At times it is difficult to barely tolerate our experience when we are in situations or emotions that are challenging, which can trigger us to go into fight or flight mode. Join Robert and Dave as they explore common real-life situations that can be difficult and how to take better care of ourselves in the moment or close to it. Money or personal insecurity, anxiety about the state of the world, or health issues are all topics covered in the podcast. Robert helps us navigate back to the trail of internal caring to reach our best selves and not be frozen or blindly reactive inside when challenging feelings bubble up. We can all too often get stuck in our emotions and not realize that the next hour is important and the next day is important to find ways to be resilient. If we are repeatedly stewing or caught in an emotion, we do not get to the next simple needs, thoughts, actions or qualities that will support us.
When you are facing a terrible situation or even a frustrating inconvenience, how many times are you looking for how to best take care of yourself? How many times does that even come into your awareness or your thoughts? Robert offers an accessible framework to meet difficult situations in the most caring and realistic way possible. What this takes is not only being aware of what we feel but what we need. For anyone new to the show, we invite you to go to AwarenessThatHeals.org and look at The Introspective Guides to help begin to identify your most challenging feelings and beneficial needs. The key is to become more literate to identify your internal experience both what is difficult and what helps. This is an invitation to be exactly as you are in your depths and to be rooting for yourself even though we have been trained to be emotional reactors based on our conditioning in the world. It is such a benefit to realize you can always guide yourself when you remember to ask, “How can I best take care of myself?” This episode will give you guidance to do just that and more.
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 76.
Robert Strock: (00:04)
Hopefully, you’re seeing this as an invitation for you to be you exactly as you are in your depths. And for you to be rooting for yourself. And for you to follow that up with your intelligence, with your sensitivity, and take as long as is needed to be able to find the direction,
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: (01:06)
Thanks so much again for joining us at Awareness That Heals. It is truly a pleasure to have you be joining us again on the program. And what we’re gonna be talking about today is focusing on something different than what we’ve been doing. The last few shows we’re actually gonna be looking at life situations that we all face in different varieties and how we can take care of ourselves when we have a life situation that’s very, very difficult. Now, clearly that means when we have a very difficult life situation, we’re also gonna be having difficult feelings, but there’s some different nuances when we’re dealing life situations. In life situations we’re still gonna have conditioned reactions that we’ve been taught. So, for example, if we’re facing an economic risk or we’re not sure we’re gonna be able to pay the bills, we’re not gonna be able to maintain our lifestyle, fear, anxiety, all of that’s gonna happen.
Robert Strock: (02:16)
And maybe on top of that, self-judgment, why did you do that, you made a stupid reaction. And we’re gonna have a wave of emotions and reactions to emotions that are gonna be normal. And what we’re wanting to do, consistent with what we’ve been talking about, is be able to really slow down and say, what’s my deepest core feeling. And I want to give it some time to be able to be felt. So let’s say it is anxiety, or it is self-criticism, or hatred,or inadequacy, no matter what it is that we want to give ourself time to breathe into it. And I say breathe into it as both a metaphor and in actuality, so that we have a better chance of feeling it. And notice, and really, even as I’m talking to you now, notice when you look at these difficult situations and you have your initial reactions, whether or not there’s any part of you that says, oh, good, I’m aware.
Robert Strock: (03:32)
And even more important, whether there’s any part of you that feels oh, good, I’m aware, or whether it’s just a moving right along from one difficult feeling to a constellation of other feelings and thoughts. And the way we’ve been taught is when we, and I, I won’t say that we’ve been taught by teaching, but the way we’ve been taught by example, and the people that we’ve seen is we see a series of reactions and there isn’t a steady model for identifying, ah, let me see, what is it that this situation is most triggering? What are the most difficult one or two or three feelings that I want to stop and pause and feel. And so it’s like a, it’s like an event where you’re mandatorily, free associating. You’ve taken some kind of drug and it’s making you just go, oh, I’m afraid, oh, this is terrible.
