Awareness that Heals

Empathic Thoughts Can Guide Us when We’re in Hell – Episode 13

Empathic Thoughts Can Guide Us when Were in Hell - Episode 13The third principle of Friendly Mind is a subtle understanding that Friendly Mind doesn’t require us to feel friendly, even toward ourselves. This principle supports us when we are in any kind of severe distress, including but not limited to exhaustion, or anxiety, which limits the availability of friendly feelings. Friendly Mind contains the wisdom to steer ourselves in a beneficial way without the pressure to feel friendly or caring. At these times, we often feel neutral, which, once we get the knack of this principle, is a great relief.


Resources related to this episode
Robert Strock Website
Robert’s Book, Awareness that Heals
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Announcer: (00:02)
Awareness That Heals episode 13.

Robert Strock: (00:06)
And what we’re talking about is developing the capacity to be more interested in how are you responding to not feeling good more than are you feeling good.

Announcer: (00:20)
Awareness That Heals is a podcast that helps its listeners become more at peace with all states of their mind. Your host, Robert Strock has practiced psychotherapy for more than 45 years. He’s coined the term awareness that heals to help you develop self-caring and the capacity to respond in an effective way to life’s challenges. Especially at times when you’re most prone to be critical or to withdraw together, we’ll explore how to become caringly aware of our challenging feelings and how we can use our friendly mind to respond and help care for these difficult feelings to live a better, more inspiring life

Robert Strock: (00:59)
From my heart I welcome you again to Awareness That Heals. And today we’re really going to be going into a crucial point of understanding friendly mind. We’re going to be dealing with what can be an enormous trap, that if we don’t really understand it, practice it and teach ourselves a different relationship to our feelings we’re not going to be able to practice friendly mind. And what that is is that we need to value wisdom when we’re not feeling good, even more than feeling good. And our gut level literally hates it at first, maybe a second, maybe a third takes a lot of practice. That wisdom feels like a booby prize. As a matter of fact, it’s normally dethroned to the head, the intellect, the mind, but we’re actually talking about something that is wisdom, hard, earned wisdom to guide us how to be, what to do when our feelings are just wanting to scream or bury ourselves.

Robert Strock: (02:33)
So joining us today, again are Dave and Shelley, two of my very dearest friends for ages and Mark, who is a more recent dear friend, our engineer, but a person who has gone deep enough in life, where he’s developed a really core relationship to friendly mind. So he may very well join in the conversation today as well. So the third principle of friendly mind is that when we remember to ask ourselves the question of how can I best take care of myself? How can I access friendly mind when we’re not feeling good, even though we’re calling it from the mind when we’re really not feeling good, friendly mind, can’t even reliably be friendly in feeling. So we’re literally talking about the guidance itself as being more important than the feelings. Now I’m pausing a little bit there because unless you really take that in deeply, it’s going to hit an automatic kick-out switch. I can’t even feel friendly. Are you kidding me? It’s not going to make me feel better within the near future. What good is it then? And that’s going to be even more true subconsciously then consciously cause our feelings want to feel good in a certain way. We could say we’re all addicts to feeling good.

Robert Strock: (04:21)
And so this requires going through the withdrawal of the addiction and through intensive practice, teaching ourselves for ourselves because we can’t just believe me or anyone else that wisdom might even be the reason why we’re alive. Maybe we’ve been sold a bill of goods that we’re here to feel good as the primary thing. Now that’s not to say that. Of course we all want to feel good to whatever degree we can. But when we face the inevitable, as Dave said in the last episode, when you’re over 60, the warning light is always flashing that something might be going wrong with our health or in our life. In some way, we can see that wisdom is valuable in a way that we weren’t taught when we were young, but it would have been great if it was part of our education system, because otherwise everybody wanting to feel good, that itself shuts out consideration of others.

