Awareness that Heals

Introspective Guides: Dealing with Vulnerable Feelings & Our Defenses Against Them – Episode 74

Introspective Guides: Dealing with Vulnerable Feelings & Our Defenses Against Them - Episode 74Today, Dave shares his shyness and vulnerability around being uncomfortable with how tall he was growing up. His defense around this sprouted in the form of the excessive need to please, often at the expense of himself. This action robs one of being mutual.  This episode exposes the need and importance of being able to share our insecurity and humanness. Then have others take care of you as much as you take care of them. Those around you may take you for granted and assume you do not have needs. It becomes a quagmire. Maybe you don’t even know you have needs. Insecurity is only one trigger and can be reborn over and over again. Everyone has their versions of this and how they find ways to cope. It takes awareness to see our patterns and patience to continue to peel off layer after layer. We hope that you gain insight and perspective while listening to Robert and Dave’s challenges and how they meet them. The key is to go back to the insecurity or vulnerability, value it, and appreciate it as sensitivity. There is so much goodness in wanting to give when it is balanced.

Normal is usually trying to be popular. If you are not normal you have the guarantee of feeling some rejection. Some people will think you are weird, withdrawn, nerdy, philosophical, or cool. If you think on your own, following your own drummer will create a different set of challenges. The underlying gold of discovering and following your truest needs is that it holds the potential to lead you to connection, fulfillment, courage, maybe even inspiration and all kinds of other meaningful qualities. Are we here to be mostly happy or are we here to pursue something deeply meaningful? The world has so many obstacles that we cannot afford to be normal living in our own isolated dreams and think we are going to live a deeply satisfying life. You can guide yourself to be more fulfilled if you ask questions, listen to the answers, experiment with them, and have the courage to break free from the ordinary conditioning to find your truer self. We invite you to visit us at for access to the free Introspective Guides that will serve as a starting road map to 75 of The Most Challenging Emotions and Core Needs.

Resources related to this episode
Robert Strock Website
Robert’s Book, Awareness that Heals
Free Downloadable Introspective Guides

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Announcer: (00:00)
Awareness That Heals, Episode, 74.

Robert Strock: (00:04)
Are we really here just to be pretty happy or are we here to try to pursue something that would be deeply meaningful? And all of us can see that we’re living in a world that is so challenged, even if we didn’t have our own personal, emotional challenges. The world has so many challenges that this is a time that we can’t afford to be normal and think we’re gonna live a deeply satisfying and inspired life.

Announcer: (00:33)
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: (01:14)
So a very warm welcome again, to Awareness That Heals, uh, I hope that you can feel my warmth, cuz I truly am grateful to be able to be in a position to be able to do a podcast and to do it on elements that I’ve loved in my life. And hopefully to be able to pass on something that you yourself will identify with, use it for you in your way and find some benefit. And what we’re gonna be talking about today is something so central to living a fulfilling life. And as I did in the last episode, I’m distinguishing a fulfilling life from a normal, pretty happy life or less, and or to be able to live a fulfilling life. We do need to learn how to be contemplating ourselves and asking ourselves, how can we be fulfilled? We can’t just follow the conditioning that we’ve learned from our families, from our parents, from our movies, from the cliques at our schools.

Robert Strock: (02:33)
And we all universally live with tremendous amount of conditioning that makes us normal and normal is usually popular. So if you aren’t normal, you have to run the risk, not even the risk, you have to have the guarantee that that means you’re gonna feel some rejection. You’re gonna have some people think you’re weird or a nerd, philosophical, you know, think you’re cool, arrogant, whatever it is. But if you’re gonna think on your own for yourself, you following your own drummer is going to create some challenges. And of course the key is it has the potential to lead you to inspiration, fulfillment, courage, and all kinds of other deeply meaningful qualities of fulfillment. And why else are we here? You know, are we really here just to be pretty happy or are we here to try to pursue something that would be deeply meaningful? And all of us can see that we’re living in a world that is so challenged, even if we didn’t have our own personal, emotional challenges, the world has so many challenges that this is a time that we can’t afford to be normal and think we’re gonna live a deeply satisfying and inspired life.

Robert Strock: (04:05)
So, you may think that you don’t have that much conditioning, cuz maybe you had good parents, but I guarantee you that you had conditioning that’s affecting you where you think that’s, you. You think your drive for success is you, or you think your drive to revolt against success and you’re gonna be more like a, a hippie is you. Then you’re just defending against being normal, which is also normal. What isn’t normal, is to really take the time to contemplate and to be your own boss, be your own authority, and really look at what would really allow me to be turned on in this life. And to have that not just be done on a Sunday or once a year or twice a year but be with you throughout your day to guide you. You can guide yourself to be more fulfilled, but only if you really ask the questions, really listen to the answers and really experiment with them and have the courage to break free from ordinary normalcy.