Robert Strock: (04:34)
Oh, I’ve been stupid. Oh, I’ve been this. Oh, I’ve been that. This is like four or five, six things that just fleet right in a row. And that we’re not really able to do two things. One is identify the most important feeling or feelings. And number two is appreciate that it’s there. And number three is being able to go, ah, I want to care for myself, and I want to care for the situation, and I wanna take care of the situation. So you have a place that’s not only aware, but you have a place that’s constructive that’s on your side. And I don’t mean on your side, like against anybody else. I mean, it’s just rooting for your goodness. Now, as I ask you that, is there anybody that’s listening that doesn’t wanna root for their own goodness. And yet, when you look at your situation, when you’re facing a terrible situation, how many times are you rooting for your own goodness, how many times does that even come into your awareness or into your feeling?
Robert Strock: (05:37)
So we’re talking about creating a hypnotic, Pavlovian suggestion where when I’m in a difficult situation, I wanna face the feelings as positive way as possible. And I want to be as wishing goodness on myself in being able to find the way to care for the feeling and also to be as resourceful and as practical and as intelligent as I know how to be. And what that takes is really being able, not only to know what we feel, but what we need, which really brings us again to the importance of being able to identify what we feel and what we need. So forgive me if you’ve listened to this a lot of times, and especially if you’ve already got it in front of you. But for anyone that’s new to the show, please go to awarenessthatheals.org and look at the Introspective Guides, download them, they’re free and they will identify the 75 most challenging feelings.
Robert Strock: (06:44)
And the 75 most liberating needs, qualities, actions, and thoughts. And the key here is when you become more literate to identify, whenever situation happens, I wanna know what my internal experience is. Now, hopefully you’re not seeing this as me laying a trip on you. Hopefully, you’re seeing this as an invitation for you to be you exactly as you are in your depths and for you to be rooting for yourself and for you to follow that up with your intelligence, with your sensitivity. And take as long as is needed, to be able to find the direction. When you see the 75 alternative qualities and needs, you’ll see that there will be one or two or three or four that you particularly need to focus on, which gets your mind, at least focused on caring for yourself. And I’m hoping at this point that this is certainly familiar to your mind, but I’d ask you to ask yourself, how much does this feel like it’s going in like an organic structure inside you is actually starting to form.
Robert Strock: (08:01)
It’s like developing a computer program and you’ve plugged the computer program in, or you just know about it. Knowledge is not that helpful. What’s helpful is when you want to embrace it. When you see the sensibility, that’s gonna serve your life in virtually every way, because you’re not either abandoning yourself or the situation. And you’re also not striking out against it, like I hate it, can’t stand it, it’s unfair, this person’s to blame that person’s to blame. So ask yourself, and I think for most people, if they really take it in, there’s sort almost a regret that it took so many years to have something so obvious to you, cuz I know what I’m saying is not brilliant. I know that you already know that you wanna root for yourself. And I know you already know you don’t wanna be superficial in yourself. You wanna know yourself, you’d rather know yourself than abandon yourself.
Robert Strock: (09:05)
So, I know what’s being said is not coming out of left field. It’s coming from inside you. I wanna be myself. I wanna care for myself. I wanna be resourceful in how I take care of a situation. And that’s not how I’m programmed. I’m programmed to be an emotional reactor based on my conditioning in the world. And I want to break that program. I wanna be the boss of my own life. I wanna be the authority of my own life. I wanna be the guide of my own life. I wanna be a good guide. Now, as you listen to these words, see, not only if it’s true, but see if you have any juice, do you have any aliveness, do you have any passion, are you taking notes? Are you, are you identifying what your situations are? Because if you don’t take it personally, it’s not worth listening. It’s only worth listening, if you have some hunger to wanna know yourself deeply and to want to care for yourself deeply and to wanna find ways to do it that are based on you following you. So before we start entering into today, I’d like to introduce Dave, my dearest friend of 50 years in partner at the Global Bridge Foundation.
