Here we are, listening to the news and hearing about elections, global warming, the dangers of nuclear war, the invasion of Ukraine, and we are feeling freaked out. Wherever you are on the political spectrum you are bound to be dealing with some level of anxiety connected to the direction our world and country are going. Robert and Dave assure us this is perfectly normal, and in fact, a good sign you want to be engaged and paying attention. Using the Introspective Guides available at AwarenessThatHeals.org, Robert will use this episode to uniquely focus on integrating what challenges us individually with relating to the dangers we face in the U.S. and the world today.
It may seem easier, or simply an act of survival to avoid challenging feelings as they relate to our planet and politics. You may wonder, what difference could I possibly make? How can I transform feeling helpless into being helpful? This episode will delve into how we can face our feelings and defenses of helplessness, withdrawal, grief, overwhelm, and terror as we navigate the high stakes we find our world in today into something we can work with. We can respond to these feelings with wisdom and love. We are capable of both suffering and accessing a place inside us that can guide us, but it won’t happen automatically. We need to learn how to ask ourselves the most crucial questions: how do I care for myself from my heart and wisdom, listen to it, and act on it, while still feeling challenged? Join Robert as he lays out a guide map to show us the way, for if we do not have a process to work with our emotions, they will define us. Working with the examples of helplessness, withdrawal, grief, overwhelm, and terror Robert talks us through how we can both care for ourselves and also not be paralyzed in the world one realistic step at a time.
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Awareness That Heals, Episode 83.
Robert Strock (00:03):
What we’re gonna focus on, uniquely, in this episode, is integrating what challenges us individually with our relating to the world dangers and those that we face with our country as well. It is so easy to just run away or to avoid these alltogether. And today we’re going to delve into how we can face our feelings and defenses of helplessness, withdrawal, being overwhelmed, grief, and terror, and ask ourselves that question of “When we’re in these states, how can we respond to these feelings inside with our wisdom and our love?”
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 (01:31):
Thanks again for joining us at Awareness That Heals where we’re doing our very best to focus on bringing heart and wisdom to our life’s challenges. Now, I say that and I really wanna emphasize that it’s just not what we were taught to be challenged and at the same time to seek what is it that our wisdom is telling us to actually ask ourselves that question. So what we’re attempting to do is live in the very most challenged part of ourselves whenever it’s there, and accept that, and ask ourselves the question: what would my heart and what would my wisdom say to me when I’m there? So we start again and again with being aware of what is most difficult for us. Which these difficulties are absolutely universal for all of us that are human, whether we recognize them or not. And so the question is, how can we care for ourselves at these crucial times?
Now, as I say that out loud, I say to myself, gosh, that should be obvious that we wanna do that, but it’s just not the way we’ve been raised. So it’s very important that you don’t think that understanding this is enough. This actually requires you when you’re in your situations that are hard, oh yeah, I wanna remember how can I best take care of myself? What are the qualities I need? What actions do I need? How do I really respond to myself with heart and wisdom, with my heart and wisdom not anybody else’s rules? So this sets up the ideal conditions for us to be fulfilled in our individual lives and also to contribute to the world because we’re finding and we’re living closer to our best selves. So today we’re gonna be focusing on the Introspective Guides again, as they are the simplest way to start the path toward integrating what challenges us and what we’re gonna focus on, uniquely, in this episode is integrating what challenges us individually with our relating to the world dangers and those that we face with our country as well.
It is so easy to just run away or to avoid these alltogether. And today we’re going to delve into how we can face our feelings and defenses of helplessness, withdrawal, being overwhelmed, grief and terror, and ask ourselves that question of when we’re in these states, again, I’ll mention them again, helplessness, withdrawal, overwhelmed, grieving, or in terror. How can we respond to these feelings inside with our wisdom and our love? Now, that may sound like it’s impossible, but it’s kind of like learning how to walk and chew gum at the same time that we are capable of both suffering and accessing a place inside us that can guide us, but it’s not gonna happen automatically. We need to learn how to ask ourselves this most crucial question of how we take care of ourselves from our heart and wisdom and listen to it and act on it.
And that’s a mouthful. So we need to repeat this in a number of different ways, so this starts to become organic. Now, for those of you that are familiar with Awareness That Heals and how it generally works, it really is the same thing except we’re applying it to areas where so many of us are overwhelmed that we’re not able to actually face our most difficult emotions and really find ways to access our wisdom and our heart. Before we delve further into this, I’d like to introduce Dave, my closest friend for over 50 years, and my partner at The Global Bridge Foundation.