Robert Strock: (05:17)
And it really is like a volcanic event or a tidal wave or an earthquake where conditioning tells you, this is the way that you’re gonna feel good. And we mistake feeling good for feeling fulfilled. Oftentimes not always, but oftentimes feeling good is just living a normal life and there’s nothing wrong with feeling good. The point is not to feel guilty. The point is to realize that we all have a potential to be able to be our own guide and have that guidance lead us to a more interesting, more creative, more inspired and more fulfilled life. And recognizing that virtually none of us have had that conditioning. So, I imagine that there was a certain equivalent to a informal monastery that was your home. And right from the beginning you were taught, don’t listen to me, your parents say, listen to me as far as safety, but at four years old, when you start asking questions about death or this or that, yes, what do you think?

Robert Strock: (06:39)
Well and you teach your kids to think for themselves and you’re not just giving them answers. You give them some answers, you give them some guidance, but you let them tell you how important does it seem to you. And that doesn’t mean you let them be the boss and let them take over their whole lives, cuz they’re only six years old or eight-year-olds. But you’re starting to teach them. Imagine that you received that conditioning and that you were taught to be able to think for yourself and that you were taught that it was okay to be able to be vulnerable, not only okay, but actually a sign of sensitivity. So, today we’re going to be looking at the Introspective Guides and the Introspective Guides include 75 of the most challenging feelings, which include vulnerable feelings and defenses against vulnerable feelings and also a list, a second list that includes the qualities and the needs that will help us with our challenging feelings and learn how to more and more, by being our own authority, recognize what we feel and look at the alternatives of how we can best take care of ourselves because it’s also not normal.

Robert Strock: (08:05)
And we aren’t taught how to recognize our feelings specifically and how to be resourceful in going for thoughts and needs and actions that will better take care of us. So, these lists are invaluable guides and it doesn’t mean you can’t make your own list. It doesn’t mean these lists are God’s gift to humanity, but they are a starting point that I truly believe we all need to be aware of what we feel and how to springboard ourselves into caring for the feelings themselves and also guide us how we need to be in the world with these feelings and how we need to take care of ourselves and how we think about it and what we do in the world. So I encourage you to go to and look at the top gray line and download the free Introspective Guides as you’re listening to this, if you have not already done it. I’d like to start off by Dave who’s been my life-long friend forever, it seems and he is also my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation.

Dave: (09:23)
Robert, thank you. And I, I really appreciate sticking with this particular set of the kinds of feelings that are universal. Uh, I think Joel, who I know you’ll introduce, uh, who has really shared something really important in our last podcast. I’d like to, a little bit of personal sharing in that same way for me, which was in a sense, uh, on the opposite end of the spectrum. Size-wise, I was a head taller than most of the people my age until maybe I fully grew to the height. I am at six two when I was about 13 or 14, which felt weird in itself, but it also dissuaded people from being physical with me. Um, so my insecurities, which were severe were extreme shyness; I I felt very uncomfortable talking to people, relating to people. I adapted, compensated, whatever word you want to use by learning that the best way I could relate to people, but was by taking a look and see what they needed and, and trying to please them.

Dave: (10:38)
And that’s what I learned how to do. And I’m, I’m sharing this because everybody has their own version and the versions may be intimate, but they do fall into categories, they do fall into similarities, and I know you’ll be getting into that. And the eventuality of how I discovered that, and am continuing, honestly, in my life, even though I became aware of it embarrassingly when I was about 19, in a very stark way. And that’s over, well over 50 moons ago, um, or let’s say revolutions of the sun, uh, annual revolutions. Uh, so it’s been a long time and it’s, uh, as many of our patterns–it’s an onion that keeps peeling layer after layer off.

Robert Strock: (11:29)
So I’m gonna give you a chance to, to give the quote of what you wrote at that time, uh, after, after I introduce Joel and, wanna respond more to what you’re saying as well, right after I do that introduction. So Joel, for those of you that have been listening to the last couple episodes, you already know. So I’ll give a briefer introduction, but he replaced Mark, who’s doing well, uh, but still uncertain his fate. And is communicating at least, and he’s on his third treatment, and Joel has come in, as is very obvious from the last episode, as someone that really is transparent and courageous, and we are very much inviting you Joel, to contribute, when you feel you have something that really is triggered that you feel would be of benefit to you and to other people in the audience.