Thank you. I just wanna, as a person who, uh, has known you over 50 years and clearly by decades predates the advantages the Introspective Guides offer, the clues that are written, uh, the patterns that can lead to deeper understandings. But as a person that was, uh, pretty lost as I wanted to look inside for many, many years, it, it took a lot of striking out in terms of identification of what was going on with myself. I, I mean, took a lot of time and, uh, willingness to suffer with that lack of identification of it and solutions of it, and to have the Introspective Guides to offer clues. Uh, and again, many of the sequences of what you can do is, relates to tolerance of whatever it is. So you can hang in with it long enough, be patient long enough to get somewhere. Because as we’ve talked about before, the, the initial response is often I hate this. I wanna get the hell outta town, out of my inner town. I wanna distract myself and, uh, circumstantially, I got a million of those.
Robert Strock: (11:44)
I’m really glad you used the word tolerance. It made me think of one of the four false starts that you nursed me through every one of them by rewriting what I’m writing to have a much better writer even be able to write it, so that they could understand what I was saying. And in one of the versions, it started off with a five-step process and it was started off with barely tolerate and then tolerate was the next step up. And then it was mostly accept, and then it was accept. And then it was appreciate. And it shows how hard it is to even have barely tolerating our experience, which is why we go into fight or fight, cuz we can’t even barely tolerate, let alone tolerate. So I appreciate you bringing that to, to the surface. Also would like to introduce Joel who, I won’t repeat myself again, other than the fact that I feel very grateful that an engineer isn’t just an engineer, he’s also a extraordinarily sensitive human being that has something to contribute and is being invited to come in as he sees fit.
I appreciate that Robert, I would just like to tell everybody that as somebody who’s never been exposed to this before getting a hold of these Introspective Guides, I find it extremely helpful that it almost becomes like a bullet point. A lot of people are busy in their lives and, and it’s a daunting task to get into it. These are deep emotions and deep ideas, but the Introspective Guides are great. Robert was nice enough to send me the hard copies. I pick ’em up, I look at ’em in my hand, they’re immediate to me and they give me just a guide that seems a little bit less daunting. So they are worth their weight in gold when it comes to that.
Robert Strock: (13:38)
Yeah. And they don’t weigh very much . So I’d like to start off today with really talking about something that I know I’ve actually been more angry and impatient and intolerant in this area than any area, probably in my life in terms of acting out for extended period of minutes or in some cases, or not so much acting out, but acting in and then having to work it out, but having really being worked up inside me. And I know that a lot of you, because almost everybody I know has a version of this, but it’s worse for me because I’m so undeveloped in this area that I have to go on a lot of these calls and it is a call asking for help with technology. And when I’m asking for help and I’m making a call for technology and I’ve got Apple or I’ve got my cable channel, or I’ve got the geek squad and I’m on hold for a half an hour and while I’m there, I’m going, Jesus, why can’t they hire one more person?
Robert Strock: (14:48)
What the hell’s wrong with this situation? And then I’m reminding myself saying, okay, you’re angry. You’re frustrated. What’s gonna help you. Okay. Take a few deep breaths, take a few deep breaths. And that gets me to what I would say to bear tolerance. I’m in a state of bear tolerance. I’m actually able to get there. Yeah. Sometimes it takes two minutes of talking to myself. Sometimes it takes five minutes and then I reach the technology person and they, they aren’t able to do what they’ve advertised they can do. And so, then I ask for a supervisor and then the supervisor isn’t able to do what they’ve said they’re gonna be able to do, they escalate is what, what they call it. And basically I’m really impatient. I’m intolerant of what I experience as the incompetence. And I stop myself internally and I say on a regular basis, you’re intolerant, you’re impatient.