Robert, thank you. It is so gratifying to continue through this series and through the really infinite number of variations on the theme of our feelings and where they originate what’s underneath, and to be constructive with ourselves, with the Introspective Guides guiding us to what can be best in any given emotional setting.
Robert Strock (06:23):
That’s for sure. So just in starting, I’d like to talk a little bit about normalcy. Normalcy is we don’t really talk about our challenging feelings. Now, for many people, they have some private awareness and many people have not even a private awareness. So this is a big deal. So the very first step is not something to be taken lightly. So as we’re focusing on our relationship to these challenges in the world right now and the helplessness, withdrawal, grief, being overwhelmed or terrified, it’s very important that most of us will have that run through our body, but our awareness will not say, ah, helplessness, withdrawal, grief, overwhelmed, terrified. And if we don’t have a part of us that’s observing it, we’re very likely to be buried in the emotion whether we are conscious of feeling it or are unconscious of feeling it. If we don’t have a process to work with it, our emotions will define us for a period of time.
And the whole point here isn’t just to feel our challenging emotions. Now, I wanna guide you, for those of you that have not yet pulled down the free download of the Introspective Guides, they are available on awarenessthatheals.org on the top bar under Introspective Guides. Please download them and they will identify the 75 most challenging emotions, which include these that I’ve just mentioned. And it will include 75 of the most essential needs, actions, ways to think, that will guide you to your heart and your wisdom. So having this together allows those of us that are confused, which is all of us at times, but almost all of us quite a bit of a time. So here we are, we’re listening to the news and we’re hearing about global warming, and we’re hearing about the dangers of nuclear war, and we’re hearing about the invasion of Ukraine and we’re feeling freaked out and we’re feeling so helpless and god, I can’t stand this anymore and I now decided to turn off the news.
Or, some of us are just in a state of grief and just caught in the grief. And we wanna take these one by one just as examples of how you can identify the emotions and how you can start to move in a direction that is toward your heart and wisdom. And we all do have this capacity. It requires first the awareness of the challenging emotions. And then we need to find a place inside us that recognizes, you know what I don’t wanna be frozen in this emotion. I wanna be able to find a way where I can both care for myself in this emotion but also not be paralyzed in the world. And I call that an intention to care or an intention to heal. And that itself, just those two juxtaposition together hopefully become like a Pavlovian response where when I feel a challenging emotion, I want to identify a part of me that wants to care, that wants to bring my heart, wants to bring my wisdom closer to me.
Now, once that happens, it changes the quality. You’re not alone anymore, you’re not buried by it. You have another part of you that’s observing it, and you have another part of you that knows you don’t wanna be a slave to that emotion. You also don’t wanna bury that emotion. So we’ll start with helplessness. So you feel helpless because what am I gonna do with Putin attacking Ukraine? What am I gonna do with a false plot to gather electors, to declare what a state is going to use their electors to choose the president of the United States? What can I do about it? And the key thing is when you’re asking yourself that question, you need to be sure that you’re asking the question that is possible. So what can I do that is possible? Now what that means is no, you can’t stop the elector plot from happening, but you can vote.
Yeah, that’s one tangible thing I can do. I can talk to friends about it, I can talk to my kids about it, I can talk to my parents about it, I can talk to people I know and you recognize, as is the case with all the challenging feelings that there are needs underneath them that are the direction that you want to move. So when you’re feeling helpless, you realize the reason why you’re feeling helpless is because you wanna be helpful. So you ask yourself, How can I possibly be helpful in a way that would’ve potentially, even in the teeniest of ways, affect the situation that you feel helpless about? So the first thing is your thoughts matter. Whatever you think matters. If your helplessness just leads you to more and more thoughts of helplessness, then you realize that’s gonna lead you down a rabbit hole.
So you realize, I wanna develop thoughts that are free from just the feeling that are part of the intention to care. And you, you’ll say, I wanna find a way I can be helpful. Maybe in the next minute with my thoughts, maybe I’ll see that I’m laying back and maybe I’ll straighten my posture. Maybe it’ll lead to an email, maybe it’ll lead to a conversation. But you realize you want to be helpful. So what coexist is helplessness and the need to be helpful. And as you start to get the hang of it, the need to be helpful starts to become more dominant in your thinking and your acting, in your tone of voice in ways that you respond. This desire, this need to be helpful starts to dominate. Well, that starts the beginning and we’re gonna just go a certain amount of depth with each one, and then we’ll start to go deeper and deeper.
