Robert continues his guidance in developing our capacity to move outside our conditioning and reactive emotions. Most of us behave based on how we were seen or unseen by our parents or by others in our society that we model. We often identify with the heroes that are athletes or actors in TV shows. Amplifying these skills to inquire who we aspire to be independent of our conditioning will allow us to question ourselves, listen to what the answers are, and find ways to respond. This episode, on the surface, may appear to be mostly focused on one lone case study, the gradual steps of healing, and how it applies to various concrete examples. However, Robert makes it clear that the primary emphasis is you being able to find your own needs, starting with your challenges. While listening, seek the potential benefits of expressing what you need rather than staying with what you are against in your resistant state. There is no one size fits all. Sometimes you need to find a way to communicate sensitively. Sometimes you need to find a way to resolve it internally.
The case study discussed is a couple that has been with Robert for 10 to 15 years. When Adam came to work with Robert many years ago, his main complaint was that his wife was self-centered and angry. What he wanted was more open heart communication and more connection, but his tone was hostile and angry. With that kind of tone inevitably an endless power struggle would continue. With some resistance, Robert was able to help Adam realize he was not just an innocent character in all this. Through several sessions, Adam gradually became aware of his feelings of abandonment, his hurt, his aloneness, his loneliness, his dependency, and his desire to be intimate. See how Adam’s story unfolds into a renewed relationship with his wife. In contemplating this case the central focus is to see your patterns. Remember a point in time either that has happened recently or throughout your life and use Adam’s story as a mirror to look at your relationship with anger.
Resources related to this episode
Robert Strock Website
Robert’s Book, Awareness that Heals
Free Downloadable Introspective Guides
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Awareness That Heals, Episode 68.
Robert Strock: (00:03)
How do I communicate these needs sensitively. Now that’s a lifetime of practice and we never arrive at a complete perfection of course, but we’re trying endlessly to have it be more harmonic, more musical, more caring, more in the heart, to express what it is we need. So we’re going for what we are needing, rather than what we’re against. We’re actually pivoting.
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: (01:10)
I wanna thank you again for joining us at Awareness That Heals. It’s truly a pleasure to have anyone and everyone joining us on the program. And what we’re gonna be talking about today is something that is so key and central to living a fulfilling life and breaking free from where we’re trapped in conditioned reactions that each of us has. All of us have conditioning and by conditioning, I mean, influencing that our parents had that our siblings had that our society has that our movies have. We’re all exposed to that and it has way bigger imprint on us than we realize. As a matter of fact, it would be pretty accurate to say that most of us live more as our conditioning, rather than what comes from deep inquiry of who am I, what really matters to me, what are my key needs? And we really believe that we’re just acting.
Robert Strock: (02:22)
Normally, we just think that that’s us. So we, we have this conditioning from our culture, you know, from all these sources. And the question is, do you get this? Do you get that you yourself, if you were to ask yourself what really matters to you, what are your key needs? What’s gonna be the difference between living a fulfilling life and not living a fulfilling life. What kind of work that’s realistic do you wanna do? What friends do you really want to go for? What qualities in your heart do you think are most lacking that you might care about developing? We’ll see that most of us are just reacting based on how we were seen from our parents, or missing, or from others in our society or what models we see—a hero on the basketball court or on a TV show and we identify with that.
Robert Strock: (03:27)
And normally this is like a monumental hurricane or a natural event that just moves us instinctively. And we think this is us and that we really need to develop the capacity, our capacity, I believe. And I hope you believe to think for ourselves to question ourselves what matters and to not only listen to what the answers are, but to find ways to respond to what they are. And today we’re going to look at one very deep case study and gradual steps of healing and how it applies to various concrete examples. That will be something that we all have to deal with. And please, as always, use your own examples. Have half of you listen to what I’m saying and half of you really looking for this is where this shows up in my life. The whole point is for not for me to pontificate, the whole point is for you to use it for yourself. So, I’d like to start off introducing my dearest friend of 52 years and my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation, Dave, thanks so much for joining us.
Thank you, Robert, as I, uh, wind down to these last episodes, uh, want to find ways to stall the end? Uh, it has been a journey to, uh, go from the beginning of all the things that are the foundations really of what we’re talking about today in, in great and important detail and all the way along inspired by each step. How each step led to the next step, and how we are here today. So, uh, let’s get to it and thank you.
