This episode offers valuable insights into how to deal with challenging emotions, with particular emphasis on frustration, and the importance of self-care and self-awareness. Since this is about your challenges you can substitute your own emotion, discover your needs, and also see how being sensitive with your tone of voice will assist you to fulfill your needs. When you are caught up in frustration, simply acknowledge it. You will see how to be the observer, the witness, and use your emotional intelligence to perceive the emotion without adding any extra negative thoughts to it. Don’t suppress or become critical of it; simply bring awareness to it, allow it to have its energy, and then give it space to both feel it and inquire as to what your real need is. If you take care of what you need, you’re going to be released from a significant level of frustration. By seeing the absurdity of being fixated on your challenging emotions, your humor, playfulness, and humility can then guide you. Let yourself have not only permission but also the encouragement to feel your frustration. If you can simply allow the frustration, you’re increasing the chances of being able to discover its underlying need.
Take a moment to pause and deeply explore how you can best care for yourself and your most specific and important need with wisdom and compassion, and develop a nurturing tone with your inner and outer dialogue. When you discover your need the next step is how to put it into practice. There are methods to sow the seeds for this transformation. First, remember your innate ability to be a vigilant observer of your own frustration and needs. Second, remember that you possess the knowledge and capability to care for yourself—especially during moments of emotional turbulence. Offer a prayer of remembrance to your needs and let your memory activate your innate potential to care for yourself. While this concept may be easy to grasp it is often challenging to implement, particularly when your emotions are most intense. In such moments, simply transitioning into a state of remembrance—by accessing your memory, wisdom, and capacity to activate your awareness and motivation—can guide you toward discovering your needs and activating the inherent desire to care for yourself.
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Awareness That Heals, Episode 106.
The Awareness That Heals podcast helps its listeners learn to develop the capacity to have a more healing response to emotions and situations rather than becoming stuck. Your host, Robert Strock, has practiced psychotherapy for more than 45 years. He wrote the book, “Awareness That Heals: Bringing Heart and Wisdom to Life’s Challenges,” to help develop self-caring and the capacity to respond in an effective way to life’s challenges. Especially at times when we are most prone to be critical or to withdraw together, we will explore how to become aware of our challenging feelings and at the same time find alternative ways to live a more fulfilling and inspiring life.
Robert Strock (00:47):
Thanks so much again for joining us at Awareness That Heals where we do our very best to bring our heart and wisdom to life challenges. But more important is that you bring your heart and wisdom to your life challenges and that you take this in at a very personal level, and your head maybe hears one-quarter of it, but three-quarters of it is your life experience. So as we’re talking about challenging emotions, you’re being intimate enough with yourself that you’re really sensing, experiencing and flashing on the experiences of your past where these challenging emotions have most occurred. And we’re going to look specifically at your tone of voice that causes the most suffering. And today we’re going to focus on frustration, which is one of the most common challenging emotions that many of us experience. But as we suggested, if frustration isn’t your significant emotion that’s challenging for you, then follow your own. This is about you and your challenges and you discovering your own needs and how your tone of voice can most support your life. So one of the starting points, or really the starting point is asking yourself, where is my challenging emotion most hurting my life?
So just pause for a bit, and if you haven’t already isolated, you’re challenging emotion from past episodes, really lock it in, really zero in on one challenging emotion. Now, if frustration happens to be it, it’s a bonus. But really allowing yourself not only to be aware of your challenging emotion, but sensing how it plays out in your body, sensing how frustration tenses up your stomach, how it tenses up your chest, your arms, sometimes your head, and noticing that that’s the case. And as a part of working with tone of voice, your free awareness, meaning the part of you that’s not caught in frustration is guiding you to as gently as possible, just go, “Ah, I see you, frustration.” That you have a part of you that can be this observer, this witness, this intelligence, this emotional intelligence that can see yourself as you are without having to add anything more onto it.
