How understanding our feelings and needs can help us take care of ourselves – Episode 51

How can understanding our feelings and needs can help us take care of ourselves - Episode 51If someone were to ask you, which is your most challenging emotion, would you be able to name it? Maybe you require some prompting and help from your friends or loved ones. Throughout the Awareness That Heals podcast, Robert makes an empathetic request for listeners to become aware of and recognize their most frequent challenging emotions.

But why is it essential to put a name to your feeling? It’s because recognizing your challenging feelings with literacy helps you move toward healing. It’s the same for recognizing specific qualities, actions, thoughts, and attitudes that help you take the steps toward healing with conscious effort and awareness. 

Along with awareness of what you’re feeling, there also comes a sense of identification. Once you’re aware of and have identified your feelings and emotions, you will be better equipped to deal with the situation or the feeling in the best possible way you can by learning to recognize your needs. If you’re struggling to identify your feelings, here’s a handy chart of 75 of the most common feelings and emotions that will help you put a name to your emotions.  

Most of us will shy away or turn our backs on our challenging and complex emotions. It’s the way we’ve been brought up. But there is immense value in discovering your ability to recognize and name what’s challenging you emotionally. When we have the courage, honesty, and humility to face where we are and how we feel, we let the shame of feeling a certain way take a back seat. This is what allows us to move toward healing more deeply. 

Challenging feelings are mostly the result of thwarted or unsatisfied needs. Sometimes it’s chemical, hormonal, hereditary, trauma, but mostly they are our day to day needs that are blocked or frustrated. 

In this episode, Robert channels his insights from almost half a century of counseling to share with us the profound connection between our feelings and needs. We are asked to develop an almost instinctive (but learned) response to our challenging emotions — a longing and understanding to move toward the needs that will serve healing and well-being. 

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.

Announcer: (00:01)
Awareness That Heals, Episode 51.

Robert Strock: (00:04)
At the beginning, we need to keep reminding ourselves every time we feel something difficult. We want to look for these needs that will best take care of us, and then how to implement them.

Announcer: (00:18)
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)
I wish you a very warm welcome again, to Awareness That Heals where we give it our best to focus on bringing our hearts and our wisdom to life’s challenges. Today, we’re going to talk about really the key practice that through the years I found to be the simplest and easiest way for all of us to move from our suffering toward what will heal us as a practice. That’s helped thousands of people to make a simple to understand link between the most challenging feelings that we have, situations that we have that we face every day and how to move toward healing and well-being. And I want to highlight the fact that it’s simple to understand, but it requires a deep dedication to relate to our challenges in a different way, in a more substantial way, and have a quantum leap toward that. And also, when I mentioned toward healing, getting out of the illusion of total healing and getting into the inspiration and the motivation to move in that direction, it’s such a barrier to think of ourselves as healed or not healed because we’ll probably end up not healed for our whole life.

Robert Strock: (02:36)
But if we can really gather the insight that we want to move in that direction for the rest of our lives, we almost can’t fail. We, it’s almost impossible not to keep making incremental progress. And this is a very grounded, inspired way to live. And it starts as always authentically facing what’s difficult in our lives and naturally leads us to inquire how do I, or how do we best take care of myself or ourselves, and those around us, this is what I really wish was taught in school from the first grade on. But in lieu of that, we’re going to dive in here. Like to start off by introducing Dave. And I’m going to for the first time not tell you who he is, cause I’m going to hope that you’ve listened to prior episodes, and you know who he is. And you’re probably tired of hearing who he is. So Dave, thanks for joining us.

Dave: (03:45)
I’m tired of myself, too. Uh, it’s, it’s great to be here. Um, the subject today of moving from feelings to needs is, uh, it’s, it’s, it’s almost like a, it sounds like a rental, but I think that you’re, as we, as we move into this, you’re going to make it very clear how important, and really when you get down to it, simple, but vital, it is.

