Awareness that Heals

How We Respond to our Feelings is More Important than What We Feel – Episode 44

How We Respond to our Feelings is More Important than What We Feel - Episode 44

Over the last few episodes of Awareness that Heals, Robert and Dave have explored how developing new practices can help us take care of ourselves through both life’s biggest challenges and daily moments. These practices are being defined and refined clearly, as it is so important to understand the meaning behind each of them. It is for this reason that this episode illuminates exactly what is meant by certain words that you’ll find below. It is not important that you use these words, but it is vital that you understand their meaning and develop your practices to support your life and for those around you. Robert underscores the need for us to start asking beneficial questions to help ourselves respond from our wisdom more than just reacting to our feelings.

Awareness is split into four stages (awareness of being unaware, fleeting awareness, stable and intellectual awareness, and finally, awareness that heals). It’s the first step you take toward healing and caring for yourself. Each of these four stages is elaborated on in the episode.

Friendly mind (which is further clarified in the episode) will give us options as to how to deal with extremely difficult and challenging feelings and situations throughout our lives. Friendly mind helps you come to terms with your feelings and not be against yourself. It’s simple in theory, but in practice, it means developing your mind to be accepting and embracing toward your emotions with thoughts that are most wise, truthful and beneficial. 

Inquiry (from the heart) is a specific way of sincere and authentic questioning. Awareness, friendly mind, and inquiry can only work when you are not caught up in judging your feelings. If you self-reject your feelings, you do not allow yourself the chance to accept and face your challenging feelings and use them as invaluable information as to how to take care of yourself. Give yourself the grace to ask how you can help yourself through difficult times. 

Wisdom Guidance is what you will be able to access when you are aware of what you’re feeling, and when you listen to and follow your inquiry. . For example, when you ask yourself, How can I best take care of myself?” in challenging situations, you guide yourself to be kinder. You move toward qualities, actions, thoughts, and attitudes that help you expand and fulfill your life. 

As you listen to this episode, take a moment to be aware of your feelings, how supportive you are and try to develop acceptance and caring toward them. Ask yourself how you can respond to your feelings to best take care of yourself. In doing so, you accept your feelings and move toward healing and understanding. Feelings are often temporary and circumstantial but allowing yourself to develop inquiry and wisdom guidance into your daily lives will improve your well-being through time and practice.

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 44.

Robert Strock: (00:05)
I said, if you can have a friendly mind when you’re really suffering, then you’ve really achieved something that is extraordinary.

Announcer: (00:13)
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: (00:53)
Well, a hearty welcome to you joining us at Awareness That Heals where we’re really doing our best. And I hope you’re joining us in doing your best with bringing heart and wisdom to your life challenges to our life challenges. And today we’re going to wrap up our exploration of wisdom-guidance, and really try to distill the key pivots that are needed to move from. As we talked about in the last episode, being reactive and having the awareness to see, oh, I’m being reactive and trying to catch ourselves and seeing that maybe we’re judgmental, that we’re reactive, but hopefully we have a place where we can stop ourselves and say, gee, I’m being reactive, I’m judging on being reactive and ah, I can be the one that can see that I don’t want to be either reactive in this way. I don’t want to judge myself for being reactive. And I want to be able to ask myself, how do I find the way to handle this situation? Handle my feelings, care for my feelings in a way that’s really going to allow for the best outcome to all my heart and those that I’m affecting. So, I’d like to start today with introducing my dear friend, Dave partner at the Global Bridge, Dave, thanks for joining us again.

Dave: (02:34)
Robert, appreciate being here. Uh, as, as you introduced this last episode of wisdom-guidance, I found myself reflecting on the thread that got us here and the podcasts. And I think at the beginning of this episode, now, if you wouldn’t mind, uh, because each has been sequential, each episode and each particular chapter of the book that reflects these episodes have, have really built upon themselves and each other.

Robert Strock: (03:09)
So are you actually asked me to go through all the prior chapters or . . .

Dave: (03:13)
I think what I’m saying is that, uh, yeah, I guess I am.

