On this week’s episode of Awareness that Heals, we will look at how to best deal with the challenging emotions that show up most frequently and also investigate our attitude toward those feelings. The goal is for you to expand your ability to care for yourself through self-compassion. There are two key aspects to be aware of. The first is becoming aware of the hard feeling or challenge that you experience most. The second is the self-judgment that arises in the form of feeling inadequate. Use the tools and resources offered at AwarenessThatHeals.org to effect a fundamental shift that will allow you to say “yes” to self-acceptance, and “no” to self-rejection. This act of self-compassion can bring a monumental change and will expand your ability to care for yourself during difficult challenges.
The more you are attentive to your feelings with awareness, the more you are able to create thoughts, actions, and attitudes that will change the quality of your life. Notice during the discussion and meditation the feelings that make you uncomfortable and what seems impossible to overcome. Notice how it’s almost automatic that you judge yourself for having these emotions, usually outside of your awareness. Find a comfortable and quiet place to meditate and bring awareness to these places inside. This will allow you to pivot from being caught in self-judgment to increased self-care and compassion that will inevitably bring greater peace and caring into the world as well.
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Awareness That Heals, Episode 95.
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 (00:46):
Thanks so much again for joining us at Awareness That Heals, where we focus on bringing heart and wisdom to our life’s challenges. I’m hoping that you’re not just hearing that in your head and that you’re actually taking that in. You’re looking, we’re looking, for bringing heart and wisdom to your life’s challenges. And we start again and again with being aware of what is most difficult for us and how these difficulties are universal for all of us, whether we recognize them or not, and how we can care for ourselves at these crucial times. Today, we’re gonna begin to do something very different, which is to not only look at our challenging emotions that recurrent our life most frequently or might be happening right now as we’re talking, but also look closely at our attitude toward having this feeling. It’s so common that we dislike feelings that are challenging, like fear, inadequacy, anxiety, depression, hopelessness, overwhelm, exhaustion, competitiveness against others, impatience.
The list goes on and on, and take a quick look, do you think you like these feelings? No, and that can take us, take you in a direction that not only is challenged, but then you’re having a negative reaction toward being challenged. So you’re disconnected from your original feeling, which doesn’t allow you to move toward well-being. As you’re being asked how you feel towards your most difficult feelings, you’re inevitably going to be asked to muster up the courage, the humility to see that you have a tendency to avoid or withdraw from the feeling yourself or judging it.
We’re gonna explore how you can care for the feeling and at the same time become freer and freer from its grip on you. You’ll see that it’s paradoxical, that the more you care for your feeling with awareness, the more you are free to create different thoughts, actions, and attitudes that will change the quality of your life. Now, if you really hear that, that will grip you, rather than the emotion gripping you, the potential of you being able to care for yourself rather than move toward rejection or self-abandonment. This isn’t easy and it requires honesty, awareness, patience, humility and courage. The rewards are immense, and don’t be fooled by just understanding what is being said. It’s a very different matter when you’re in the heat of the emotion to be able to shift from withdrawing or judging to being able to care. It’s very likely to make sense as you hear it now, however, it’s truly an evolutionary act to practice it in real time and has the capacity to change how you live for the rest of your life. It’s something that virtually none of us can master, yet all of us can use our caring capacity to make one of the most fundamental shifts in our life. So before going further, I’d like to introduce Dave, my dearest friend for over 50 years, and my partner at The Global Bridge Foundation.
Robert, thank you. And on the heels of our last podcast, which was the series in this Awareness That Heals, of “friendly mind,” I think this really tracks what you’re getting at here. And I just want to say how often in my life, and I can think of a variety of circumstances, and I, I think it would be good to have some examples of what I would call piling on myself. Maybe I was supposed to speak in public, maybe I was supposed to talk at a wedding, and I, I felt really nervous about it. So not only is it hard for me to make that speech, but then I finish and I’m like, oh man, I feel terrible about how bad I did. I’m piling on myself. And along with friendly mind, I now have two levels: the hard part, and then the rejection of myself that you’re describing now, to find space around. It’s hard.