Robert Strock: (04:18)
Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. So, when we are challenged emotionally, we can uncover the direct, positive connection between what we feel or the difficult situation we’re facing and what, and how we need to move in directions that are going to support well-being in a certain way. It’s, it’s really like a master key and a lock where the master key is really being aware of our challenging emotions and really being respectful as we see them rather than dissing them or moving them away or just having fleeting awareness. We’re really zeroing in on what it is. It’s difficult for us and we’re not treating it. Like it’s just a little important we’re realizing because we’re going to start to really deepen our capacity. If it’s not already developed to be able to find the needs that can guide us to be grateful, that we’re really aware of our challenges because we know something good is going to follow because we’re committed to really finding what those needs are and what directions we need to move.

Robert Strock: (05:48)
And coming back to that metaphor of a, of a master key, when we really have the awareness stabilized in our sites, and we have the intention to heal when we discover the needs that we need to move toward and how we can do that, it really is like putting the key in a lock, turning it and being able to open our lives. And in most cases open our hearts or at least develop a friendly mind toward ourselves, as it’s really clear by now all of the practices in Awareness That Heals, both the book and the podcast, start with facing our specific challenging feelings and situations and using this awareness as the first step toward healing. Now, you may say that I repeat that over and over again, and guess what you’re right. And I’m repeating it because the world, throughout history. To the best of my knowledge has never really valued that as being part of the key essence of living a fulfilling life, spiritual traditions, religious traditions have all too often bypass this and psychology as all too often, not really gotten to the nitty gritty of spiritual values and needs that we all have to truly heal in a way that’s universal.

Robert Strock: (07:28)
It’s not only going to help ourselves, but it’s going to help the world too. So, we need to congratulate ourselves when we’re aware of these challenges. And I’m going to say that again. We need to congratulate ourselves when we’re aware of these challenges and not go, oh, that’s still there. Oh, I’m still anxious. Oh, I’m still depressed. Yes, we may have that. And it’s never too late to catch ourselves, but we want to catch ourselves, recognize I’m not doing this on purpose. And so, I really want to give the best response I possibly can to being in these situations because all of us, in being human, are going to be there. And it’s especially important when we face something that’s particularly difficult because the natural tendency is to turn away or to be critical toward ourselves. Now this kind of movement toward self-compassion allows us to stay with our emotional self and what challenges us, no matter what it is, whether it were facing the ultimate of our loss of capacity or dying, or whether we’re facing a mini loss with a non-communication or miscommunication with someone close to us, we can always look for a place inside us that wants to move in a healing direction.

Robert Strock: (08:53)
But at first, we need to dedicate this to memory. After a while, maybe a decade, maybe five years for someone that’s really developed maybe a year, it becomes intrinsic, but at the beginning, we need to keep reminding ourselves every time we feel something difficult, we want to look for these needs that will best take care of us, and then how to implement them. As mentioned, in the fifth episode, I call this desire to want to move in that direction an intention to heal. As an example, when we feel afraid, we need to guide ourselves to our intention and ask what qualities, thoughts, or actions would support healing and well-being and help us to move toward courage or safety. I mean, just imagine for a second, when you’re afraid, when you’re anxious and you remember to ask and to realize, I want to move in a direction that could access some courage, we could access a feeling of safety if that’s the particular need.

Robert Strock: (10:12)
And every situation is unique, whether we’d move one way or the other, and to identify these challenging feelings specifically, and to see these essential healing qualities. And as mentioned many times throughout the podcast, please look at the free Introspective Guides on These include a list of 75 challenging emotions and 75 healing qualities and how the two are interconnected. And hopefully by now you have that in front of you. So, It really will not become difficult anymore to identify what you actually feel is challenging and what directions you have, a whole menu of directions to move toward. And then the rest of the podcasts are, how do we move toward, because it’s one thing to identify your feelings and your needs and it’s another thing to be able to actually move in that direction.

Dave: (11:23)
Can you clarify, because it seems to be used interchangeably if there is, or what it is about the two words, qualities and needs, uh, because I notice right now, uh, that we’re in an area called feelings to needs, but qualities are, are so similar to aspire towards.

