The fourth principle of Friendly Mind is making realistic best efforts toward ourselves and others. The word realistic is vital because of the danger of becoming perfectionistic and thinking our best efforts are not good enough. When we listen carefully and ask our Friendly Mind to guide us, we deserve genuine honoring. On the other hand, we need to take action and do what we are fully capable of as Friendly Mind is not blind ego validation. It needs to be earned and practiced to reach its potency.
Resources related to this episode
Robert Strock Website
Robert’s Book, Awareness that Heals
Free Downloadable Introspective Guides
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Awareness That Heals episode 14.
Robert Strock: (00:04)
So friendly mind really is the voice that’s just always trying to ask you to be inquiring. What is your realistic best efforts? Are you doing them?
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: (00:59)
A very warm welcome to you today. As we continue with our deepening understanding of friendly mind and joining us today are two of my dearest friends, Dave and Shelley, we’ve been friends for ages. Dave is a co-president of the Global Bridge Foundation and Shelley is a board member and exceptional therapist. And we’re also going to include Mark, who’s the engineer, but more than that, he’s developed a core relationship to friendly mind and might make a significant contribution today with his depth life experience. So in the last episode, we just covered the realization that friendly mind isn’t always able to be friendly when it’s speaking to us. So as a part of our best wisdom and our mind responding to difficult situations, difficult emotions, but when, especially we’re in a deep kind of suffering, we’re totally exhausted. We’re totally anxious or angry, friendly mind might not be able to have that quality of friendliness. And that’s what we went into in the last episode. But as we go into further exploration, it’s very important to keep that mind, not to lay a trip on yourself. That, gee, it’s not friendly mind because I’m not friendly and it’s still immensely beneficial if we can learn to devote ourselves to this kind of guidance without putting the standard of having to be friendly, uh, in our tone.
Robert Strock: (02:51)
So today we’re gonna really focus on the fourth key principle, which is making our realistic best efforts for self-care and beyond with our friendly mind. And the word realistic is crucial because we can become a perfectionist and thinking our best efforts are Superman or perfection. And if we do that, we’re going to be setting ourselves up for rejection. So it’s important as we speak about realistic best efforts, are you the kind of person that is a perfectionistic person? If so, then you’re going to really need to remind yourself that realistically, something I know I can say is what I’m looking for. If on the other hand, you’re the kind of person who might give yourself credit for having made best efforts, but actually you’re a bit of a slackard and you’re a little loose with yourself then you might really need to say, am I really doing what I can can do?
Robert Strock: (04:13)
So take a little look at that in the background. And as we’ve mentioned in the prior episodes, this is about you and about you looking inside yourself as to whether you’re really understanding friendly mind, applying it to your life situations, applying it to your emotions. Now, one of the key elements of realistic best efforts is it makes it clear that friendly mind doesn’t take you off the hook. It’s not just saying, gee, you’re a great guy, or yeah, you made your best efforts to work out. You need to really make your best effort to work out. You really need to try what you can realistically do in any situation you’re in or any difficult emotion you’re having. So for example, if you’ve just dumped a lot of anger on your partner and you’re saying, well, I did my best to tell them what I feel and you see hopefully that it was harmful realistic, best efforts also means that you’re not creating any harm for anybody that’s unnecessary.
Robert Strock: (05:40)
Now of course, there are situations in life where a person’s going to be hurt and there’s nothing we can do about it, but we’re doing our best to make it be as gentle as we can be. And we’re still staying with that premise of, am I really thinking about how can I be my best self within reason? So how much is that clear to you and where do you see yourself on the spectrum of gee, I’m a perfectionist person or I’m someone that talks about best efforts, but I’m not as devoted as I need to be. And so friendly mind can actually be both a catalyst to find the thoughts that are going to guide you, but it can also be an inspiration or motivation to see yourself and where you can make a more wholehearted effort.
David Knapp: (06:45)
Robert first, uh, I’d like to ask a question and, and also thank you for again, um, the opportunity to participate in these meaningful and important, uh, really life lessons. And I just want to say that, um, I have, um, as I’ve talked about before a relationship to a lot of different things, but health is one of the, the things that puts me into an anxious state when it, when it occurs in myself, especially myself or people very close to me. And the question really is I find myself, um, and it, this is not a universal response, but often I find myself in overdrive. I will respond to something, uh, that needs attention in a real way, uh, by doing research beyond what is what most people would call healthy. And as I do that, I’m, I’m not really unfriendly to myself, but I’m occupied with really the doing that. It takes to explore research, et cetera, which takes me, of course, away from the anxious feeling. But it’s, it’s, I, I just wondering how you relate what I’m saying about that to friendly mind.
