Robert has never seen a time when fear and anxiety were more prevalent in the world. How we deal with our fear and anxiety is not only important in our relationship with ourselves, our love life, friendships, and family members that have opposite politics, but also in our relationship to our very survival, the survival of our planet, and democracy. It is possible to give yourself space to just feel it and not blend it in with the rest of your life. Give it a solitary sanctuary. Breathe into it so you can notice it more overtly to the point where you can have a dialogue with anxiety and find and speak in a voice that lets your wisdom guide you how you can best take care of yourself. Give anxiety the dignity that it deserves because nobody is being anxious on purpose. It is not a matter of being able to get over it. It is a matter of developing an autonomous capacity to guide yourself while the fear is going on. The origin of fear and anxiety is not negative. It is a longing to be safe. This episode will help you learn how to guide yourself and not get lost in self-judgment.
Connect with Robert as he continues working with The Introspective Guides, which can be found at AwarenessThatHeals.org to identify our most challenging emotion that is happening at any time of the day or night. Also, develop skills in how to find ways to respond to that challenging emotion by identifying essential core needs that can help us within any situation. It is understandable why we would want to run from our challenging feelings if we do not have a sense of where to go with them.
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 77.
Robert Strock: (00:03)
What I’m suggesting you say to yourself, as you’re looking at your fear and anxiety, is you’re afraid or you’re anxious because you so much want to be courageous and relaxed. Their origin of fear and anxiety is not negative. It’s a longing to be safe, it’s longing to be secure, it’s longing to be courageous. And if you recognize that you see the dignity in the fear and the anxiety, and it also will help you to go to the next step to want to move in a healing or caring 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: (01:20)
So I thank you again for joining us at Awareness That Heals. It’s truly an honor, uh, a joy, and really an inspiration to be able to share this program with you. It’s been a longing to be able to have an ability to speak more to the public. Having been a psychotherapist for all these years, behind four walls was dominantly talking at the most with a family and mostly with a couple or a single. And so I thank you from the bottom of my heart for joining us. What we’re gonna be talking about today is identifying our most challenging emotion that is happening at anytime of the day, night, and also how to find the ways to respond to that challenging emotion by identifying our most essential core needs or qualities or actions that would help us with the emotion, and also with a situation that is involved with the emotion.
Robert Strock: (02:24)
And while talking about that, as we have been mentioning every episode, I give you a very strong encouragement to take a shortcut and go to awarenessthatheals.org and download the Introspective Guides that has two charts, one chart that will help you identify with 75 challenging emotions and will give you specificity, which really is important to be able to know whether or not you’re dealing with anger or sadness, or whether you’re dealing with jealousy or competition. And a lot of those get confused or get blanketed out. But when you become exactly aware of the emotion that you’re going through by looking at a list, it helps you greatly with going to the second chart, which is identifying your core needs. And those 75 needs that are identified are also qualities and implicit actions and thoughts that will help you move in a direction, depending on what your original challenge is.
Robert Strock: (03:31)
And none of us, to the best of my knowledge, nobody I’ve met was really raised to identify specifically their core challenging feelings, and to be able to link them with directions, to take care of themselves. Now, as I say that, something I haven’t said in prior episodes, or maybe quite a while ago, it’s understandable why we’ve run, run away from our challenging emotions. If we don’t have a sense of where we go with them, why do we wanna face fear? If whatever we do is gonna be useless and not help us with fear or anger or anxiety, but what these 75 core essential needs and qualities does is it gives us a handle on where to move, which allows us to be more courageous and feel more safe to actually look at our most difficult emotions because we have a place to guide ourselves.
Robert Strock: (04:30)
Now, of course, that’s only true if we really take the time to feel and see the difficult emotion and to find a place that cares for ourselves enough to wanna lead us to list and discover the needs, and then take it from there to be resourceful as to how we best implement the needs to take care of our original emotions and whatever situation we’re in. Now, I don’t expect you, especially if this is the first time you’ve heard me say that to remember everything I’ve said, but if it’s a reiteration, hopefully this really goes in deeply that you can see that every time you’re feeling lousy, in any form, and you circle that on the charge and you’re able to circle a few of the needs or even one, you’re gonna have a way that you can direct your mind. You’re gonna have a way you can direct your actions.
Robert Strock: (05:27)
You can have a way you can direct your heart, and therefore we don’t have to be afraid of our fear. We don’t have to be afraid of facing our fear because we will have a directional path as to how we can deal with it. So today we’re going to be dealing with our fear and anxiety, which is certainly during this time period, the biggest time of fear and anxiety in my 73 years of life for not only me, but everybody around me that I’ve seen. I’ve never seen a time where fear or anxiety was more prevalent. And every part of me believes it’s even more extreme than that because it’s not only everybody I see, it’s not only everybody in our country, it’s the whole world. The whole world has been exposed to what’s happened in Ukraine with Putin. The whole world is aware of global warming and nuclear threats.
