This week Robert and Dave go more deeply into the seven steps to transform anger. The podcast coincides with the final chapter of Robert’s book, Awareness that Heals. We all have loads of hypnosis or conditioning from our parents, our culture, our movies, and our friends that lead us in directions that make anger a divisive force, rather than one that can be directed in a way that serves everyone. This show is zeroing in on how to find a spaciousness inside us that can choose to guide us in our anger and resistant emotional reactions.
It is normal (but not healthy) to be in the heat of our anger as most of us have rationalized that the other person or circumstance has caused it. We feel so deserving that we are not aware that our repressed or suppressed anger is our reaction rather than learning how we can find a beneficial way to contemplate it. When attempting this pivot, everyone needs to cultivate awareness of what we need. If we don’t, it is inevitable that we will express ourselves insensitively when in this state of mind. We are aspiring to find the best sides of ourselves, find ways to be sensitive, balanced, and aware of the process that can move us toward this kind of healing. Robert and Dave offer tools and concrete examples of how to cultivate this inner spaciousness.
For many of us, it may be hard to be aware of our anger until days later or even suppress it for a lifetime. It’s never too late to be aware. It’s never too late to be aware of a part of you that wants to care. It’s never too late to evolve to the next step of finding and expressing our needs sensitively. The idea is to be balanced and recognize that we are not suppressing anger. We are feeling it in a safe way inside ourselves. Or, when circumstances allow us to go to a safe location to feel it as totally as possible and use it to find our strength and capacity for intimacy. We are not suppressing vulnerability. We are using it to find a more gentle, tender, caring side of ourselves that can be expressed in a balanced way when we are with someone who can handle honest caring communication.
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Awareness That Heals, Episode 67.
Robert Strock: (00:03)
What we’re gonna be talking about today is something that is so central to living a fulfilling life and breaking free from where we’re trapped in conditioned reactions that each of us has. And we all have conditioning and really believe we are just acting. Normally we all have loads of hypnosis or conditioning from our parents, from our culture, from our movies, from our friends,
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: (01:14)
A very warm welcome again, to the Awareness That Heals. It’s truly a pleasure to have you be joining us on the program. And what we’re gonna be talking about today is something that is so central to living a fulfilling life and breaking free from where we’re trapped in conditioned reactions that each of us has. And we all have conditioning and really believe we are just acting. Normally we all have loads of hypnosis or conditioning from our parents, from our culture, from our movies, from our friends. Do you get this? I mean, does that make sense to you? Don’t just hear my words, take a few seconds and see, can you see how you might feel pressure to be successful or how you feel pressure to be sexy or feel pressure to be more powerful or to be taller than you are, or have more hair than you have, or, or in any way, can you feel this conditioning to be something other than what you are? So, none of us are really liberated from having our own direction in life, where we’re naturally following ourselves, our truest selves, where we would have a selection of what we’re exposed to that we choose to align with.
Robert Strock: (02:45)
What we’re trying to do in this show is to make that more clear that you have a space inside you. We all have a space inside us that can choose to guide ourselves. And our emotional reactions are not gonna just take us away or our withdrawals or our, our defenses are not gonna just take us away. Normally, it’s like a earthquake or a tidal wave moving us that we need to really develop our capacity, to think for ourselves and to question for ourselves and to listen to what the answers are today. We’re going to go more deeply into the seven steps to dealing with anger and how it applies to various concrete examples. That will be something we all have to deal with each in our own unique way. Please use your own examples as we share ours. And that doesn’t mean not to listen to us at all, but the ideal would be half your example, half our example, realize where you have a form of anger and how you are dealing with it.
Robert Strock: (04:08)
And look at the alternatives that are being presented. The whole point is to use it for yourself. So, I’m gonna start with a review of the seven steps. And again, when I list them, see how much they apply to you in your current life. You know, if this is the first show you’ve listened to, don’t have very high expectations. If you’ve been listening to it for a while, it’s gonna be familiar, but it’s familiar to me. But as I say it each time, it helps me. It helps me wake up to, ah, yes, the first step is be aware of your anger and resistant emotions. No matter how it comes out, that’s the first step. And that sounds almost trite. But think about how many times you’re aware and you think you’re angry because of what they did or what they didn’t do. And you lose sight. It’s your anger, it’s your frustration. It’s your impatience. It’s your intolerance, which are the resistant emotions along with 50 others. So, the second step of transforming anger and resistant emotions into intimacy and strength is finding a place inside you that knows it wants to care.