Robert Strock: (05:39)
Oftentimes I want to feel good. Well, if it’s going to affect you, well, not so important. And I think we all see the signs of a world because wisdom, which really focuses on the well-being of everyone. At first, it focuses on the well-being of ourselves, but as we develop it further and as implications to a sane world, as well and doing what we realistically can do and not getting lost in abstractions, but really in the next hour, what can I do with my thoughts that are going to guide me? But somewhere down the line, it’ll go even further than that. Now it’s really complicated in one way, unless we understand it, see it clearly that we’re all taught to not so much by words, but by example, we’re taught to judge our feelings. If we’re not feeling good. So you ask somebody, how are you doing? Oh, I don’t feel very good today.

Robert Strock: (06:54)
Now the ordinary conversation would pretty well stay at that level. And what we’re talking about is developing the capacity to be more interested in how are you responding to not feeling good more than are you feeling good? How are you doing? So, even though it’s too odd to have this as a main way of introducing yourself, even to people that you know well, but it’s important to keep the meaning in your mind and in your heart, if your heart’s open, I’m really interested in how you’re dealing with your potential, no matter how you feel, which is kind of the essence of friendly mind, it’s not going to be based on the criteria of how you feel. As a matter of fact, you get the most points by far when you don’t feel good and you’re responding well to it. And even with people with clients that I’ve dealt with this for 20 years, 30 years, still we all need reminders.

Robert Strock: (08:15)
We need kickstarts from the outside, no reflections from the outside. We need interest of, Oh, I’m so sorry. You’re not feeling good today, which is well-intended, that’s a kind response for most people, that’s empathic, but it’s also limited because it disempowers our potential to see, you know, what I can think in a way that’s going to guide me from my wisdom. Even when I feel this God forbidden feeling in my ordinary reality question for you, as you introduce wisdom, can you help me understand the difference between wisdom as it relates to friendly mind and, and the, the kinds of thoughts and the kinds of things we discussed in the prior episodes. There are some depths where wisdom becomes more paramount because just having thoughts that are empathic require a bit more guidance. So for example, if you’re dealing with anxiety about health with your partner, wisdom might need to kick in more and say, you know, 99.9% of the time or 99% of the time when you’ve been there before this has turned out well, and you’ve followed your feelings. And I know it’s natural that you followed your feelings, but they’ve been wrong 99 point something percent of the time. And I’m not saying this to judge you, I’m saying this to reassure you. I’m saying this because I represent the truth of both of our experiences for our lives so far, I’m not trying to BS you.

Robert Strock: (10:24)
We’re, we’re looking at real life experience and translating that in wisdom terms. It also could go to, this is almost impossible to ask you this. I’m sorry to even ask you to try to focus on this reassuring thought, but I’m going to ask you to do that. What do you think? Can you do it? Then you might say to me, well, a little bit, and I’ll say to you, can you do it a little bit more than a little bit? And we’ll, we’ll play with each other. We’ll have maybe 50 back and forths. That’s more wisdom. If it’s the lighter end of friendly mind, it may be three back and forths. If it penetrates deeper, it’s going to be a long conversation just as you said in the last episode that sometimes it can last for hours. How many of those hours of this kind of interaction with yourself, where the wisdom element is really penetrating? You’re not letting yourself feel that without the wisdom mind, friendly mind, come in and really encourage you with that dialogue and empathize with how difficult it is at the same time.

Mark Spiro: (11:51)
Yeah. Uh, just, just hearing this friendly mind for me, isn’t always a warm and fuzzy. It’s not, it’s not, Oh, you’re going to be okay. A little buddy. It’s, what’s the next indicated step that I ha, that I should take. And how do I feel in harmony with the world around me in taking that step? But that step doesn’t mean it’s, it’s easy. Um, you know, here in, in, in our world, we live in we’re good news junkies. We, we want good news all the time and it, the world doesn’t work that way. It’s having accepts, it’s having detachment, it wise concepts and, and, and ways of, as Dave said earlier, creating space so that you, you have knowledge and wisdom about the space that you’re in and how it may even hurt to get to where you want to go. Friendly mind would tell me, or at least try to tell me that I have the power to do that. That if I’m consistent each day, that I can, I can maybe get to the goal I have for myself, but it’s not a warm and fuzzy all the time. It’s not just trying to make me feel good.