Joel: (12:24)
Thanks so much, Robert. Um, I just wanted to say that, uh, from somebody that’s new to this podcast and new to everything that you’re talking about, it has already helped me gain a lot of insight and perspective, and I hope it does for everybody. And I look forward to being part of this with you guys.

Robert Strock: (12:43)
Thanks so much. It was really a not ever to be taken for granted gift that I would, I would easily wanna make that invitation. So I’m very grateful. So Dave, I wanna highlight, you know, even for people, what really was a defense against insecurity, cuz some people may, may see the need to please as something that is, you know, kind of a good reaction and not a defense and knowing you as I have, as long as I have, the need to take care of others has been so often at the expense of yourself. And because it’s been at the expense of yourself, it unquestionably, especially in the early phases, didn’t allow you to be as grateful. Didn’t allow you to be certainly as mutual and robbed you from being able to share the insecurity and then have others take care of you as much as you took care of others.

Robert Strock: (13:48)
So it sounds good to the average person, but when you realize you paid a price for the insecurity, and it sounds like six two, eyes of blue, or whatever else, and you know, handsome.But that a lot of people could just hear that as, oh, he had it easy. But the truth of the matter is I have witnessed firsthand the amount of suffering what happens if you go even further is you go way outta your way and you make loans to people that are in your family. Then they end up getting angry at you and then you end up paying a price and then you’re, you’re outraged. And then there’s, there’s the insecurity, and then there’s the being really overly nice. And then people take you for granted and then people assume you don’t have needs. And then you end up in quagmire, multiple quagmires that come from that. So the key is going back to the insecurity, valuing it, appreciating that it’s a sensitivity. And then how do I care for myself? And maybe for you, I’ll include, especially how do I care for myself and others, but maybe emphasize self for you. Whereas for most people I would emphasize others. But that, because that was your defense, I’ll emphasize, how do I take care of myself with you?

Dave: (15:05)
So when I was 19, uh, I had had a period of time, a short period of time and not particularly, uh, eloquently, uh, wrote some poems. And one of the, one of the phrases I wrote about myself was, “Tell me my friend how it feels to be an everchanging image of what you think they want to see.” And that was the beginning of seeing the pattern. It certainly had decades to go before it would, uh, go to another level because actually that’s how I acted. That’s what I did. And it’s a defense that is, um, pleasurable to other people, understandably, because here I am and my fulfillment is that they express appreciation. And as you said, that doesn’t always happen. And I had some significant events later in life where that didn’t happen. But by and large, I got enough to foster that pattern to, to reinforce that pattern to, uh, to continuously avoid awareness. And this is where it is crucial. I didn’t even know I had needs. I didn’t even have an awareness of what they may be. And so anybody I was close to did not have an opportunity to give to me because they never really saw them because I never really showed them. And they would have to really go have gone above and beyond, which of course was not happening.

Robert Strock: (16:38)

Dave: (16:39)
Yeah. Uh, to penetrate into me in a place I wasn’t even willing to go or see, and that lasted for a very, very long time. And sure, eventually I learned, I learned the hard way I ran into situations where I was shocked. I feel like I’m in the movie Casablanca, I’m shocked that gambling is going on in this establishment. But I was shocked that somebody was treating me in a time of my need in a way that I wouldn’t have treated them. Are you kidding me? How can this, how can this be happening? It’s obvious. It’s obvious, but it wasn’t, it wasn’t at all.

Robert Strock: (17:20)
Yeah. And what you’re saying is an understatement. It’s not only how can somebody treat me in a way that I wouldn’t treat them, it’s how can someone be cruel? How can somebody be hostile? How can somebody be completely representing a different reality? How can someone cheat you? You know, that if you look at your relationships, and insecurity is just one trigger, you know I look back and I kind of with a smile,I look at relationships where one person was a narcissist and the other person just needed to please all the time. And they’re in a relationship. And I speak up and I say, well, I just disagree with both of you. And basically it was two on one, both of them disagreeing with me oftentimes. And some of the times I couldn’t break through, I just, just couldn’t break through because they were so committed to their defenses.

Robert Strock: (18:17)
In one case that the person’s defense was, they were vulnerable, so they decided I’m just gonna take care of me and fuck everybody else. And the other person said, I’m insecure. You know what? I’m just gonna take care of everybody else, and especially my husband, and fuck me. Now, they didn’t do that consciously. But unconsciously, the commitment was so deep that many times people, and sometimes these are marriages that lasted the longest because they were so locked into their unwholesome agreement. And then sometimes they had the worst breakup that it was just so ugly, uh, that, because one of them became aware and, and then sometimes they actually both became aware and they became a lot more fulfilled. So there are so many different directions that can happen depending on how the original insecurity and in this case, when you’re talking about the parallel issue with the narcissistic personality, how the entitlement, you know, how much the entitlement is reinforced, which is another one of the challenging emotions, even though it’s viewed as being God’s gift to humanity.