Robert Strock: (15:49)
You could be an asshole to this person. This person isn’t even the one that set up the system. So there’s a trail and I’m saying this to you so you hear this. There’s a trail of sensibility that we haven’t really talked about much that is trying to reach myself, my best self. So, I realize that my emotions being cathartic or even just being felt enduringly inside is just burning up my body. So I need to sometimes, even passionately, say to myself, this person is not responsible. And it happens in so many areas of life, thinking about DoorDash and thinking about, you know, waiting online and complaining about an order or whatever else or, and then ultimately when it comes down to it, I recognize the impatience. I recognize the intolerance. Then I say to myself, one of those trails of thoughts, this isn’t even the person that’s in authority that’s set up the system that isn’t hiring another person.
Robert Strock: (16:47)
So I’ve trained myself through 3 or 400 times of not training myself to say to them, listen, I’m doing my best, not to express my impatience with you. And I know it’s not your fault that the system is set up, but when you ask me, how am I today? I’m, I’m frustrated as hell in this moment. And I don’t wanna take it out on you. So acknowledging where I am and making it clear I’m not aiming it at the other person is a gift that I’m hoping you will consider when you’re in this horrible situation where, you know, it used to be, you turn on the TV, now there’s nine technology companies you might have to call to figure out how to do it. And I don’t have a clue most of the time. Yeah.
Robert Strock: (17:35)
Sometimes I can’t even get the TV on, you know, let alone hear the sound or, or have the quality of things or, or shift to Netflix or something along that line. So the awareness of the impatience slowing it down to have the intention to care. I have to go through the basics after doing this for 45 years, I still need to go through the basics when this reoccurs over and over again. Now I think where I have gained is, I rarely very, very rarely will act out on somebody, but will there still be a subtle tone of voice where I’m a little bit impatient? Definitely. And if somebody gives me guff on the other end or a smart ass, which doesn’t happen too often, might I be a little more impatient? Yes. Or frustrated. And so the important thing to realize here is we don’t learn, learn anything.
Robert Strock: (18:35)
We might learn it, but it’s gonna be a lifelong practice we’re going to need to be repeating to ourselves. This is the feeling I want to experience my depth feeling. I want to care for myself and any significant others, or at least be neutral in situations like this. I don’t have to be lovey dovey, you know, but at least be neutral. And most importantly, I wanna get my needs taken care of, which is the wake up. If I have an attitude with this person, I’m shooting myself in the foot. They’re not gonna wanna cooperate to their maximum potential unless they feel that they’re being treated as a human being. And so I go out of my way to acknowledge what I’m going through. So maybe, maybe they can empathize and that I’m not blaming them. So then, then they have a much better chance to empathize it.
Robert Strock: (19:32)
But most importantly, in that situation, I’m interested in taking care of my needs. At that point. I’m not, I’m not really there to be a therapist to them or a caring person in a big way to them. And so I, I remind myself, this is about your needs. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot, don’t get them alienated. So I’ll say some something along the lines of, you know, would, would you please, you know, refer me to somebody who may have more knowledge than you or a supervisor, and then I’ll go up as high as I have to. And in medical situations, it’s that way up the kazoo. And so the, the critical thing is “A” be aware of the feeling “B” recognize you want to find a place that cares for yourself and anybody else and see any dialogue that’s going in. That’s reinforcing the negative attitude and extinguish it. And then next recognize you have a need here. You don’t wanna lose touch with the need, your need is to be taken care of. Don’t let your emotions thwart it. It’s okay to have the emotions, but don’t let them interfere with either your tone of voice to any significant degree or the message that you’re giving so that you can maximize the empathy on the other end.
Well, I, I have to say as, uh, an early supporter of the, at least the computer tech support between you and I and, and navigating different programs, um, I’m relieved to hear you’re making calls to other places.