Personally, one of the struggles I have is feeling overwhelmed by the amount of inputs that need my attention. I have my personal life, all the things you mentioned that are happening in the world, it feels like that is the challenge. Assuming again, with the intention to try and do something, just that feeling of trying to do it can feel overwhelming, can feel like, oh my God, there’s 30 different really important things, or 20 different really important things. Not to mention whatever’s going on inside my life, my health, the people I love, and the challenges that are going on just in survival myself.
Robert Strock (13:56):
Exactly. So what you’re pointing out is the need for a couple of things. One is what I mentioned earlier, which is, that is possible. You can’t respond to 30 things. So that will drive you crazy. That will make you go down the rabbit hole. The second thing would be is you can’t afford to have that many news sources if it’s overwhelming you. So you need to lessen the news sources. So it’s something that doesn’t make you spin. And then the third thing that’s needed is discrimination, is that you need to be able to say, I can’t do 30, I can do one or I could do two. And that is a grounded version of what is possible. So you need to recognize that it is not healthy for you to be watching so much that you’re overwhelmed in a way that incapacitates you. It’s fine if you’re overwhelmed for 10 seconds and then you’re not.
But if it overwhelms you or if it leaves you in a state of helplessness that’s gonna rule all your next thoughts and all your next actions, then you need to lessen your exposure. But you’ve gotta be careful not to go to the other extreme and then say, well, I’m just not gonna watch anything, I’m just gonna check out. I’m just gonna live my own life. I’m not gonna be worried about being a universal citizen or a true American citizen that’s going to be fighting for democracy. So what’s possible and discriminating, and if you don’t discriminate, and if that question, which would be an organic part if you’ve been really watching the series, is a whole bunch of questions that get asked. So the first one is, what can I realistically do or how can I realistically be? And then you come up with 30 answers.
And the next thing is, how do I narrow the list? What is the way I narrow the list so that I’m not overwhelmed? Do I wanna just call this one friend? Do I wanna call this one organization? Do I wanna just think more clearly about one issue? The whole point is we can’t afford to stay in a state of something that’s just gonna create injury. If we just stay in a state of injury, we’ve rendered ourselves virtually useless and maybe even worse, and we’re suffering while we’re useless. Versus you are wanting to be helpful that’s why you feel helpless. There’s nobody that feels helpless that doesn’t wanna feel helpful. So you turn it on its head, you find the needs. You move from one chart, that’s a challenging feelings to recognize what it is a need of. And then your thoughts narrow it down to discriminate and to make only what’s possible.
Now, this is a sign of maturity to actually be able to do the work, to discriminate and to make it possible. So it’s a very, very important question, but it sounds grandiose. If you think, oh, I’m gonna now be helpful and I’m gonna deal with all these things, no chance you know what you’re capable of, how much you’re involved in your personal life and your work and this and that. Maybe you have 15 minutes a day, maybe you have a half hour a day, maybe you have an hour a day, maybe every once in a while you have time. But you need to be the wisdom unto yourself and be able to say, how much can I really channel helplessness into helpfulness? And what are the series of questions that are all positive questions that are designed to bring out my heart and wisdom? So then we move on to the next one, withdraw.
We’re we withdraw because we felt helpless so long or overwhelmed so long that we withdraw and we then have thoughts that while we’re withdrawn, we think, oh man, it’s hopeless, politicians are screwed up, there’s so many fucked up people, this or that. And you let your thoughts be run by the withdrawal. Now again, if we go back to the second step, which is the intention to care or heal, which we forget 99% of the time, most of us forget that we have another capacity when we’re suffering and we can see it on the list and we can see the alternative on the list. And it is a complete change or more accurately, a gradual change of thinking, doing. If we realize that we want to be led from our needs, not from our challenging feelings, we wanna support ourselves to feel the challenging feelings, to accept the challenging feelings, but inspire us to discover the needs that they represent because they show us what isn’t fulfilled or what isn’t satisfied.
