guides

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Transcript
Announcer: (00:00)
Awareness That Heals, Episode 23.

Robert Strock: (00:04)
So acceptance means opening the door to saying yes to fear or any emotion and understanding the paradox and its potential by accepting it or tolerating it. It, it allows for the potential of optimal healing because by accepting it, it means we can work with it. It means we’re not a slave to it.

Announcer: (00:30)
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: (01:11)
I welcome you again to Awareness That Heals, Bringing Heart and Wisdom to Life’s Challenges. It’s been very inspiring to go into an area that when I wrote it in the book, I wasn’t at all confident that the subtlety of not only looking at our challenging emotions but looking at our self-rejecting emotions would be translatable in a way that would give a chance for hopefully many people to practice. And I believe the key to really moving forward in this subtle practice, as we’ve touched on in the prior episodes, is asking that question. If we can see a challenging emotion, do I like it? Do I accept it? Do I appreciate it? Am I caring toward it? Because that really is the revealer of the chain or constellation of self-rejecting emotions that go on underground. So I really want to highlight that and we’ll be going more into that as well as more case examples, some of which are from our personal lives, some of which are professional lives.

Robert Strock: (02:44)
And that theme of moving from self-rejection toward self-compassion needs to really be seen personally as the viability. And hopefully, as you listen to this and view it from your own life’s perspective, you’ll be able to see that, you know what, I could do this too. I could really do this. I could really dedicate my life to this and I can still live the rest of my life. This done, you can do this while you’re walking or chewing gum or driving. So before we start, I’d like to introduce Dave who by now you, you know, as my dearest long-term friend and partner at the Global Bridge Foundation,

David Knapp: (03:32)
Thank you, great to be here and look forward to continuing.

Robert Strock: (03:38)
So one of the areas that can be confusing and probably especially to do with anger or anger related feelings, is when we look at the word self-acceptance many people can be confused and think that that means condoning dumping or condoning ways of acting out as being self-acceptance like one of my pretty close friends said, I’m not, I’m not going to give up, give up dumping on my husband. Yeah. I like it. And he deserves it and I feel a lot better when I do it. So don’t try to tell me to stop doing that. And so that led to the deeper discussion of, well, how’s it working out? Yeah. How’s your, how’s your sex life? How’s the rest of you? How’s the rest of the times he would tell me about him being pretty passive-aggressive. I wonder if there’s any connection and really led to a much deeper discussion of seeing that self-acceptance never means hurting anyone.

Robert Strock: (04:59)
If you’re hurting somebody by accepting yourself in an unnecessary way and by unnecessary, I mean not helping them grow, then you’re misconstruing what’s meant by self-acceptance itself. It really has to do with developing an open heart and moving from bare tolerance to tolerance, to acceptance, to kindness, to appreciation to self-compassion. And I could use 10 other words that would be transitional, but self-compassion is pretty grandiose. And really for any of us that might’ve experienced it. We know we can’t reliably stay there, but it’s something, as Dave mentioned in the last episode that you can get it, maybe once, if you’ve been working on yourself, but it’s not something that your mind, just because you get it or even in your experience because you get it that you can rely on it continuing. So it, it requires us to keep looking at how we can support ourselves. And one of the best ways to do that is to keep asking the question, how can I keep supporting the caring, my caring for my wounds or the effects of my wounds, reacting in a self-rejecting way or for that matter rejecting another way, which oftentimes when we reject ourselves, of course, it’s going to lead to rejecting others unwittingly.

Robert Strock: (06:45)
So when we ask a question, like, do we accept our fear or are we caring toward it more often than not, in many times that question has come out when I’m talking to somebody that is seriously ill or dying, not exclusively, but oftentimes even in that state, the answer is almost always, no, I don’t, I don’t care for myself when I’m afraid. And that will lead to a conversation inevitably, that would be, do you think you’re doing something wrong when you’re afraid? Do you think you’re feeling something that isn’t virtually universal as something that we at least go through? And isn’t it important to see that fear is a natural experience as is helplessness when you’re facing death or dying? And even if you have strong religious beliefs, there’s a human part of us that doesn’t know for sure what’s going to happen. And even if you think, well, I’m a fatalist, no problem.

