This episode explores one of the most dangerous traps of what is often misconceived as awareness. It occurs when we can see and identify what we feel but believe that this alone will allow us to address and overcome the challenges associated with those feelings.
Often, we hear in the psychological world, I am aware of my anger, jealousy, grief, and a wide array of other emotions, but true healing takes more than acknowledgement and recognition. There is a fourth level of awareness that includes a real intention to care for ourselves and others in addition to the ability to identify and acknowledge our feelings. While stable intellectual awareness is helpful, seeing its limitations clearly allows us to anticipate the dynamics of and need for the fourth level of awareness.
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Awareness That Heals Episode Three.
Robert Strock: (00:05)
And we know if we’re continuing to suffer, we need help. We can’t afford to rely on our own intellect. It’s not enough. We have to access essential qualities in our heart and wisdom in our mind to be able to guide ourselves through it. And we’re not taught this anywhere.
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.
Speaker 1: (01:06)
Thanks again for joining us today and hope you found some inspiration and new perspective and the episodes focusing on sitting awareness today, again with me or are my co-hosts Dave, who’s been my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation and my 50 year closest friend and Shelley, my dear dear friend from the moment I met her 12 years ago, also a board member at the Global Bridge Foundation and psychotherapist. And we’re starting today to continue our series of episodes based on a book I published last year called Awareness That Heals bringing heart and wisdom to life’s challenges, we’ll be doing our best to add our personal touches and experiences to it and current stories and events to update it. And hopefully it will touch you in places that are very useful to you. So starting with intellectual awareness, having gone through being aware of our unawareness and fleeting awareness, oftentimes we can see awareness of what’s going on and we’re fooled in believing that that awareness itself, even when it’s stably, intellectually seen is very connected to healing.
Robert Strock: (02:50)
And unless there’s another ingredient which we’ll cover in the next level, it oftentimes just leaves us in a pattern of being a half-truth where a little bit of truth is a dangerous thing. So for example, we can see that we’re angry. Congratulations. You know, I can see that I’m angry while I’m dumping my anger on you. That’s fantastic. I’m really an aware person. Maybe my therapist would approve it. I express my anger. I really let them know what I felt. And I saw it. I was very aware or we might be hurt and we can see our hurt, but it’s left in the desert or solitary confinement or the closet or the back of our mind. And we’re not sharing it, giving it a chance to have any kind of soothing or caring tenderness.
Robert Strock: (03:56)
We may feel rejected, which is quite devastating. And there may be shame or fear that leaves us to just see it. And usually we’ll just see the rejection and not the shame and other features. And because we’re not doing anything with it, we stay rejected because all we have is the intellectual awareness of that. Now, oftentimes it’s assumed, let’s say even in therapy, that the awareness of our feelings is extremely helpful and maybe especially when we express them, but again, that’s sort of a half-truth, it’s a hell of a lot better than not sitting at all. But when we leave it just as an awareness of it, or perhaps even a careless or not a very careful expression of, I felt rejected by you, I felt hurt by you.
Robert Strock: (05:14)
I’m angry that you did so-and-so and we’re either staying with just an intellectual awareness or giving ourselves permission to express that intellectual awareness. Neither one of those is very helpful for healing, unless we add another component. So this gives you a glimpse of a next level of awareness that we’re going to be talking about, which involves a healing response. In addition to the intellectual awareness, while you’re challenged, while you are less needing something and we’ll get into the subtleties of that and the next step of developing awareness.
David Knapp: (06:11)
Thank you for what you’ve just said. I really am grateful for the ability to participate in this, I think is so important. And I mentioned in a prior episode about something that happened when I was about 20 and turned my life around, but the result of it was I saw, and this is still in my life, I’m, yeah, I’m giving away a lot here, but you know, it’s, we’re talking 50 years, 50 years of a thread where I saw that I was basically living my life and aware of it intellectually, as it turns out at age 20 to be there for other people to form myself into what I felt would be accepted and liked and helpful and supportive, whatever words you would want to use along those lines. And when I became aware of that the first thing I did was I went to the opposite extreme, said, hey this is not healthy. You know I need to also be aware of my own needs, which of course is true. And that became everything. Now. it’s about me now. It’s about my needs. Of course, blindly being just in the intellectual process of it, not really getting to a level where, as you just said, there was some healing aspect to it, or even I would call constructive aspect to it.
