This fourth level of awareness is where the vast majority of healing takes place. This is awareness that heals. We are not only aware of our present challenging feelings and situations, but also we experience a genuine motivation to move toward healing and well-being. We see the challenging state(s) we are in and at the same time we care for ourselves enough to respond toward healing and well-being. This creates a sense of purpose and inspiration to be our best selves.
Resources related to this episode
Robert Strock Website
Robert’s Book, Awareness that Heals
Free Downloadable Introspective Guides
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Awareness That Heals Episode Five.
Robert Strock: (00:05)
Oh, I’m angry. Not they made me angry. I’m the one that’s angry. And then I want to bring my attention to be expressing what it is I wanted rather than what I didn’t like. I want to be able to say, could you be kinder rather than I hate your anger?
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: (01:09)
I’d like to welcome you again. Thanks very much for joining us. I’d like to introduce my closest friend, Dave, my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation and Shelley, who is also a psychotherapist and closest friend, uh, is joining us. And I’m very, very grateful to have her be with us as well. And we’re going to be starting today from the last couple of episodes that were a continuity from the beginning of outlining the four levels of awareness. So just giving a quick summary for those of you that are joining us for the first time. And by the way, I would encourage you to go back and listen to the beginning that we started with Being Aware of Being Unaware as being the first level of awareness and the bottom line of why that’s very important is, if we don’t know that we have an unconscious, then we’re going to trust ourselves so much with everything that we say, our tone of voice, what we’re thinking, what we’re seeing, and we’re going to lack humility.
Robert Strock: (02:23)
So being aware of our unawareness or being aware that we have an unconscious and the subconscious allows us to say things like, well, this is what I remember. This is my perception rather than this is what it was and equally inside of ourselves when we’re thinking, well, I know who I am. It might be something more like, I think I know who I am. And then the second level of awareness is fleeting awareness where we have short sequences of thought that will either guide us to something that would really allow us to be more loving, more compassionate, or perhaps it might be something that would see a part of ourselves that we’re ashamed of, that we’re embarrassed about. And it stays fleeting because if we kept it on an ongoing basis, it would create a great deal of disturbance in our lives. For example, if we are always or frequently angry with our partner and we don’t really want to see it regularly, or we feel too bad about ourselves, that’s why the awareness goes in and out.
Robert Strock: (03:43)
Or if we’re aware that we’re not really attentive when our partner is suffering, we may stay inattentive, but we will stay inattentive most of the time. And every once in a while it’ll be a flash, which will be the fleeting awareness that will say, you know, you’re not really paying attention. I can understand why they’re pissed off with you. Zip … out . . . gone . . . not . . . going to stay with us because we either would be ready and motivated to make the changes required. Or we needed to stay as a fleeting awareness. Now that’s not a conscious thing it’s something that just zips in and out for all of us. And then the third level of awareness, which is really important to understand is stable, intellectual awareness, where we are aware, for example, that we’re angry or that we’re not very loving or that we’re, uh, we’re loving selectively or that we’re in some way in a state that we’re not particularly, um, let’s say able to improve the state to help it move us closer to our heart.
Robert Strock: (05:05)
And this is a very confusing state, especially in the world of therapy or privately where we think, because we’re aware that we’re angry or we’re aware we’re not loving that that’s going to create healing, but that awareness, because it doesn’t have what’s going to be coming in the fourth level of awareness, it doesn’t have that element of the intention to heal or the desire to be more caring, to bring our hearts to us. It doesn’t really create deep healing. The intellectual awareness is often confused with awareness that heals or awareness that has the intention to heal, the intention to care, mixed in with it.
Robert Strock: (05:54)
Hopefully that makes sense to you that it really requires when we see a part of ourselves that we need to summon up a part of us that really wants to bring caring. And that’s not easy. That takes a lot of practice, a lot of honesty, even to just stay aware of where we are when it’s not a great place, let alone summing up a part of ourselves that says, you know what, even though I’m angry at my partner, I don’t want this to work out badly. I want this to work out in a way that’s going to be creating some kind of benefit, both for me and the other person, even though I have feelings like I don’t give a damn about them, um, or I’m not even aware of the impact that would have on me.