Robert Strock: (03:20)
Okay. So, in the first chapter, uh, we’re really looking at the foundations of Awareness That Heals. And we start with being aware that we’re unaware, which is a very scientifically well discovered fact that we’re 95% unconscious. And having that humility is what inspires us to say, oh, found that 95% on unaware, I think I’d like to in this lifetime lower the percentage or do the best I can. And then the second level of awareness in the first chapter is having fleeting awareness where we have flashes of insight that are either too much to ask for, because we’re not ready to make the changes or the too scary. And so, we can’t hold onto them because we don’t want to face the consequences of seeing what we see. But it is a key thing to be aware of because that fleeting awareness can guide us if we can catch it to really move us toward awareness that heals. The third level of awareness is stable intellectual awareness, where we can see what’s happening, but that seeing doesn’t have a catalytic intention to really move us in a way that’s going to help us care for the situation.

Robert Strock: (04:45)
So, we can see that we’re angry, for example, and we might just still continue being angry and say, well, yeah, I’m aware of I’m angry while I’m dumping on my wife or husband. And so, it’s clear that that third level of awareness, isn’t the one that really is an awareness that heals. And so, we highlighted with a fourth level of awareness, which is really the foundation of the whole rest of the book, which is we need an intention to heal or healing intention when we’re aware of what’s happening. And when we have that intention to heal with the awareness, like we can see the anger and say, how can I make this more peaceful? How can I not have this be a predictable fight? How can I possibly move this anger or relate to this anger in a way that’s not going to create self-harm as well as harm to the other, then we’re learning how to move into an awareness that heals.

Robert Strock: (05:39)
So, then we move to chapter two, chapter two really brings us to friendly mind where friendly mind is really designed for the times where we were in the deepest hell, where the deepest suffering possible, it’s, reminds me of the, especially the first 5 to 10 years of after the kidney transplant for me, where I was really screwed all day long on an emotional level. And I was so exhausted because I couldn’t sleep, because the medications basically allowed me one hour of sleep at night, until I was able to intervene chemically, which made gradual progress. And I realized the best I could do was have a friendly mind and not be against myself because there’s nothing I could do to change my feelings. Now, there are so many people that have chemical issues or hormonal issues or drama. And so, to have the illusion that you can feel better, friendly mind is designed to be, let’s say a, what’s usually viewed as a booby prize, as being the main prize.

Robert Strock: (06:46)
If you can have a friendly mind when you’re really suffering, then you’ve really achieved something that is extraordinary. So, friendly mind is, is really kind of the gold standard for significant emotional development. Or you might even say spiritual development where you’re suffering like hell, but you’re finding a way. It’s like, as you mentioned, the last episode with Victor Frankl, where he was in a concentration camp and he found friendly mind guide him. Then we moved on to the third chapter, which is moving from self-judgment towards self-compassion and where we see and we learn that the most subtle source of suffering is when we’re against ourselves. We think that, let’s say we’re anxious or we’re depressed, and we think that’s the worst thing that’s happening in our lives. And we don’t see another level that says, God, I hate this feeling. I hate that. I feel depressed or anxious.

Robert Strock: (07:48)
I’m so sick and tired of this. And we learned to ask the question of, do you like what you’re feeling? And when the answer is, no, we see the magic formula, which is that question. It leads us to, if you don’t like how you’re feeling, that means you’re rejecting yourself, which reveals itself and either judging yourself or withdrawing your heart from yourself. And when we can see that, when we see that self-rejection clearly, it’s another aha moment where we have a chance to pivot toward an awareness that heals and allows us to bring our intention toward healing, with the awareness of the challenging feelings that we have. And then we, that naturally moves us into a next chapter, which is inquiry from the heart, where we are inquiring into what is the way that I can move in my life when I’m suffering. And what’s the way that I can be most fulfilled, whether I’m suffering or not.

Robert Strock: (08:52)
We’re just asking questions that are guided toward positive potentials. We’re not asking questions like what in the hell is wrong with me? We’re asking questions with what could be right with me. How can I move in a direction that’s going to be supportive of not only me, but those people that matter to me. And hopefully that leads to more and more of an expanded group of people and more and more of the world. And then when we really start to develop inquiry from the heart that naturally leads us to the next chapter, which is wisdom-guidance, and the answers and the responses we get from inquiry into the heart, where it might say, you know, pause when you’re angry, or it might say, you know, have the courage when you’re afraid to still go for it. That that wisdom-guidance really, really sets us up to be able to be the director of our lives, where we’re no longer just left in a dependency on what we’ve been taught from a culture that really hasn’t learned how to go deeply enough into themselves to realize A it’s important that we learn how to care for ourselves and others.