There’s a danger, of course, to be frustrated and then to suppress it, or there’s a danger to being frustrated and then becoming enraged. But if you can just keep it at the level of being aware of the frustration, there’s a subtlety here that don’t overlook it. We’re talking about allowing yourself to experience the energy of frustration with nothing else at first, with a tolerance, with an acceptance that gives you the space to breathe and to feel it without judging it or without validating it. Just allowing it to be inside your body and to whatever extent in your mind. And then asking yourself, “How can I bring my tone of voice and my recognition of my needs? How can I bring those together to where I can upgrade the frustration to guide me to my needs?” Because when you’re frustrated, it literally means I’m frustrated because I have a need that wasn’t met, and I need to discover what that need is.
And after the discovery, I need to inquire how can I actually take care of it? And then you need to actually take care of it. And so frustration is a goldmine if you see that it’s a catalyst toward relieving frustration. If you suppress the awareness of frustration, it will own you. In a sense, we could say at those moments in time, it is you, whereas you have the possibility, and if you really are applying this to yourself, the probability of being able to use frustration as a wake-up to sensitize yourself to what it is that you really need. Now just pause for a second. Does that make sense? That you can give yourself the space and the tolerance to sense the emotion of frustration and then intuitively recognize “I’m frustrated because they didn’t listen to me. They were hostile with me. I just don’t feel good in my body, so I’m frustrated, or the world is so insane, I’m frustrated.”
And then you see, ah, that’s the starting point. Now I ask, how do I take care of myself? The next point is a certain kind of inquiry or questioning of how can I take care of myself to where my need itself can be taken care of either outside in the world or inside myself? And what kind of tone do I need to convey in the world? Or what kind of tone do I need to carry inside myself? It’s very important that you recognize that your tone towards yourself is as important as your tone outside. Just pause and see if you can connect to that. Let’s just say you’re frustrated, and then is your tone toward yourself frustrated that you’re frustrated? Or is your tone saying, ahh relax into this? Take it easy. This is hard on you. So recognize that allowing frustration to be without acting it out and without suppressing it is a golden key to lead you toward what you need.
And if you take care of what you need, then obviously you’re going to be released from a significant level of your frustration. And by the way, if you’re released from a significant level of your frustration, you will inevitably take better care of those around you as well. This is not just a narcissistic self-centered exercise. This is something that’s moving you from your challenging emotion of frustration to whatever the specific need is that was thwarted. So see if you can go and flash on the times when you’ve been frustrated. Like for me, I get frustrated all the time when I’m on an hour phone call to a pharmacy or something with technology, and then I’ll realize what a joke. Here I am contracting and getting frustrated when there’s nothing whatsoever I can do. And so I will guide myself to recognize, okay, it’s natural, you’re frustrated, let’s be a little bit more gentle with this.
Let’s be a little kinder and try to soften the frustration. So there’ll be words that will come in, and then when the person finally gets on the phone, I’m not as inclined to say, I’ve been waiting on the phone for a half an hour, and I’m much more inclined to solicit their cooperation when I’m not attacking them. So it works out better for you and for the person that you’re talking about. So stay with your situation and find yourself right now asking, how could I best take care of my frustration and see whether it is mostly an inner tone, an outer tone, or perhaps both. And part of it is a big exhale. It’s like frustration, ooh, I want to let go as much as possible and I want to discover what I need and I want to see what inner and outer tone that I can find and I can energize so that I have a best chance of taking care of what is needed. And I say what is needed because that means it takes care of me and others.
So see if this makes sense to you that being aware of your frustration without being in a constant reaction to your frustration and instead using your awareness and a part of you that cares for yourself and wants to care for yourself makes good sense to you. So just notice whether or not that hits your sensibility. And if it does, you’re going to have a chance to go into a meditation where you are in the center for the whole meditation and whether it staying with the frustration or whether it’s staying with your particular challenging emotion, the incredible benefit of tolerating and identifying clearly, you’re challenging emotion without judgment and letting it guide you toward what it is that you need. There’s hardly an emotion that is as clear that it’s a thwarted need other than frustration. To be able to have that be nimble in your mind where you say, “If I’m frustrated, obviously there’s a need. What is it? What is that need?” And as you’re flashing on situations, see if you can see that the answer might be, I need to unclench because I can’t do anything with a telephone. Or it might be a communication or it might be an action that you need to take.