Robert Strock: (08:06)
I’ve already accepted it. Even there. Yeah, that might be true, 80%, but all of us are human at some level. And so seeing this through the lens of fear or anxiety and asking that question is so much of an upper, it’s so inspiring because what we’re really doing is we’re joining the human race at that core challenging level. And frankly, as I’m talking about the human race, the root of bigotry is not accepting our own challenging emotions and projecting it on the other. And the other can be any other, any other religion, any other nation, any other political party. And if we really accept our anger, that means we’re not going to be vulnerable to acting it out. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to be strong. As a matter of fact, it does mean we probably will be strong because when we accept our anger, we realize we have strong feelings.

Robert Strock: (09:17)
There’s a lot of passion. So very likely if we ask that question, it will help us morph from anger to accepting the anger, letting ourselves feel the anger, not act it out, not suppress it. And then be able to convert that into a strength and being able to say, what is it we really care about? That’s making us angry and allowing us to, again, look at those core qualities and needs and thoughts that are helpful to us while we’re angry. What are those, what are they? And learning, becoming really literate about our challenging emotions and our self-rejecting emotions and our healing actions, attitudes, and thoughts.

Robert Strock: (10:13)
So acceptance means opening the door to saying yes to fear or any emotion and understanding the paradox in its potential by accepting it or tolerating it. It allows for the potential of optimal healing because by accepting it, it means we can work with it. It means we’re not a slave to it. It means we’re not fixated there. It means we have another part of us that can see it. And men can ask that question of how can I best work with us? How can I best care for myself and others while I’m feeling this.

David Knapp: (10:58)
As you, as you speak, going back to my experience when I was 19, 20 and realized how vacant I was and completely oblivious unaware of my own needs and then came out as I think wouldn’t surprise me. A lot of people do and just say, okay, well that, that was not okay. So I’m going to start doing some, something like the opposite. And it’s almost like a rebound emotion. Like you’ve heard of rebound relationships, it’s, and I spent a lot of my time rebounding, not really taking the time to, to, to closely examine what was going on really, but just moving away an aversion to the suffering that was created in me as I saw what I was up to and say, okay, well the opposite or something near it should be right then.

Robert Strock: (11:53)
Yeah. And I think it may be, sometimes it’s never right. And it may be, sometimes it actually is the ultimate solution. But the key is if we give short shrift to the challenging emotion, we aren’t going to develop a relationship with it, which will create a certain kind of humility, a certain kind of wisdom, a certain kind of courage. And then that helps open our intuition or the wisest part of ourselves that can see, well, what would be the opposite of pleasing or being dependent on others. And clearly, it would be a healthy independence. But what the opposite extreme might be, hi, I’m detached, I don’t have to play, I don’t have to please you anymore. And you go the other way.

David Knapp: (12:55)
Selfishness.

Robert Strock: (12:58)
Yeah. Self-centeredness. And boy, have I grown. Look at me [exactly], watch me, watch me fly. And so it is a, it is a bit subtle because it’s not a quick fix.

Robert Strock: (13:17)
It is a process that’s extremely rewarding, every little step. So it’s not something to be discouraged about because every little step will either leave you feeling a bit wiser or feeling better or both. All of which is good. And self-rejection is like a double lock on our hearts because not only is a challenging feeling there, mostly are totally unconscious, but then we have a whole bunch of other challenging feelings in the form of self-rejection. So now we have multiple locks, so it wouldn’t be a bad visual to see our heart in jail. If we allow ourselves to have our anxiety, for example, be rejected, we hate it. And then that leads us to withdraw for life. We’ve lost our heart in anxiety, hating it and withdrawing. And so we have a triple whammy and of course, it could go on to 5, 6, 10, 10 different types of ways that we react or identities we create, because we don’t like the feelings like Dave was just talking about.

Robert Strock: (14:40)
Now the flip side of it all is this can be the best news we’ve ever had, that we can see it. And that’s who we really want to emphasize—is that the seeing it liberates us to really develop the question of how can I tolerate this more? How can I accept this more? How can I find my heart more? And that contemplation, especially when it’s really sincere, will lead to tolerance because it will become obvious that being intolerant of anxiety just makes it worse. It makes us more uptight. It makes more enemies. It robs us of peace. On the other hand, being able to see it and acknowledge it gives other people around us, the permission to acknowledge that in themselves, it’s a gift to everybody else when we acknowledge our own challenges. That’s exactly what’s needed in first grade. And second grade, in fact, over and over again, throughout my adult life, it’s been obvious to me, the six-year-olds and seven-year-olds and eight-year-olds are much more easily able to grasp the idea of the distinction between being unkind to themselves or kind to themselves.