Robert Strock: (11:47)
It’s a great question. And one that I know you and I both deliberated on, suffered for weeks, trying to figure out how do we communicate that to a mass audience? And because needs is such a common language for the psychological community, it was clear that it had to be needs. And because in the spiritual world or religious world, it would be much more represented as qualities that qualities like passion or love, whereas needs for compassion or love would be the way it would be conveyed in the psychological community. So, we really want to include not only those two worlds, but also a third world, which is people that aren’t into either one of the two. And so, we figured that if we throw two words out there, maybe we can get as many people as possible because this is not designed only for a psychological audience or spiritual audience.

Robert Strock: (13:05)
It’s also designed for just every human being that has universal human needs. We all, in being human, have needs. And I’m talking about not so much the food and shelter needs, that’s really more dealt with in the other podcast, The Missing Conversation. But in this one, we’re really focusing on the inner needs for our well-being that have to do with our heart and guiding ourselves to actions that will fulfill ourselves in the most potentiated way possible. So, as you look at these charts, the first chart is really identifying the challenging feelings. And it has been very helpful to a lot of people to look at those 75 challenging feelings and circle the ones that are most awake and alive for you. You may think dead for you, but alive for you in present time. So, you can say these are the ones I’m suffering with right now.

Robert Strock: (14:13)
And I want to really zoom in. I want it to be like a, like a, you know, like an intensive, uh, microscope or telescope where I’m really zooming in on. And then the next chart, Chart Two, is really the essential needs and qualities. And again, zooming in, oh, you know, when I, when I’m really hurting, I need to find a way to see with myself, how could I move toward soothing? Who could help me? How can I help myself? What thoughts would be helpful? And so, you’ll be given a menu of those two to really be more articulate to yourself and more specific because leaving it in general as feelings and needs is an abstraction. But when you’re talking about what’s really aching inside you and what could really move you in a direction that uniquely in your way, no formula for everyone, everyone’s going to choose a different set of needs or need to focus on that really will touch the spot. And that’s why there are so many needs because we’re all so unique. So hopefully this will allow you not to be left in. I can’t figure out what I’m feeling. I can’t figure out what I’m needing.

Dave: (15:35)
I just want to say how important those charts are, especially at the very beginning. And I know for me, um, as life has gone on, and I think this probably is true for most people, except when you’re facing extraordinary new circumstances, have a, a theme in life that gravitates towards repetition of patterns and repetitions of the kinds of, of challenging feelings and emotions. Uh, that almost always, but not always, but have similar anecdotes or I can’t talk today, have similar antidotes on, on the qualities and on the needs side. Um, but there’s exceptions and there’s always exceptions, but the charts really bring me back to, uh, triggering a, a sense of identification. That’s so important where I can find a place I can feel connected to, and I can then say, okay, where can I move from having identified, how I feel in the first place?

Robert Strock: (16:47)
Your word identification is such a keyword. If any of us really identify with this, and it really becomes a part of our daily life, that’s when it really can maximize the benefits. And the other thing you said was you referenced chronic patterns. And I think of all the people I know in my world, and frankly, all the people that are vastly not in my world, who suffer from chronic anxiety or chronic depression. And so, they kind of get bored frequently or aggravated or throw it all away. And so, for example, let’s say let’s take anxiety and you’re feeling anxious. You just kind of get into a habit of ignoring it and living on top of it. Versus, I want to relate to you, me, all the time. I don’t want to dis you. I don’t want to dis me. I want to be able to recognize and say things like, you’re not doing this on purpose.

Robert Strock: (18:01)
You’re not anxiety ING on purpose. You’re not depressing on purpose. You. This is very difficult for you. I see you. Can you hear me? Can you hear me? And of course, the answer most of the time is no. And so you, you need to keep, we need to keep digging into ourselves or sending an arrow toward ourselves to be able to have an intersection between what’s really aching inside us or situations that are really challenging and staying with the anxiety, being able to stay empathic, really relational, and then learning how to both care for ourselves where we are, and then realize it doesn’t have to dominate our whole world. We can also still to gum and walk at the same time. We can still relate to the world around us while caring for ourselves on our own. And once in a while, we’ll have somebody close to us where we can say out, out front.

