Awareness that Heals

Overcoming Family Conditioning – Episode 8

Overcoming Family Conditioning - Episode 8

Childhood experiences and culture teach many of us to strive for impossible, unrealistic, or unreachable standards. This episode explores the trap created by these standards and introduces how to free ourselves. Friendly Mind creates a realistic, present focus on supportive and realistic thoughts. We look closely at standards and expectations relating to family, friendship, work, love, sex, youthfulness, and success. This is the first episode to deal with unreachable standards by identifying a grounded, balanced focus on what is possible.


Resources related to this episode
Robert Strock Website
Robert’s Book, Awareness that Heals
Free Downloadable Introspective Guides

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Announcer: (00:00)
Awareness That Heals Episode Eight.

Robert Strock: (00:04)
This is really like a lobotomy of learning how to reverse the chain reaction that can occur when difficult emotions and situations arise and not getting lost with them instead guiding ourselves toward well-being in our wisdom again, with our friendly mind.

Announcer: (00:26)
Awareness, That Heals is a podcast that helps its listeners become more at peace with all states of their mind. Your host, Robert Strock has practiced psychotherapy for more than 45 years. He’s coined the term Awareness That Heals to help you develop self-caring and the capacity to respond in an effective way to life’s challenges. Especially at times when you’re most prone to be critical or to withdraw together, we’ll explore how to become caringly aware of our challenging feelings and how we can use our friendly mind to respond and help care for these difficult feelings to live a better, more inspiring life.

Robert Strock: (01:05)
Welcome back. And thanks for joining us today in this truly important exploration of how understanding what we’re introducing and how it can be our . . . in your greatest asset in our times of greatest need. This is really like a lobotomy of learning how to reverse the chain reaction that can occur when difficult emotions and situations arise and not getting lost with them instead guiding ourselves toward well-being in our wisdom again, with our friendly mind today, both Dave and Shelley are joining us as you’ve likely heard in more detail in prior episodes. I’ll give you the short version today. Dave is my 50 year closest friend co-president of the Global Bridge Foundation. And Shelley is a very skilled therapist and board member of the Global Bridge Foundation and a very close friend for the last 12 years.

Shelley Pearce: (02:11)
Hello gentlemen, I am so happy to be here again and, uh, to talk about friendly mind and, uh, all the great aspects of Awareness That Heals and how it can help heal anyone who encounters it.

David Knapp: (02:26)
And as always, it’s great to be here. Um, this is vital, vital communication, um, such a part of my life, so, so important. Uh, so thank you for inviting me and, um, look forward to exploring it.

Robert Strock: (02:41)
Great to have you both. Again, we just left off in the last episode with friendly mind, not just being vague thoughts, but it lives in the present and the near future responding when we feel our worst or even when we just don’t feel well.

Robert Strock: (03:04)
We’re going to introduce today how we recognize the trap of impossible unreachable standards and how, when we’re trying to do that, we so badly need friendly mind to get us centered. Friendly mind can be the great balancer to these impossible standards and bring us back to what is most realistic, impossible. Friendly mind will follow a question like what’s the best possible way for me to care for myself and those around me that I care about most. The subtlety will become more and more refined and guide you to respond from your wisest, simply friendly guidance. Most of these standards come from our childhood and oftentimes they’re absurd. When we look at them closely, we can’t believe that we’re still believing what we’re believing, but as we’ll explore in this episode, it’s so important that a part of us remains very young and subconscious. And so we need to out these standards and see the ones that are impossible and friendly mind can follow them like a reflex or like an assist when we’re really lost in a feeling where we can’t really solve it. But what we can do is guide ourselves toward being present realistic, sensible, and caring for ourselves in a way that we would normally do. So, which are the standards that you need to watch out for. And I’m asking you, as you listen, please apply this to yourself. Don’t just listen to what’s being said, or you’ll miss the main point.