Robert Strock: (05:31)
Thanks so much, Dave. I really appreciate it. And especially the contribution and the way that you mirror things that are so important that help expand what I’m saying, that help add pieces that help clarify pieces. And I, I wanna particularly say in this case study, because this is the first time we’ve ever done anything that would really be centered on one case study. If it opens up a general point or you want to—I won’t even wanna say interrupt me —if you want to intervene at some point, cuz you think it adds to a general question, feel free to do it. You got it. So before we dive in here, I’d like to give a brief overview as I did in the last episode of what the seven steps are of transforming anger and resistant emotions into intimacy and strength. So, the first step is you need to be aware of your anger or all the derivatives of anger, like frustration, impatience, intolerance, and being aware of that gives you a chance to do something with it.
Robert Strock: (06:41)
If you’re unaware of your anger, or you haven’t fully rationalized, there’s no chance you’re gonna do anything, but follow your pattern. And that might mean you’ll be overtly angry or you’ll just simply withdraw and be passive-aggressive. So, being aware of anger or resistant emotions is a big step. That’s the first step. And the second step is having some degree of wanting to care, which seems almost oxymoronic or idiotic. If you’re angry, you’re angry, so why would you wanna care? And there’s something inside us that knows that we want to care, we don’t wanna be destructive, to various degrees in each of us, but this second step would be the intention or the desire to care or what we sometimes call the intention to heal. And then that will lead naturally and organically to the third step, which is to contain the expression of the anger
Robert Strock: (07:39)
cuz you’ve seen the thousands of other times potentially, that is if you learn this, that it doesn’t work out very well when you just express your anger spontaneously and it leads to a power struggle. Or if you’re passive aggressive, it doesn’t work out very well either. So in the containment phase, and for those of you that have heard it, it’s worthy of repetition, cuz I don’t think any of us can hear this too much. The point isn’t suppressing it, the point is feeling it inside yourself. Or, if you have the luxury, maybe you go outside into a backyard or a car or a beach and you scream and you let yourself feel it as totally as possible. So you can feel the anger; anger is juicy, it’s a good energy, if we don’t just act it out. It’s like nuclear energy, it can be used for nuclear power, but most of the time we don’t harness it.
Robert Strock: (08:28)
And if we feel that anger, in a way that isn’t destructive, we have the capacity to then go to the fourth and the fifth stage and the fourth state is if we can feel the anger, we can get glimpses of the fourth step, which is vulnerable emotions that are invariably underneath the anger, like fear or sadness, grief, helplessness, aloneness. And if we’re aware of that, that tends to soften our heart a bit. And then if we are aware of that or even sometimes if we’re not aware of that, we can become more aware of the fifth stage, which are our core needs. And as I mentioned frequently, there is a chart, a free chart on awarenessthatheals.org that has what’s called the Introspective Guides (on the top line) that is free, that shows the 75 most challenging emotions and the 75 most essential needs that help heal it.
Robert Strock: (09:31)
And it’s very helpful for you to be able to circle. These are mine. These are my fives. These are my three. These are my seven that I’m most prone to that are the ways in which I feel different anger or derivatives of anger. And then when you become aware of your needs from the need chart, then you have the chance to move to the sixth step, which is how do I express these needs when I’m with somebody that there’s a possibility of communicating with? How do I communicate these needs sensitively. Now that’s a lifetime of practice and we never arrive at a complete perfection of course, but we’re trying endlessly to have it be more harmonic, more musical, more caring, more in the heart to express what it is we need, so we’re going for what we are needing rather than what we’re against. We’re actually pivoting:
Robert Strock: (10:30)
I don’t like this, to I would like this. Now, as I’m saying this, see if you can get, even if it’s just your intellect, if it’s not something in your heart, that’s stirring yet. See if you can get the potential benefit of expressing what you need rather than staying with what you’re against. So again, you, you’re looking at it, maybe expressing this a few times as purely as you can. And if you find that either you’ve done that or you’re with somebody that you know damn well, they haven’t any interest in what you need. You’re with a boss, or you’re with a part of a friend, or you’re with a part of a love partner that in this area is a blind spot. And you know, they’re not gonna be interested in it. Then you need to find a place which is a seventh step where you turn in the needs and you have to resolve and find the needs inside yourself.
Robert Strock: (11:25)
You need to find a way to accept the situation and you need to find a perspective of how you hold it. You know, in some cases, if it’s extreme, you might decide you, you can’t be in relationship with this person. But it might be that you’re with a partner and it’s just a blind spot, and you love your partner in so many ways that you need to find a place of acceptance. Or, maybe you just need to find another time or maybe you need to wait for a year or two before you approach it again. So, there isn’t one size fits all. Sometimes you need to find a way to communicate sensitively. Sometimes you need to find a way to resolve it internally. I don’t expect anyone to be able to do this just from hearing it right now. But if you’ve been through with us, all these 70 or so episodes up until now, you’ll have a glimpse at really being able to learn how you can process this, but it will take years if not decades of practice to really lobotomize yourself, to be able to go with what you need rather than what you’re against.
