In this episode of Awareness that Heals, Robert continues to explore the importance of recognizing, accepting and communicating our challenging feelings.
It takes significant motivation on our part to recognize that our feelings are important as a starting point. It’s how we get to be honest with ourselves without running away from what’s difficult. Facing your feelings head-on can be challenging, but continue by asking heartfelt questions especially when things are difficult, and then responding to the caring suggestions we receive.
Robert is also joined by Dave and Mark, both of whom share similar experiences about dealing with challenging situations and conflicting emotions. For example, Mark shares how his faith has been clouded with doubt, which makes him feel conflicted about the strength of his faith.
But Robert shares a novel way of approaching this conflicting feeling. The key is to honor both your faith and your doubt. Being able to doubt your faith takes strength and understanding; it requires your faith in supporting your doubt which is something that almost all of us haven’t been taught to do.
When it comes to using your feelings and emotions to expand your quality of life, you need to expand questioning yourself. “What are my needs?” We also need to respond to the guidance we receive. There is no state, whether it is extraordinary suffering that’s overwhelming and traumatic, or whether it’s circumstantial, that isn’t dignified and worthy of our caring attention. Our responsiveness to guide ourselves toward what is our best potential toward well-being and healing is what will pave the way forward to healing in our lives.
Resources related to this episode
Robert Strock Website
Robert’s Book, Awareness that Heals
Free Downloadable Introspective Guides
Note: Below, you’ll find timecodes for specific sections of the podcast. To get the most value out of the podcast, I encourage you to listen to the complete episode. However, there are times when you want to skip ahead or repeat a particular section. By clicking on the timecode, you’ll be able to jump to that specific section of the podcast. Please excuse any typos or grammatical errors. For an exact quote or comment, please contact us.
Awareness That Heals, Episode 52
Robert Strock: (00:07)
To develop a friendly mind, when we’re in hell, is even more impressive. We deserve even more credit than when we are in a relatively less form of suffering.
The Awareness That Heals podcast helps its listeners learn to develop the capacity, to have a more healing response to emotions and situations rather than becoming stuck. Your host, Robert Strock has practiced psychotherapy for more than 45 years. He wrote the book, “Awareness That Heals: Bringing Heart and Wisdom to Life’s Challenges,” to help develop self-caring and the capacity to respond in an effective way to life’s challenges. Especially at times when we are most prone to be critical or to withdraw together, we will explore how to become aware of our challenging feelings and at the same time find alternative ways to live a more fulfilling and inspiring life.
Robert Strock: (01:02)
I’d like to welcome you again, to Awareness That Heals and let you know that this is a place that really touches my heart. I hope it touches yours and we’re focusing on bringing a heart and wisdom to our life’s challenges. We start again and again, with being aware of what is most difficult for us. And some of you might just hear this and kind of glaze through that and not really, really, really take this personally and take this in. But the reason why we’re saying it in this way is because it’s so counter instinctual, it’s so counter conditioning. And even as I’m speaking right now, take a look at whether you’re even glimpsing what is difficult for you. And when you hear this, because you’ll be hearing this in future episodes as well, really take the opportunity to drop in and say hello to the part of yourself that is probably suffering from malnutrition and recognize that you want to give it a nutritional awareness.
Robert Strock: (02:21)
And these difficulties that we’re talking about, these challenges we’re talking about are universal for all of us, whether we recognize them or not. It’s absolutely a part of being human and valuing them. Seeing them as being seeds of potential for ourselves is so crucial. And what makes it desirable. Isn’t just suffering. It’s then inquiring. How can we care for ourselves at these times? So, it’s a partnership we look at what’s difficult and we look at how we can best move in the direction to care for ourselves. And of course, as we become adept at this, we have the potential to do this for those around us as well. And this sets up the ideal conditions for us to be fulfilled in our lives and to support those we love and contribute to the world by finding and living closer to our best selves. And I’d like to start again with introducing Dave and as I did in the last episode, I’m not even going to tell you our relationship because I’m assuming you’ve probably been around with us. And if you haven’t, hopefully it will be an incentive. You’ll go back just to find out who is this guy, Dave,
Thank you. Well, I’ll say we’ve been friends for 50 years and when I have anybody guessing out there and these episodes of moving from feelings to needs, um, for me are, uh, just an important place along the road of Awareness That Heals, uh, because it really is getting right to the place in our moment-to-moment lives where it matters, where we can make a difference, where we can really, uh, take care of our own suffering in a way that, that at least allows us to be with it and, and, and creatively find ways and important ways to even move on.