Robert Strock: (08:27)
Well, it’s a great question because I think it’s going to bring in a certain set of people who are not particularly critical of themselves, but what they do is they overcompensate by doing more and more and more so that they cannot be critical of themselves or not be anxious. And so knowing you as well as I do, you know, setting up doctor’s appointments, giving it hours of thought, you know, having conversations with doctors that at some point you would say to yourself, okay, what is my friendly mind going to say to me about this? So your friendly mind is going to be saying something to you like, Hey, Dave, you might be overcompensating here. And I know you’re doing it out of the best intentions of your heart, but maybe in the guiding sort of way, it would say to you, maybe you’ve done it.
Robert Strock: (09:29)
Maybe you’re anticipating too much out in the future for too long. And you’re preparing for something that is only a 2% chance of happening. What do you think, Dave? And then you have a dialogue back and forth with friendly mind and friendly mind intervenes while you seeing yourself take those extra actions, or maybe even before you’re taking the actions and it’s there as a guidepost to stop you from, let’s say in a really, let’s say beneficial way for others. It would intervene and say, God, you have some great intentions, but you might be slightly neurotic here. You might, you might, you might be, you might be anticipating a 1% chance and spending a lot of your life anticipating a 1% chances. And that’s going to keep you engaged at such a level that it’ll cover some of the anxiety, but you’ll have way more hours where you’re anxious. So what do you think, Dave?
David Knapp: (10:39)
And I’ll tell you what I think, I think that’s exactly right. I think, I think it is a, a way for me to not feel the discomfort, which for me is very uncomfortable actually, of anxiety. And if I were to feel anxious and I were to put it in perspective, then I would be, if I were to not occupy myself with the research on the other efforts and the anxiety could be alongside of the realistic things, which is so important that are really going on in front of me, then as I have had to me, to happen to me, then I think it becomes a different question. It becomes a question of why the hell do I feel so, you know, anxious? And it is self-critical and it is a different equation. And I in my life have been fairly successful in avoiding, or let’s say compensating by action compensating by research, which by the way, doesn’t really work. It only works temporarily because as soon as I stop and it can’t be 24/7, of course it rushes back in. There’s no getting around it.
Robert Strock: (12:03)
Yeah. Yeah. And I think it’s also very important when you say, why in the hell am I so anxious? You know, that’s where friendly mind comes in and says, listen, the stakes are high, we’re in bodies, we get sick, our friends get sick. We love them. It’s probably the, the, the best, uh, neurotic element one could ever have in the world because it’s all helping people. Um, but it’s not helping you, and your’re the priority here along with them. It’s not that they’re not the priority, but so are you. And so Dave, I see that you’re anxious. It’s understandable that you’re anxious, friendly mind was a, and how do we balance caring for ourselves while we’re anxious and doing the great research you’re doing without overdoing it?
David Knapp: (13:02)
So there is another fine line I want to ask you about right there, because it feels it, the word self-compassion the word, self-caring, but especially self-compassion, which is how I relate to the best of that. Caring for myself feels like it’s halfway into friendly mind as friendly thoughts. And also it has a certain, uh, emotional element to it. Uh, that is, that is different. Uh, that, that, that feels like a bridge in some ways. Can you speak to that?
Robert Strock: (13:37)
It can be friendly mind, especially if it’s in a relatively, not terribly serious emotional state, because then we can have the freedom to feel the self-compassion. But if we’re severely anxious, severely depressed, or we’re looking at somebody that’s terminally ill and you’re really, you know, really, really nervous about it then to be self-compassionate with friendly mind is exactly what we did in the last step, which is we can’t always feel friendly mind. So, the self-compassion is something we’ll deal with down the line, is included when we’re not in a very serious emotional state. And we’re calling that wisdom mind, which allows self-compassion and all the qualities to go along with the mind. So friendly mind, the way we’re using it is really an emphasis dominantly when we’re really in a deep, and we need a best friend that can’t feel and be beneficial on the state of feeling, but where we can learn to be deeply trusting that this inner knowing a friendly mind is a guide.