Robert Strock: (05:05)
So let’s start off with family. So many of us, most of us have different nuances with how our family can create standards, that they want to see us a certain amount. And perhaps we want to see them less. They want us to be a certain way. Maybe we should have already been married or had kids. Maybe we should treat our kids in a different way. Maybe they feel that we’re inadequate or maybe we feel inadequate when we’re with them. So take a look at your relationship to family and see which one really grabs you the most. Ask yourself, what would my friendly mind say to me now, if it was trying to help me when I’m feeling guilty or when I’m feeling angry or I’m feeling anxious. For example, if you’re feeling guilty, friendly mind would generally be evoked. As we learned in the last couple of episodes, it usually will begin with a question.

Robert Strock: (06:23)
What can I say to myself now when I feel guilty and how can I communicate that both to myself and to my family so that I can optimize my relationship to them, not overextend and then feel claustrophobic and irritated and annoyed or isolate so far that again, we feel even guiltier because they’re angry at us because they haven’t heard from us for a long time. Now, of course, that doesn’t mean just because they judge us that they’re right. It also doesn’t mean they’re wrong. We each need to tune into what is our optimal relationship to our family. Are we ignoring them more than we believe is our best relationship? Are we too merged, and we’re constantly feeling like . . . can’t wait to get outta here? So how do we find that sweet balance? Well, friendly mind as we’re defining it are the simplest most concise thoughts that will guide us to a sense of well-being in whatever situation we’re in.

Shelley Pearce: (07:47)
So Robert, I, um, I really can speak to a sense of guilt that I often have both with family and friends as well. And that is that I, uh, really enjoy a certain amount of solitude and around my, my work and, and, uh, philanthropic schedule, let’s just say, and the nature of the work requires me as an individual to spend a lot of time alone. And I often end up feeling guilty that I turned down a lot of, um, invitations by family and friends. I, my family is all over the country and I, you know, I, well, of course, with COVID, I haven’t been visiting, but even when we don’t have a raging pandemic, I’m still slow to visit because when I do have time, I want, I want to preserve it for myself. And so then I feel guilty and I feel like I should be doing more, no matter what I do. And so, uh, you know, any, any thoughts you have that would be helpful for me, I’d appreciate.

Robert Strock: (09:04)
Well, I’ll be curious as to what you normally would say to yourself as if, as a representation of friendly mind, but I think for those that are listening, it would be a question. Am I optimizing my relationship with everyone? And my most sensitive self, is there anyone that I want to spend more time making a phone call, sending an email, spending time with? Is there anyone in my family that I’m spending too much time with and I need to set some boundaries in a really skillful way from talking to them personally, I need to be very careful with my tone of voice as I’m conveying it. And I’m going to do a scan of every one of my family and whatever it is friendly mind is going to say to you in a constructive way, you know, that you are a person that cares.

Robert Strock: (10:08)
So how do you best express your caring without overly immersing yourself or isolating? I trust you. I trust you, especially when you remember enough to ask this question, because that’s going to guide you to friendly mind and friendly mind will say, good for you that you’re contemplating this, good for you, that you made this phone call, good for you, that you set this boundary. And it’s going to be an ongoing dialogue where you’re not only just hearing pat thoughts, you’re asking questions. And you’re a process of asking the questions and then being given guided, guiding suggestions as to what would be the words that would most center you with you and center you with the members of your family. So what would you say would be the top two or three thoughts that might be good? And maybe you’re thinking at the back of your mind, a member of your family that can go unnamed.

Shelley Pearce: (11:17)
I mean, I do, I do try. I feel like I give as much as my family expects, honestly. Like I, I never get from anyone. Gee, you’re not doing enough. So this is my own internal process, but, but I feel selfish because I need so much private time. So it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s an internal thing. Nobody’s, nobody’s putting pressure on me. You know, I think in fact, I think they think I’m, I’m, um, more connected in the family than they are. Right. But, but inside me, I, maybe it’s having a higher standard for what connection is, or, or just feeling like responsible for the love connections that I have. And, but, but feeling selfish, I don’t have the desire to have that override my own need for being alone.