Robert Strock: (06:44)
In the last episode, I also went into my own life story and in that it included my first six years where I was pretty stable after some serious medical medication side effects from my kidney transplant, I was consistently not able to improve my feeling space. So I was not able to feel love and tenderness and inspiration and creativity anywhere near what I was able to in the prior 20 years of my life. So it became very important for me to bring the intention, to heal with whatever I was aware of. So for example, I was continuously exhausted and what I gradually taught myself was I really want to be as kind to myself as possible while I’m exhausted. I really want to be the best I can be when I’m seeing my clients. Even though I feel very tired, I really want to see how I can bring my purest intention, even though I can’t feel better, to still have the best possible outcome with just using my intention to heal. And of course there are many differences of how severe, a kind of suffering that we’re in when we’re in the fourth level of awareness. So for example, it could be something relatively trivial, where it might be just a simple tone of voice that somebody uses that wasn’t too bad and we immediately feel reactive and angry.
Robert Strock: (08:39)
And we just need to stay aware. Oh, I’m angry, not they made me angry. I’m the one that’s angry. And then I want to bring my attention to be expressing what it is I wanted rather than what I didn’t like. I want to be able to say, could you be kinder rather than I hate your anger, a deep art form that stays aware of the emotional state you’re in. And you look deep inside for a part of you that wants to have the best possible outcome, the best movement toward healing at the same time, as you’re feeling the worst or a little bit of the worst. And if any of you think that’s an easy thing to do, um, then I definitely should be taking lessons from you. And I know that I haven’t arrived at being able to do this on a reliable basis myself, but you know, I’m making headway. And I think that’s the main message here. And the fourth level of awareness is not to arrive and be perfect, but to move in a direction where no matter what feeling we’re in, we train ourselves to say, and to recognize, I really want to find my intention to care, my intention to heal, and mix it with this very difficult feeling.
Robert Strock: (10:16)
And of course, many times that’s aimed at ourselves. We might be angry at ourselves or upset with ourselves or feel inadequate. And we may have a voice that says I’m doing the best I can. And I want to be guiding myself to the actions, the thoughts and the qualities that are going to most serve me. This is really where the deepest and the best healing happens inside us or in our relationships with people in our lives. And it’s really an upgrade from seeing awareness, which is most frequently thought of as the third level of awareness, isn’t really going to bring that intention to heal energy into it. And so we’re very likely to stay in the desert with our anger or our fear or anxiety. And as you really let this in, can you find a place inside you that is saying to you now, as you personalize this, I really do want to care for myself. There actually are no conditions where I want to just hammer myself or maybe you still have a few where you, you still think it’s a benefit to him, yourself, but hopefully very dominantly you would say unconditionally, no matter what state I’m in, I’d rather bring an intention to heal into it and move to this fourth level of awareness. Now, is this making sense to you, Dave and Shelley? Is there any part of that that feels like it would be good to make clearer.
David Knapp: (12:09)
First? I want to thank you for expressing that so clearly, uh, I think having at this very moment something that is in that way, poignant for me personally, with a family medical situation. And certainly, um, it is not a circumstance where I, it is a blameless circumstance, but a difficult circumstance. And there is a, uh, and I know we will be going on to other episodes that will really address some of the places I feel I’m in right now, but at this stage, uh, it’s, it is, I guess I would say hard work, hard personal work to stay with uncomfortable unknowable, uh, unknowns that that come with health that come with situations like that. And so I very much appreciate, uh, the transition between that third level where it just, in the mind, and it’s just, it’s just an attitude about something versus, uh, digging deep, which is what I feel I’m having to do right now to care for myself, to care for the loved one and the loved ones around me that are impacted. And it is, it is a digging deep and it is hard to stay there. But thank you. Thank you very much.
Robert Strock: (13:53)
Yeah. And I really want to thank you, Dave, for giving us about as good as an example, as we could have, perhaps other than a loss, a direct loss of, uh, of a child or really a death, but when you’re in a certain kind of fear or anxiety where a loved one is facing any kind of a medical situation, it’s really hard not to be completely consumed in depression or anxiety or fear. And to be able to really like a Pavlovian response, have an insert that goes, “I really want to bring my best caring to this.” And it’s hard when it’s a serious, severe one. It’s even hard when it’s not because we have such a tendency to compartmentalize and to forget that we can always implement our best intention when we remember it. But it’s very hard to remember it. And of course there are levels of development of being able to apply it the more we practice it.