Robert Strock: (15:02)
And even though it’s often seen as a booby prize, because it’s only friendly mind, and I frequently say something like friendly mind, slash wisdom, it’s something that we need to lobotomize ourselves with and recognize that friendly mind is almost a miracle. If you can find a voice to guide you, when you’re feeling lousy, you’re feeling anxious, you’re feeling depressed, you’re feeling angry, you’re feeling exhausted. And you say, you know, I know you’re angry, but now is not the right time to act it out. I know you’re exhausted. The question is, do you have enough energy to send this email or are you better off to rest? So friendly mind is a neutral place when you’re in it down deep. So it’s a very important question and particularly highlights the third level, uh, where we can’t always be friendly.
David Knapp: (16:00)
Thank you. Appreciate that.
Shelley Pearce: (16:03)
So, Robert, I have, uh, a situation where it’s not perfectionism. It’s more like, um, just “enoughism.” And so my situation in which I, I tend to harbor a fair amount of guilt that is not a, um, chirping bird is one of, one of my professors used to call it the, you know, the ruminating mind. It’s not so much that it’s just a feeling of, I should be doing more. And, and the reason it’s that way is because I, my family were bi-coastal and, um, even through the pandemic, our level of communication didn’t change that much. You know, we make some phone calls, a few emails, um, but you know, many families are, are doing, you know, joint zoom calls from all over the country or world even and, you know, every Saturday and things like that. And in my family, nothing has changed. And so I feel as though I, uh, reach to my family members more than they reach to me and they never complain and they never ask for more, but I feel that we should be more connected.
Shelley Pearce: (17:17)
And so then I feel guilt, but I’m stuck in this place of, I, I do more than they do, nobody’s asking for anything, but it still doesn’t feel like it’s, there’s enough cohesion in the, in the family unit for me. So, so then I, and, and it feels more like a little bit of a collapse, like a sadness. Like I don’t, you know, I should be doing more. It’s not their thing, but I know that they appreciate it. And I mean, I, I, I do sometimes just do what I think I need to do, but there’s still a feeling of guilt.
Robert Strock: (17:55)
Yeah. Well, having the advantage of knowing your family and your family system, I think the reason why you might feel some guilt is because you’re, by far the most natural leader in the area of talking about things, you’re a therapist, nobody else in your family is a therapist they’re largely non communicators, and they would likely look to you to be the leader. And so the beauty of your question is it really reveals another aspect of friendly mind, which is that many times it leads us to a very ponderous question. And I mean, many times, so the question in this situation, friendly mind would ask a question and it would say given the fact that you are the one that’s most skilled in this area, and also again, knowing you very well, given the fact that you also love your solitude, and you’re also a very full and busy therapist and person, do you believe your best self would lead some of those zooms or are you right on target where you are?
Robert Strock: (19:17)
Is this guilt rational, or is this guilt irrational? And then that would lead you into a ponderous question. And you might say, you know what, once every few months I do want to suggest a family zoom, or maybe you’d say, you know what, uh, I’m doing so much more than they are, that’s enough. But the idea of friendly mind being a question when we don’t know is a critical aspect of friendly mind. And I would say it would come up for most people, maybe half the time. So that simple question for you, you know, can you stay in the question and tolerate asking that question without a preconception of a knee jerk reaction? That’s going to just come in and say, no, I do it. And I do it enough, or I don’t do it enough, but more getting to a place of resolve where you feel like that question is reaching your best self.
Robert Strock: (20:16)
And you say, you know what? I don’t want to do it for a long time, but I wouldn’t mind doing a 15 minute zoom and initiate that that would allow us to feel a little bit closer. It wouldn’t feel burdens. Wouldn’t cut into my life. Now, I don’t mean to give you answers, but I’m kind of hinting at the kind of process that might go on with friendly mind. And again, friendly mind, another aspect of it that’s subtle, often has a series of dialogues. You might hear that and you go, yeah. Sometimes I feel like it, sometimes I don’t, or you know, or maybe it hits the bullseye, but maybe you could reflect back what you think the question would be for yourself and whether you think you have an answer.
Shelley Pearce: (21:02)
Let me share one, one more level that makes it difficult. And that is that I, I feel as though I asked that question when I, when I need to and I, and I appreciate the refinement of it, but I do, and I act on it. But part of it is I know energetically that my family members love hearing from me. And so it feels as though if I’m not reaching out, even though I am the one who needs to reach out, largely if I’m not reaching out that I’m, I’m withholding, I don’t want to say withholding love, but I’m, I’m, I’m withholding some level of enjoyment or joy that they would get from me connecting more with them, even though they’re not asking, and I connect more with them than they do with me. So it, it, it there’s, you know, there’s, it’s an energetic thing, it really is.