David Knapp: (07:53)
And it created a lots of issues for me. And that thread has dangled and as the onion of my life has peeled itself down and down and down, it has maintained itself through my life and insights have happened. ‘m sure more of this will be revealed as we go through these episodes, but I just wonder about intellectual awareness and what value it has at that point, it has to happen or nothing else can happen, but when you stop there, it can be, it can be so frustrated. You think you’re doing everything you can do. There’s nothing. Now you’re finally seeing it and you’re still not getting what you thought you could get from it, still not solving whatever it is that you thought you were going to solve just by the virtue of seeing it.
Robert Strock: (08:47)
Yea, I think what’s really important to what you’re saying is that each of us has our Achilles heel pattern because most patterns, if you have intellectual awareness, won’t necessarily last for 50 years, but almost all of us and maybe all of us have Achilles heel patterns that are really the central ones of our life.
Robert Strock: (09:17)
And so we very well might have intellectual awareness for 50 years and maybe have glimpses of what can I do about it? How can I heal it and have some best guesses, maybe we’ll go to the other extreme, like you talked about for a while. Well, that doesn’t work. Okay. Maybe I need to try to find the middle and maybe I don’t quite know how to find the middle. So it’s very important that as this is being listened to that you are looking at how this applies to you, which patterns are really your Achilles heel. And don’t dis identify with this. Don’t just be a listener, be involved in your own inner life and say, okay, which ones are my Achilles heel? Dave is being brave enough to say, here’s what I’ve been going through for 50 years as a way of both being authentic and dealing with it and being a little bit embarrassed, but also giving all of us an opportunity to say, what are my long standing patterns and how many times again to reflect back.
David Knapp: (10:41)
Um, yeah. I don’t know if I want to pile on myself so much, but “what the hell” relationship patterns? Oh my God. I mean, so I see it. I see a level of it. That one didn’t work out, but then I’m finding myself with the same basic choice in the next relationship. Yeah. I’ve upgraded it. I’ve seen it as a little different. It’s a little more subtle. I’ve learned a few things, but fundamentally I’m that person that’s making choices. That brings me into those situations that ultimately for me have not worked out now eventually. Yes. But for many years now.
Robert Strock: (11:28)
Exactly. And I think, again, for all of us, we may stay in the same relationship. We may have another relationship. This is the same. We may have a third one or a second one. That’s the exact opposite. But no matter which one we find ourselves in the question is, are we staying in intellectual awareness?
Robert Strock: (11:49)
And are we experimenting, perhaps going to an extreme, you said, and not being able to find our way. But the key is if we have the intellectual awareness, we have the means to pursue wisdom, whether it’s through another or ourselves. And we know if we’re continuing to suffer, we need help. We can’t afford to rely on our own intellect. It’s not enough. We have to access essential qualities in our heart, and wisdom in our mind, to be able to guide ourselves through it. And we’re not taught this anywhere. We’re not taught this in Sunday school. We’re not taught this in education. We’re not taught this in meditation. These are things that we need to really carefully look at. Where is my mind looking at something where it’s just not enough, but it can be a pregnancy to add this crucial element of qualities and actions and wisdom that’s needed to move toward healing.
David Knapp: (13:11)
And just to amplify what you’re saying. I certainly wasn’t taught that at home. I certainly was not taught to take something like this. I mean, it was not even on the table. It was not even close. It was not even, uh, uh, it was, it was way back in the unawareness of awareness stage. Maybe, maybe sometimes a sorrowful, fleeting awareness or something went wrong, but never was at a stable intellectual awareness of seeing a pattern. There was an acting out of patterns frequently, but not seeing it. And so my question to you right now is what, what is that about? What makes it so difficult? What is it that keeps us in an intellectual awareness and stops us from the repetitive nature of these patterns?