Robert Strock: (12:24)
And knowing you as well as I do, uh, I’m gonna belie you a little bit, because there’s one member of your family who would never speak up, but he would always like to hear from you more. And so there’s a guilt that I know you go through that you share with me. And then there’s the necessity to say to yourself, or to ask yourself, as I know you do, am I communicating with this person enough? And oftentimes the answer is no. And then there’s the friendly mind that will say good for you. You reached out, you didn’t particularly feel like it, but you know, you love this person. And so I really liked that. You’re caring in that way. And then there’s another person that’s in your family who communicates with you a fair amount, but you know, it’s a bit out, a bit out sometimes out of pressure.

Robert Strock: (13:19)
So friendly mind in that situation would say something like, you know, you, I don’t want you to have to feel guilty or pressured, and I appreciate how much you communicate with me. And you can reassure this person that they don’t have to reach out as much as they feel they do. Uh, and just, just do it when, you know, if you feel like a long time has gone by, I really like to hear from you, but I don’t want you to have to feel pressure. So friendly mind is something that not only cares for us, but it cares for those that we love too.

David Knapp: (14:02)
So this is, this is a good example of a difference in backgrounds, Shelley, for me, uh, I, I come from the opposite pole. Uh, my, my issue has been really, uh, the inability to see that I’m not setting boundaries. I’m merging almost entirely for a large parts of my life with the outside, with what are the needs of the people around me with no real awareness, even, uh, or no experience of my own needs for aloneness or for whatever I may need or want or desire from others around me. And so it’s been, you know, in, in, in my own way, the opposite in my own way, uh, for long periods of my life, unaware that that was even a pattern. And partially it was, I was unaware. It was a pattern because I was pretty good at it. I got a lot of gratification because people really liked that I was there for them. Uh, and I didn’t realize it was at the expense of such a rich inside part of it myself and in recent years. Uh, and you know, 72, it’s, it’s a, it’s a thing to behold that significant understandings and progress in life in these inner places happened in these years of my life, as I have, um, where I see my friendly mind working. And because I, I see often the impulse to just reach the impulse, just to look outward. Uh, and, and so when I see that, now that I’m more aware of it, and that’s, that’s a longer story, how and how I became aware, but it’s, it’s saying, hang on one second, what do you need here? What is, you know, really look, really look inside, you know, is there an ask you have, is there something that relates to as to what you really are experiencing is important to you that you want to share or get feedback on it? Just take the chance, uh, because what I did before was not even take the chance. There was no chance without expressing my needs or my desires or my wants, whatever you want to call them. Of course, rejection is pretty hard to happen if that’s not right expressed. So there’s risk now. And that risk feels pretty good. And obviously I’m not always getting, in fact, you could say it’s a, it might be a 50/50 thing, relationships, some relationships, people are relieved to see that I have needs. Finally, others are, Hey, that’s not my bargain with you.

David Knapp: (17:00)
You know, really my bargain with you is that you’d be there for me. I really don’t have a lot of interest in being there for you. Uh, so it’s been, there’s been some interesting surprises and some pleasant surprises and some delicate relationships that are family members, uh, that are really important to me. I’m not, I can’t divorce myself from them. Friendships that don’t work, of course they’re different, but it, it becomes where do I reach in? Where do I express to them? Whereas at something that feels important enough to me, but will not burden them. And, but it’s still been a dance around how to express me and my needs. And, and so if I, if I’m talking from my friendly mind to myself, it’s always is in that particular part of patterns, it’s always related in that particular part of my patterns to at least anchor into what do I need, what is going on with me? What are my desires? What is the territory outside that I would express those into? I don’t want to just lay them on people, but I at least want to be aware of them and take my chances and where it, where it makes sense to.

Robert Strock: (18:17)
Yeah. And, and just to validate your work on that over the last number of years, you, you used to in the past answer the phone, every single time I dialed, or a lot of people dialed and, and now half the time your phone goes out and answered. And so …

David Knapp: (18:41)
That’s with you.

