One of the main aspects of Inquiry, or the act of asking beneficial questions to take care of yourself, is to do it without judgment. Asking precise guiding questions is how you can take care of yourself, despite your feelings. In this episode of Awareness that Heals, Robert Strock takes us through a few moments of his life. He shares how his own Inquiry and the subsequent guidance he continues to develop has helped him empathize more strongly with people around him, including his podcast co-host and partner at the Global Bridge Foundation, Dave, through some recent emotional events.
Awareness of challenging personal emotions is the first step to learning how to deal with them. It is important to note that being kind and empathetic to yourself is central to guiding yourself with a difficult feeling no matter where you’re starting from. It is essential to hear and support yourself through greater tolerance and acceptance. But the idea is to be kinder toward yourself even in difficult moments when you have no clarity or understanding.
Once you develop the intrinsic motivation to understand your feelings and introspect to take care of yourself better, you will be more in tune with your mind and emotions. Realizing what you’re feeling and putting a name to your emotions is one of the first steps to developing wisdom guidance. Wisdom guidance and intrinsic motivation to take care of yourself and those around you are what will help you expand your quality of life, allowing you to live with greater fulfillment and naturally support those around you.
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Awareness That Heals, Episode 42.
Robert Strock: (00:05)
I’m appealing to your authority. And I’m asking you, would you like to remind yourself during the day to ask yourself questions of how you can best take care of yourself, how you can best talk to yourself?
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: (00:59)
Welcome again to Awareness That Heals where we’re doing our best to bring heart and wisdom to our life’s challenges, really happy to have you and really ask you as you’re listening to everything, to please apply it to yourself and your own life and not just hear the words. So, we’re going to continue to delve much more deeply into wisdom-guidance, and really recognize that this is something that is going against the grain of what we were taught. It’s like we were raised in a belief, this is life, these are the goals that matter. And what we’re talking about is you being the guide, you being the one that asks yourself the questions so that you can differentiate, differentiate yourself from your conditioning. And yeah, there might be elements and there will be elements of your conditioning where you’ll say, oh yeah, that’s part of me.
Robert Strock: (02:09)
That’s exactly what I love. But my experience is that for most people, if they really go inside, at least half of what they come to is, oh, no, this is important to me. This is what will touch me. This is what will allow me to experience love. This is what will allow me to experience connection. This is what will allow me to be more peaceful. And the more we ask questions, the more relaxed and comfortable we are with expressing our needs and also tuning into the needs of those around us and even the world. So, as we begin, I’d like to introduce Dave, my dearest closest friend for forever, and also my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation.
Thank you. And, and again, uh, appreciate all of these conversations, all of these months of, uh, the Awareness That Heals series and, uh, really, really want to emphasize that this is a product of how I’ve seen you live your life. It’s not just, uh, intellectual for sure. That’s for sure.
Robert Strock: (03:29)
Thank you. Thank you very much. So, one of the things I’ve noticed through the years, and it really started when I was 18 or 19, which is what 54 years ago, that I would talk to a potential girlfriend and the feedback I would get would be something like, well, I don’t want therapy. Oh, what do you think you are a therapist? And I, I said, well, you know, I, I experience it as a preexisting condition and this is just natural to me. If I’m with a friend, I asked them how they are and ask them how they feel. I asked them, you know, do they need any help? And I like it when they do the same for me. And I don’t mean to offend you. I mean, are you telling me you don’t want me to ask those questions? You know, what kind of questions do you want me to ask?
Robert Strock: (04:31)
And it highlights what I was saying in the introduction that this is a whole different way of living where you’re really asking yourself on an ongoing basis, what’s your truth? What matters to you? What’s, what’s the priority today? What would be wise for me to say or not say do or not? Do you know? It makes me think of, uh, two stories with the same person. You know, when I was 17, my first love my first really full-fledged love. I looked at her and I said, you know, I don’t see any reason why we can’t share everything essential that’s going on inside ourselves with a good vibe toward each other, for the rest of our lives. And she looked at me like, oh my God, you’re a Martian. You know, who the hell are you? You’re, you’re a crazy motherfucker, I mean, like, she looked at me like I was really nuts and I remember really being disoriented.