Robert Strock: (10:11)
And it’s also important to learn that we’re the same as everyone else, that we’re not more or less important. That really wisdom-guidance also teaches us that we’re all really the same. We’re all human. We all have challenges. And because of that, it’s so crucial that we learn how to face the challenges, how to be aware of the challenges specifically, and then how we can guide ourselves to qualities and actions and thoughts that will move us in a direction that’s more satisfying, more fulfilling. And we in all of these, there’s always a reminder. Please feel free to change the words I’m doing my very best, not to create another vocabulary. So, if you, if you don’t like wisdom- guidance, and you like sensibility, please use sensibility. If you like integrity, please use integrity. So, the key idea is that sequence of healing, and hopefully you’ve stayed with, with us all the way through.

Robert Strock: (11:18)
And if you haven’t, that might give you some incentive to go back and really take a look at what you’ve missed.

Dave: (11:24)
Thank you.

Robert Strock: (11:26)
So, reflecting back on the last, uh, episode on wisdom-guidance, it may sound strange if you don’t ask somebody just how you’re feeling, but you’re really, you’re really asking how are you responding to how you’re feeling? And that’s probably most sensible first to start with how you’re feeling, because it sounded a little weird probably to do both, but then it’s like, oh, you mean, I’m not just my feeling. Even I can actually be a responder to my feeling. Now, as I say that I actually feel a sense of joy. I actually feel a sense of liberation. I, even if I can’t feel better, I can think better. I can think better than I was thinking about the feelings. And I could say I’ve earned some of the stripes because I suffered so much for 10 years, all day long.

Robert Strock: (12:31)
And now it’s restricted to only a couple of hours a day of going through that where I can really realize, I can ask myself that question, how can I respond to this feeling? Because it’s like, we forget it. Every feeling pretends to be God. And every, every feeling pretends to be the almighty, every feeling pretends to be, oh, this is different than last time. This is way more severe. This is serious and it’s seductive as hell. And so, when we realized that even, even after practicing this for 30, 40, 50 years, every feeling is seductive. And I can, I can forget over and over and over again. So, it’s just a question of how, how fast can I remember or how long can I forget? And so, for all of us, it’s so important not to judge based on where you are in fact, to really embrace where you are and be able to say, this is where I am. This is my starting point. And I do want to remember to ask how can I respond to what I’m feeling?

Dave: (13:39)
Just want to reflect on something you just said. And especially in the context of, as you went through the really the, the months long podcasts, but also the, the chapters of Awareness That Heals, and the fact that you say you’re responding to higher feeling gives you a feeling of joy today, or at least in this moment. And so, of course, that’s not always true for me at least. And sometimes it’s true. Sometimes it’s like a miracle, but what seems to be true is that it almost invariably creates a change. It reminds me of what, at least in some circles and Axiom of science, that just the mirror observation of something is in itself having an effect, just the observation, just the, call it awareness, call it a response to how you feel. There’s, there’s different ways. Everybody would express it for themselves. Can you speak to that?

Robert Strock: (14:45)
Yeah, that’s a great mystifying, glowing mind thing that the observer changes, the observe, which, which physicists have proven now reliably, you know, it sounds like a dream, but it’s, it actually is reality. And as you were asking me that I had an image and the image was one of being in a circle and the feelings were all spiraling around inside that circle. And when I remember to ask a question of how can I best take care of myself or the equivalent? I just imagine the, the observation, the circle suddenly, there’s a little bit of an opening and the, and there’s, uh, there’s, I’m no longer just enclosed. I’m no longer just fixated. I have a little bit of an opening. And if I asked that question, it has a path and it just has a path where it’s, where it can be inviting me to be able to realize I can respond and I can ask myself, how can I respond?

Robert Strock: (15:49)
And then I can continue to ask those questions. And so, there’s something about exactly, as you’re saying it, when we observe something new, it opens a door, it opens a window, it opens a circle. And so that is really one of the keys. And it leads me to one of my favorite statements to make, which I can only make at the end of wisdom-guidance. I certainly could not make it the beginning of wisdom-guidance, which is that we can come to a place where it’s clear that our wisdom-guidance is more essential to us than our feelings could ever be. And when you’ve practiced this for decades, it becomes evident. And especially if you’ve suffered for decades, if you, if you’ve been living on a high, you know, which some people are raised in very, very pleasant circumstances. And so, they’re not aware of having anything unpleasant at all, but those people are in more danger to stay asleep, even if they have a good life, because they probably could have had an exceptional life.