Robert Strock: (21:00)
And, uh, I think you said a couple of things that are really important, and I wanna, I wanna not miss them. Really two, one is there are circumstances that can’t be solved that need replacement, need they simply just can’t be solved in that kind of a scenario. And that may be in any of these circumstances, or it may not be depending on whether a skillful person’s been reached, but maybe you’ve reached a skillful person as I have. And I found out, you know, your stuff broke, gonna have to give you a new one. And then the second thing I think you said, and hinted at that’s very important is that we, we don’t arrive internally at a, at a final place, which you’ve said so many times over the course of the podcast, historically, that there is no place of just sheer gliding into ease all the way through a circumstance where you have needs. Really not possible to be a hundred percent.
Robert Strock: (22:07)
Yeah. I, I think, I think the, the key, which really is a relief of pressure is this is not about perfection or arriving. It’s about, I’d like to think of it as an arrow pointing in one direction, you’re moving toward being more patient. You’re moving, being more empathic that the other person didn’t set the rules, you’re moving toward the realization that your problem may very well not get solved. And that you may, may be calling another whole different phone call, might get rerouted, you might be hung up on, any number of things. And then you get to dial back again. Then you get to do it three times or five times. And each time is such a great lesson, you know. Makes me think of, except it’s really reserved for more serious things, it makes me think of what’s referred to as Tibetan blessings where in Tibet in a certain sect, you know, they talk about when you find out that you’re terminally ill, they congratulate you cuz now you have a chance to really wake up.
Robert Strock: (23:15)
Now you’re really facing something. And if you can see it as that, it’s kind of another version of, oh good, cause it’s a little more extreme and being able to be kind with yourself that we’re never gonna get it, get it. And this is a relatively superficial example, but it’s so real to life. And it’s so much a part of our daily life. And I’d ask you to, you know, substitute in medical for technology substitute in pharmacy, substitute in, um, merchandise, substitute in waiting for a phone call. Whatever it is you are working with, going back to your original feeling and you wanna care and you don’t want your own blood vessels to tighten up. You don’t want your muscles to tighten up. You don’t wanna increase the chances of hurting your body, let alone the obviousness of your hurting, your emotional state in your, your heart.
Robert Strock: (24:15)
The second situation that is a common one is you have insecurity about money. And this is just gonna demonstrate one simple principle that you’re in a situation. I have a friend that used to always say, you know, I’m looking for upside. I can’t find upside. You know, here’s constantly Dave and I very close friend of both of ours, ah, I’m looking for upside. I can’t find upside. And what we would do is, is bring it back to sort of realize you’re feeling insecure, realize you can’t help feeling helpless. What can you do? Which is another principle of this approach is bring it back to as close to the present as possible. If you bring it to a vague future, which a lot of our issues are a vague future. Like I wanna find a way to earn money, bring it back to what can I do?
Robert Strock: (25:10)
I want, first of all, I’m aware of the insecurity and the impatience and the frustration. And I wanna care for myself, bring it back to the present. What can I do this week? What can I do today? Wallowing in the feeling and not bringing it back to what’s possible, you know? Yeah, you can contemplate. That’s fine. But then give yourself the dignity of saying, I’m not stewing. I’m contemplating. If you, if you’re stewing and you’re calling it contemplating, drop it. And if you don’t, if you aren’t doing either one. Can I make an email, send an email to somebody. I know that maybe that could get me a job? Can I make a phone call? I’m afraid of making, you know, can I go on the internet and look in that category for jobs? And it’s like, we’re frozen in our emotions. And we don’t realize that the next hour is important.
Robert Strock: (26:02)
The next day is important. The next week is important, but the feeling itself is futile, if we’re stewing it, if we don’t move to the next simple need. And then one more example before we, we end today, which is really very, very common in today’s world. And frankly you have to have of your head in the sand, if you’re not there, which is, we have a, we have a tremendous fear of the world’s situation or at least anxiety about it. What are we gonna do? How I, I feel so impotent. I feel so helpless. I don’t know what I’m gonna do. And it’s so common that either we complain about one political party or we say, oh, I can’t handle the news anymore. I’m just gonna withdraw. That’s the ticket to death. That’s the ticket to contributing to the world dying. We all need to recognize that when we have that fear, that’s a very healthy fear.