Robert Strock (06:13):
Piling on is a great, great way to see it. I imagine a whole bunch of bodies just jumping on a body. You’re just piling on yourself. And what we’re looking at is instead of piling on, we’re, we’re assuming our goodwill enough that says, you did do your best efforts. It may not have been great, but let’s focus on how we can care for the feeling we’re left in and see how we can be with it in a way to take care of ourselves in the present and in the future. So let’s start off by looking for, please look for your feeling that you least like, that you’d like to get rid of. If you had a magic wand, you’d want to just tap and say, get lost. And it may be feelings like anger, anxiety, hopelessness, fear, despair, inadequacy, or whatever is truly yours. So identify that first.
And then while you’re doing that, appreciate the humility, the sincerity to grow, to care about your quality of life and the courage that you have to admit this feeling that so often in our society we overlook and see if you have the humbleness to see what is challenging to you out in the open inside yourself. And maybe you can even look at the people that you might have enough trust for that you could share it with. One of the common ways that we do this is let’s say your feeling is inadequacy. Although stay with wherever you are, instead of feeling the inadequacy feelings, you might look at, oh, so-and-so is so critical to me. I hate it when they’re critical and you bury the inadequacy feeling, you stay focused on judging the other. Can you see your resistance being out in the open to yourself and especially to those that you trust? Notice stably during this podcast what you really don’t like and what seems impossible to overcome.
And as you stabilize seeing that, see that you not only don’t like these feelings, but also you wanna put a spear into them. You wanna stab them, as Dave said, piling on. And that this impulse is only gonna take you further and further around from the original suffering. If you have anxiety, you might say, oh, not that again. I can’t believe it. Oh, that’s disgusting. I’ve had this for so long. Am I not over this by now? I hate it. And as you see, your tendency to avoid it, to run away from it, to judge it, to pile on, see if you can feel a part of you that wants to care for yourself, that wants to support yourself. And most likely it’s gonna seem intuitively, obviously, of course I wanna support myself, but guess what? It’s not of course, when you’re in the challenging feeling, so plant these seeds, I wanna remember and recognize that you’re not doing these feelings.
You’re not being these feelings on purpose. You’re not getting jealous or insecure or feeling inadequate cuz you love it. Oh man, I’m gonna be, I’m gonna be inadequate, cuz I really love it. See how absurd that is? So there’s no good reason to judge yourself to add the secondary reaction, but it’s almost automatic if we don’t pay very close attention to it. And through a lot of work. Only you know what you least like and how you subtly reject yourself. So again, as we’re just talking about it and preparing for the guided meditation, prepare yourself by seeing what the feeling is that you least like and how you typically will either disassociate and withdraw from it or overtly pile on and reject yourself.
And then, again, recognize that you wanna find a place to care for yourself and be a friend to yourself. And take the shortest path toward actually seeing clearly the challenging feeling and the self-rejection or the self-abandonment that usually follows it. And see how this leaves you in a certain kind of solitary confinement like you’re imprisoned, like you’re taken over. And if you don’t address these feelings with guidance and a friendly mind and an awareness of how you get off track, that you’re gonna be suffering a lot of extra suffering in this life and how you can find this tool, these tools, to be able to guide yourself back towards your wisdom and your heart and keep recognizing that you wanna find this place that cares.
Once you see this clearly there’s gonna be a voice that’s saying, I wanna tolerate this. Maybe I wanna barely tolerate this. As you keep growing, maybe you wanna accept it. Maybe eventually you even wanna appreciate that you can see it. You wanna say something to yourself like, I really wanna tolerate this and not fight or withdraw from myself. Or ask a question, how can I move towards this tolerance or bear tolerance? And you might even say, how can I say this with greater sensitivity and caring? Now apply this, don’t just hear my words. See if you can say this to yourself. How can I make greater peace? How can I see the judgment or withdrawal when I have the difficult feelings more quickly and see it more, either in the present, while it’s happening, or faster and faster in the near future and say, yes, I want to care for my anxiety, or I want to care for my feelings of inadequacy.
Now that might seem ridiculous and at first you might only be able to use friendly mind, cuz we’re dealing with ordinary garden variety, challenging feelings right now. Not the most severe ones like we were with Friendly Mind. And so find your “yes.” Yes, I wanna care for myself. No. No, I don’t want to reject myself. I don’t wanna run away from myself and recognize this is really difficult for you. And ask, how can you say this? Caring with greater sensitivity and greater clarity closer to your heart, or if need be only from your wisdom. This is a monumental pivot to move toward tolerating and accepting yourself.