Robert Strock: (13:05)
Exactly. Exactly. Uh, two things that come to mind. One is you through in there a little bit of something about moving toward harmony, which I want to make clear is not reliable. Uh, and number two, you’re right. And number two is you so embody when you go out with your unsheltered brothers and sisters, when you’re feeling lousy and you fall, your friendly mind, your wisdom, and you dedicate yourself to them, which I know you do a few times a week in trash cans, picking up bottles, picking up cans, turning it into money that they can be using to help survive. And you’re doing something in this case.

Mark Spiro: (14:07)
And I can tell you right now that that is a friendly mind activity. Every time I don’t want to, don’t want to go do that friendly mind just says to me, no, go ahead, buddy. What you need to do, just keep going and thanks for bringing that up. Thank you.

Robert Strock: (14:22)
Yeah. And I love the word, buddy. I love the word, buddy. The word buddy has such a, a kinship that we won’t be able to feel, but friendly mind would use a word like buddy. So that’s a really, uh, core nuance that each of us might have a word. And that’s a nice thing to look for. That is an affectionate word. I have certain clients that like the word cool or, or sincere or something that really authentic or caring action, not caring feeling, but caring action. That’s good. So again, I want to repeat, because I don’t think it can be repeated enough that to me, being able to do what we’re talking about, that Mark is doing and is being led by his friendly mind is the most heroic act in life. These last few years, last eight, nine years I found some chemical solutions that have compensated for the chemical alterations from the transplant medications. And I feel good during the day, a large percentage of time. If I eliminated the first couple of hours of waking up. And some wonderful things are happening. And I say to myself on a regular basis, this is so easy. Compared to that time, you don’t deserve as much credit when you feel good and you do good things. That’s just following a flaw. Don’t want to get too religious. But one of my favorite movies from the past was Jesus of Nazareth.

Robert Strock: (16:29)
And one of the lines that I love the most in it was when you love your friends, you don’t deserve any credit, but when you love your enemies, venues of credit, and that brought tears to my eyes because I recognized how hard that is when you’re facing inner enemies or outer enemies. And I want to be clear. I’m not encouraging you to go seek out the biggest asses in town and be nice to them. That’s not the point. The point is, if you’re in a situation with somebody who’s going to have impact on your life or other people’s lives. And if you give them a bad time and just be reactive, that’s not the place to go. When you can create a sense of well-being and you’re not feeling good, that’s real gold. If you’re feeling good and you’re doing good, still gold, but there’s a little extra value.

Speaker 1: (17:34)
If I was buying it at a store I’d pay some extra money for the one that where you’re really not feeling good. It’s completely counter instinctual, which is why it needs to be mentioned so many times. And friendly mind as I alluded to earlier, isn’t based on blind validation, it’s based on the truth and using the truth in your life as an anchor, and then supporting yourself to face the truth and then ask yourself, how can I be my best self, truth of what I feel, the truth of my relationship with the person I’m talking about? The truth of the organizations, the truth of the world, where the anchor is the truth. It’s not our egos as best we can possibly do.

Robert Strock: (18:39)
Now that requires if we’re in a challenging situation, being aware, oh, we think, oh, you’re the one that made me mad. Not I’m mad because you made me mad. It takes an awareness of that. I’m mad because you are an ass, but I’m having an ass reaction an ass reaction to your ass reaction, and then hopefully finding an intention to heal or a wanting to care inside yourself that can lead to friendly mind that can guide you to stay in the present in near future, and to come out with actions and comments that are going to make things better, whether you can feel them or not. And it’s so important to recognize. There are so many reasons why we can feel lousy. And one of the things that drives me a bit crazy is when people follow the common themes, like The Secret, where, Oh, you cause your own reality, you know, it it’s like if you just think positively enough, or if you just work hard enough on it, you’re going to feel good.

