Host Robert Strock discusses the process of moving from self-rejection toward self-compassion. Emotions like anger or anxiety often carry a double layer of self-rejection. There’s the initial emotion but also the way we feel about that emotion. We need to ask ourselves if we like how we’re feeling, and if the answer is no, it reveals that we are having a negative reaction that either will be withdrawing from our hearts ourselves or are negatively reacting emotionally? When we feel our most disliked feelings, we can learn to give our heart to care for ourselves specifically. Listeners can begin by reflecting on both the original difficult feelings and ways they reject themselves through fight and flight (aggressive emotions or withdrawal) and identifying alternative healing responses, including acknowledging the naturalness of all feelings when we look at the full context.
Many times, our anger or dislike of our feelings is a sign that we’re trying to avoid the pain of the emotion. We can be present in the moment and question our challenging feelings and avoidant or negative responses to get to the underlying needs reflected in “The Introspective Guides” on the website. This process helps move us toward self-compassion and can prevent reactions that cause guilt, shame, and self-hatred that can lead to lashing out at others. Finally, there’s often a poor distinction between what we feel and what we need. As we learn to no longer identify feelings as negative but instead see them as a natural challenge of the human experience, we can learn how to begin to give our heart to those difficult emotions and make a real move toward self-compassion.
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Awareness That Heals, Episode 17.
Robert Strock: (00:05)
Often we think our feelings are the most important thing. However, a big part of what we’re trying to convey here is that we can come to learn that our wisdom is even more important than feeling.
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: (01:02)
I want to welcome you again to Awareness That Heals where we focus on bringing our hearts and wisdom to our life’s challenges. We start again and again, with being aware of what is most difficult for us, where these difficulties are universal for all of us, whether we recognize them or not, and how we can care for ourselves at these crucial times, this sets up the ideal conditions for us to be fulfilled in our individual lives and to contribute to the world by finding and living from our best selves. I’d like to start out by introducing my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation and 50 year closest friend, Dave.
David Knapp: (01:58)
So great to be here for these important discussions and especially given the, the importance of them as it relates to the book Awareness That Heals itself and understanding it and illuminating it.
Robert Strock: (02:15)
We have an essential episode today. That’s the beginning of a new theme. And what we’re talking about is something very subtle. So I’m really asking for your most present attention because what it is is hidden too often insidious and it’s how we reject ourselves in ways that are so often unseen. The general theme that we’ll be dealing with is how we move from self-rejection toward self-compassion. First I’d like to refresh the last series of episodes as each of our prior episodes help us as we go along to learn how to maximize bringing our heart and our wisdom to our challenges.
Robert Strock: (03:16)
So we just finished Friendly Mind, which is perhaps the best guide when we are in the times of our greatest suffering and need a response that’s supportive. I want to remind you that the basics of friendly mind is that there is no free lunch in order to really be able to apply friendly mind. We need to seek our best self. And we also, as part of that best self-need to encourage ourselves to start with an awareness of what challenges us the most personally often we think our feelings are the most important thing. However, a big part of what we’re trying to convey here is that we can come to learn that our wisdom is even more important than feeling and conditioned feelings and standards are usually what we identify with and friendly mind helps us bring wisdom to us at our times of greatest need.
Robert Strock: (04:34)
So in this episode and the following ones, we’re going to be focusing on the less obvious ways we are critical of ourselves, usually unconsciously. And learning in this episode how to discover most of these very subtle feelings that we have inside ourselves. We’re not talking about the ordinary self-rejection, whereas the critic, the critical mind, it can include that, but I would say 90% of what we’re going to be focusing on is feelings that bombard us inside that we all too frequently don’t pay close attention to. This episode will unlock the key to discover how we can see what is normally elusive. And that still creates perhaps the most suffering inside us when we don’t care for ourselves as we are either disliking ourselves emotionally or by withdrawing, we’re in a kind of suffering that we misrepresent in what we’re thinking. So for example, if we’re afraid and we think we’re suffering because we’re afraid, we don’t realize that most of us don’t like being afraid.