You just mentioned something I think that’s important to express a little bit more about, which is “garden variety versus more difficult types of things.” And I’m assuming, but would like to hear what you mean by that. It might be relative to health or mortality or what, whatever it may be. But I think that the realistic opportunity to accept change or have to just deal with certain feelings is different in each case.
Robert Strock (15:38):
Yeah, it’s a critical distinction in the whole podcast series and in the book on Friendly Mind, we’re clearly dealing with the very most difficult feelings in life. Those don’t come up that often. They come up more often when we’re older, but they don’t, they’re not that frequent. But for most people, every day we have feelings of in intolerance or impatience or frustration or helplessness or inadequacy or insecurity. But they’re not crippling, they’re not totally overwhelming. So we have the capacity actually not only to have friendly mind, but we have the capacity maybe even to care for ourselves. So our heart could possibly be available. We can to some extent with our wisdom, bring some heart and caring because these are not feelings that are completely overwhelming. So that distinction is very critical.
So before we enter into the guided meditation I’m hoping that you’ll acknowledge yourself, that you’re appreciative, that you care enough to see your challenging feelings, to be honest and humble enough. And also to be interested in how you reject yourself and how much you would aspire, how much you do aspire, to find a place that can care for yourself rather than get sidetracked in this spearing yourself or piling on and in coming back to care for the original challenging feeling. And recognize that by doing this, you’re bringing greater love to your life. And what else could be more important than that? And inevitably this will be bringing greater love to the world as well. So let yourself just start off by settling into a comfortable position wherever you’re sitting, whether it’s a chair or a couch, or you’re lying down on the on the ground or just letting yourself relax.
Guided meditation is for so many people, the best way to truly gain benefit in your response to personal challenges. As you invest and bring your own experience to the guided meditations, you’ll give yourself the best chance to change longstanding patterns from suffering toward a state of well-being, peace and healing.
It’s important to put yourself in a comfortable body position, in a private space where you’re not disturbed. Turn off your phone and be ready to really be alert. And start by just feeling your body sensations and let yourself move to where you’re more and more comfortable so it’s not distracting you. And keep giving yourself permission to move around and just find comfort. And if you can, see if you can enjoy just being with your body sensations. Maybe it’s in your stomach or your heart or your neck, your shoulders, and you’re just stretching and just letting yourself care about being present enough to where you can notice what’s happening and you can move to be more comfortable. And then ask yourself, what is the feeling that is the most difficult that you’ve faced either in your life through this last period of time or right now? And see what your normal reaction is toward this feeling. And keep looking if it isn’t clear or if there’s more than one feeling. And see if you can say, oh good, I can see my challenging feeling and I can even see how I reject myself or I run away from it and I disassociate just at the start. It’s easier to do it when you’re not fully in it when you’re doing this meditation. But plant the seed. Oh, I wanna remember this. I wanna remember that I can see it and it’s good that I can see it. It’s not something that I need to reject when I can see it and I can recognize that I actually wanna care for it because I’m suffering.
Notice what you normally say to yourself or feel about yourself when you have this challenging feeling. It might be something like, I hate this, not this again. I can’t believe I’m still feeling this at my age. Or after how many times I’ve known how to do it better. Or maybe you just notice how fast you disassociate and you leave it. Allow yourself to say, yes, I can see it and I am doing my best right now to tolerate it.
And by saying that you’re bringing your wisdom and seeing what normally is in its place. We could call it a wisdom substitute or a way of piling on. And see if right now you can see what you could say to yourself and maybe even with a tone that’s going to nurture you or strengthen you or soften you, whatever’s needed. That you can have caring thoughts and a caring response to that challenging feeling while you still see the tendency that you have to say, oh, I hate this. I don’t like this, I normally don’t like this. Ah, but at this moment I can see, oh, it’s gonna really help me if I say it’s okay that I feel inadequate, it’s okay that I feel insecure. It’s okay that I feel helpless or depressed. And then I can see that’s gonna give me a chance to deal with it. Ask yourself, is it true that you might have thought something like this feeling the challenging emotion isn’t gonna do me any good because of course if you don’t have a way to deal with the challenging emotion, like fear or anxiety, then it’s gonna feel like a bottomless pit. So that’s why it’s important to see that we’ve been conditioned to avoid or judge cuz we haven’t been guided to care or to be wise with ourselves.