Robert Strock: (17:01)
So, being able to see and really more than see how to be in your guts. So, it’s not even just a memory, it’s actually a visceral Pavlovian response, which is our wisdom-guidance itself. And frankly, it’s also our inquiry, our inquiry and our wisdom-guidance are both much more essential to us than our feelings could ever be. If you are at a certain stage for some people, it may be, I’m starting to see that. I actually, I intellectually see that I can’t practice it all yet, but I can see that that actually is where this is leading. And I, and I didn’t even think about it, that my feelings were the center of my universe or my feelings were my identity, but in reality, for most of us, that’s where we live and that’s where we die. But this is, this is a pivot. This is like a, a street signal.

Dave: (18:00)
As I have before, I just want to reflect that I know how strong you feel about those, I know how key this is. I know how much you work with people and yourself. And I work with myself and how I identify with feelings and how glued we are and just invite you to express again, just so that people are not hearing words or reading words, but really feeling the intensity and the wake-up call.

Robert Strock: (18:36)
So, first of all, I want to make it clear that feelings are really important. If we’re not aware of our feelings and if we don’t feel our feelings we’re completely blind. So, actually feeling our feelings is crucial. So, please don’t hear anything I’m saying as diminishing the importance of feelings and feeling our feelings and being aware of our feelings. And it’s because they’re the only ways we can really guide ourselves to understand what we need. If we’re feeling sad, there’s something we want for happiness. If we’re afraid we want something for courage or safety, but we won’t know that’s the direction we need to move. And that inquiry is the key when we’re feeling something to really be able to be a direction signal. And if we, if we really hear this on a gut level, it won’t be, yeah, okay that was an interesting podcast.

Robert Strock: (19:38)
And, and yeah, I understand that now, but now I understand it. Now, the issue at all is not whether you understand, the issue is are you practicing when it matters? That’s the issue? Are you practicing when you’re at that crossroad or cull de sac or blind spot or circle or dead end, does it lead you to practice? Are you giving yourself suggestions right now? I want to bring myself this awareness. When I go through my most familiar and repetitious sources of suffering. Now, I want to be able to remind myself, to ask how can I best take care of myself? What is, what’s the best direction, what’s the best thought I can have. What’s the best direction I can go. Given how gloomy it feels, given how morose it feels, given how angry I feel, given how hopeless I feel. What’s the way I can guide myself and have this be more than just an intellectual memory.

Robert Strock: (20:37)
Have this be an imprint that goes into your brain, goes into your heart. So, one of the most common phrases that I’m going to end this episode with is it’s something that starts off with a popular phrase in the sixties and seventies, which is, you know, go with your feelings, follow the flow, you know, whatever you feel, just go with them. And that is wonderful when you’re feeling good and you’re liberated, but it’s a nightmare when you’re aren’t feeling good. So, I believe that feeling, which I’m hoping will reach your guts, which is follow your feelings. When you really feel they’re leading you to well-being and you see that they’re leading you to well-being, but absolutely follow your wisdom-guidance, and inquiry when your feelings aren’t leading to your well-being and that crucial piece of making that distinction, that whenever you’re not feeling good, it is a call for inquiry.

Robert Strock: (21:45)
It is a call for wisdom-guidance. So, don’t follow your feelings when they’re really just suffering, lead yourself to the thoughts that can help guide you. So, I truly thank you for staying with us through these episodes and hope you’ll join us. We’re going to be moving into tone of voice, which is implicit in all the other prior chapters, but we can’t do them all at once, but I hope that you’ll join us for that. And my prayer is that all of us, when we face the inevitable suffering, which is particularly intense at this point in time in the world, that we don’t just stop with suffering, that we all become our own internal activist. And we really realized that we have the potential to guide ourselves and not viewed as a booby prize, just because we can only come up with thoughts that are going to be helpful, view it as being the big prize. Because again, as I said earlier, that’s even more impressive when we’re really feeling the depth of our suffering. And we can find a way to have the inquiry, at least lead to thoughts. And, and that, that’s where we really want to guide ourselves. That’s what my prayer is. And I hope that’s what your prayer is too. And I hope we’re joining together in a mutual prayer as we end this episode.

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