Dave: (19:25)
Just to amplify that. The truth of it was to express my needs was terrorizing me. To express my needs, put me in a position where I could be rejected. I could be judged, uh, to be sensitive and develop what I would call my radar for other people’s needs–no brainer, easy. Again, I was to hearken back to the very beginning of Awareness That Heals totally unaware of this unawareness. I had no idea. This is what was going on. It was a self-reinforcing pattern for a lot of my life, and then it became slowly more and more into my consciousness, especially as I was shocked, as you said, by some of the overtly negative responses to what I thought was my generosity.

Robert Strock: (20:22)
Yeah, and one of the things that you’re really pointing out for, for everyone that’s really listening closely, is that insecurity can be reborn over and over and over again, the rebirth of it. So you can, you can have your college years and you get to make friends and it seems kind of normal. And then you get married and you maybe have a good enough relationship and you become more of a caregiver than a care receiver. And then you have a family and then you extend to extend to the family, and then suddenly you’re, you’re making loans or you’re, you’re doing medical research, or you’re doing all kinds of work. And then you get whacked–and then a whole rebirth of the insecurity and the defense against the insecurity. In your case, you had a different defense, you know, and you looked at it and you were able to see the defense, which is you’re angry

Robert Strock: (21:18)
and you’re realizing that, my God, I can’t afford to reach and extend that far. I’ve gotta look at my original defense against the insecurity; I can’t be that generous. And especially with people who I haven’t been more mutual with. And I certainly had a helper pattern, as do many therapists, also in my earlier years, and had to go through various levels of changes of friendship, uh, changes of how much time I spent with people because I wanted more mutuality. And I loved getting the appreciation back too, but I didn’t love not being loved. I didn’t love not being appreciated.

Dave: (21:59)
As we sit here in this moment, talking about my pattern. And you mentioned a variety of things knowing me, of course, but specific to me I’ve done, uh, years of family and other people’s advocating for them medically. I received a text that my daughter-in-law needs to go to the ER. I am so pulled to see what’s going on to facilitate, to care for, to be the caregiver. And this is a skill, uh, it’s actually quite a developed skill in me honed over years of focusing on that side of myself. And I am now, at age 73–yes I’ll admit it–beginning to learn the other side of the skill, which is to allow people to care for me, to allow myself to be visible. And being visible doesn’t come natural to me. As you said, it does come natural to other people; it hasn’t to me.

Robert Strock: (23:09)
Yeah. And this is so common. And I wanna relate specifically to the text you just got. It’s like, I feel it insecure, and I feel pulled, and that’s really strong and that’s a sign of wanting to be helpful. That’s a good part of me. And I need to have that be in balance, let this podcast finish. Not let the pull completely dominate my mind, like you’re not. And recognize the goodness in the wanting to give, especially when it’s balanced. So, it’s so important that we all, when we feel our vulnerability, that we look at that question, “How do I best take care of it?” Well, part of how you best take care of this pull is you recognize this is a very loving part of me. And yes, of course, you’re gonna want to be cared for in a mutuality as well.

Robert Strock: (24:08)
You know, a dumb person might say you have strings attached, as if there’s some kind of unconditional human being that that just wants to give and doesn’t ever wanna receive, which is epitome of unhealthy. But you’re now aware that yeah, you still wanna give, and it’s a goodness. And you also wanna have a mutual relationship, as you have developed with your daughter-in-law, as you have had conversations, as you have expressed more of your needs. And for again, those of you that are listening very carefully, you’ll see that the tendency, if you’re suffering from this type of insecurity, is to let it take you over, but then you stop and say, how do I best take care of, and really in this case, everyone, how do I take care of Robert, because I’m on his podcast, how do I take care of her because I can’t afford to go on too long because I am a key medical advocate and I know more than the other people involved.

Robert Strock: (25:07)
And how do I appreciate the goodness of my insecurity? So hopefully as you are in your form of insecurity, the first impulse is to say yes to it, is to say it’s vulnerable and I can ally with it to be saying, how do I care for it? And how do I care for myself? And how do I care for the other? How do I find a balance? So thank you for your attention again, and hope you’ll continue to join us. I think we’re gonna do another one on insecurity as well.

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