Robert Strock: (16:13)
If I say, I like you, they’ll laugh, they’ll giggle, but they’ll say, okay, would you rather say, I don’t like you or I do like you, now or would you rather, uh, be mad at yourself for, uh, hurting someone, maybe punch him? What would you rather say? How can I repair it? Would you rather say, you’re sorry, or would you rather just ignore it, withdraw from it. It’s not a hard concept to understand it’s a hard concept or reality to live. And the older we get largely the harder it is to make the shift. And in a sense you could say the more credits you deserve, you know, not viewing it as being a negative thing, but viewing it as I’m not too old to do that. Now, my mother was somebody who I’ve talked about in earlier episodes was intermittently for lack of better words, a bit bitchy.

Robert Strock: (17:24)
And she didn’t really admit it all through my childhood, but when I moved out of the house, not because I moved out of the house, but just around that time, she went, she went through 45 years of therapy and became more aware of her sarcasm, which she thought was just being smart. You know, she was mislabeling it and clever making people laugh, being, you know, being the life of the party, through keeping people alive through, uh, making, uh, jokes about the stains on people’s pants or something like that. But she grew when she was in her fifties and right up through the time she died. And maybe especially the time she was dying, she grew the most. So it’s never too late, but it’s got to go beyond not understanding my biggest concern with these podcasts or frankly with any teaching is that it’s just taken in at a conceptual level. It isn’t really introspection it’s really dealing with, what’s difficult for the listener.

Robert Strock: (18:38)
I hope this is clear, ask yourself is this clear. When I say is it clear, I don’t mean, is it clear intellectually? Is it clear that you’re not looking at yourself? Is it clear as we go through the whole series that is about you? It’s not about the mind understanding. Understanding this, I find most people can do pretty easily. And unfortunately, most people think they’ve arrived when they understand. So I don’t know how to emphasize that anymore. So another example we can look at is around our financial situation and you ask yourself, do I like it now? If the answer is no. Okay. Then the, I’ve got to say obvious question, but it’s not really obvious. The most important question to ask is how can I support myself around my financial situation with what’s realistically possible? How do I stay open to opportunities? How do I not let my moods withdraw from persevering?

Robert Strock: (20:00)
Or if I have a lot of money and I’m just really selfish or just consumed with my, with wanting to keep making more and more and more. And I kind of admit that to myself. I know it’s kind of an addiction, but I’m addicted. It’s not too late to say, how can I support myself with my financial situation and find a balance between myself, my family, and the truly threatening situation that exists in the world with global warming, with democracy, with terrorism, droughts, and fires and hurricanes, the imbalance of the wealthy and the poor class. I’ll try to keep it brief because I could go on forever about this. But if we look closely on the wealthy side of the financial spectrum, the best of my knowledge, there’s never, ever been the most powerful nation in the world that’s taken care of the poor at a significant level.

Robert Strock: (21:14)
That’s been our conditioning about wealth. So most of the people that I asked do you like your financial situation, the ones that are going to say no, are the ones that are struggling. The ones that say no, no, I’m fine. I’m great. Well, that’s kind of like the example I gave in a prior episode of saying I’m superior and not realizing, but actually if you’re really keeping your wealth to a very small group of people in a world that has people dying in throngs every day, not out of guilt, but out of opening your heart, there might be a question of, am I in balance with my money, very important area that we’ll be dealing with later as the main source of a future, future series of episodes, or another example is we might be tormented. As many people are that they’re not attractive enough, the kind of people they attract and they’re attracted to, you know, they, they can’t get into a, a new relationship or a long-term relationship. And they’re normally too vulnerable to really admit this to themselves and really ask am I really doing everything to optimize my appearance? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to be attractive. I think there’s something wrong with being fanatical about it, but I think we all, beauty is beauty. I think, I think we all love beauty, but the key question would be, am I working out? Am I eating healthfully? Am I doing the little things in my body? Does my breath smell good?

Robert Strock: (23:16)
Those are the kinds of questions that rather than just putting yourself down. So for example, I feel inadequate because I’m not attractive enough and I hate this, then I’m depressed about it. And then I withdraw from my depression. So there’s 4 self-rejecting attitudes or emotions. Now, if I can track that and then come back and ask the question, what I realistically do. Do I really want to condemn myself or something? I can’t change, gee I want to be two inches taller or for someone like me, I don’t want to be bald. It’s like, can I do anything about it? And that’s a very, very important question. And to have it be a real, a realistic question where we’re not asking, can I obsessively do something about it or compulsively do something about it. It’s like in the natural course of affairs, can I in a balanced way really work on myself?