Robert Strock: (06:29)
Maybe not the whole world is aware of, of how severe the economic divisions have been and how much of a setup that is for terrorism and alienation, but that’s existing too at an extreme level that’s unparalleled and has just gotten more and more unbearable for those that are poor and angrier and more alienated and just such a ripe ground to foster terrorists looking for members. So how we deal with our fear and our anxiety is not only important in our relationship to ourselves or our love life or our relationship to our friends or our relationship to family members that have the opposite politics, but also our relationship to our very survival, the survival of our planet and the survival of our democracy. So I’d like to start off before we go into this by introducing my dearest long-term friend, Dave, and my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation.
Thank you. Uh, as always, I appreciate the opportunity and particularly with the Introspective Guides, uh, that are really related to and, you know, really about the lessons contained in Awareness That Heals, the book. I think that’s a shorthand way to get to things that would otherwise take much longer or never be really understood. So thank you.
Robert Strock: (08:07)
Thank you for the thank you. So I’d also like to introduce Joel, who, in addition to being a great engineer, he’s also someone that I couldn’t help but invite to come in as he sees fit to join the show. So Joel, thank you. And definitely, definitely feel free. If you feel that this is something that’s gonna relate, especially to the audience and you, uh, to come in, anytime you, you feel the urge.
Thanks so much, Robert. I’m really looking forward to learning and growing with this, being somebody that has never been exposed to these kind of elements before I’ve already gotten a lot of benefits. So thanks so much.
Robert Strock: (08:49)
Great. So normally fear and anxiety is, and maybe this dates me, but is like a cootie. And for those of you that don’t know what a cootie is, it’s something that is, as my mother would say, a God forbid. Um, it’s something that we, we do our best to ignore. And when I say we, I obviously don’t mean all of us, but as a general culture, starting with a fear of death or anxiety, it’s not exactly a public announcement. It’s not exactly something that very many people talk about openly and those that do are lucky enough, uh, to have a good friendship or are unwise enough to do it in public and get hammered. And so, the importance of being able to catch fear or anxiety while it’s happening is almost like a life, quality of life and death issue. I know several people who have been anxious their whole life, not to the point where you would pick it up, but they’re, they’re suffering from this.
Robert Strock: (10:04)
And so for them, it’s very important to do what we’ve been talking about, which is add a level where you not only give yourself the space to just feel it and not blend it in with the rest of your life, but give it a solitary sanctuary where you’re in a sanctuary. And you say, I wanna give you the space in this holy ground to be able to be felt exactly as you are, feel it as much as you, as you do. And I wanna let you breathe into it so that I can notice you more overtly. And then that will allow me to be more sensitive to when I maybe will have the opportunity to be able to share it with people that are really trustworthy or when they’re not, I can develop a relationship with you where I can talk to you where I can be the soother of you.
Robert Strock: (10:59)
I can care for you, I can actually have a dialogue and say, anxiety. I know it’s really difficult for you right now. You know, you’re doing a really good job just being there. It’s fine that you’re there and I can easily be autonomous and speak in a voice that doesn’t have to have you own me, and I don’t have to suppress you. So that is one of the golden keys of fear and anxiety is being able to identify it, give it the dignity that it deserves and as I say to many people, one of the things that really helps in the statement, you can make yourself or the comments or the questions is, are you being frightened and anxious on purpose? And that almost invariably gets a little bit of a chuckle or a smile because it’s so obvious that none of us are really, especially the vulnerable emotions, maybe the aggressive emotions we might be doing on purpose, but the vulnerable emotions, nobody’s doing it on purpose.
Robert Strock: (12:06)
So when you recognize you’re not doing it on purpose, it gives you a little bit more of a handle to move to the second step, which is, I want good for you, I want to bring caring to you, I want to do what we call either an intention to care or an intention to heal. And this is a monumental turning point. And even if you’ve heard this from me already a hundred times, realize you are not a master, nor am I. I can afford to hear it for the rest of my life, cuz I need the reminders and we all need the reminders over and over again. Because when we’re in a feeling, like fear of anxiety, it pretends to be like, God, it pretends to be like, it overtakes, overtakes our whole life. It’s all of us. And it has its distorting quality. It makes us feel like we’re gonna feel this till the day we die. And even if we did feel it till the day we die, we have the ability to be able to develop an autonomy and a caring relationship with it. If we can at least barely tolerate it, if not move to ultimately an appreciation that is a part of our human element and that we want to develop our capacity to care for it.