Robert Strock: (06:05)
If you ask yourself, do you care for yourself when you’re afraid? You’ll probably look at me like I’m crazy. So it’s the second level where we’re disliking ourselves by contracting emotionally, by being angry with ourselves, maybe we’re depressed, maybe we’re anxious. And the other alternative is we might just simply disassociate or withdraw from ourselves. And when I say withdraw from ourselves, I mean that our heart is no longer with us, our capacity to care for ourselves when we’re angry, when we’re anxious, when we’re frightened, when we feel alone, it’s almost like a fait accompli where we assume, well, that’s just how I feel. Well, no, it’s not just how we feel, there’s also another level of how do we feel about how do we, how we are feeling. So we’re going to be really exploring this secondary level so that we can see that the feelings that we’re aware of almost always have another layer underneath that most of us are not paying close attention to.
David Knapp: (07:23)
As you speak one of the images that comes to my mind, I’d like your take on, this is two magnets and putting them one direction, they’re going to track themselves to each other and putting them the opposite way. They’re going to repel from each other. And the ins and outs of self-rejection, self-compassion is there that kind of unconscious and maybe eventually conscious process going on here on multiple levels? Is that something happening?
Robert Strock: (07:58)
Yeah, I think it’s a good metaphor when we’re, let’s say angry and out of our awareness, for lack of better words, we know we’re being a shit. And so we’re also unwillingly angry at ourselves for being angry. And so that compounds the anger, like two magnets coming together. Whereas if we realize that we don’t really like acting out our anger or let’s just say our best self doesn’t, like when we act out our anger, because all too often, we think we’re getting relief when we dump our anger. But when I’m really talking about is our very best self recognizes that when, when dumping our anger, we’re really not, uh, let’s say, fond of ourselves or we disassociate completely. And we don’t realize we have any feelings about it at all. But the key question is, is our heart with us when we’re angry. And if our heart is with us, when we’re angry, number one is probably going to stop us from acting out.
Robert Strock: (09:16)
It’s also going to stop us from disassociating. And we’re going to be able to have a relationship to our anger where another level of us that you might call our heart or our wisdom is going to be able to relate to it. But if we instead are having a negative reaction emotionally, or by withdrawing from it, it compounds the anger itself. So yeah, I think that’s a very good association of a magnet, it’s like double your trouble or double your fun. And it’s kind of like Juicy Fruit Gum for those of us that are older. So we don’t usually associate withdrawing from our heart as a form of self-rejection and frequently that’s because many of us withdraw from our heart on a regular basis. But for clarity of definition, I’m defining heart as meaning the part of us that cares for ourselves. The part of us that’s warm, that’s kind, that’s friendly, that’s nurturing, that’s empathic. And when we don’t have that toward our present experience, that is a form of self-rejection, just as much as, oh, you’re revolting or you’re an ass or tightening our body, or really being critical of ourselves in an emotional way, just by being really uptight with ourselves.
David Knapp: (10:45)
So what’s the difference between that or applying that to I’m angry and okay, I’m going to make friends with that and I’m going to just be angry,
Robert Strock: (10:57)
Crucial question. And I’m assuming by that, I’m going to just express my anger. I’m going to make friends with that and I’m going to act it out, to one of the deepest misunderstandings of psychology that I’m just having a healthy expression of my anger with you while I’m telling you, I don’t like you and acting as if I I’m contented with it because I’m getting my feelings off my chest. I’m expressing what I don’t like. And on a superficial level, we do feel some relief when we offload our anger on someone else, but we don’t see that it’s going to boomerang against us usually very quickly. And if it’s not very quickly, we can be assured it’s going to be a time-release capsule. It’s going to come back at us later on because just as we don’t like to have anger dumped on us, I haven’t met anybody that really likes to have it dumped on them. Now they’re probably a few masochists out there that might enjoy it, but I don’t think that’s anyone listening currently.
Robert Strock: (12:08)
So these reactions that we have inside us, these emotions that we have inside us frequently come with no conscious thoughts, but what’s happening is we have a bombardment or a constellation of feelings starting with one feeling that is unpleasant. It’s challenging, it’s difficult and then reacting with whether it’s too often a rejection of ourselves. Whether we start with being angry, distant, irritable, frightened, depressed, and adequate. It’s really hard to not reject ourselves if we don’t have a method. So in addition to rejecting ourselves, as we’re mentioning, it’s important that we keep reflecting on the fact that rejection can be either a tightening or a running away. And as I’ll be saying in this episode, probably many times it’s a fight-flight reaction where either fighting with ourselves inside or we’re fleeing from our hearts inside ourselves. So we need to watch very closely. Do most of us have the illusion that we can see self-rejection or abandonment, but it’s not so normal.