Robert Strock: (15:12)
So I thank you greatly for bringing us into your personal situation. And hopefully as you are listening to this, you’re bringing yourself to what your greatest challenges are. And okay, maybe it’s anger, maybe it’s jealousy, maybe it’s inadequacy, maybe it’s emptiness and whatever it is, imagine yourself right now. And in the future, even though you can’t be in the future, but imagine yourself that you will do it in the future. I want to remember my intention to heal. I want to remember my intention to care, and this is the perhaps culmination of what gives us the capacity to shift a direction of the quality of our life and to make it more fulfilling. So hopefully that’s very clear both how those two being together is a mini miracle and how much hard work it is because usually most of us weren’t taught either to stay very aware of our emotions in situations, as they are, let alone simultaneously wanting to cultivate this caring and this intention to heal. And I would just ask you to pause for a second and just see, does that really make sense to you?
Robert Strock: (16:45)
And if it does, then we’re well on our way, because our next episodes, this is going to be foundational. This fourth level of awareness, we’re going to be continuously looking at situations that are challenging for you. And how do you remember and develop your intention to heal while you’re there. And I want to make it clear. This is not magic. This is not grandiosity. This is hard work, especially at the beginning. And the middle is still pretty hard. And I think as you’ve been doing it for years and years and years, it can become pretty automatic to move in that direction. But that doesn’t mean that you’re arriving at the feeling you ideally want to feel. It just means that, you know, you want to, and so you have access to a much greater, intuitive wisdom, guidance, connection to your heart and greater compassion. So one of the things that’s very important that we look at is our tone of voice, because as we’re giving ourselves guidance, we can say, don’t be so angry.
Robert Strock: (18:12)
You know, I’m, I’m your intention to heal. Don’t be so angry. That’s really dumb to be that angry. That’s not the intention to heal. That’s the words of intention to heal, but the tone of intention to heal is going to be something more, more like, you know, being this angry, isn’t going to be helpful. So let’s really dig deep as to how we can be more harmless, how we can possibly create more peace. Let’s take a look at whether we want to pause and move away from the situation. Let’s really both use our friendly, our I’m sorry, let’s both use our fourth level of awareness of our intention to heal. And also our tone of voice. That’s going to guide us to the best possible result.
David Knapp: (19:10)
As you’re speaking Robert, one thing that the word keeps coming up in my mind, which I use the word “empathy” as being able to put myself in somebody else’s shoes and to look outside and be them and, and feel for, and with them. And this is for me, the words that come up are self-empathy. It’s, it’s a part of me caring for me. And it, it just even to say that is soothing.
Robert Strock: (19:44)
Exactly. And of course the self-empathy is, is really true on both levels, both when you’re just dealing with your insides, but it’s also empathic towards yourself when you’re caring for another, because then your body isn’t getting poisoned and you’re not carrying the negative energy. So it’s, it’s crucial that the tone of voice be a part of this fourth level of awareness.
David Knapp: (20:13)
And I want to add to that from my own moment right now, because it’s, the word negative energy is really, uh, also encompassing, not so much negative in the sense of an outward anger or frustration, but it’s, it’s also, a suffering, uh, it’s also a state, which for me, I would call more anxious. Uh, it’s a state that includes, um, so negative in the sense that I’m not, I’m certainly not blissed out, uh, but not necessarily in the, in the normal sense of anger or something that’s aggressive.
Robert Strock: (21:00)
Yeah. I think that is so important to distinguish that any kind of suffering, whether it be vulnerable suffering, like Dave’s talking about where it’s more anxiety and fear, or whether it’s more aggressive kinds of suffering like anger, it’s crucial to remember things like, I really want to make this as easy for you as possible. Do you need to lie down? You know, do you need to work out, you know, just to get your body moving. Do you need to have a conversation with your loved one? Uh, do you need to contemplate, but you’re addressing the anxiety and the fear. If I had a magic wand, I would take it away from you because I want you to heal. I’m your, I’m your beloved. And don’t forget I exist inside me. Don’t forget no matter what state you’re in, don’t forget. And it’s so easy to forget.