I just wanna, um, reflect how true what you just said can be, and has been at least for me in different times in my life, uh, particularly relative, but not solely relative to medical circumstances and circumstances that relate to people I know, love, uh, family members. It is very difficult to create enough inner, emotional space to separate and see it. I know I’m in it. I even know that what I need to do is what we’re talking about. But even with that, I have been very challenged and on occasion, more than one occasion, paralyzed with it. And I find that what I need to do at those times when I cannot find a way just with myself and me, is reach out, reach out to friends. You being of course, one of them.
Robert Strock: (14:27)
Yeah, but I think one of the things that you’re, you’re pointing out, which is really important, you know, we say intention to heal or intention to care. Uh, we need to add another intention here that is very, very realistic and more realistic than heal or care is its intention to tolerate or its intention to coexist with. It’s not a matter of being able to get over it. It’s a matter of developing an autonomous capacity to think while the fear’s going on. And that includes being able to dialogue with it, with things like fear. I know this is incredibly difficult for you. And I know I have no chance to reach you in terms of getting, getting you to get over it. I’m not even gonna try to have you get over it. But I do want you to know I’m capable of thinking independent of you while you’re there.
Robert Strock: (15:24)
And I respect that you have fear, the stakes are very high. Reminds me of my favorite doctor of all time when unfortunately he’s not still alive. And my very first appointment with him I said to him, you know, I do wanna acknowledge to you that I have some fear of death. And his response was Mr. Strock, the stakes are rather high aren’t they? And it was like, I felt so understood. I actually had a tear rush. I was so moved by him getting that the stakes of losing everything, you know, in this world, losing your body, losing this mind, losing this identity, no matter what your beliefs are about life and death. He was able to show his understanding in that. So, I wasn’t gonna get over my fear, I wasn’t gonna get over my anxiety, but I have learned since that time, and before and after, more and more and more how to develop an independent capacity that can coexist with the fear or anxiety and can represent diversity, resiliency, flexibility, creativity, questioning, uh, asking for help, all kinds of things that the fear–if I was frozen in it–would not be able to do any of those things.
Robert Strock: (16:47)
So the goal or the priority in a lot of cases, especially like ones you’re talking about is to be able to coexist with it, to be able to be a partner with it where you say, okay partner, I know you gotta be where you are and I gotta be where I am. I’ll relate to you, I’ll keep relating to you; if I could, I would make it be less, but if I can’t I accept you and I’m gonna be going in this other direction. So at this point, while you are looking at your relationship to fear and anxiety, and I’m really asking you, please stop dominantly listening to my story and bring yourself into your story. If you can do both at once, whatever degree you can, great, but lean more, more into your story, see what your normal reactions are when you’re afraid and you’re anxious.
Robert Strock: (17:39)
What normally happens for you? Do you pause, do you give yourself the space to breathe into it? Do you have respect for it? And when I’ve asked a lot of my clients and even some friends, do you care for yourself while you’re afraid? It’s like, they look at me like, of course not, dumb shit. I mean, you know, it’s like, no, I mean, I don’t like fear, I hate it. You know, it’s one of the feelings I hate the most that I have. So that leads into a long series of dialogues. If we have enough time to do that, where the importance of being able to have a tolerance or bear tolerance or an acceptance, or maybe then ultimately an appreciation that I’m a human being. If my health is threatened, I’m gonna have some fear and some anxiety.
Robert Strock: (18:33)
I’m not a machine, I’m a human. And so being able to see what your normal reactions are, is crucial or else you won’t ever be able to get back to the fear or the anxiety to help care for yourself. So see is it your tendency to change the subject in your own mind? Is it your tendency to be more uptight? Do you withdraw? Do you, do you get paralyzed? What is your normal reaction? And see if you cannot be pejorative or critical towards yourself for your normal reaction and go, ah, my normal reaction is to have a fleeting awareness of it and to withdraw, or my tendency is just to become more tense or my tendency is to be obsessed or my tendency is to make endless plans of how I’m gonna resolve it and have my mind be busy all the time of how I’m gonna get over it.
Robert Strock: (19:29)
So whatever your tendency is, put as much awareness right now on your tendency and put a little, little red flag above it saying when I’m thinking these thoughts, I wanna go back to my fear. I wanna go back to the original anxiety, and I can afford to do it because I have a direction to be able to tolerate it and to lean into how can I best support myself when I’m feeling anxious or frightened. And if you ask yourself that question, you’ve morphed from being in a realm, that’s very likely to be destructive to a realm. That’s very likely to move you in a direction that’s gonna be beneficial to your life. And the stakes are really, really high because we’re all gonna have this happening. Some of us, like I said are lifelong, but even as we get older and older, we’re gonna have more and more.