Shelley Pearce: (14:13)
I’d like to add something to that, Dave, just in terms of the question and that is oftentimes these repetitive patterns are, at some level positive, right? So you tend to be, Dave, you tend to be a caretaker, right? It’s a good thing. Easy to suppress the negativity side of that that may come out for me, you know, being private, being discreet, something that was definitely conditioned in my family system, going back generationally. Right. But then, but then I ended up feeling like, well, people don’t know me or people don’t understand me, even though it’s my thought that I’ve kept my life private and my inner world private, but there’s some part of me that feels like that is the appropriate thing to do.
Robert Strock: (15:06)
She not understating it. Um, Dave, I’m glad you covered something that I didn’t in my going over areas of where we could have been taught, but weren’t taught, but family is certainly central because our modeling is incomparably important as to what, how our parents were. And I think one of the important things to really highlight is most of us weren’t taught either being aware of what was happening in our inner world. And certainly if anybody in our family was in touch with it, they kept it private or perhaps dumped it. But we weren’t taught, Oh, I think I’m experiencing sadness right now, or fear or anxiety or whatever else. And I’m, you know, I’m trying to deal with it. So we weren’t taught even the simple expression of awareness and we weren’t taught a response to the awareness. So it’s even worse than that because it’s not only multi-generational that that’s been true.
Robert Strock: (16:25)
We’re probably the closest it’s been in this generation with the advent of psychology and communicating feelings, etcetera. But if we look at the history of the world and how much was there, the acknowledgement of emotional States and how do we respond to them? Neither one, all for two is some overwhelming percentage of people are not either intellectually aware of their internal emotions. And then we could add another step of and expressing them cleanly. And then secondly, how do I become resourceful? Which again is going to be the fourth level of awareness. How do I become resourceful in caring for my internal States? We don’t even have a chance in a way, unless we happen to have a counselor or a guide or a teaching, that’s going to encourage both psychology, encourages being aware of your feelings very well and sometimes expressing them. But most of the time expressing them, but not necessarily clearly dwelling in what are the needs that are actually going to soothe or heal what I’m going through.
Speaker 1: (17:51)
So the really pretty simple answer is all of us have to be innovators to have, to be able to have a chance, to stay aware of what is challenging for us. And at the same time, be able to move toward qualities of healing that would be soothing or help us have courage or strength or whatever the particular need is to allow us to in a certain way, be able to chew gum and walk at the same time. And we haven’t even been taught how to chew gum. And so we’re being asked to stay aware of our feelings, which is chewing gum. And then at the same time walk, which is all the multitude of complex ways that each of us in our nuanced situation needs to be specifically guided as to how we navigate to move toward healing. Now, as you’re listening to this, it’s so important that you realize that you may intellectually understand this, but don’t stay satisfied with that, go to the place where you’re most caught.
Speaker 1: (19:16)
And let’s say, you can see you have the intellectual awareness, but can you, when you’re really frightened or you’re really angry, or you’re really grieving, can you really let in or even look for, or even ask for the qualities that are needed to help you be in a greater state of wellbeing, be able to have this dynamism where it doesn’t short circuit yourself, or you don’t let it short circuit yourself to either suppress the feelings you have or to say, oh, thank you very much prematurely, because we’re talking about things that actually really matter. So it’s going to take a little while to really be able to even get some notches in our belt to be able to move toward healing, let alone have a profound healing.
David Knapp: (20:21)
I’d like to address something Shelley said about what I was talking about in my life before. And that is the way I adapted the fulfillment I got by being a caregiver, a helper, a person that anticipated other people’s needs effectively, actually for the most part. Uh, and ultimately I looked at it like, this is my life. This is my lifestyle. This is my lifestyle. And maybe with a great deal of satisfaction. So long as I was appreciated for so long as there was a feedback loop that gratified me that said, okay, this is working for me. People like me, people appreciate that I’m attending to them sooner or later. And I found out it took quite a while. It really came back to haunt me and I ran into some circumstances, uh, one very specific one with a niece where I was over the top, helping, even from my personal point of view. And that’s saying something for me to feel over the top helping. And not only it wasn’t the appreciation absent, but there was grievance coming my direction and it really hurt. And it really woke me up.