Robert Strock: (18:42)
Okay. Well, I would, I would expect nothing, nothing more, nothing less actually. Um, so at the good example of a slight part of me is a little annoyed and then I remind myself, Oh yeah, that’s right, he’s a human being and I guess he has needs and just because I could rely on him to be there no matter what, uh, it’s healthy and it’s balanced for him. And it’s really good. And then on a second level, it’s like when you have a pattern, as entrenched as yours was to be so responsive, you may have to ask the question three times in a row.

Robert Strock: (19:20)
You say, well, you know, do I need to answer this call or do I need to be in touch with so-and-so? And the first answer you go, well, wait a minute. I don’t even trust my first answer. I’m going to ask again. So for all of us that have patterns to think that one simple question is going to be a long-term answer. This is a lifelong process. We need to guide ourselves with, none of us arrive. And it’s so important that especially with an area like family, that we don’t think there’s going to be a trite, simple answer. And as you’re thinking about this, take it away with, you know, where am I balanced in, what would my, what would my mind say to me? And what would my mind ask me to help me know what to say, to be me, bring me right to the center of my relationship with my family.

David Knapp: (20:16)
So you raise something that’s really for me important. Um, and that is this pattern for me, this, this, whatever you want to call it, the way I adapted to life and the way I went through life and this particular part of me in my work, which related to responding to gazillions of phone calls efficiently. And so you’re, you’re exactly right. And I teasing you there, wasn’t a phone call there, wasn’t a text there, wasn’t an email that did not get an immediate response. Well, that made me very successful in my work, very successful in my work. So these dynamics play out in different ways. And so it it’s, uh, it’s not necessarily something that I found I could turn off and turn on with specific relationships, meaning that in my personal life, those specific patterns of always being glued to what’s coming out towards you from outside, towards me being sensitive to it, having my radar up was not turned off in my personal relationships.

David Knapp: (21:30)
It may be very well that I could do it in my work. And it made me more successful, successful, even to a point where, uh, as I look back on it, it, I sacrificed a lot of other things in the process of being successful in that process of work. I did sacrifice the moments that I was taking myself away from to answer a message, to answer a phone call, to answer an email that didn’t have to be at that moment responded to that could have been an hour later or a day later. And so the adaptation can be so successful that it feels it’s not even noticed. And that was what my life was like. And it’s been a revelation, as I said, it’s been a real big, uh, and sometimes painful revelation to see what I’ve missed.

Robert Strock: (22:23)
And I know for me that my mother was so, uh, moralistic about staying in touch and having conversations, many of which I considered to be relatively on the surface. And so I overreacted and withdrew. And through the years I realized my heart actually cared. I just, wasn’t in love with the content so much that came back. But I realized I took it to an extreme that was self-centered and my love was left unexpressed. So all it took was a short five minute phone call or an email, and my heart felt more rewarded. And it actually has netted some amazing, surprising gifts that I never thought was possible from my family. And it was just those simple little tweaks. So again, as you’re listening, look at the subtleties cause the rewards of being balanced are immense and friendly. Mind can so steer you there with the simplest thing.

David Knapp: (23:38)
And I really want to amplify what you’re saying. It’s so important. What you’re saying that the, the packaging of what’s coming towards you, the way it, the way it comes towards you can be experienced through the lens of whatever it was in your case, maybe your mom and my case, actually it was my mom too. I adopted who she was really, but in large part, this, this transition, it’s like, what, what are the signals? And, and maybe this is a question to you. Uh, if you are, are not suffering, if you, if you’ve adapted in a way, for instance, it works. Um, so you find yourself suffering, or you find yourself lacking, you’ll find yourself in some state or there would be no motivation to change, would there? And so how does that work? How does it work from the transition of a successful adaptation to learning something about yourself?