Robert Strock: (05:35)
And I said something like, oh, it’s not true for you or something in that vein. And she, she just withdrew, she, it was very clear she was not going to be my sustain lover, even though I felt a very strong chemical attraction. Then about 50 years later, you know, in this last year I, through an incredible set of coincidence, I found her phone number through, through a friend and I said, you know, you don’t, you probably didn’t realize it, but you are my first love. And I asked you, you know, didn’t you think we could share everything essential. And, and then you looked at me like I was crazy. And her response was, I still do. And I just laughed. I thought it was just so normal. I mean, and, and so, I mean, somehow I felt like, well, if we’d had that conversation 50 years ago, certainly she must’ve said, well, I feel a little bit differently about it now.
Robert Strock: (06:36)
Or I’ve had some experiences where I could see that it might’ve been beneficial, but no, no, I, I was still the weirdo. So, I’m not claiming in this regard that this is statistically normal, but I am claiming that the chances of having a quality of life, which from my vantage point is what life is all about. You know, where at first it’s about our own quality of life. And if we really get that together where we’re kind of, let’s say grateful or inspired or pleased or happy to get up in the morning, once we get awake. And if we, if we get there that that’s really going to be a sign of turning in, in a certain way to, to be living a life in this way. Now, the question I would ask you is how much does this make sense to you right now, as we’re talking about it, just ask yourself, does this seem a little weird?
Robert Strock: (07:48)
Do I seem like a fanatic, now can you hear that? What I’m really saying is you get to decide whether you want to do this 100th of a time, twice a year, you know, twice an hour, you’re, you’re the master of your own life, but I’m appealing to that master, I’m appealing to your authority. And I’m asking you, would you like to remind yourself during the day to ask yourself questions of how you can best take care of yourself, how you can best talk to yourself? What words would be soothing, what actions would be soothing? Does that make sense to you? Or are you a little embarrassed because you, you keep forgetting, you know, that, you know, that’s true. But you keep forgetting or do you want to slam your, your telephone or shut the computer off because you want to shut me off? You know, how is it affecting you?
I just want to reflect again on, uh, something personal, but it, but it really relates to your story, how you are, uh, clearly nobody had changed in that description of the relationship from 50 years ago, she was the same person, she was then roughly, and, and, uh, you evolved and even stronger in the direction that you were then as well. Which, what, it’s remarkable to me, that you, you had an experience that so much reflects who you are today when you were age 18 and, uh, for better or for worse. I’ve seen those threads in my own life. And, uh, in, in our last episode, I reflected on, uh, a very painful realization that I was empty inside because of a class I just took by accident in my senior year of college. And it eventually led me to apply to graduate school in psychology.
And I remember writing a paper kind of along these lines. And I think this is really my question ultimately to you, uh, is it was something like therapy is a way of life where it really isn’t therapy. And I think when, when we met that’s, that’s kinda the connectivity we had, but it is so rare, uh, to people that are listening. Um, I’m sure many of them say, well, I, I do some of this in therapy or in a, in a very, very narrow part of my life, but not in a general way. Can you speak to that?
Robert Strock: (10:23)
Yeah. I mean, I think that’s a very accurate reflection of normal reality. And I think that the, the, the real key is, does the individual have a place of awareness of something missing, which is really the catalyst for wanting to turn in a different direction. You know, that old saying is that all there is, you know, it it’s like if you have that feeling and you can catch it and frequently it probably will be with fleeting awareness, is that all there is. The key is to be able to get a glimpse that, oh, wait a minute that isn’t all there is because I haven’t even asked what there is for me. I haven’t really spent time in the bottom of, by awareness, asking myself what matters to me, what could turn me on, what would make me excited to wake up in the morning? What would allow me to feel closer to this person and this person, what would allow me to be nicer to myself?