Robert Strock: (21:57)
Yeah. Well, well, subtle energetics counts. I mean, subtle energetics, many times as much more important than what’s said. So I would deeply take into consideration. I feel the subtle energetics. We’re not just responsible for what’s being said. We’re also responsible too, for what we perceive as being the energy that’s coming toward us and how to respond in the best way possible. So again, maybe considering that, what would your question be?
Shelley Pearce: (22:30)
Are you being as loving as possible when you’re in contact with your family?
Robert Strock: (22:34)
And the, and the answer is . . .
Shelley Pearce: (22:37)
The answer is, um, I’d give myself a 90, 90%, maybe a little less with my mom sometimes.
Robert Strock: (22:47)
And, and then the next question is, do you consider that to be your realistic best effort? That is an 88 or 90.
Shelley Pearce: (22:57)
No, I should be 100, that’s the point.
Robert Strock: (23:01)
And, and is the should the perfectionist, or is it, or, or is as your best self?
Shelley Pearce: (23:07)
Right. So, there we are between the perfectionism and the “just enoughism.”
Robert Strock: (23:11)
Exactly. So then the question shifts as the dialogue continues with friendly mind, is it, which one is it, is it really a big deal for me to add that extra 10% where I have to, uh, get milk from a bone? Um, or is it something, you know, it’s not that big a deal. I just need to drop in a little bit and, and really focus in my heart, review the whole history of my family and see that I can love more naturally and more easily or not.
Shelley Pearce: (23:48)
No, I, I love that you’re saying that it’s, and the answer is “yes.” And it’s a great question. And, uh, it, it has, it has changed my perception in this moment.
Robert Strock: (23:59)
Shelley Pearce: (23:59)
Okay. Yeah. Thank you.
David Knapp: (24:01)
I’d like to say, um, Shelley, that you provoked a couple of things in me, one, one of them was when, at the beginning of what you were saying in the first part of what you were saying, the, the comparative feeling, what some families are doing, versus others. And I, I certainly noticed that and obviously throughout my life, comparing myself in, in so many ways, it’s, it’s kind of just the nature of things, I believe certainly for me, but for everybody, I see that, am I, am I generous enough? Or, uh, do I have enough money? Do I feel secure? Do I, should I be more generous with my money, which is something currently going on, et cetera. And it’s, it’s, um, it’s an endless refinement really of, and really as, as I evolve and as I decide, what’s important to me and what’s not. Um, and I, I feel in particular, um, which leads to the second thing that you provoked in me, which is my issue of setting limits, uh, my issue of always being the initiator, um, and the request and made with an expression of this is what I would need.
David Knapp: (25:24)
This is what I would, this is what is, what would feel good to me. It would feel great if you would reach out to me, be interested in me. And that doesn’t mean I’m going to get what I want, but the expression of it is really healing for me and really something that’s been hard for me to do in my life at least. And so that doesn’t mean that if they don’t respond because of whatever their issues are, that it will not lead to me continuing to be the initiator in that way, but it will, it will affect the dynamic, but at least I will have put it out there. And those two things came up for me, as you were speaking. And I thank you for that.
Robert Strock: (26:05)
Dave, my questions to you, which again, evokes the same thing, which is that oftentimes friendly mind is going to lead us to the critical questions. What would be your critical question regarding family and what would be your critical question regarding initiation and how would you frame that? And if you have an answer, show us a little dialogue.
David Knapp: (26:33)
So I would say that there’s two, there’s two stages to this in my life. Most of my life, I live without awareness and therefore without a suffering around any of this, because I was being reinforced. People love that I would reach out. That would be satisfying. I was, as we go back to the four levels of awareness, I was unaware of my unawareness, unaware of my needs. In other words, unaware that I had them, unaware that they were going on expressed, uh, identified. Uh, I was, I was, I’m finally able to see, able to recognize, able to with time, uh, which took some, some courage, um, on my part because it was uncomfortable. Wasn’t my comfort zone to ask. And so I needed encouragement, uh, from my friendly mind, I needed my friendly mind at those times to say this, this is okay, this is not burdening them.
David Knapp: (27:43)
You know, I don’t really feel, uh, even I, I don’t see that you’re feeling that you’re going to burden them is, is, is something that you should live your life by. I think you should examine that more closely. That was a big one right there, I would say. And the boundaries, uh, that come with that, meaning the, the give and the take kind of came from that came from, okay, I began to feel comfortable, began to feel. And I, I think from there, the, the, the boundary issues, which of course still to this day are always question marks. You know, where do I reach? Where don’t I reach? Where am I overreaching? Um, because my tendency is to want to be involved in ways that probably are more than the other person wants. So at the same time, uh, that filling of the space prevents them from responding to me. And that’s part of the issue.