Robert Strock: (12:34)
And I’m going to be going into this one case study. That is really someone that has been with me a couple. That’s been with me for 10 to 15 years, and it’s unparalleled that we’ve ever stayed dominantly with one case study through the whole episode. So I wanna encourage Dave, you to feel free to interrupt me, you know, and, and, or more accurately, preferably not in the middle of a sentence, but when I pause for a second, if you feel that some way of expanding something or making something clearer or you feel like anything would be of benefit, please feel free to intervene. And don’t feel like I have to complete the whole case study. So, my client Adam came into me many, many years ago and his main complaint, which he verbalized out loud, was my wife is so self-centered, you know, it’s, it’s, kind of despicable, you know, it’s like she can be so angry. And all I want is more open heart communication and more connecting.
Robert Strock: (13:44)
So, he would say this to me in a way that was clearly hostile and angry. So, in the first 15 minutes I stopped him and I said, and of course I had to be aware of my own tone when I said this because if a therapist has the same tone that they’re asking somebody else to change, you’ve got no chance. So, I said to him, you know, please don’t take this the wrong way, but are you aware that the way you’re saying this is very angry? And if you said what you said to me to her, that it was inevitably gonna create an endless power struggle or an endless conflict between you and your wife.
Just to clarify. I’m pretty sure that most people have experienced what you’re describing and have been upset, angry, frustrated, whatever, whatever word you may use over a circumstance like this, and felt pretty justified and expressed it. And of course, as you’ve said, the outcomes generally don’t, don’t do anything but escalate. But being in that circumstance, and as I’ve worked on myself and as we’ve, you know, gone through all these different, so many things that we’ve gone through to get to this point, uh, with awareness, seeing it, how do you transform the kinds of feelings that are just large inside, cannot be denied, are there to be seen without creating damage or difficulty or escalation?
Robert Strock: (15:29)
I’m gonna kind of answer that at a couple different levels. The question is so ambitious that it would require decades, I think to actually, or at least many years to transform it. But I think to neutralize the severe damage, being able to acknowledge to your partner that you’re angry. And if you wanted to go a step further, which would be quite amazing, you might even ask “are you in a place where you can handle it?” Now, if you gave that to your partner, that would be an incredible gift. The first one is better than nothing. And then you express your anger and then it probably still won’t work out well. But at least you have a starting point of sensitivity. But if you give her the discretion to deal with it another time, because maybe she’s upset about something, maybe something’s hurting in her body, you know, maybe she’s not particularly liking you at that moment, maybe she’s certainly not liking what you’ve just said, that would be a gift. So that would be a way of transforming, let’s say the utter destructiveness of it, but, but it wouldn’t of course transform the whole thing.
And just to be clear, it’s also about being transparent because it’s out there, whether it’s acknowledged, whether it’s spoken about it’s, it’s out there.
Robert Strock: (16:54)
Exactly. And what you’re talking about really is a transparency between the energy and the verbal acknowledgement that you can see what is, it’s, even though it’s transparent, it’s appearing like it’s only transparent to her because you’re blaming her. So the only way it appears to be transparent to you is if you acknowledge it verbally. So that’s a really, really key point.
And, and I also want to just reflect on, when you say decades, I start to feel like, wow, I’m 73, I’m not sure I have decades left. I, I wanna feel like I got a little bit of a shot to have some progress here. But I think there’s a different meaning in the word decades. I think it’s really a labor of love, a labor of looking inside and evolving as a human being that you’re talking about.
Robert Strock: (17:49)
There’s no doubt and I agree with you completely. There’s no doubt that even from this one episode, a person can become a more harmless person, a lot of the time, or a fair amount of time. But the finer subtleties of understanding what you really need and having that be an intimate conversation and really transforming into a really deep, profound love. That’s what takes decades, to actually gain a lot of ground. It can happen in an hour. In that first 15 minutes of that session that I started with, the person had a flash and he was willing, with some resistance, to realize, you know what, I’m not just an innocent character in this. You know, it reminds me of a story of my mother in therapy. And my mother was in therapy with a really good therapist. And for four or five years, that doesn’t sound like a good therapist when I say it this way, but it was a psychoanalytic therapist, sorry for psychoanalysts that are listening to this.