Robert Strock: (24:41)
But I think it really helps if you ask yourself the question, do I really believe my tendency is to be overly committed or withdrawing? And if you get a feel for that, that’s going to give you a sense, whether you need to just check in with yourself more or check in with your family more and listen to both, because just listening to yourself, isn’t enough. It really does require a tuning into, here’s what I would do if it was just up to me and here’s what someone else I love would have me do. And so what’s my truth, including them, but not letting it dominate what I consider to be my most balanced self. So a second area that’s very common that has to do with an impossible standard where friendly mind can be of such support is the area of success itself and how much our society, our family pushed success in their terms as to what really mattered.

Robert Strock: (26:09)
So it may be that the bar was so low that you might’ve been told, Oh, you’re a woman. So you’re supposed to just supposed to be, yeah, you’re just supposed to be a caregiver of your husband, not quite so common these days, but it still exists. Or it may be that you were told, well, your brother is the smart one. And you’ll be able to probably do pretty well. Or maybe you’re watching some program on TV that it’s highlighting success, or you see the effects of success, or you are having trouble with month to month bills, or you’re finding yourself not being satisfied, even though, you know, you’re realistically secure, but to have a balanced relationship with success requires asking that friendly mind inducer question of what would be the sweet spot of success, where it doesn’t dominate my life. That allows me to be as independent as I need, and still to be able to take care of the other things that really matter to me.

Robert Strock: (27:30)
It’s also important to notice whether or not you feel jealous, competitive, whether you lack discipline, whether you’re driven and staying with that, being driven. I find that a lot of my clients happen to be ones that are driven and they’re convinced at the beginning, at least that, oh, I want to keep going. I want to keep going. I want to keep going. And yeah, I’m happy with it. And I want to get X and I want to get Y, and then I want to get Z and I might throw in, gee, how’s your relationship with your wife? How’s your relationship with your kids? How’s your relationship with your employees? How has your relationship with your board members? And so it’s not always obvious when you have certain relationships to success that it has what you deem to be the balanced place, because it’s not a one size fits all. We each get to be the contemplator and the one that decides this is my relationship to success that I’d like to have it be. Maybe I need more discipline, or maybe I’m compensating by focusing on success so much that I’m sacrificing other things that are utterly dear to me.

David Knapp: (29:06)
And of course I identify to some degree in my own way. I doubt I’m as successful as many of your clients, but they are coming to you for a reason. And so, yeah, I can say for myself, uh, it was like I was saying before I succeeded at using my pattern to succeed in what I wanted to succeed with, and yet of the awareness of some other empty spaces caused a suffering, caused a motivation, caused me to say I gotta look at this because something doesn’t feel right. I wasn’t even sure what, because if I look outward, it all looks good. And it provoked me to look inward, finally.

Robert Strock: (29:53)
And as we finish up with success, and this episode, there are a lot of people who are really in the opposite position where they’re month to month are they’re on credit cards and it is really going to require what do I need to do as the next step to move myself along to be secure? And maybe they have a little bit of a nest egg for when I get older. You know, I have a friend that continuously used to ask, I’m looking for upside. Yeah. I’m looking for looking for where I can really find out where it’s going to come from. It was so vague and so general, it wasn’t like, what can I do today or tomorrow to make a phone call or to look on Google, to take a tangible next step.

Robert Strock: (30:51)
And again, friendly mind is so focused on the present and near future, and doesn’t let us get away with abstractions. So as we continue on in the next episode, we’ll continue with these patterns of pressure and unreachable standards, and hopefully your continuing to ask yourself, am I really balanced in these areas? Am I really pursuing unreachable standards or even undesirable standards? And that this is a really meaningful place to tune in and not just be satisfied with your first answer, because most of us are, which is why we stay in balanced. So I greatly thank you for your attention to this, such an important subject for us to have access, to be rebalancing ourselves, especially if we take it to heart and really practice it on a daily basis. And again, I want to thank all of you that are listening and hopefully you see how beneficial it can be if we make this a daily practice, not because we should, but because we’re gaining enough wisdom that we can see if we’re a little bit more friendly and our thoughts toward ourselves, it’s going to improve our chances to be much more fulfilled and inspired in this life.

Robert Strock: (32:27)
So I thank you for your attention.

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