Robert Strock: (24:20)
I have a neighbor who’s a very close friend of a friend and she’s been 60 pounds overweight for 40 years. Came to California and really use the time of coming to California from the East Coast to dedicate herself to her body. And she’s lost the 40 pounds and done it in a very organic, nondieting sort of way, just made different life choices. And so it’s not a free lunch. Pardon the expression about lunch. It requires us to be our best selves, whether it’s working with self-rejection or working with our body, we do, we do need to show up. We do need to make our realistic best efforts to have any of this really be optimized.

David Knapp: (25:21)
One of the themes in the last couple of examples, and even a few before is the word realistic and how people look at that varies how I’ve looked at that in my life as I’ve described before I thought it was realistic to do enough medical research for people to heal problems that I later learned were just not realistic. And so examining what’s realistic seems important, too. No?

Robert Strock: (25:55)
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s important to do a self-evaluation and maybe even ask people that know you the best, “Am I on the slackard side? Or am I on the compulsive side, which is my tendency?” If you’re on the compulsive side and sort of a workaholic, more of a type A personality, realistic means perfectionistic, it means demanding. It means pressure. It means it leaving us imbalanced and how we neglect other things now, and now we’re zeroing into a narrower target and letting it dominate our lives. And we’re probably running away from other areas of, not probably, we’re definitely running away from other areas of imbalance and our lives. It might be being more loving toward other people. It might be, uh, being more loving to ourselves. It might be having fun. It might be caring for the world, might be in a bunch of things that are out of balance.

Robert Strock: (27:07)
If we’re on the more slacker side, then it’s going to require using our will because we don’t feel like changing and so realistic sometimes for people that find themselves either a bit depressive or fixated, or sure, it’s their identity, giving up feeling like a victim. Those people are going to need to use their will ingenerate their will. And that’s very heroic. And frankly, it’s just as heroic for a compulsive type, because again, the word I’m using the word compulsive or, but, but really they view it as disciplined and they’ve, they’ve, they view it as, um, intelligence. They, they view it as committed. So the words you use yourself are very important and it’s very, very important with the word realistic to see that we’re looking for best efforts have flow, or in some cases that’s, especially for the compulsives or for the people that are more lazy in life, it has a will that you really respect, and you, you have to keep reminding yourself because if you go on automatic pilot, the feelings are going to lead you to staying where you are.

David Knapp: (28:40)
And I just want to say, it sounds like the word “balance” is what this is kind of working around. What is being in balanced mean and asking myself, which is I’m, I’m more on the compulsive side for sure. And more on the, uh, rationalization of that compulsion and all the ways you just described and being balanced is, uh, for me in that regard a struggle.

Robert Strock: (29:10)
I’m glad you pointed it out, cause I was just about ready to tell you that, uh, you’d never pointed that out before. So yes, balance is the key. And I think what you said is really another key, which is all of us need to keep asking that question is what is balanced when it comes to realistic and probably including others in questioning, because exactly what you said will have a tendency to be on one end or the other of the spectrums. And we’re going to need to move toward the middle of balance. And that really is going to optimize our healing potential.

David Knapp: (30:01)
And I just want to last thing say, I see I am in parts of my life, that compulsive person as a pattern and in other parts of my life, I am definitely a slacker. There’s no doubt about it.

Robert Strock: (30:18)
Yeah.

David Knapp: (30:18)
Nope. I have, I have both ends and I think most of us do.

Robert Strock: (30:22)
I think most of us do too. Um, but I think most of us are 80/20 or 90/10. Most of us have had a stronger tendency. So it is important to notice that there might be areas where, where you’re lazy almost by definition, if you’re really compulsive, you’re lazy about something else. Uh, and if you’re really lazy, you’re really not disciplined. And you’re, you’re really not staying gentle with yourself, you know? So it really is a matter of looking for that balance. And I think the question that we want to leave today with is how can I make my realistic best efforts when it comes to self-rejection, identifying my challenges, identifying the emotions specifically and the qualities and actions that would move me toward self-acceptance and self-compassion thanks again.

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