Robert Strock: (18:55)
But some psychoanalytic therapists are a little bit slow in my world, uh, from my view. And he said to her something very astute because my father’s name was Joe. And everything she was talking about was Joe, this Joe that, Joe this, Joe that. And he said to her, Selma, from now on, I don’t want you to use the word Joe at all. And her response was, she had a great sense of humor, cause she understood what he was saying. And she said, well what else would I talk about? And it’s a joke, but it’s a sad joke, but it’s a funny joke. It’s both, it’s all, all together. So, getting a glimpse of even seeing that you’re angry and that you can be transparent in that way is a way of settling the nerves down. It is a way of having a possibility of having some intimacy.
Robert Strock: (19:46)
It is a way of feeling like you’re being more considerate and the other person’s feeling more considered. So, I was speaking to the deepest levels of this development taking quite a long time, but I’m not speaking of progress being possible in the first 15 minutes, actually in the first 10 seconds, it’s possible to happen right away. So thank you for that clarification. So, in contemplating this together, he knew that he needed more consideration, more communication, more sensitivity, cuz I asked him what it is that you think you need. And instead he was complaining again, looking inside yourself, look at your universal tendency, take a look. As I’m explaining this, see your pattern, remember a point of time either that’s happened recently or throughout years, throughout your life. One that’s inevitably gonna continue and see what your relationship to anger is. Are you really aware enough to possibly do what Dave just asked, to really acknowledge?
Robert Strock: (21:00)
I acknowledge I’m angry or even go to the next step and say, are you in a place you can handle it. My experience is 95% of people that are in the beginning-middle stages of therapy are not able to do that. So, to be able to cut right through to the chase and be able to really be that considerate, to stop yourself in the middle and let your partner be the priority is a huge step. And it’s something, when directly presented to people, I find that they have a real chance if they’ve worked on themselves, especially, or if they’re fundamentally innocent people. Because to me, I give credit to a lot of people that have never been to therapy, but are fundamentally innocent people. It’s like, it’s like when you go into the mountains or near the ocean, it’s like getting years of credit of being a meditator because you’re in a place where there’s silence. That we have different tendencies to be developed and we can’t have one size fits all, accurately.
Robert Strock: (22:03)
We can do it, but then we’re just inaccurate. So, the awareness of anger and being able to identify a need, he said at first I, I’m not sure I really wanna go beyond my own bellyaching. A part of me just wants to just scream and, and just, and just yell. And so it was kind of like, it was with most people, I ask him, well, how’s it been working out for you lately? You know, does this work out very well? And he laughed, had a good sense of humor. You know, we had a good laugh together. So we started to talk about the intention to care and that does he really want to just express himself? I mean, how many times have you heard therapy? I expressed my anger. I got it off my chest. I felt better after I got it off my chest.
Robert Strock: (22:46)
And of course there is a relief of just not carrying the anger. But the question is, is that really gonna be a long-term relief or just a short-term gain in your body? And you’ve just transmitted the poison from your body to your partners and you’re gonna end up getting it back. So through, through several sessions, Adam gradually became aware of his own feelings of abandonment, his hurt, his aloneness, his loneliness, his dependency, and his desire to be intimate. And this came through explaining to him the importance of this pure part of him that didn’t want to create harm. He didn’t really want to destroy his wife. That wasn’t the point. But unwittingly, he started to see that if he didn’t contain it, if he didn’t give her some freedom to see whether she was ready or here I come, if he didn’t really find his own vulnerability, the prognosis for his relationship wasn’t very good.
Robert Strock: (23:54)
So, he started to express his own vulnerability and his needs, which really increased their capacity to have brief conversations. At this point, they were still certainly more than vulnerable. They were more often than not, they would break down, but at least a quarter of a time, or a sixth of the time, he was able to start off in a good way, and it would take a while for it to break down. And her heart started to become a bit softer. And she started to, in a way you could almost say telepathically or energetically or just imbibing, his better vibe, she started to have a better vibe. And she didn’t feel him as tight as he was. Um, which was her excuse, you know, and just like he had the excuse, the reason why he was uptight, of course she had the excuse too. The reason why I’m uptight is because he, he gets mad at me and this is why I’m angry.