Robert Strock: (19:14)
Yeah, of course, I’m dealing with my anxiety and this is what I’m saying to myself now. And I want to be here with you and it’s, um, it’s, it’s really like a miracle when you do take that time to relate to yourself in a kind way, in an accepting way, in a tolerant way, rather than ignores, it gives a boost of energy. The anxiety might not change, but you feel somehow more authentic, like you’re not hiding yourself. You’re, you’re really not hiding, even inside yourself. You’re actually having a caring relationship to yourself as you are.

Dave: (19:58)
I just want to amplify what you’re saying there in my own personal experience. Um, and of course you’re using the word anxiety, which is one of the patterns in me that has been lifelong. And there’s a couple of versions of it. One version is the realization I’m going to have to be with it. I’m just going to have to be with it. And so, the self-compassion the, the, the tolerance, uh, the, the capacity not to turn away from it is so, so important at the same time. There’s other occasions where I feel it. And as I look at it, I realized there’s really nothing to be anxious about. I have a different experience. And there is a, a sense that when I’m paying attention, there are occasions where anxiety can evaporate. Not because of any particular reason, except that what I’m afraid of, when I take a closer look it’s really not what I thought was going on.

Robert Strock: (21:08)
Yeah. It’s a great distinction. Um, I think most of the second types where it can dissipate are situational and are that are not chronic, that’s an important distinction to make because we really can have things evaporate at times when it’s, when we realize, oh my God, I’m imagining this, and I don’t know anything, you know, and as a matter of fact, the odds are 99.2% that I’m going to be okay. And so, I don’t really, maybe that’s not enough, but 99.9 I’m. Okay. And so that’s a very, very important distinction and we can’t mention enough, you know, how anxiety or depression or confusion, any of those are ones that we want to treat as they’re, they’re our best friend. And I noticed when you spoke Dave, you, you, you, you use the word I have to. And, and, and that is the first level of how we relate to it.

Robert Strock: (22:14)
Oftentimes we can, and especially, I hope that this will leave a smile now. And in the future for many people at first, it’s oh I have to relate to his anxiety again. And then there hopefully will be this awareness that we’ve mentioned a couple of times where I get to, I get to be wise, I get to be the guide. I get to be the responder that isn’t just a slave out in the desert of this feeling. I have resources, I have some skills, I have some alternatives. I have some paths that I can walk. And so, it really is much more like, let’s say you get, you get a bruise, but you’re, it’s not a bad bruise and you’re in a sandbox and you can still get to play. I get, I get to take care of myself. I get to really use some healing ointment that I have inside me.

Robert Strock: (23:14)
So, one of the things that’s really an insight that may not be obvious to many people is that our emotional suffering is so often a result of thwarted needs or desires. And so we might want, are, for example, if we’re talking about more of the lightweight desires, we may want our sports team to win. You know, we may want to have a better sleep than we did. We may want to be, uh, an inch taller than we are. And, and there, there are, there are desires that come up. We might have a want to be prettier than we are, and more handsome than we are. We might want to lose 40 pounds and where we have some kind of a glandular, you know, or, or we might have, uh, our hormonal conditioning, where, where we can’t do that. Sometimes desires really many times desires are not possible.

Robert Strock: (24:08)
And so they can, as Dave said, they can just dissipate once you see, oh, I don’t even have to accept it. I just need to realize it’s completely impossible. Yeah. I do need to accept it, but it’s because it’s completely impossible. There’s nothing I can do about it. And then there are those needs, the emotional suffering that comes from deep seated needs. Those are the ones that really are going to require extra work to be able to see what, what are, what are the specific needs and how do we implement them in our lives in a real way, not just conceptually.