Robert Strock: (20:25)
Although for those of us that have been working on ourselves, we, we may have more and more, but they’ll become shorter and shorter because we’ll be able to nip them in the bud most of the time, but it requires life-long practice and a recognition. This is not a hobby. This is not for people that wanna live just a superficial life and don’t wanna have any fears or anxieties in their life. Well, if you don’t have any fear and anxiety in your life, you haven’t lived. If you really live, you’re going to encounter fear and anxiety. Very similar to what we talked about with insecurity. It’s like I view my life as really being, uh, not lived fully if I don’t have some element of fear or anxiety at all, all day long. It’s like when I’m seeing a client, I’ll have the slightest bit of what I would consider to be the optimal edge of fear or anxiety
Robert Strock: (21:20)
cuz I wanna care for them. I care. I wanna see if I can reach them. I’m not sure if I can. Maybe they’re taking it sideways, I’m not sure how to get back, maybe I’m gonna offend them. So I’m aware I have the fear. And then what I say to myself and what I’m suggesting you say to yourself, as you’re looking at your fear and anxiety, is you are afraid or you’re anxious because you so much want to be courageous and relaxed. Their origin of fear and anxiety is not negative, it’s a longing to be safe, it’s longing to be secure, it’s longing to be courageous. And if you recognize that you see the dignity in the fear and the anxiety, and it also will help you to go to the next step, to want to move in a healing or caring direction.
Robert Strock: (22:11)
So see where you are and just let yourself see on a 1 to 10 scale. How much were you able to identify any fear or anxiety? Did you even bother to do it, and could you see yourself saying anything to yourself that would be encouraging to go back to it and to remember that you want to move in a caring direction? I doubt very much we had enough time to develop the caring direction, but we had enough time to potentially recognize that you wanna be able to be your deeper self and you wanna be able to move in a caring direction. So one of the things, again, as we’ve talked about on a few other episodes regarding challenging emotions that you, with fear and anxiety in particular, you wanna focus on the present and the near future this week. You don’t fear if you let it go, it’ll go off into the future
Robert Strock: (23:04)
and you’re a goner. So you want to ask yourself, what is the next step? What is the present and the future response I can have? Going to the future is a guaranteed to stay with fear. I was watching a children’s movie that I love, I think it was Frozen One or Two and the movie was, what’s your next step? What’s your next, best step? And it’s a beautiful song. Children’s movie so often have wisdom themes. What’s your next best step. That’s another way of asking for what, what way can you care for yourself? But it’s even better, I think, then when you’re dealing with fear. One of the other things you can do with, with yourself is to create a dialogue with your emotions. Like I know you wanna withdraw into a helplessness. Is this really what you wanna do with your life
Robert Strock: (23:55)
or do you wanna return to where you are? When you see your normal tendency, which is maybe to judge yourself, you’ll say to yourself, oh, let’s not waste our time judging ourself. And it’s never too late to start again. If you’ve been judging yourself, it’s never too late to see I’ve been judging myself, and now I want to go back to my original fear. Now this common sense or uncommon common sense to have a healthy conversation with ourselves is a bit like a mini miracle. And we all need to develop this capacity, if we want to live a deeper, more fulfilling life, to have a dialogue and not suppress the fear or the anxiety, and to be able to have this dialogue, that’s allowing you to be where you are and then how do you become resilient? And as I’ve talked about before, the more you practice this, the more it becomes like a Pavlovian response: challenging feeling, fear and anxiety, intention to care or heal, or at least to tolerate asking yourself a very positive question of how you can be resourceful at care,
Robert Strock: (25:00)
and then you get the guidance and then you dedicate yourself to the guidance. My dearest deepest wish is that process goes from memory that you remember it, to it going into a cellular memory where you really long for a way to develop self-love, deeper intimacy with yourself, deeper connection with yourself, deeper relating to other people, deeper friendships, and a deeper relationship to the world. And if you can see that this urge to have a caring response to what’s difficult is the key turning point. The key pivot in all of our individual lives, and rather than just blaming our politicians, we all have a lot of individual work to do. We all need to have our more caring sides of ourselves become the more dominant side while we don’t suppress our emotions. But while we have a deeper relationship to our emotions. So I leave you with sort of a deep prayer or wish that this be something that’s organic, something that you take in as a deep longing from inside yourself, that you want to be able to claim your own life at a deeper level and realize that this is something that your authority, you’re being the guide for yourself, is the one that’s making this decision.
Robert Strock: (26:33)
Thank you very much for your dear attention. And I look forward to continuing to join you in future episodes.
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