You might be frustrated, legitimately frustrated with a doctor. You might need to go to another doctor. You, only you, can put yourself in the real experiential zone of frustration and start to navigate how to best take care of your needs. One of the greatest allies, not only with frustration, but with any challenging emotion, is when you see the absurdity of holding onto frustration like its gold, when it’s hurting you. And you get a glimpse you can see the absurdity so deeply that you chuckle, what am I doing? I’m here with a phone by myself and I’m in a pretzel. I’m all contracted. And the humor is one of the most healing qualities that can guide us, when we are in our challenging emotion, we realize if we hold onto it, like it’s really valuable, that we’re really maximizing our suffering. And when we see we’re maximizing our suffering, it can be humorous if we don’t take it too seriously.
Obviously, if we take frustration very serious, it’s deadly. We’re just stuck as long as it takes, we’re going to be in misery. But if we can see that there’s a need underneath, an internal need or an external need, then our humor, our playfulness, our humility can come and guide us to how we can take care of ourselves. Now, does that make sense to you? Have you ever just ask yourself, have you ever seen yourself be absurdly in your challenging emotion and actually have a laugh? And if you haven’t, you have something to look forward to. But it’s a good thing to keep in your awareness that a lot of our challenging emotions can be funny when we see that we’re holding onto them as if they’re a precious stone, rather than a piece of dung. And they are a piece of dung. Not to be criticized the emotion themself is fine, but to be fixated on it, that’s where the suffering is.
So as you get ready for the guided meditation, really ready yourself for going into your experience and staying with your experience. The guidance is all about you being you. If you only stay with the understanding and you don’t reply it to your life, it will not be very valuable. So ready yourself for the guided meditation by going into the frustration and the experiences you’ve had with specific people. It’s very helpful to be remembering when it’s been activated. Or again, if it’s something else, remember when it’s activated. Because that’s when you can get a better sense of being caught in the feeling, not just intellectually, but actually caught in your body and then seeing can you remind yourself that you want to care for yourself and find a greater place to take care of your needs.
Guided meditation is for so many people, the best way to truly gain benefit in your response to personal challenges. As you invest and bring your own experience to the guided meditations, you’ll give yourself the best chance to change long-standing patterns from suffering toward a state of well-being, peace, and healing. It’s important to put yourself in a comfortable body position, in a private space where you’re not disturbed. Turn off your phone and be ready to really be alert.
So let yourself start by just being very sensitive to your ears and to your capacity to listen. Recognizing that if you hear silence, that that is beautiful. If you hear a car, if you hear music, you hear people walking nearby, just be content to be you’re listening, recognizing that it’s one of the forms of intelligence, of observation, of sensitivity. Listening can also be listening to your mind, listening to your thoughts. Ah, I’m thinking about this or listening to your feelings. Ah, my listening is inwardly tuning in to my feelings. Appreciate that this sense of listening is both an internal and external capacity that’s invaluable. So as you move from this listening and really carrying the listening on, let yourself go into when you were last frustrated, when you’ve been frustrated through the years. Maybe it’s your original family, maybe it’s a current relationship, maybe it’s something in relationship to yourself. Maybe it’s that long phone call. But let yourself have, not only permission, but encouragement to be frustrated, to realize if you can nakedly allow the frustration, you’re increasing the chances of being able to discover the need that lies underneath it.
And also gives you the best chance of an accompanying the need with the tone that will give you the best chance of fulfilling your need, and as a by product, if your need is fulfilled, there’s an excellent chance it’s going to take care of the needs of the other or others around you. So as you allow the frustration, recognize that there’s always another part of you that’s capable of just being aware of the frustration. And it may seem to you like that’s the same thing, but it isn’t. So your awareness of the frustration allows you to be freer, freer from being fixated in the frustration. Your capacity to observe it is a step toward liberation. In fact, see that your awareness can be bigger than your frustration. It has that capacity. You have that capacity. I am aware of my frustration and I’m just giving it a lot of space and silence around it. It’s like you can see the frustration as being an island and you’re the ocean and the air around the island.
I see you, I’m allowing you and I’m giving you time to breathe. And then once you’re really allowing it to be, you’re asking the question and remembering your wish to care for yourself. How do I best take care of you while I see that you’re frustrated?