So with withdrawal, there’s clearly a need for engagement. And we’ve gone to an extreme of moving away. Well, our intention to care says, okay, I don’t believe that being in the state of withdrawal is gonna be good for me or for the country or for the world. So I need to be engaged. This is part of being an American citizen, a California citizen, a Ukrainian citizen, a Russian citizen. This is a part of sanity that we’re saying because we’re being honest about our emotions and we’re being honest about our core needs and we’re caring about our core needs. That alone, if it starts to percolate in you, you start to get a feel for it. You can ask a question, this is not an esoteric event. It’s hard. It’s hard because we weren’t taught it, but it’s not really hard to understand. It’s harder to practice.
But once we get the knack of it, it’s like riding a bicycle. When I feel withdrawn, I wanna engage. When I feel helpless, I wanna be helpful. And we’ll keep seeing how that converts. So we say, How much can I afford to be engaged? Cuz I know if I get too engaged, I’m gonna withdraw. So what’s the simple little things? Can I have some engaged thoughts? I’d like to be supportive of this organization I know. Or I’d like to call this friend and ask them what they’re doing. Cuz I know they do it more than I do. So I’d like to piggyback off of them and see if I can be of support in some way. Even just having our thinking being led from our needs rather than from our challenging feelings is a humongous benefit. We walk into a supermarket and now we’re in a state of thinking toward the helpful, rather than the helpless.
We have a different vibe we’re putting out that’s helping people just by osmosis, just by the world, just that, just our thoughts. Now we’re thinking, well, what are the thoughts that could be implemented today? And it may be that the thoughts would just be, I’m gonna be engaged a little bit more with people around me. Maybe I won’t even deal with the content. Maybe I’ll just try to change the energy to be a little bit more engaged and that will help lead other people to be engaged. And that, through osmosis, will lead us to ultimately have enough courage and discrimination to deal with. How can I be engaged for our country? So then we move on to the next one. Grief. Okay, you’re in a state of grief now that frequently is someone has lost someone to death or has lost someone to a terminal illness.
And of course there’s gonna be grief and there might be grief for the rest of your life at different levels. That’s natural. So all these challenging emotions need the words. It’s perfectly natural to be human. That’s what part of us is. And I don’t want the challenging part of me to run my whole life. I wanna recognize I do have a part of me that wants to care that I forget because I get hypnotized and frozen in these challenging emotions all too often. So I wanna remind myself I want to care. So it is literally like doing a campaign inside yourself saying, every time I have a challenging emotion, I want to ask myself, how can I move toward an intention to care or intention to heal? Maybe it’s not even a how can I, It’s just a recognition. I know I want to, cuz I know when I do, I feel better more than I do when I’m in quicksand just sinking and sinking and sinking.
So with the grief, as it comes out of the world, you say, I wanna let myself grieve, but I also wanna move toward some kind of peace, some kind of equilibrium, some kind of moving pro-life. How can I support life while I’m in grief? Doesn’t mean I have to get over grief, just means I need to recognize it isn’t going to dominate my life. I’m gonna develop being able to live at two levels at once. One is identifying and accepting or at least tolerating or at least barely tolerating our emotions. And then recognizing you wanna move on a different level to move toward caring, healing-wisdom or heart in some way. So it’s so important that we see that this isn’t schizophrenic, this is holistic, this is integration. This is learning something that we weren’t taught in school. We weren’t taught by our parents. Our parents didn’t model this for us.
It’s, we’re not stupid because we didn’t know how to do this. This is exposing us to an opportunity to be the masters of our own life. And we’re all being barraged with situations as it has to do with the dangers of democracy failing, the dangers of tyrants running the world. It’s leading us to these first few motions that we’re dealing with that are helplessness, withdrawal, and grief. And we’re seeing that. We wanna learn how to be aware of them, accept them, and then move toward the needs that we have that are possible. And then to discriminate one or two at a time that can be real life and not minimize the importance of just changing our thoughts. And then as we become more a master of changing our own thoughts, that’s gonna start to discriminate into actions and steps that we can take. And then adding the last two before we sign off on this podcast, there’s the feeling of being overwhelmed.
And when we’re overwhelmed, we realize that’s a sign of too much helplessness, too much grief, too much anger. We can’t tolerate being that emotionally churned up. And so we then remind ourselves again, we’re so churned up, we’ve gotta find a way to find enough equilibrium so we can find our desire to care. Now when we find our desire to care, this is monumental. This is a big deal. And as it relates to our country and world and the world situation and global warming and false electrodes and all kinds of things that are understandable, why we’d be overwhelmed. We need to be regulators. Regulators of our emotions to say, how do I need to modify, how I take in this information? So I’m feeling vulnerable because we are vulnerable but not overwhelmed. How do I do that? Well, I need to watch less news. I need to read less about the news.