Robert Strock: (04:52)
Exactly. Thanks Dave. So as we ended, the last episode, I realized I wanted to highlight and I do want to highlight right now that this is much more difficult than just circling emotions, challenging emotions and our essential needs or actions or qualities on a chart that the charts will help us identify it, but it requires an actual significant motivation on your part to realize this is important. This is a way where I get to be the real me, all of me, and not cave into, or run away from what is difficult. And again, just take that in because I think it’s so intuitively obvious, but not obvious if we’re not in touch with our intuition, that of course we want to include the part of ourselves that is challenged. And of course we want to do our best to take care of it. And so why wouldn’t this be a central part of our lives?
Robert Strock: (06:16)
Why wouldn’t we want to raise our children with recognizing that we are interested in what’s difficult in them or for those of us that are as old as we are, our grandchildren? Why wouldn’t we want to be interested in what is hurting? And gee, I wonder how you can help yourself. And of course the language changes when you’re dealing with a seven-year-old or a five-year-old or you’re dealing with an adult, but the theme is not only universal it’s ageless, starts very, very young from the time children can speak to very, very old when we’re dying, all the way through there are going to be challenges and all the way through there can be needs that are so subtle that we need to refer back to a source. As in the Introspective Guides on awarenessthatheals.org that are free, to be able to really continually identify them.
Robert Strock: (07:22)
And I caution you that you may look at these lists and it may work for you three times, and then you think you got it. And then six months later, you’re dealing with another challenge and you’re confused and you forget that, you know what, I don’t have to stay confused, I can identify what the needs are, what the challenging feelings are. And then in this case, it would be having a dignifying response to confusion, and you’d be starting where you are. And then you’d be asking questions like, well, what am I confused about? And you drill further and further and further.
Mark Spiro: (08:05)
If I, if I could jump in here, your engineer, Mark. Um, if that’s okay. When I’m, when I’m listening to this, just now, I think, I think about actually my childhood, and I grew up with a pretty large family. We were all Christians and we were all born again. And we all prayed to Jesus at least twice a week and believe that if we did right, we get right and that our prayers would be answered. And, um, you know, you’d find the right one to marry and you, and God would bless you with kids. And then you’d find, uh, by walking that life of faith that, that, you know, as, as the Bible says, “seek ye first, the kingdom of God and all of these things will be added unto you,” and that you’d have an abundant life and these of things. Well, I’m 64 and I’ve had a lot of hard stuff happen to me.
Mark Spiro: (09:02)
And I have a lot of shitty things in my future I got to deal with. I have a surgery coming up that could be really not good. Um, you know, and I, I feel like I’m doing right in life. I have a homeless, homeless initiative where we’re going to provide an income to the homeless. Um, and that just sounds really great, but it feels like it’s falling apart. It feels like my faith is falling apart. It feels like, you know what, all those years of prayer and all that somehow good intention that I, that I thought I was living, I’m starting to doubt it. And it makes me disappointed and it makes me feel hurt. And it makes me feel like it’s my fault because I should never be doubting my faith, but I do. And, and I also, um, I’m really disappointed in the world and that, that kind of thrives into it in terms of the division in the world in a way that, uh, people seem to be more and more isolated and more and more angry. And so I’m in a, in a tough spot. And I liked you to address that because I’m so cynical. I don’t want to feel like you’re telling me to just have a better attitude. I’d like some help with that.