Robert Strock (23:34):
Keep pausing there because this isn’t just a quick fix or flick or fleeting thought. This is a profound contemplation of “How do I best take care of you with my wisdom or my needs?” And the tone inwardly and outwardly and allowing these to coexist, you’re actually expanding who you are because rather than the awareness being just fleeting, it’s a pause. There’s no hurry. And then as you see and experience the frustration as it is, a natural question arises how in this unique situation I’m facing, all the nuances, “How do I take care of you?” And when you have the remembrance, when you have the caring to ask yourself, “What are your needs? What’s the inner and outer tone that I need to cultivate?” There’s a different kind of aliveness that occurs. There’s a kinship with yourself, there’s a befriending. Just sense now, as you look at your experiences of frustration, look and see if you can be this inquiry, if you can be this looking for and finding your need, and allowing it to have the space and the time to find each other. And then see, okay, now that I know what I need, how do I implement it?
It’s not enough just to know what’s my tone going to be? What are the exact words? Does it require actions? Does it require a certain attitude to coexist with the frustration or in some cases really to overtake the frustration? Sometimes the frustration can be put into a bedroom in the house and you can say, I know you’re there, but I’m closing the door right now. I’m living in the living room and I’m going to energize my need to be treated kindly. Or I’m going to internally unclench my body, ’cause I realize there’s nothing I can do on the outside. Or maybe, just maybe, I get the joke. I get the joke that my mind is just fixated on this one thing that I can’t control. Many times the frustration is really funny because you realize I’m frustrated about something that I have zero chance of controlling. And when you stay with that, look and see if you can, you might smile, maybe not laugh, but you might just smile. So there’s an ongoing honoring. Again, see if you can do it ongoing honoring of the frustration itself, which is a big thing, rather than reacting to it.
And there’s a remembering that of course I want to try to care for myself because the alternative is rather bleak. And this alternative is just endlessly hopeful. It’s very likely more than you’ve ever imagined, your resiliency, your ability to identify what you need, what kind of inner and outer tone is going to be helpful. And yes, you can do it right at the dreaded time. And I say that with a smile because I see how many times I have been in the experience of what might be called a dreaded time, and when I get the joke, it can release. So as we finish this meditation, stay with your experiences of frustration and accepting it, at least tolerating it, giving it space to breathe, and remembering. And can you plant the seed? Can you say a prayer? “May I please remember that I’m interested in caring for myself at these times when my frustration takes over, I want to recognize my wisdom and my heart, whether I use it or not, is there.” You can remember that this is the way I want to live my life more and more. I want to be that keen observer and that one that knows, and is practicing caring for myself, especially when I’m having challenging feelings. Let yourself be open to a prayer to remember at the critical times when you’re most hypnotized by a feeling, you’re that lonely island in the feeling and you forget that you’re really the ocean or the sky and you’re identified with something small and you don’t remember there’s something big that’s there that can support you. So be in that prayer to remember and then let the memory activate your greatest capacities to take care of what you need.
So this is a very easy thing conceptually to understand for most of us, but it’s really a challenge to practice. So it’s so important that you’re not confused between the difference. Because you need to be in the heat of your emotion, whether it’s frustration or any other one, which is the time where it’s least easy to remember, or even to be motivated to care for yourself. It’s kind of like you’re riding a tricycle and then you’re finally riding a bicycle. It’s like that transition from not being able to access even the memory that you have this capacity, let alone the activating the specific skills, and awareness,- and motivation to care.
And sometimes you can’t feel the motivation to care, but just knowing it is enough, you don’t have to feel big-time motivation. Sometimes your wisdom, just your memory that you want to which doesn’t have juice, is enough to guide you to look for your needs and to look for your tone and to look for the part of you that wants to care. So my wish, my prayer is that you move from the intellect to your own experience. Put yourself in the heat and continue to remind yourself the more heat you have in an emotion, the more potential there is for the wisdom to be meaningfully activated. So no matter how dark it is, when you know want it to be light, you no longer are dominated, you have this freedom. And may it be so not only for you, not only for me but for as much of the world as possible.
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