I need to find the sweet middle where I’m vulnerable and awake and aware and I’m still able to care and wanting to support the caring and move my thoughts. And then the last example that we’re using of the same thing is we’re terrified. We’re just really panicked. Well, that’s a sign that we’re too close to the fire. We’re too close to the hurricane. We’re too close to the nuclear war, nuclear war, nuclear war, terrorism, terrorism, terrorism. That’s natural. Then we need to again be the regulator and say, okay, I’m going to protect you, stay aware of the dangers, but support you so that you can see you still have a life. You can still do some of your favorite things, but how can I move that terror into rational fear? Then how can I deal with that rational fear and move that into courage? Because the terror into fear is regulating yourself so that you can move and not be paralyzed or frozen.
And then once you have it into a playable fear, which is a very dignified, frankly, all these are dignified human states, they just aren’t optimal to stay frozen there. So you see yourself, you’re a verb. You’re someone that’s active, you’ve got the awareness and the experience of helplessness, withdrawal, grief, overwhelm, and terror and you know you want to care. Now, as I say that, do you know you want to care? Or do you think you want to not care? Now, in my experience as a therapist, this is a question I’ve asked people and at first many people look at me like, what are you acting like I’m a dumb shit? Go ask me such a stupid question. And no, it’s a reminder that we forget when we’re in the depth of an emotion. And so it just leads us to act out the emotion or simply to be swallowed up by it.
This is a massive victory. Please apply this now to the country cuz you could be so panicked or so frightened that you won’t wanna go to the polls. You could be in such helplessness that you lose some of your friendships or you become disconnected from your life partner or disconnected from yourself, disconnected from your own capacity to care. You can start losing contact with the parts of your heart that feel love, that feel trust, that feel warmth, that feel empathy. Do you want to lose touch with those? Of course you don’t. But the key is emotions are like a hypnosis. And I’m gonna say that twice. Emotions are like a hypnosis. And by remembering that you wanna care, you’re breaking that hypnosis, you’re de hypnotizing yourself from that slant as representing almost like it’s God-like, well, this feeling overwhelmed is ruling me. It’s the ruler.
And you’re shifting that to I know I want to care. That assumption of your own goodwill is an act of magic. And then you listening to the series of questions that you ask is utterly beneficial. And so hopefully as we wrap this up, you can see that your ability to both identify where you are, recognize you wanna care, and then develop the awareness of the kind of need or needs that you have that will support you in caring and then developing the ability to have those thoughts, especially right now as we’re focusing in this episode on our country, as these feelings come up about our country, Don’t let yourself be owned by your emotions. Don’t let your thoughts be owned by your emotions. Let them be owned by your heart and your wisdom. And that is a matter of asking you, you need to be asking your heart and your wisdom what it has to say to you.
And then keep following it and make it viable and not overwhelm yourself with too many answers. Now ask yourself, is this something you think you can do? Look at where you are right now in relationship to the country or the world that is one of these, that’s most that way. And see if you can say, Okay, I need to modify this so I’m in the sweet spot of being focused toward being helpful while I still feel helpless. Or, I’m in that middle point between being withdrawn and engaged or I’m grieving, but I’m also still wanting to work toward peace. Or, I’m overwhelmed, but I’m now moving more toward feeling scared or helpless, but I also know I wanna care. Or, you’re terrified and you’re moving toward fear. It’s a playable fear. It’s a human fear. And you wanna move toward courage in the country and you wanna narrow it down to the one thing you can do today, even if it’s your thoughts or let me say it a different way, it’s a massive victory if it’s your thoughts.
If you’re able to start to change your thoughts, then it’s relatively easy to start to do the action. That’s the one action that you can guide yourself toward. And you realize this can be your life path regarding helping be a citizen of this country. This is what our country needs. You even reflect on these feelings and you realize these have been the sources of war. If we add anger in here of not being able to resolve our anger and find a desire toward peace, we’re gonna make the others the subject of the anger. So it’s so important that we honor our feelings, that we find this intention to care, that is the root of who, the best of us is all over the world and our capacity to implement this and to allow ourselves to have emotions that are within play that can activate this intention to care and can lead us toward thoughts that are possible that can benefit our country and our world. Thank you for your time.
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