Robert Strock: (05:35)
So, as you’re hearing that and imagining yourself being angry or intolerant or impatient, imagine interrupting inside yourself with a place that says, well, wait a minute, we don’t wanna just act out or we don’t wanna just be passive aggressive, or we don’t wanna just be snarky. Maybe we wanna be constructive. Maybe we wanna be helpful. And formally we call this the intention to heal, but it’s really the intention to heal, the intention to care, the intention to move toward a state of well-being that will naturally create a pause, at least inside. And perhaps even before you express anything, it will stop you from expressing the anger or the impatience or frustration outside, or maybe you’ll catch it in the middle and have to say something like, well, wait, well, wait a minute. I’m, I’m trying to find another way to say it. That implies the third step, which is being able to contain yourself, which is referred to as containment, which is being able to slow yourself down, see the anger and recognizing that you don’t wanna just act it out or act it in.
Robert Strock: (06:59)
You wanna find a way to possibly be harmless or maybe even constructive. And that containment is a crucial step that might seem artificial. And it might seem like you’re suppressing your anger. But as you’ve heard, if you’ve listened to prior shows, or as you’ll hear again today, the containment actually means that you’re doing everything you can privately to primely experience the anger or the frustration or the intolerance. Don’t suppress it at all inside, see it nakedly, but have a witness, have an individual consciousness that’s watching that feeling like you’re two beings. You’re the anger, the frustration, the intolerance, and you’re able to see it. And when this happens in the containment phase, you naturally will also start to see, gee, I’m angry, but I also am aware that underneath that there’s vulnerable feelings, which is the fourth step, like fear or hurt. I’m angry, cuz I’m hurt cuz you weren’t sensitive to me.
Robert Strock: (08:13)
And you can become aware of the vulnerable feelings in the containment phase and the underlying needs, which is the fifth step. So again, the third step is containment. The fourth step is the vulnerability, and the fifth step is the identification of the needs. And for those of you that have been listening to the show, you’ll know that we have a chart called the Introspective Guides that identifies 75 needs that are essential needs like empathy, communication, honesty, trust, strength, gentleness, and the whole emphasis in this seven step process is instead of acting out your anger at what you’re angry against is discovering the need that you’re for. It’s a pivoting. It’s a okay, if I’m angry against something, it means there’s something I wanted that I didn’t get or something I didn’t want that I did get. And if you can identify the needs, there’s a chance that you can reverse a very destructive and, and nuclear process that can be channeled in a way more closely to your sensitivity, to express what it is that you need.
Robert Strock: (09:41)
So, that fifth state of identifying your needs is quite crucial. And the vulnerability helps you identify your needs. If you can feel it. And then the sixth step is learning how to express your needs in as sensitive a way as possible. That’s a big deal cuz it’s all too high of a risk of, oh, I realize what I need is communication. So, I’m gonna communicate in an angry way. You know, you are a fucking asshole. That’s not exactly what we mean by a sensitive expression of needs. It might be. I need you to be more gentle or I need your tone of voice to be softer or, or I need to take a little bit of time to try to find how to express what it is that I need. So, I need to find my needs. And in this sixth step, I generally encourage trying to find a way to express your needs as sensitively as possible, at least three times.
Robert Strock: (10:43)
And I don’t mean that the same sitting or standing, I mean through time to really see is the person at all interested in your needs or maybe they’re not in the slightest bit interested. Maybe your boss, that’s tired of hearing from you. It may be somebody that’s violent. It, it may not even be worth trying cuz you intuitively sense that there’s zero chance of getting through. And that’s what makes the seventh step necessary, which is if you see that your needs are not gonna get a reception and you’re positive, they’re not gonna get a reception or virtually positive, then you’re gonna need to resolve your needs internally. So, sometimes it’s communication and sometimes it’s learning how to accept what is happening and discovering what’s the best way to navigate my life so that I can move toward an acceptance and see how to communicate or not communicate about something else. So, it’s not a one size fits all. Every situation is unique and it requires discriminating whether you have a chance to communicate. So, now that we have a basic understanding of that, I’d like to invite and thank Dave, my closest friend for 52 years, my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation, you know, and someone that I’m very, very grateful is joining me on this journey and finishing up the final chapter of Awareness That Heals.