Speaker 1: (20:07)
It’s going to get better. Don’t worry. It’s going to get better. You’re going to feel better. And whether it’s you go fast forward to when you’re dying. Well, I guess everybody failed because if it would have done better, they would have been healthy. They would have healed themselves. Or if you look more closely, somebody might be lifelong, genuinely suffering from a trauma or lifelong they had chemicals running through their body and they had extra challenges. And even if they were wise enough in discovering that and went to find chemicals, that could make it better. And I’m thinking of about 20 people right now, and it’s still hard even with doing it, it’s hard. And those people, and I’m hoping that you listening, that you will apply it to yourself. Again, you may be operating from a place of, well, instead of being really anxious or really depressed, I’m only depressed or I’m only anxious.

Robert Strock: (21:23)
And then if you can remember to ask that question again, reminding yourself, you don’t have to feel friendly when you’re looking for friendly mind, how do I care in my actions? And my thoughts given that I’m suffering from conditions that I cannot overcome very likely till the day I die and the efforts to try to overcome those, which we’ll explore later in this series of principles on friendly mind, if we stay in the present and, and focus on the possible. When I say the present I’m including the near future, I don’t mean the very present only. Tell us who it includes, maybe the next day.

Robert Strock: (22:20)
Then we’re really optimizing our chances to bring what I would call an inner knowing of inner peace. And most people just value inner peace. I would, I would go so far to saying the, the inner knowing of inner peace is a more evolved state than inner peace. Now I’m not going to get esoteric about whether there’s enlightenment or this or that, but from my vantage point, my life experience inner knowing and following that of inner peace or inner kindness or inner compassion that we can’t feel is the real sign of a mature soul or a person who has character.

Robert Strock: (23:19)
And one of the questions that really helps to stabilize this, which I oftentimes have a lot of fun with friends and clients is, yeah, it’ll start with me asking, well, are you doing the very best you can, which again will be the next principle we’re going to go into in depth. But, and they’ll say, yeah, but the yeah is sort of like, so what I’m doing the best I can. So then yeah, then I’ll ask, well, can you do better than the best you can? And the ones that laugh I’ll point out on an ongoing basis, your laughter is way smarter than you are. You’re a dumb shit compared to your laughter and they smile. I’ll do the same thing with a smile. And I’m going to repeat that again, because being in a place where you make your best efforts is in a certain way, the most grounded form of religion, no matter what your religion is formally, that I believe God or our higher selves or our character all want us to do the best we can do realistically.

Robert Strock: (24:55)
And when you start to play with, can you do better than your best self? After about 10,000 times being asked that question, the relaxation becomes quite a bit deeper. The first series of times, it’s usually something like, yeah, something more casual and is being your best self as important as success or money or being sexy, having power. Well, the answer in our world is no in general, but the appeal here is to say, isn’t being your best self, the key. And that doesn’t mean that you aren’t successful or powerful or have money. It just means that it’s not the key piece because being your best self requires you to go to that place that Dave was asking about earlier, about the more wisdom aspects of friendly mind, and it starts to include other people. It starts to include maybe the community and the more we grow well, naturally, if you’re, if you’re able to take care of yourself, the urge comes to want to take care of others.

Robert Strock: (26:32)
Not because you should, not because you have to, but because it’s your fun and it’s not a standard to aspire other than continuing to stay with your best self in your moment in your locale without getting grandiose. So again, I can say, first of all, thank you to everyone here for your contributions. And I’m truly reassured, I guess, is the right word that friendly mind is going so slow because it’s such a subtle concept, even though it appears to be simple. And I hope that you, as the listener will ask yourself in the future as, but as well as we’re here now, where do you most need to bring friendly mind into your challenges? And maybe you see that you’ve kicked out of doing that because your friendly mind, wasn’t friendly, but in realizing that your friendly mind doesn’t have to be friendly. Where do you need that medicine? Where do you need that in your life today or this week or in this trending part of your life? And thank you so much for your attention.

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