Robert Strock: (13:35)
And it’s not so obvious as we think it is. And when it’s hard to find, it means these feelings own us. Because if we have feelings out of our awareness, that’s like being an ice cube. We’re just fixated there. It’s an extra layer of our emotions that if we can see them, then we can start to care for the emotion itself and the rest of our lives. So we’ll explore how to make this conscious. And the short version is, and pay particularly close attention to this, please is if you ask yourself when you’re angry or when you’re anxious, or when you’re in your feeling that you have most repeatedly, that is difficult for you or one that is unpleasant to you. We ask ourselves the question, do we like, love, care for ourselves? When we feel that feeling? Now, that seems like an absurd question to ask because we’re in an unpleasant feeling and we don’t yet understand the paradox that even our most unpleasant vile feelings need our heart.
Robert Strock: (15:04)
And if we don’t give those feelings, our heart, they’re going to keep having the, it’s like playing a monopoly game with yourself. They’re going to just keep regenerating and regenerating. And it needs a different kind of alchemy where we have another layer of ourselves, our heart and our wisdom that can see, oh, when I’m anxious, I hate it. When I’m alone, I can’t stand it. I feel like I’m inadequate. And we don’t see that it’s on automatic pilot because it’s not the mind saying that it’s the feeling saying that. So when the answer to that question again, coming back to the key question that will help us all identify this unconscious self-rejection is that if the answer is no, we don’t like it. Then we are rejecting ourselves.
David Knapp: (15:59)
So as I listen, collecting on my life, and I’m saying, circumstances, external circumstances are what comes up for me most frequently circumstances where I felt horrible or I feel something was horribly done to me or in association with somebody I cared about and converting that to an internal look is, is subtle, is not something that just automatically comes to me. It really doesn’t. It really is externalized, it’s then so much easier to, or not see, but react bouncing around repetitive circumstances coming up in my life, why I’m at, why am I having the same kind of relationship? You know, am I graduating to a different relationship paradigm that, that, that is different about, I learn something, but it’s not inward. It’s, that’s the trick. And I took a long time to get that trick. And I’m still trying to get that trick.
Robert Strock: (17:04)
Yeah. And again, let’s, let’s say that your external circumstances that you’re facing a medical condition, and you just found out that you may have cancer, or you may have a root canal, or you may have something that is really unpleasant. So it’s natural to go, oh yeah, I hate that. You know, or, or, or I’m really scared. And the question is, is that the end, or is there this reflectiveness that we’re talking about that whenever you have a challenging feeling, you say, oh, that’s right. I want to remember I have another potential, rather than just ending it with, oh, I’m scared of my root canal. It’s like the other level would be, it’s perfectly natural to be scared. It’s perfectly natural to be frustrated or angry with a world that’s at war or that the passivity around global warming it’s perfectly natural to be feeling helpless.
Robert Strock: (18:11)
And that’s a sign that you, you care about not wanting to go through pain, it’s a natural sign that you care for the world, not to go through pain. And there’s that caring that can come when you have that instinctive reaction, whether it’s to an external event or an internal event, but we forget or more accurately, we never knew that we have the capacity to respond with our heart and wisdom to any challenging feeling when they arrive. Now all too frequently, as we’ve covered in prior episodes, most of us not even aware of our challenging feelings themselves. So just being aware that we’re angry or we’re afraid is a victory. And then we’re talking about another level of wisdom and heart, which is we can care for whatever challenging feeling we’re going through. And for that matter, we can help those we love care for the challenging feelings they’re going through, but it’s instinctive at one level to just bury it all.
Robert Strock: (19:24)
And now we’re going deeper into the level of starting with the awareness, the golden awareness of being aware of a challenging feelings, and then remembering that we have the capacity to care, to be supportive of ourselves. Now, it doesn’t mean, as you said, in your prior example where, well, I have this challenging feeling of anger, so I’m just going to lacerate people around me and I’m going to be supportive of myself. So the key is in all these situations, we need to be inquiring, is this my best self and am I creating unnecessary injury to somebody? And if that’s not the case, and if it’s really what might be called an innocent set of challenging feelings, then we always have the capacity to learn how to care for ourselves. If we remember to ask that question, do we tolerate, do we accept? Do we feel empathic toward the experience that we’re having?