Robert Strock: (24:59)
Now again, I ask you to see, can you look at it, not only seeing it in yourself, but can you see it in your spouse, that they’re in the same situation as you are. Maybe not with the same methods, maybe you just forget the laundry or maybe you forget the dishes, you know, or, or maybe you, you don’t buy the food that she likes, you know, or maybe you don’t do the things that she asks or maybe sexually she’s told you six times, she likes it this way, rather than that way, and you do it this way or that way. And so you start to see that we’re in it together, we’re both human. And she started to feel, too, a bit more of her pain, rather than just his judgments. And she started to be able to express, through time, which was really a breakthrough, her own–
Robert Strock: (25:53)
–and this took a year or two–started to express, you know what I actually feel as a mother, a sense of failure and underlying anxiety and inadequacy, and that she had carried this throughout her life and that she had come from a family where mother was very narcissistic, her father was also very narcissistic, and she never really had vulnerability to be part of her life as so many of us didn’t. And so she was clearly outgrowing the way she had been raised. So I asked Adam, what is it that you really need? You know, common question that I ask myself and everyone that will listen. And he reviewed the awarenessthatheals.org, Introspective Guides, to see his needs. And he needed her to be present, soft, transparent, and he started to be able, as he would share to me, “how does this sound,” I would say to him, this is how it sounds.
Robert Strock: (27:00)
And I would mirror the exact tone that I heard, and I would do my best to mirror a tone that was gonna be more tender that was gonna be more soft that was gonna be more transparent. And he started to be able to express this to her. And this led her to actually start to feel like, wow, he seems like he’s outgrowing me. And I started to see her individually and them as a couple at this point too. And she found Adam, in our private conversations, to be needy and a bit of a turnoff. A good guy, but she was more independent, she was cooler, she was more hip. And she found him to be just kind of a turnoff to be a little bit pathetic even. And I, I wish he could be more whole inside and not believe I’m the source of his happiness.
Robert Strock: (27:52)
And I asked her kind of similar to the same thing on the first session. Do you hear a level of condescension? Do you hear a level of judgment? And again, I ask you, as you listen to this, can you hear this in yourself? Can you see how judgmental you are regarding Adam’s needs? And even if he is a bit needy, can you actually hear his needs? He’s saying to you, oh, I really, I really need you to be nicer. And he does it in a way that to you seems like a turnoff. Can you actually hear the message of, he’s asking you to be softer, to be kinder. And it took a while for her to be able to see that even if he was a bit needy, she was a bit bitchy, you know, and he had already resolved that a while back. So maybe the stage they’re dealing with is he’s maybe gonna be a bit needy and dependent, and she’s gonna still be a bit bitchy.
Robert Strock: (28:52)
And she was confused at first because she was so identified with her independence. And through time, she saw that she actually had an aversion to real closeness. And she had an extreme loneliness as a child and had compensated by being what I would call defensively autonomous, which means she thought she was so cool, cuz she was more independent and he was the one in need. And that was really an ingredient that kind of stayed with them for quite a few years in subtler and subtler ways. And she, she saw her own constant anxiety with the kids and how much more developed he was and being able to be relaxed. So she started to respect him more and how he was able to have his area of greater growth because he was able to be more vulnerable. He wasn’t caught in the same kind of independence and he could see that the necessity to be gentle and tender, play with him on the bed, something she couldn’t do because she felt anxious and inferior and a limited ability to love.
Robert Strock: (30:06)
So I asked her, could you consider sharing this with him? And there was a time where I said, you know, if you shared this with him, I think he would, he would start jumping up and down, he’d be so excited. So I said, how would you share it? She got so anxious that she said, I’m starting to feel nauseous. I had to get a pail next to her because she thought she was gonna puke because she had suppressed the anxiety and the inadequacy so long. And what happened was she shared it with him and that created a renewed honeymoon. Like they had the first couple years of their life where her actually sharing, Adam, I’ve laid a trip on you, I realize a lot of times I feel inadequate, and I feel inadequate and she succeeded in sharing it in a beautiful way.
Robert Strock: (30:58)
And this just naturally created a response in him, I’m so grateful, he reached out to hold her and that holding turned into such a turnon that for several weeks they had not only an intimate transition, but they had a sexual transformation as well. So this whole process is something that each of us are capable of doing if we dedicate ourselves enough to be aware of our anger, to go into the containment, find our vulnerable feelings, find our needs. We all have these core needs. We’re not robots. We all have essential needs. And when we recognize that and when we recognize we don’t do a great job at getting to them, we’re aware of being unaware. We’re aware that we need to be aware. We’re aware we need to be humble. And when that starts to happen, we all become so much more capable of being intimate.
Robert Strock: (32:03)
So, I thank you for your patience and especially for listening and applying this to yourself. And as you take away, you take away yourself and you see as much as possible in a nonjudgment way, even if you’re at the very beginning or whatever stage you’re at, use it as an encouragement and as an inspiration to be more caring, more gentle with yourself, those that you love, and an increasing group of people. I thank you for your attention. And I look forward to finishing this chapter and this book with you in the next episode. Thanks so much.
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