Robert Strock: (10:17)
Well, first of all Mark, you always have the invitation to join. And this is a classic reason why you have the invitation because you’re relating to probably half the world and is very touching to me, the depth of where you’re speaking from and the transparency on a level of personal suffering, a level of difficulty with how do I stay with my faith? How do, how do I really relate to the world that appears to be in such division that it seems like it’s falling apart. And what I would first say is that with your faith, I believe it’s a critical piece and the emphasis is piece of honoring both your faith and your doubt. So, for you to doubt your faith, for me, it’s worthy of doubting it being the end all and be all. At the same time, it’s sacred at the same time, your prayers, and you really opening yourself to a source, a religion, a God that is beyond our conception is very valuable.
Robert Strock: (11:50)
So, great support for you both to go with your faith, to go with your prayer and to respect your doubt, which is really saying, and I need more, I need to do more of the work myself and not just put all the power into God and I need to see what way can I be resourceful as well? And so it’s a yes and yes, to my faith, yes, to my belief, and yes, to being resourceful, to identifying the suffering and seeing how I can do what I can do, to, in a certain way, supplement God’s will to find the inner God, the inner guide, to be able to move myself in a direction that makes sense. And when you have the feelings, or even if the feelings are chronic about the world, not to forget that the reason why you’re having the feelings of despair is because you are so innocent in wanting the world to really work out, wanting those that are suffering that you’re working with that are homeless, that your goodwill, even when you’re suffering, is still reaching out to that community that so desperately needs help.
Robert Strock: (13:20)
And I know you well enough to know that you’re not in fat city yourself economically, and yet you’re still reaching out. And so, somehow to be able to have several messages at once, one is having doubt about my faith doesn’t mean that my faith isn’t real, having doubt about God doesn’t mean God isn’t real in your life. What it means is there’s an and. And so congratulations. I still can be asking and praying for the best possible outcome in whatever way you choose to say, to ask that. And you say, okay, I’m feeling fear, or I’m feeling anxious, or I’m feeling depressed, or I’m feeling hopeless, or I’m feeling cynical. And how can I [unintelligible] feelings,, and what way can I move to move toward trust toward hope, toward acceptance, toward courage, towards, toward my, toward my faith. And yet still respect that a part of you is cynical.
Robert Strock: (14:39)
And I think cynicism is a exaggerated feeling of doubt. And maybe as you give that cynicism more outward attention, you will see that it really is just doubt. And knowing you as I do. I know you’re not a cynic. You know, that that would be a fleeting awareness of feeling cynicism because you’re so discouraged and maybe keep it inside for too long, but you’re such a good soul that accepting your doubt and seeing that your doubt is smart, that how can we not doubt the well-being of the world? How can we not visit moments of cynicism? Because we see so many people that are self-centered and that are not really aiming for helping the homeless like you are, or people that have wealth, aren’t contributing their dimes and you can’t get 10 cents a bottle or can for your homeless people instead of 5, because, because money is being held onto by the wealthy.
Robert Strock: (15:46)
So, seeing the cynicism as doubt, seeing the doubt as a longing for faith, seeing your, your doubt of your faith as a longing for it to be a, be all, end all, and your life experiences teaching you that my faith is great, but it’s not enough, I need to also do my part. And so, for everyone that’s listening to respect their doubt of their faith, but not throwing out the baby with the bath water. It’s like, you know, the, the faith is so central and yet it’s not enough. It’s not enough because we’re going to have obstacles. We’re going to have difficult feelings. And if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s not going to cover everything. So, whatever is not healed, we need to have the humility, the honesty, integrity to say, good for me, good for me, not bad on me, that I, that I don’t have enough faith to have it all covered, but good on me that I have a life of faith.
Robert Strock: (16:51)
Good, good on me that it might be 75% or 60% or 80% of me has faith. But then the rest of that, I am going to need to do my inner work. And that speaks to really everyone, not only in that situation, but everyone that has doubt about any approach, including the approach I’m expressing. If you have another 35% and you want, you want to go that way, absolutely follow your own wisdom as to where it guides you to where you can be most resourceful to take care of your suffering in the best way possible. And to not give up on yourself and to be really honoring of what the challenge is, and then really be riveted to how can I move toward healing? And that may be meditation. That may be prayer. That may be right action. That may be dedicating yourself to the homeless that may be, uh, listening to music that will put you in a mood that will allow you to be having a greater sense of well-being or an art form, or going to nature.