So now as you stay with the feeling and the feelings or thoughts related to it, like anxiety, oh, not that again. Or inadequacy. Yuck. It’s embarrassing. Ask yourself, how can I care for my original feeling? What thoughts would I like to generate, right now to help empower myself, sooth myself, soften myself. It might be something like, I wanna be kinder. I’m not doing this on purpose. Ouch, this hurts. And I wanna find a way to be more okay with it. I wanna be more sensitive to myself. I wanna gather courage, kindness, self-compassion. I love my hunger to grow. Let yourself sense. Let yourself realize. Can you think those thoughts? How much can you think those thoughts and keep giving yourself a reminder. Remember, whenever I feel a challenging feeling, boom, yes, I wanna see it clearly and I wanna see the normal self-rejection or self-withdrawal. Does this make sense to you right now? And does it make sense to you that it’s hard? And really ask, hopefully the answer is yes and let yourself do it now, this is my challenging feeling, these are my normal feelings of rejection or abandonment. And I’m coming back and I’m saying, yes, I want to care for myself.
Yes, this is how I care for myself. And you need to innovate your own thoughts of caring cuz every challenging feeling and everything you feel is unique to you. And then just gently say if you can, I wanna keep practicing cuz I recognize that I wanna be more of a friend to myself. Practice, practice, practice because I haven’t been taught this before. And I need to keep developing perseverance to give myself a chance to not be owned by this feeling. This is a mini miracle when you pull it off or even just get a good grasp that you are wanting to, it’s like being pregnant with self-love and replacing self-rejection and self-abandonment with your gradually increasing heart. Feel the desire to care for yourself and see if you can appreciate the honesty of seeing and being yourself as you are. Really see it. Do you have any appreciation even a little bit or even the thoughts? See if you can plant the seed and say to yourself, right as I’m saying it, I want it to be like a Pavlovian response where it’s like a 1, 2, 3. I wanna see the challenging feeling.
I wanna see the tendency toward self-rejection or the example of self-rejection or self-abandonment. And I wanna find the desire to care that will lead me to my friendly mind and my friendly heart that’s going to care for the self-rejection and then bring me back to ask how can I care for the original challenging feeling? And again, just see if you can really appreciate how deep this work is and how evolutionary it is for you, A new way of caring that will affect both you and those around you. And let yourself have this brief wish or prayer. May I be aware of what’s challenging? Notice my reactions and support myself to steer in the direction of bringing my heart and wisdom to guide me with a thought and feelings that will inspire caring for what I’m going through and my reaction to what I’m going through. May I appreciate this as much as possible and as soon as possible when I’m aware of any challenging feeling.
So notice where this is leaving you. And regardless of where it’s leaving you most important, let it inspire you or motivate you to see if you got it. Wow, great. I got it. And I can see, even though I got it that was in a meditation and I need to keep giving myself reminders to do more. Or if you didn’t get it, recognize how important it is to keep listening and listening and listening and practicing and practicing and practicing. And don’t let your discouragement or helplessness be a challenging feeling that’s gonna make you go south and leave and withdraw. And so see again, if you can appreciate that this is one of the ultimate challenges of life. To be honest enough, to have the integrity, to have the sincerity, to have the humility, to be looking at what is difficult, what we’re not taught to go public with, and what we can share with our most trusted friends.
And that you want to dedicate yourself to your quality of life and not just fall prey to society’s ideals that doesn’t deal with the inner world so much. And as you see this inside you, because you wouldn’t be listening to this if you didn’t want to care for yourself. Appreciate that you’re planting seeds and plant seeds that when I have a challenging feeling, I wanna remember I have another possibility. I can see the self-rejection, I can see the self-abandonment, I can see the challenging feeling, and I want to bring my heart and wisdom to both as soon as possible for my own well-being and for the well-being of the world.
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