Robert Strock: (22:00)
We’ve been conditioned to believe that all emotions are monopolies and in a sense, they’re posing as God. And like, they’re the, they’re the truth, the fears of truth. As a matter of fact, that fear and anxiety can trick us into believing it’s intuitive, you know, especially around health or serious issues or a divorce or a bankruptcy, you know, all those kinds of losses. Uh, we need to recognize again and again, and again, they’re not truths. They’re deep feeling states that are serving. And that intention to heal is like a magical empathy. Let’s say it’s like a magical, um, alchemy, but not magical in the sense that it makes it go away, but magical in the sense that it allows some kind of mixture of this wish to heal and care for yourself, along with the severity of whatever state you’re in.
Robert Strock: (23:04)
And can you speak to the connection between the kinds of feelings that come up that almost seem intuitive, and then the thinking and thoughts and ideation that comes with, uh, that for me at least is part of that suffering.
Robert Strock: (23:26)
Yeah. I, uh, I’ll go through, uh, a riff and feel free to interrupt me. If we stay with classic challenging feelings, we could start with something like distrust and distrust is something that you may have toward your lover or toward your friend, toward a family member. And if you just experienced that on a regular basis, without bringing the intention to heal, it’s just continuous suffering for you, for sure. And very likely for them as well. And so, you know, you want to move toward trust as much as possible, but that’s not meant as a black and white move. It might mean, you know what? I don’t trust. I can have a deep conversation with my family member, but I do trust I can have a friendly conversation toward sports or, uh, dare I say, politics in today’s world, um, which obviously may be the opposite, or how can I move this toward trust?
Robert Strock: (24:43)
And sometimes when the answer is, there is no way to move the distrust toward trust on the outside. That’s when every one of these needs to have the alternative of the awareness to heal is an internal mechanism. So what that would mean is I want to move into a more trusting state, even though I’m around the person who evokes distrust, because it’s not going to help. And even though I might not express anything differently to them, I’m more at peace because I know I don’t want to poison my own body with feelings of distrust and similarly with fear or anxiety, you know, you’re feeling that, and it’s about a situation that’s happening. And you’re in communication with, let’s say, it’s with a loved one. You, you know, you don’t want to reinforce their fear. You don’t want it to reinforce their anxiety. And so you want to contemplate courage and safety.
Speaker 2: (25:53)
And how can I do that? And again, you might be focusing on something that clearly is not life and death threatening. And so you might focus on, you know, what, in the bigger picture, all it is is this loss that is still a bummer, but it’s manageable. You’re not gonna, you’re not going to die. You’re not going to get very seriously sick if that’s the case. And let’s say, for example, you are not able to get out of that state of distrust or anxiety. Then you want to strictly focus inwardly on how can I really work on supporting myself to be more relaxed, more trusting. And sometimes it’s contemplating that. And for some people it might even be right to take an anti-anxiety medication. I mean, it’s, in every situation is different of course, with a doctor’s approval and guidance. But the key is we always, when we’re at our sanest, we have this intention to heal.
Robert Strock: (27:02)
That’s beckoning us. But unfortunately the beckoning is behind for most of us, some deep, dark clouds that we haven’t been taught to access as specially when we most need it, or when we’re frustrated, which for most of us who are frustrated or impatient, that’s a common reaction that we have. And we don’t think usually anything of saying to the person, would you just “da da da” or “I’m tired of you talking to me that way,” or “I want you to listen to me.” When we’re aware of our frustration of intolerance, that is a congratulatory event, especially if we’re not judging the frustration or intolerance, we usually think I’m frustrated and intolerant because of you, because of the way you’re talking to me. No, that’s my reaction. Now, as you’re listening to this, see how hard that is to do, to take ownership, to really take ownership of your own frustration and intolerance as a step one, that’s half the healing to not just automatically assume it’s coming from the outside.