Robert Strock: (18:07)
There are so many ways to move toward healing and whatever works for you is golden. The key thing is not to suppress the challenges and not to just stay with the challenges, but to really ask that question. And sometimes, you know, I asked my teacher, one time when I was really immersed in, uh, uh, deeply, deeply hopeless state for years following the chemical reaction to my transplant. And his response was sometimes it’s good to go cook some eggs. And, and it was like, sometimes it’s good to distract yourself and just go into the entertainment or, or go into some kind of mundane, uh, action that’s going to take your mind off it. And then you ask the deeper questions. So, there are so many ways that we can move toward our needs. And so from my vantage point and my understanding of God, God blesses you for even those doubts and especially blesses you when you respond in kind with what I believe in God, the God would wish for all of us that in addition to having faith, we need to turn that faith inward and we need to have enough faith to have courage to face what’s difficult, and then to keep having the perseverance to go for what we need and to try to be with it as specifically and dedicatedly with, with our faith in that direction as well.
Mark Spiro: (19:42)
Thanks Robert, that’s a bullseye. Thank you.
Robert Strock: (19:45)
And the timing turned out to be absolutely perfect because really the next place I wanted to go into was that all too often our spiritual approaches don’t value the awareness of our challenges as much as being liberated and understanding, Hey, we need to also go in the direction that we just talked about and whatever isn’t working, whatever our best approach is that isn’t working, not to give up on ourselves and to keep looking. What else is the direction that I can go now in my life experience, there is prayer, there is meditation, and there is awareness that heals and involves being honest and courageous enough to face our suffering and to look for the needs that are under, underneath there that are often hiding. So, it’s so important that in addition, we all need to be included as worthy people, no matter whether we have faith or we don’t have faith.
Robert Strock: (21:05)
And that there, that there are parts of life that are going to come into us that are deeply challenging. And again, as I’m speaking, please don’t listen dominantly to my words. I’m hoping that as you’re listening to this podcast, it’s like a Woody Allen movie, you know, where at one level you’re listening to me and another level is a bubble above your head that’s saying, well, what are my needs? What are my feelings? What are my challenges? And that you stay with a Woody Allen image the whole time you’re listening to me. You’re only half listening to me and I’m hoping the other half truly is dedicated to your own personal life and not going into abstraction or fantasy. When we see more clearly that we all are human and we all have these same universal needs to be safe to be at peace, it, it becomes clear that of course, living in, especially this world, I would say this world where global warming has never existed before, where the division of wealth and poverty has never been so extreme where the corruption is more obvious than it’s ever been.
Robert Strock: (22:23)
We have the media, that’s putting a spotlight. We have iPhones that are showing us abuses that we never have seen so blatantly, and we can just be reactive and just go, oh, the world is so screwed up, but that’s okay for an opening line. Then hopefully we follow it with how can I do my part? And then maybe it comes, well, my part doesn’t matter. It’s so small. It’s not going to make any difference. The world is still screwed. The world is still going to go down well, from my vantage point, we all need to recognize that our contribution is everything we can do. And that really the catalytic effect of any one of us really going for these universal needs is going to have a chain reaction. And that even if we’re only starting off with 20% of us, or 15% of us that really are caring for the world, like you are Mark with, with caring for the homeless, that we need to keep finding each other. As we find ourselves, we need to befriend people who have hearts that are looking for healing for ourselves and for others. And this is a time where finding each other is as important as finding ourselves.
I just like to, uh, first say, Mark, thank you for sharing. Uh, and really that was a very vulnerable and, um, for me, poignant expression of, of a lot of areas of loss and it deeply touched me. One of the things you said, um, and of course I was raised Jewish, so it was different, but the, the feeling of faith providing early in life guarantees of certain outcomes was something I chased in a different way later in my life. And as, as life does, uh, I was sorely not only disappointed, but crushed in the expectations and in the, what I believe were the guarantees of that direction. I was headed, I mean, crushed to a point where it was, uh, it, it created a, uh, post-traumatic stress that has lasted, um, years. And Robert, what you just said for me, I just want to emphasize how important it is, which is really, and I think Mark, you are doing this as it’s, it’s asking, here I am, here’s my experience, whether it’s the world, whether it’s me personally, whether it’s my health, what can I do? What, what is in whether you use those lists that you’ve learned, or whether, what it, whatever it may be, but how do I guide myself moment-to-moment and not just, just get absorbed in and drown in the feeling, but what can I do practically? What can, what, what is the best I can do right now? And I’ve made it my mission to do that as much as I can. And I am by no means perfect. I am by no means close. Uh, but that’s, but that’s what I aspire to.