Robert, thank you. And uh, it’s hard to believe right now, at this moment, that we are here, in this level of the part of the evolution of all the things that came before in these series of podcasts, which I don’t know how many there are, but there’s a lot and a lot of nuance, a lot of detail. And there’s one thing I wanna ask you to elaborate on: You said it right at the beginning or after going through the seven steps, I’m not sure I’ll remember it exactly, but it related to what is normal? And I wanna say to you that in my life, uh, normal was really the, the first 20 years of my life was quote “normal,” but it was completely unaware, completely without any understanding of having an internal reality, even all outward. Everybody has their own version of that, but can you talk about normal maybe versus healthy or whatever, whatever it would mean for you?
Robert Strock: (13:37)
It’s a great question. It’s a great contrast. I think it’s very normal. I’d almost have to go through all seven steps again, which I’ll do extremely briefly. It’s normal to be unaware of our anger. We, we, we, we have it so rationalized that the other person caused it. It’s so deserving that we’re not aware of our anger in a way that we’re considering contemplating. We’re not aware of our anger and finding a part of us that wants to care while we’re angry. That’s not normal. That’s abnormal. That doesn’t mean it’s abnormal in an unhealthy way. It’s abnormal and everyone needs to feel very patient because we’re doing a virtual lobotomy while you’re in an angry type of state to actually find what you need and express it in a sensitive way, instead of just dumping. The next story I’m gonna be talking about, which is my mother is gonna demonstrate that and to contain is not a normal state.
Robert Strock: (14:48)
Most people would think that’s suppressing and you’re gonna stop me from expressing, okay, expressing to myself. As one of my close friends said, no way I wanna bitch at my husband. He deserves it, you know, I’m not, you’re not gonna get me to stop doing that. And it took years to, to be able to partially get through, so it’s also not normal to see the vulnerability underneath the anger to actually be angry and say, oh, what hurt? Fear, sadness? You know anxiety, might I be feeling that would be a little softer. It’s not normal to even know what you need, which is why the Introspective Guides are there because they identified the 75 challenging emotions, as well as 75 needs and helps separate those. It’s not normal to be able to separate those, so it’s done in a very simple chart. It’s also not normal to have an aspiration.
Robert Strock: (15:45)
And I’m, I’m speaking about statistically normal. I’m not talking about normal as in normal-healthy to sensitively express your needs in a really kind, caring, or strong way as is appropriate, given the situation. And it’s also not normal if you get thwarted and you’re with somebody that you consider to be an asshole, to be able to resolve things inside yourself and still find a place to move forward in life with them or deciding maybe without them, because they’re so toxic that you make the decision that you know what, this person’s not right for my life or this person might be my partner. And they just have one part of them that I don’t like, but they’ve got nine parts I love. So, I’ve gotta find a way of accepting it so I can make the best out of my love relationship. So, none of that is normal, but we’re aspiring to not be normal.
Robert Strock: (16:42)
We’re aspiring to find our hearts, find the best sides of ourselves, find ways to love, find ways to be aware of a process that can move us toward healing. And I wanna be very clear, it’s not to healing, very often, it’s moving in a direction. This is not seven steps to, to bliss, this is seven steps to improve. We’re all on an arrow, moving in a direction and very few situations unless they’re pretty superficial, do we resolve completely? And so ,it’s very important that we’re not looking for quick, easy answers, we’re looking for a process that’s a lifelong process to develop being a little bit paranormal. So, I mentioned I was gonna include my mother and my mother has passed away about 10 years ago and was a very devoted, great with my friends, took care of all my basic needs, but really gave me my first life challenge because she was intermittently quite bitchy.
Robert Strock: (17:59)
And so, I needed to learn how do I take care of myself when I have a mother that’s angry at me. And I knew even when I was 6, 7, 8 years old that she was getting angry at things that I wasn’t doing that really didn’t have much to do with me. And I already knew enough about her parents to know she had a horrible childhood, you know, she made massive improvement to be where she was. And so, my initial reaction was to be annoyed and to withdraw. And in that withdrawal, I started to begin unwittingly, not with knowing at seven or eight years old, kind of asking myself, how am I gonna cope? How am I going to be okay and not get hit by this anger, you know, more than I need to because I knew what she was angry about was I was a little sloppy.
Robert Strock: (18:58)
I wasn’t particularly motivated at school, I wasn’t polite enough in her mind, My table manners–I put my elbow on the table. I was too picky with the food that I ate, and all of those were true. But there was no–it was like, aren’t we here to love and be loved? Why would you get angry? Just tell me, you know, to be cleaner or tell me to, you know, please get my elbow off the the table. But that wasn’t the case. So, I had to resolve it, mostly internally, because I was eight years old. And I realized that I, I needed to pay a little bit more attention to those things. But as I look back at it, I was still a bit passive aggressive. So I was still a bit sloppy. I was still all the things that she didn’t like.