Robert Strock: (28:47)
So, one of the things, again, that is really helpful that you’re exhibiting is the mind can cover by going through this debate, the underlying anxiety or the underlying discomfort, or the underlying guilt or whatever the feeling is. So as with all the steps we go through, they all start with being aware of our challenging emotions. So with you being aware of feeling the unmutuality of the initiation or the imbalance, and the discomfort with the imbalance that will naturally lead you to that question of what would be balanced. And as you got that guidance, I think it’s fair for me to ask for a bit more, an initiation from my family members. And have the courage Dave, I want to encourage you, you have a pattern, we can see it together. Right Dave, Dave, I’m your friendly mind. You’re listening to me. Yeah, yeah.
David Knapp: (30:04)
Robert Strock: (30:05)
Mark Spiro: (30:07)
It’s Mark here? Yeah. I just have a question. Um, you know, we’re, we’re talking about guilt. Shelley brought that up and Dave brought up being an initiator and stuff like that. Isn’t the, the function of friendly mind to help remove the anxiety around these things. I mean, isn’t it simply giving a function of, of trust and forgiveness to each of us and, and finding that in, in the midst of our troubles, you know. Um, like regarding health, for instance, I have a, I have a blood test coming up on Tuesday. Um, I had lymphoma in 2006. I’m scared, you know, I I’m scared to death. So what specifically do I, when I engage with my friendly mind, do do I say, and for me, it’s like, you don’t have a lot of choices, buddy. This is what you need to do. You need to make sure that you take care of whatever your, your problems are. And I said, well, geez, what if it makes me so I can’t work? What if it makes me so, and I do all the what if crap. When I, when I contact and talk with my friendly mind, I take a deep breath and I realize my friendly mind helps me realize that this is going to be okay, that, that you have the strength to do this. You have the power to do this. It’s the right thing to do instead of the fearful, afraid thing to do. If I’m getting it here.
Robert Strock: (31:38)
Yeah. I think that’s about three quarters, right? Um, so the function of friendly mind is rarely going to eliminate the emotional state. It’s going to care for you while you’re in that emotional state. It’s going to say, well, of course your anxious, these are big stakes. You’re human, it’s universal. Be kind to yourself. Can you hear me? Can you hear me? I know you can’t probably feel me, but if you intuitively hear me, that might seep in, in some way and lessen the anxiety, and it’s perfectly natural that this is where you are. And, and can you see that it’s natural to be anxious or nervous? And that doesn’t mean very, very anxious. It also doesn’t mean not very, very anxious, depending on how you’re wired, but the facts, you know, you, you’re going to want to review the facts and say, wow, 2006 that was a long time ago. Yeah. That means the odds are pretty good. It’s 15 years that you’ve been, it hasn’t reappeared, so friendly mind will help look at the truth, look at the facts. And we’ll say, gee, that would be very different than if you had signed up at six months ago and then three months ago. And now you’re going in to see whether it’s still growing. And so I can . . .
Mark Spiro: (33:00)
There’s logic involved.
Robert Strock: (33:02)
Logic, looking at the truth. And then the other key point, which is the quarter, is that you’re caring for the anxiety rather than to try to get rid of it. Good point. Thank you. Okay. So the last piece, before we move on to the next episode is getting the joke. Hopefully, maybe a smile, maybe a laugh. One of my favorite things to ask myself, ask my clients, ask my friends, ask you guys, can you do better than your realistic best efforts? And I’ll usually say something like, well, you can do just a little bit better than your best efforts, right? And then everybody pretty well will laugh or at least smile. Somebody that’s really serious and morose might not at all. But when you see that best efforts is just a holy ground, it’s, it’s like a great basis for a religion, because can you imagine God wanting more than your best efforts, given everything you know, and everything you’re facing?
Robert Strock: (34:04)
Can you imagine any more sane, moral standard is asking you to do better than your best? So friendly mind really is the voice. That’s just always trying to ask you to be inquiring. What is your realistic best efforts? Are you doing them? And if you are, then can you move toward being content with yourself or at least quiet. It’s not looking for an eraser to erase your emotions. It’s looking for a salve or a bit of soothing as an effect, even though it might be delivered with complete neutrality when you’re in very difficult times. So again, I thank all of you, cause I, I believe your questions all expose other elements of, of friendly mind and look forward to diving in continued further. As we move to the fifth principle of friendly mind. Thanks so much.
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