Robert Strock: (11:43)
I haven’t asked these questions. And so that sense of normalcy will remain there. If a person stays busy their whole life with their career, or with a career and vacations, or the career success, vacations and sex or friendships or whatever, and that’s fine, you know, everyone has a right to do that. But the real question is, have you asked yourself, am I living the life that could be the most fulfilling life to me in my view. And in the old days, I used to do a guided meditation where you look at all the influences of your life, influencers of your life, people that have really set the motivations to succeed. Maybe you had a father that was very successful. Maybe you had a father that was very unsuccessful and, or maybe you had a mother that was very, uh, very focused on the way you dressed, or maybe, maybe you had, uh, a brother that was very competitive in sports or whatever it was.
Robert Strock: (12:56)
You were, you were raised in a certain way where it just naturally or more accurately, normally triggered you to be motivated in that direction. If you don’t have holes inside you or flashes of awareness, that God, I don’t feel that satisfied. I certainly don’t feel inspired. I feel okay. But then the question might be, is okay itself, a flash of, I’d like to feel better than, okay. Or for some people that are chemically altered that the chemistry isn’t right, or they’ve had trauma, or they have anxiety, or they have inherited conditions. Maybe the answer isn’t, I want to feel more inspired or I want to feel more joy or love. Maybe the answer is gee, I can see that I have some limitations that I may not be able to get over. Maybe you’ve tried with chemistries to see if you can balance things out and maybe that hasn’t worked, but maybe I can still be wise.
Robert Strock: (14:03)
Maybe I can still guide myself and learn how to communicate about my difficult feelings and still go for my life in a different way. So, the center of this is not feeling the center of this is guiding ourselves to live the way we want to live no matter what we feel. So, this can be misconstrued too easily as, oh, I want to be inspired. I want to be grateful. I want to be loving. I want to be compassionate. And yes, if you don’t have any hormonal or chemistry or historic, multi-generational, passed on, uh, emotional states and conditions, dispositions, sure. You go for that. But if you really have these, which I certainly do now because of my medications for my kidney transplant, that alters me so many times, it’s not an energetic thing. Sometimes it’s a guidance that guides me in spite of my feelings and that wisdom will invariably lead me.
Robert Strock: (15:14)
How can I be kinder at least in thought to my very difficult feelings. So, I don’t want anyone listening to hear this as gee we could, or we should be joyful and inspirational and compassionate all the time. That’s a complete dream that’s another dream, that’s a, a grandiose spiritual dream. The issue we’re trying to talk about is how can I best take care of myself? And that includes my very difficult emotions. That includes the situations in life, which all of us are exposed to right now with COVID with, with, with terrorism, with global warming, how can I deal with my very difficult feelings in a way that is at least thinking about them in a way that doesn’t lead me into a bottomless pit? How can I stay afloat and still guide myself, even though maybe I feel like, how can I take care of myself?
Robert Strock: (16:10)
When I feel like shit it’s a big part of wisdom-guidance, very important not to get identified with just the feelings. It’s more of a dialogue of wisdom and where you are. So, I’ll lead with an example of that, of how do you dialogue with wisdom-guidance when you have a human emotion that you’re dealing with. So, let’s just say you’re facing fear and let’s, let’s use the example of you’re given an opportunity to do public speaking. And so you’re facing fear with a public speaking, and you’re asking yourself, how can I really deal with this fear? Because I feel like I’m shaking and it’s going to obvious to everyone that I’m anxious and God, I’m not sure if I should even be doing this. So, what you’d be asking yourself is what would I say to myself to help me deal with the fear? And it might be something like I’m gathering the courage not to be dominated by you.