Robert Strock: (19:44)
I, I only one-third improved, but that helped a little bit. But it was something that helped me start to understand that I wasn’t gonna have a lobotomy and she wasn’t gonna have a lobotomy. And of course I wasn’t thinking those words, I’m not gonna completely change, she’s not gonna completely change. And in those early years, I wasn’t aware of the passive aggressive side of me that wasn’t very motivated to, to improve those simple little areas. It was just the way that I was eight years old. And I, I grew to really understand that her childhood was so horrible that it was miraculous that she was only a bit bitchy intermittently that she wasn’t just miserable all the time. So one situation that is not at all characteristic, but was something that I referred to as my 13-year-old bar mitzvah, was my mother accused me of stealing something that I definitely didn’t steal.
Robert Strock: (20:47)
And I was a polite kid. I, you know, overtly, I was a good kid besides my minor transgressions. So, I never swore at her and I never really raised my voice significantly, but I knew at that moment that it was so crude, and she had never accused me of stealing something and it was off the wall. So, I ranted at that moment and I said, I didn’t fucking steal anything. I’m not your fucking brother. I’m not your fucking father. So fuck off. And my father was there and my brother was there, my mother was there. My father had his mouth open, cuz he was the consummate great father, but not able to really calm my mother down. My brother was laughing and I just walked away so happy and so peaceful. And it changed the dynamics. And it was important, not so much that I’m trying to model the way I would encourage you to do what I did, but it was a version of having the awareness of what was there in her life.
Robert Strock: (21:57)
And I ideally, I wish I would’ve been able to say, listen, I need you to trust me. You know, I, I need you to understand that you’re caught in your past. Now at nine years old, it was a little unrealistic to be able to say that in such a clean way, cuz I was just too pissed off and I was kind of in a shock and a joy and an independence. And so, it’s something that once in a while, once in a blue moon, the conditions are exactly right for you to make an expansion from wherever you are. Perhaps you’re someone that does that on a regular basis. And does that with your lover or does that with a friend or does that with a business person, a version of screw you or just gets angry. But you can have the chance to see that maybe this is a time where I can upgrade my game.
Robert Strock: (22:47)
I upgrade my heart, upgrade my awareness to move from just dumping anger or just suppressing anger to being aware of anger. Or maybe I can see the underlying hurt. Cause I felt hurt. I felt wounded that I, and injured that I was accused, being accused of being a thief. And I knew I needed to, I knew I needed to be trusted, but it wasn’t a conscious process. It was just a feeling of innocence that I knew wasn’t being seen. And so, it’s so important for you when you see yourself in a situation where you’re being misunderstood or you’re being treated harshly, you’re, you’re being treated like, uh, you know, you don’t deserve to be treated for you to look at, can I be aware of my anger? Can I see, I want to care, can I contain it? Can I see the vulnerable feelings?
Robert Strock: (23:45)
Can I really recognize the needs? And if I can’t, can I go to that chart and circle the one or two or three or four needs that were there and take a look at your life right now, as I’m sharing this at one level, you’re hearing my story look at where your most caught in your anger, your frustration, your irritation, and can you discover what it is that you need or needed. And is it fair for you to potentially go through what process? Just be honest at whatever level it is. It might be very hard even to be aware of your anger until two days later. And then congratulations, it’s never too late to be aware. It’s never too late to be aware of a part of you that wants to care. It’s never too late to evolve to the next step. And one of the keys, which is in some of the other chapters, and if you followed us you’ll know, is you wanna do what you can to have a caring tone toward yourself while you’re expanding in your awareness.
Robert Strock: (24:55)
And while you’re trying to flip over the most destructive side of ourself and have that be moving into a part of our heart that can create greater intimacy and strength. The idea here isn’t just to be a nice guy. The idea is to be balanced and to recognize we’re not suppressing anger, we’re using it to find our strength and we’re not suppressing our vulnerability. We’re using it to find the more gentle, tender, caring side of ourselves. So, my hope and my wish is that you can see that in understanding the process of how important it is to start with our awareness of our anger and resistant emotions. And if we don’t see that and if we just rationalize it, our life is kind of frozen in a certain kind of alienation. But if we really take the time and use it and dedicate ourselves to this process or a similar process, we really can have a much more inspiring and fulfilling life. And I deeply thank you for your attention.
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