Robert Strock: (28:19)
And then as you become aware of your intention to heal or intention to be kinder or more compassionate, you realize, you know what, I need to move more towards an acceptance of whatever way they’re treating me or at the very least look to the bigger part of them that I can accept and tolerate if I can’t tolerate that part. So I can be in a state of greater acceptance and see, is this a time I’m going to work on myself inwardly? Or is this a time where there’s some hope that I could work with them on the outside? And lastly, just as an example, if we have grief for a loss and it’s very, very hard to tolerate or not to sort of live in it, like it’s quicksand to remind ourselves, I want to care for myself as possible. I want to heal as much as possible. And in the case of deep grief, that might mean, of course you’re grieving. And I love you while you’re grieving. It may not be able to take away the grief at all. It may not be appropriate for the grief to go away, perhaps in the most severe circumstance for years, or it may be a less severe grief where just by finding your intention to heal, you’re actually able to feel some greater degree of tolerance or empathy, or maybe even tenderness. And you’re just having this inner conversation. That’s quite profound.
Shelley Pearce: (30:05)
Robert, I have a question for you, uh, as it relates to those of us who have been conditioned to get over it and go to whatever is going to be the best fix it solution to go to, you know, feel good, even though you don’t, um, to take care of business, even though you might be in grief, anxiety, fear, whatever. Um, what, what do you suggest is perhaps a time period that you might stay in the experience of the grief, for the fear or the anxiety or whatever, whatever the suffering is before you go to the intention to heal?
Robert Strock: (30:48)
Yeah. Well, first of all the slow first step is which is easily missed for somebody that wants to get over it. Congratulations. You’re actually aware of it. Can you give yourself two seconds? Can you give yourself …
Shelley Pearce: (31:09)
Two seconds? That’s all.
Robert Strock: (31:11)
Right. Can you, can you give yourself six seconds? Can you give yourself 10 seconds and recognize that there is a paradox here? If you stay longer with any difficult feeling when you’re used to getting over it, it’s going to allow the possibility of a depth response to care for yourself because the fixing it is going to be relatively superficial because you bounced out of the emotional human experience that we all have. We don’t all experience as you’re saying for the optimal amount of time, which in every situation is different and for every individual is different. But if you know the fact that, you know, you have a tendency to move out of it too quickly, it’s helpful to see it as, this is a part of love. It’s a part of self-love that I didn’t get likely when I was young. To stay a little longer and really, it might be two minutes, where, what are you experiencing, grief, fear, impatience, intolerance and you’re saying, this is my feeling. This is neither not either useless or not caused by the other. It’s my experience. Congratulations for being able to take the time to be with it. And now how can I bring the intention to heal when I’m ready for somebody that has a severe end of that? It may be helpful just to focus first on giving yourself that two minutes or five minutes, more than two seconds, uh, to be able to just stay aware of the feeling so that you can build the pregnancy, to have the fullness of the human experience, and then have the intention to heal. In Christian Science they have a wonderful expression that that is when empathy and the heart meet each other, that’s, that’s really meeting the divine.
Robert Strock: (33:38)
Now I’m, I’m bastardizing the quote a little bit, but that’s the meaning of the quote. And it’s a realization that to just try to be divine is suppressing the human and to just try to be human is suppressing the divine and we all need both. So the fourth level of awareness is really recognizing that the alchemy and the wisdom of combining these two for the rest of our lives, this hopefully is not a short-term insight because it requires a repetition every time we’re in a human state. And for some, we’re going to need to stay more with the human state, for some we’re going to actually have to wrestle ourselves out of the human state to have an intention to heal, because there are, as at least as many people who, and many of whom are in therapy, who stay in the same feeling for years and years and years, and they’re never guiding themselves or being guided to cultivate this intention to heal.
Robert Strock: (34:55)
So I hope this clarity of this fourth level of awareness is seen as the pivotal key. And as we go through the rest of the podcast, you’re going to see this is the foundation. It’s always critical to be aware of our challenging feelings and to see that they’re ours. That’s a big deal, cause we usually think our challenging feelings are caused by somebody else. Or, if they’re just internal, challenging feelings, were stupid to feel them, or we should be getting over them. The reality from this premise that allows us and encourages us to be where we are when we’re human, because in fact we’re all human, and to move toward this intention to care and heal is a golden life where no matter where we are, we can improve our quality of life. And I profoundly wish this for all of us and not trivialize the importance and always apply it to yourself, not only in your head, but especially in your emotions where most matters. And I deeply thank you for joining us in this. Let’s say conclusory episode of the fourth level of awareness, which is the key. It is the awareness that heals that involves both the best of our mind and the best of our healing capacity. Thank you very much.
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