Robert Strock: (26:59)
Cuz we’re wanting, really the need is to have courage and to have wisdom, to help deal with that fear in the world situation, to make whatever kind of small or bigger contribution we can make. And it’s a similar premise to the one before, which is we need to bring it to the present. Don’t let yourself stay with anxiety and fear in some vague future ideating about what could happen. It’s fine to do that once in a while, but not as a lifestyle. We need to break it into bits and be a courageous citizen of the country, of the world and just say, do I know anybody I can have a conversation with about this? That’s a constructive conversation. Is there anywhere I can email? Is there any group I can join? Do I have any volunteer time? And if you don’t, then you go into inquiry.
Robert Strock: (27:53)
You go into that question and say, what can I possibly do this week that could be constructive. And you live in that question sincerely. Now you may ask that question while you’re emoting, ah, I was not gonna get anywhere. This is not gonna do anything. And then go back and recognize that’s that same feeling. That’s avoiding the original feeling of fear or helplessness. And go back to the question and see if you can have the question, have a tone of caring, cuz you do care about the world situation. That’s why you’re having these emotions. And it requires tremendous emotional maturity to bring it to the present or near future. It’s a lot easier to either complain or to withdraw and space out, but our world needs you and it needs you to say, okay, what’s it, what’s needed for our country to be able to vote.
Robert Strock: (28:54)
What’s needed for us to be able to have a democracy. What’s my contribution to that. What’s the truth. What are my sources of listening to information? Are they reliable? If I’m listening to the Internet, if I’m listening to conspiracy theories, I’m not being honest. Go to multiple sources, don’t rely on one source and ask yourself, how can I really care? How first of all, how can I get good information, the best information possible? And that might mean you have to go to five sources and then how can I contribute this week? Now, I say that and as I’m saying it I’m feeling, oh, is anybody gonna listen to this? Is anyone gonna really listen to this and activate themselves? You know, if we had millions more people that were saying no way I’m giving up on our country, no way I’m gonna be a passive citizen, no way.
Robert Strock: (29:53)
I’m just gonna just be a complainer. I’m going to join the world this week. I’m gonna join our country this week. Every one of us needs to be involved. We need to vote. We need to make sure voting’s okay and, and safe. And we need to find a way to do our small part, at least for our democracy, for our country, for our world. And the fear is a clue that we need to find courage and courage doesn’t happen as an abstraction. It happens by getting real, by being present and by doing something tangible., Is there an organization I know of or a group that I have respect for that I can join or maybe not join, but volunteer, or talk about or support. So the key thing is awareness of the feeling not getting lost in the content in your head, not getting lost in the future, wanting to care and staying in the near future or the present.
Robert Strock: (30:52)
That’s a humongous emotional maturity leap. Please don’t just listen to that in your head, recognize how hard that is, but how beneficial it would be, if you could trust yourself that you’re going to stay in the present rather than lose yourself in the future and then get, become a slave to fight and flight. So our country, our world needs you and we all need to stay in the present, near future. We all need to stay aware of our original feelings and we all need to recognize it’s more sane to care than to not care. And I believe you all know that intellectually, but it needs to be developed in the face of a, of a hurricane and the winds are blowing and it’s hard to stay centered. And if you can’t change your feelings, let your mind go there. Your wisdom is good enough. It’s very hard to tolerate the world situation and the country situation, but our intelligence can kick in this week, today, simple connections. How can I be positive? So, I thank you for your attention and ask that all of us do our part to be aware of our feelings to care and especially for more important issues like the survival of democracy or the country or the world to give our best selves encouragement to show up. Thank you.
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