Robert Strock: (25:56)
Well, thanks, Dave. And also, I know how parallel your experience is, and yet unique and different from Marks of the depth of suffering that you went through when, as you said, you were crushed. And I think the post-traumatic stress we both know is still here. Now, you said it it’s gone on for years, and it probably, you will die with it. And, and to, to go deeply into anything that is a potential promise of liberation, spiritual health, complete well-being, maybe in itself is kind of a warning for all of us. That, that kind of depth of guarantee is kind of doomed to be a partial promise and maybe not a promise at all. But, but I think in Mark’s case, it certainly was a promise to a large extent. And I think Dave and yours, it was to, uh, but Dave, you face, you faced a, uh, uh, hell that’s lasted for decades and have faced this and have really recreated a life that has had courage has had a generosity, has had a caring for others.
Robert Strock: (27:35)
And as you’ve talked about in so many recent episodes, uh, last but not least, uh, caring for yourself, um, where you’ve really, really wanted to, uh, treat yourself as you treated others. And you’re, you’re kind of the reverse of the golden rule. You know, you’ve gone out to treat others as you’d like to be treated, and now you’re, now you’re going the whole way. And I think it’s so important to realize that we just have two people and really three people that have all suffered a loss, and we’re doing our best each in our unique way to really dig in deeply, to not just live a life where, as you said, Dave, moment-to-moment where we, we forget for a year, it’s like every moment counts. And at this moment, isn’t a good moment. The possibility of being able to remember, how can I best take care of myself?
Robert Strock: (28:40)
What are my needs? What is this suffering? You know, the quality of life is utterly dependent on being exactly where we are and then being resourceful, a bypassing of where we are or the absorption and where we are. It is the way to really suffer the most. Our emotions can be so riveting, so powerful, so compelling. So, pretending to be God, to be the all, to be the fate of our life, to be longstanding, we make ourselves believe up. This is going to be it for now. Our life is over because of fear is just the beginning of the end, whether it’s anxiety is the beginning, middle and the end, or this depression is the same. And we need to be supported to really, a) remember that we can go for our universal needs that are so healthy and wholesome. And at the very least, even if we’re in our very worst suffering, chronic pain, trauma, that we can have a mind that we can develop.
Robert Strock: (30:06)
And for those that haven’t gone back there and are in that kind of pain, I would highly encourage going back to friendly mind, which is starting with the seventh episode, where at the very least we can develop a mind that can be on our side. And that can be what I would call an empathic mind. Where the mind itself is telling us, I know how hard this is. This would be difficult for anyone. I’m sorry, you have to go through this. And we have our ways of saying that to ourselves, to guide ourselves. And at the very least we can find that resource. And as I’ve said, many times, to develop a friendly mind when we’re in hell is even more impressive. We deserve even more credit than we, when we are in a relatively less form of suffering. And we’re resourceful because it’s that hard when we’re in that kind of chronicity.
Robert Strock: (31:05)
So, it’s really important to recognize there is no states, whether it be extraordinary suffering, that’s overwhelming and traumatic, or whether it’s circumstantial that isn’t dignified and worthy of our attention and our responsiveness to guide ourselves toward what is the best potential toward well-being and healing. So my wish at the end of this episode is that you see the dignity in the suffering so much that it really ratchets up your need and desire to acquaint yourself more deeply with a suffering, and to be trusting enough and resourceful enough to see the many universal needs that can move you towards at least a healthier mind, if not a healthier state of well-being. So, as I said, in the last episode, I thank you for my attention, but I’m adding also your retention, because my wishes that we all really retain this state of appreciating our suffering and appreciating our resourcefulness to go for well-being, not only for ourselves, but for the world as well.
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