Robert Strock: (17:18)
It’s okay that you’re there, it’s all right that you’re afraid. As a matter of fact, I appreciate you’re afraid because that means you really have a deep desire to make the best of it. You can, and you’re just afraid you might not potentiate. So, fear I understand you, it’s okay that you’re there and I want you to hear that I’m going to care for you no matter how afraid you get. And I also want to find my wisdom to stay focused on the present as much as I can be to really present the, the ideas, the spirit, as much as I can of why I’m up here to public speak. And so, wisdom-guidance is always caring for our inner states, while it’s attempting to live the life possible. That’s most optimal in whatever situation we’re facing and every situation’s absolutely not the same. And you would continue by saying to the fear, yes, you’re an important part of me, but you are not me. And then you, I’d say, can you hear me fear? Can you hear me? And the answer is probably going to be no, I can’t. I’m still afraid. I, you, you, you can’t touch me. You can’t change me. And then you might say, it’s okay. It’s okay that you can’t really absorb me and that you can’t be modified at all. I will live with you and I’m still going for my life. I’m still going for my speech.
Thank you for that. Uh, I want to reflect on a current situation that’s in and out of my life. And, um, and also you as, as my closest friend, um, and I’ve, I may have shared some of this, um, in the other podcast, but we family-wise had been through something in the last few weeks where, uh, my mother-in-law, who was really the matriarch of the family passed away a couple of weeks ago, almost exactly a couple of weeks ago. And just by chance, uh, as a medical advocate and as, as the COVID rules were, I ended up being there for about 20 hours, uh, and until her last breath. And of course my relationship was as a son-in-law. It was different from her children, but I found myself over the, especially the following week, week and a half going in and out of fear, going in and out of, uh, envisioning myself in her place and the people I love in her place.
And as beautifully as she did let go, and she did do it beautifully. It was really, really frightening. And that was being carried around by me. And I remember one morning calling you, uh, which is most days, and as most days go, you asked me how you doing? I said, I’m feeling really gross. I’m feeling afraid. Uh, I’m feeling envisioning all those things I just described and more, you know, and, you know, I’m having a physical, what, you know, just, it just resonated in all of the horrific potential outcomes I can imagine for myself. And, uh, at the same time that wasn’t all of me. And at the same time I, as you were describing, um, my fear as much as I spoke to it was saying now, um, I, I’m not letting go of my grip on you. And I remember you, and this is, this is where I want to share something about you.
Um, you said, I go through and it hits me so deeply. I go through something like that in my life because of the chemistry of my medications and the things I’m going through, an elements of that happened to me every day. And it just, the, the, the, it touched me in a way, I don’t think I’ve told you, they, the, the empathy and the compassion and the, and knowing you as I know you, how genuine that is and knowing you as I know you, how, uh, incredible I find it, that that can be a transformation virtually on a daily basis. And I just want to say to you, uh, I am grateful and I love you, and I feel you, um, in those ways, um, and maybe this is too personal. I don’t know it can be edited out if it is, but, uh, I just wanted to let you know that I am grateful.
Robert Strock: (22:09)
Yeah, well, that’s, that’s why we love each other, um, is because we share those kinds of moments, which I’m immensely grateful for as well. Uh, and the situation for me just to elaborate, and what you’re talking about is because of the transplant medication being received as speed in my body, I sleep an hour a night naturally. And I did for six months until I found chemistries that gradually allowed me to have a good night’s sleep, which took, only took me about 16 years to really largely conquer. And that was by taking five different types of sleeping medication. So, I wake up every morning and I am exhausted. I feel 110. I feel gloomy. I feel depressive. And I’m having thoughts every morning, like this isn’t gonna work, that’s not gonna work, you you’re, you’re a dreamer. You know, you, you really, you really believe you’re going to pull that off.