David Knapp: (21:59)
And so there ultimately was a price to pay for being aware of a pattern, adapting in a way that generally was working, but ultimately in a stressful situation. And you mentioned grieving, you mentioned so many circumstances in life that will penetrate these patterns that will not allow the adapting at an intellectual level to really function without a whole lot of suffering. And that’s what I found.
Robert Strock: (22:32)
So you’re dedicated, you know, to your awareness and constantly trying to refine how you do it. And I remember, well, when you got severely burned and the tendency, when you get severely burned is to go to the other extreme, which I know you’ve worked very hard to re-balance yourself in multiple ways. And the key is to recognize that these are not quick fixes. And so for all of us, even when we see what is going on, and even if we get a glimpse of what this next level of awareness is, which is how do I respond?
Robert Strock: (23:27)
That it’s very hard when we’re hitting our core wound or core pattern, our life pattern, which all of us have something. Yeah. Whether it’s a helper or whether we’re self-centered or whether we’re grandiose and many more, even with our best efforts to make improvement, there’s going to be nuances because it’s like so central. So we need to recognize that these are lifer issues. These are not three session therapy issues. And appreciate that the key is to persevere and to recognize that in a certain way, unless you see this as being close to the purpose of your life or a part of the purpose of your life, we’re going to be stuck with just staying intellectually aware and not really delve deeply into the healing movements toward resolution. And you notice, I don’t say the resolution, I’m very, very careful to keep it relative, because most people, they want the answers.
Robert Strock: (24:47)
And we’re talking about an arrow moving in a direction where you’re moving toward the answers, the guidance it’s like we see that we have cancer, but we don’t pursue the treatment. And it requires us to expand our intention, to pay attention to our intellectual awareness and at least start to have it be like a pregnancy. We just say, okay, I’m pregnant with an awareness. It can help me. Cause I can see it, that I’m only pregnant. I haven’t given birth. The birth only happens when I see something and I’m able to soothe it, guide myself, or be guided or be open to sharing it with people that may have more wisdom than I do. Or when I go to the doctor when I really need treatment or when I get a second opinion, when I really . . . I’m not sure I went to a good doctor. So it’s just so important that we aren’t naive to think that there are simple answers. On the other hand, it’s important that we don’t get overwhelmed and go, oh my God, this is so hard. I don’t even want to do it. This is the key to be inspired. This is the key to be fulfilled. And so the value of it is so profound. If we are listening to our own experience uniquely and not talking about following the external formula, this is very personal.
Robert Strock: (26:34)
And then we really want to care for ourselves and intuitively understand that this is going to be the key to being able to, for others as well. And most people don’t start it, or if they do, they get discouraged along the way. And I would say, don’t feel ashamed if you’ve given up on yourself, but it’s never too late to start again. If it’s like a universal condition that we suffer and we keep it in the back bedroom and we need to move into the living room where we’re living. And it’s important that we’re not too impressed, that we’ve always been that way. So therefore it’s too late, you know, I’m 71 years old. So I’m over the Hill. It’s too late for me now. It’s never too late, ever. I came across a woman the other day who said, well, I’m 71 years old.
Robert Strock: (27:36)
I think I’m too old. You know, I’m over the Hill and I’m set in my ways and this and that. And so, you know, I just say, well, okay, so which parts are you giving up on? Yeah. And wasn’t willing to … if you keep it abstract, it’s very easy to give up. But if you say I’m giving up on my child, I’m giving up on my husband, maybe husband’s a little easier than a child, but giving up on my husband, it’s like, are you giving up on your husband because you really believe he’s hopeless or because you can’t find a more beautiful endearing way of speaking. And I am telling you, I’ve seen people, including my mother who made massive changes in their late seventies. Not that she arrived, but she was able to really learn how to be young in a way that she hadn’t her whole life until the last six months of her life and let herself be helped.
Robert Strock: (28:47)
So it’s never too late. So I think in winding up this particular episode is so important that we ask ourselves the key question, and I hope you will make this very personal. What challenge in my life am I most intellectually aware of? That I need to find a way to respond in order to increase my chances to be fulfilled, to be at peace or to increase intimacy. And may I have the courage not to say to myself, it’s too late. It’s a great question, forever. So I wish this for all of us and I thank you for your attention.
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