Robert Strock: (20:27)
And then do our best to respond to that with an answer of, or maybe even a question is this normal? And if it’s normal, then of course, we want to say, well, this is natural for all of us, or is it difficult? Then we, of course, we want to say, this is actually really difficult for me. So you, you want to look at how many times when you’ve had very difficult feelings, have you said with a tone of kindness, this is really difficult for me because that would be moving from a self-rejection feeling, actually all the way into, or toward a self-compassion feeling. So it’s quite common that when we have any difficult feeling that we have a chain reaction and that chain reaction usually operates out of our awareness. So we might feel angry at someone acted out. And then out of our awareness, we feel regret or we feel guilty or we feel contracted without even knowing it.
Robert Strock: (21:42)
We feel like we’re blaming ourselves for being angry. We withdraw from ourselves, we feel depressed, or it might be another example where we feel rejected and we can’t tolerate the feeling of rejection. So we feel withdrawn or we feel angry at the other person, or we feel competitive with the other person. And so these chain reactions, the key is to catch it any one of them, any one of these challenging feelings and be able to ask ourselves that golden question again, do I feel any kind of tolerance or acceptance or caring or empathy toward this feeling and reminding ourselves again, it’s not a matter of rationalizing that I get to just dump on people. And yeah, I feel good about it because they deserved it. We’re not validating that we’re assuming that we’re looking for our best selves. One of the things that’s very difficult for most people and as a therapist for 50 years, it’s incredibly obvious that the distinction between what we feel and what we need is not made very clear.
Robert Strock: (23:04)
And because we can’t identify the specific challenging feelings, we frequently leave them unlabeled and unconscious. And when we’re trying to move in a direction where we can care for ourselves and find our essential needs like tenderness or strength or empathy, these degrees of literacy or specificity make it much easier to really practice this insight, to find what we’re feeling and how we’re rejecting ourselves. And I would encourage everyone to go to the awarenessthatheals.org website and look for the Introspective Guides, where you can download them for free and Chart One in Chart Three has the challenging feelings, has 75 challenging feelings and Chart Three has 75 essential needs, and this will help you greatly to identify whatever it is you’re feeling. And then to ask yourself what it is that you need, which is immensely helpful in this effort to work with self-rejection and self-compassion.
Robert Strock: (24:29)
So we’re really talking about creating two levels of awareness that is not really common in our society. It’s not really modeled by our teachers, by our parents, our friends, even. And that is the first level of awareness is just honoring when we’re not feeling good in some way, when we’re challenged, when we’re in some kind of a difficult feeling and being aware of these challenges is a huge pregnancy, it’s a, it’s like planting a seed that if we don’t water it with our awareness, it’s never going to bear fruit or any good fruit. And so being aware of our challenges needs to be seen as a level of evolution and a level of development. And the second level of awareness is our self-rejection, whether it be overtly with negative feelings toward ourselves that we’re unaware of or withdrawal from our hearts. So when we have these two levels of awareness, we’re set up in life.
Robert Strock: (25:46)
Number one, we don’t have to be afraid of ourselves anymore, so we can afford to look because we’re not interpreting so-called negative or challenging feelings as negative, we’re viewing them as challenges, which is really opportunities. When we can see them, we see them as ways to transform our lives. And if we don’t see them, we can also realize that it’s like being stuck. Fear stays as fear, anger stays as anger, anxiety stays as anxiety, and there’s no one there to nurture us. So it’s important as you listen to this, to see is this really familiar to you? And if it isn’t, and certainly for the vast majority of my clients, the self-rejection component is extremely new. And of course, conceptually the awareness of our challenging emotions is not new, probably for anyone listening right now, but the degree of specificity of the challenging emotions and the degree of frequency of being aware and the degree of sharing the awareness is probably pretty minimal.
Robert Strock: (27:08)
And so if we can see that opening up to real appreciate when we’re aware and sharing our challenging emotions, and then we’re asking ourselves that key question, do I like, can I tolerate, do I care for myself when I’m in this place, we can see that we’re opening the door to the potential of a much more inspiring and fulfilling life. And so it’s so important that you take this personally. So I ask you to really try to identify as we close, what is your most difficult feeling and what is your reaction of rejection or withdrawal that’s most common for you because that’s what’s going to be most beneficial as you take in this information. Thank you so much for your attention and look forward to really exploring this more deeply as we move on to further episodes.
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