Dave: (24:45)
On that point, I want to reflect back to being, um, very tall for my age when I was about 12, 13. In fact, I’m about as tall today, close to six two, six, two something like that as I was then, and I remember a person that was about my size, continued to grow and ended up being seven feet. And I was so afraid. I was already much taller than my peers at that time. And I just, I almost wanted a will myself insanely, of course, to stop growing and watched as this person grew and grew and grew and grew. And of course, uh, there are other routes to it. I, I, at that point in my life, uh, to be too tall, meant maybe I’d be a freak in some way. I would be unacceptable to other people. There’s, there’s kind of underpinnings to even the things that can’t change. Why do I feel concerned about something I can’t change, uh, was an easy answer at that point, or at least retrospectively, but I certainly experienced it then.

Robert Strock: (25:55)
Right. Now, as you listen to Dave, that might sound absurd, ya boy where you are dumbo to, to try to stop growing. But the reality is, if we look closely and please look closely right now, what desires, what unrealistic desires do you have? Maybe you want to be married and you can’t be married right now. You don’t have, you don’t even have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, you know, or, or maybe you really want to change your looks. Maybe you don’t like your body image. You know, maybe, maybe you want to have more money and you, you, you can’t find any source of money and certainly not in the next five minutes. And so, when the thought arises, is it natural for you? Just like it, it wasn’t for Dave, you know, was is it natural for you to be able to go, oh, that’s absurd. I can’t do anything about that right now. Yeah, sure. I’ll take a look and see if there’s anything I can do about it in the future. But if it’s stopping growing, you know, you probably need a jackhammer going straight down in your head and even that might not work.

Robert Strock: (27:02)
And so, it’s so important not to disidentify with what Dave’s saying, but to identify with it and see that all of us are, and I hesitate to use this word, a victim of our own desires, as we wish for things that are absolutely impossible, especially in the moment or the very near future. And if we can see that and we really can respond with, you know, what, it’s not realistic now. And so, I’m sorry we need to let go of this. And we can really learn to listen to ourselves, probably one, 10, at least 10%. And in some cases, 50% of our suffering would be gone. You know, it’s like if we, we have chronic anxiety and we’ve done everything to experiment with medications and psychology, and, and we can’t change to be able to say good for you, you’ve done everything you can. And I’m sorry, we can’t do anything more. That is a desire related to a need. There is a need to not be anxious that if you’ve done everything you can to try to take care of the need, then it can become a desire because there’s nothing else you can do.

Dave: (28:20)
I also want to just add to that, that, and, and, and I, I know you’re going to get there, but it, one thing can lead to another as I was in that age. And as I grew older and, and, and began to have some awareness, it became clear to me that that desire not to be taller also related to fear of rejection, it had to do of, or a desire to be accepted by certain people and different things. I was taught about what was important about how I should be or how I should look. There are certain elements of, of that, that, that played a part that led me to yet another layer of having to look.

Robert Strock: (29:09)
Yeah, and that is a very important point that when we have one obvious desire or need, when we look closely, it frequently will lead to a constellation of other needs. And when we see the constellation, that’s why it’s so important to see the specificity, because we can solve one need and maybe not solve the other one or not even, maybe we won’t solve the other one, unless we can identify it. So, one simple example, as we wind this episode down in it, and we’re going to really be drilling into feelings to needs, so I hope you’ll stay all the way through with us is that let’s say we feel guilty. And what is that for the desire for what, what is that for the need that we have when we feel guilty, we want to be innocent. And it reminds me of a time when one of the people that have helped me most in my life was, said to me, don’t feel guilty for feeling guilty.

Robert Strock: (30:13)
And what that really said to me was I need to see the innocence of the guilt, which is I feel guilty because I wanted to be an innocent person. And I wasn’t. And so how do I foster the innocence in the guilt? It requires courage in a certain way to face our guilt, but it requires a bit of wisdom to look for what’s the maximum way I can find my innocence. Now I can’t change the past. How can I be innocence in my daily life? So, I can maximize past guilts and how I can soothe myself to foster, as Dave said earlier, identification and identifying with this longing to take the feeling and move toward the need. So hopefully in this very first round of going into feelings, moving from feelings toward needs, you’re getting a glimpse of what it is and my wish is for this to be something that is part of who you are, part of your identity. And please join us as we continue to delve further into this. And thanks so much for not only your attention, but your retention as well.

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