Robert Strock: (23:11)
You know, you’re really grandiose, this and that. And then my mind, my, my mind comes back to me and says, you know what, you’re in such an altered state, you don’t know what you’re talking about. And you know, this is going to pass like it does, because you’re going to be taking another medication to help you get balanced during the day. And, and you, you know, this is temporary. And then the feelings aren’t moved at all, they stay there. It doesn’t, it’s not like me saying that to myself. It makes me feel better, but it does stop the thoughts fairly often, but the feelings still lousy, but I feel, or more accurately, I, I know in some way, because I’ve gone through it now for 21 and a half years, and it’s the morning is three reliably very difficult waking up in that haze. And then sometimes in the late afternoon, and sometimes in the late night, I’ll have another version of it.
Robert Strock: (24:09)
So, there’s a, there’s a, there’s an, uh, I could say an ability. There’s a mandatory practice of knowing that in a certain way, you could say I’m temporarily speaking loosely and saying temporarily thinking thoughts that are really imbalanced and are being really pumped out by, by feelings. And it’s the ability to hold two opposite things at the same time. One is feeling, and the other one is somebody could say your head, but I would say your wisdom and your wisdom is relating kindly to the deep feelings and some thoughts that come off it and gradually, and I would still say gradually being able to trust the wisdom enough to where it starts to really limit the ideation of the feelings, of the difficult feelings, not the feelings themselves. So, yeah, I thank you for pointing that out and it’s just part of my life. But when I look at everybody else’s life, everyone that’s out there listening.
Robert Strock: (25:17)
We all have something like this. We may be in a difficult relationship. We may have had a trauma in childhood. We might’ve been molested. We might’ve been raped. We might’ve been, there are so many traumas. We might be just a hypersensitive person to what’s happening in the world. We might be in a terrible job. We might be suffering for the, our next meal that we all have very difficult feelings. And so that’s the opportunity to start to ask questions, how can I care for myself and not belittle ourselves for just starting from wherever we are. So, I would like to end this podcast with asking you, just for a self revealing of how much do you feel like your motivated to start to ask yourself the questions, especially when you have an awareness of a challenging emotion, how much are you on the road to say, you know what?
Robert Strock: (26:22)
I would like to have this be expanding for the rest of my life? Or how much are you on the road to, on the verge of just clicking this off? Or how much are you in the middle? And just to be honest with yourself, and then wherever you are, I’d like you to also ask yourself, does it really make sense to you? Or does it make more sense to you to just follow what you were taught in school, what you were taught by your parents, does this idea of being able to trust yourself as a wide wise guide inside yourself? Does this seem grandiose? Does this seem self-centered like another way of being self-centered and I want to emphasize because of that question, which I think is a legitimate danger that somebody could use it in that way. That wisdom-guidance is never, if it’s used as I’m meaning it, it is never dominantly.
Robert Strock: (27:22)
Self-centered, it’s self-caring, but it’s always harmless to whomever is being affected by us. It’s always intentioned to bring qualities that are in the Introspective Guides that you would do well, if you haven’t gotten them already at awarenessthatheals.org and they’re free downloads that really reveal the 75 qualities and actions that can lead us into the greatest fulfillment that we can muster. And you can add your own words to the 75, but it’s so helpful. And that’s on chart three. If you do download it to see the qualities that will make it obvious. No, this isn’t about grandiosity. This is about each of us taking the time to be interested in the very best life we can live and granting ourselves the authority to really go there. So, my great wish for all of us in this very troubled world is that we take our own time to ask, how can I be my best self?
Robert Strock: (28:43)
How can I be a self that when I die, I will look back and say, I loved how much I inquired and went for a life that was really uniquely mine and how much I didn’t just follow, follow the media, follow the movies, following the fall of the culture, not out of rebelliousness, but out of only adopting what makes sense to you. So, I thank you again for your attentiveness and really have a prayer that as Dave said in the last episodes that these are not just words, these are imprints, and I’ll say it again. They’re imprints into you that really carry an intention and a desire and a longing to live a life that could be most fulfilling for you and for the world that’s so badly needs it again. Thanks so much.
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