This week Robert focuses on the second to last chapter of his book. This step entails moving from feelings to needs. There are many foundational steps required to get to this point. Robert takes some time to review. From these precursor steps, we can make a distinct connection between identifying our most challenging feelings and what needs could be supported that would most help us in any given situation. Each situation is always unique. Every challenging feeling can be supported by a need or perhaps more than one. This really is a formula for caring for ourselves and others. Later in the episode, Robert switches gears from our relationship with self to our relationship with others.
A good relationship does not mean that all of our needs are going to be met. The key is that you see the comprehensive good nature and love that you share over the years and see it in a balanced perspective. Being the best of friends or in a relationship doesn’t mean agreeing on everything. The balance is when you have had enough beneficial times together that you can absorb those disagreements with grace and put it in the context of the whole relationship. It is important to see if you are someone who is overly critical and perfectionistic or are too tolerant of relationships that aren’t serving your well-being as a whole. It is important to ask yourself on an ongoing basis, What is your greatest need? How is it not being fulfilled? What thoughts, qualities and actions are needed to find greater peace and well-being? Ask these questions together with Robert and Dave as they go through a variety of examples to help model balance in relationships with yourself and others enhanced by in-depth communication.
Resources related to this episode
Robert Strock Website
Robert’s Book, Awareness that Heals
Free Downloadable Introspective Guides
Note: Below, you’ll find timecodes for specific sections of the podcast. To get the most value out of the podcast, I encourage you to listen to the complete episode. However, there are times when you want to skip ahead or repeat a particular section. By clicking on the timecode, you’ll be able to jump to that specific section of the podcast. Please excuse any typos or grammatical errors. For an exact quote or comment, please contact us.
Awareness That Heals, Episode 61.
Robert Strock: (00:03)
Whenever we’re communicating with anybody, we always need to be aware of our tone of voice. And even when we’re not communicating with anybody else, just our inner tone toward ourselves and how important it is that we stay aware that that tone is so formative and predictive of how things are gonna work out.
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: (01:07)
A warm welcome again, to Awareness That Heals where we do our very best to focus on bringing heart and wisdom to our life challenges. And we’re gonna start again and again, with being aware of what is most difficult for us. And hopefully in this case, that means you are doing the same, which these difficulties are universal for us all, whether we recognize them or not. And how most importantly, we can care for ourselves at these crucial times. This sets up the ideal conditions for us to be fulfilled in our individual lives and to contribute to the world by finding and living from our best selves today, we’re going to continue to delve more deeply into the key practice that has helped thousands of people to make a simple link between the most challenging feelings they’re experiencing and their situations that are hard and how to move toward healing and well-being.
Robert Strock: (02:19)
This is a grounded, inspirational way to live, and it starts with authentically facing what is challenging and difficult and naturally leads us to inquire how do I, or how do we best take care of myself or ourselves and those around us. Now, this may seem like something that sounds sensible enough, but it’s not normal. It’s not what we were taught. So, as you listen, please don’t be satisfied with just understanding it and do your very best to apply the relationship to feelings and needs at first in your awareness. And then ultimately, and hopefully that’s not a long time as it arises “live” in your life. This is a lifelong process that can never end, and none of us can perfect it. It has to do with endless clarifying your own tone, noting the person that you’re talking with, the words that make sense in their vocabulary, tuning into their words. So, you can communicate what you’re feeling, what you’re needing, the timing, and making sure you’re not picking a time that’s gonna sabotage it. And literally you having the literacy of your own feelings and your own needs. So, I’d like to start today by introducing Dave, my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation and my closest and dearest friend for the last 50 years.
Robert, thank you as always. Um, and I just wanna make it clear. Um, you’re so kind when you say closest and dearest friend, but that, that doesn’t mean, and please, please understand and hear this, that we’re, we’re always happy with each other. That doesn’t mean, uh, that we don’t end conversations with disagreements, uh, with feeling, our needs are unmet, or maybe even not recognized or seen, or maybe expressed, but not then recognized or seen from our point of view, either one of us. So, I wanna, I just wanna make that clarification. I don’t want to have any illusion that, of, of idealism here. Uh, number one, number two, I would ask you, and I don’t know, you can, uh, decide whether this is a good time or not, but as you were going through your introduction, it occurred to me again, as it does from time to time, uh, knowing we are advancing through many, many episodes. And I think now we’re on the next to last chapter of the book and getting to the point where we’re talking about feelings to needs, has so many foundational things. And I, and I wonder if it’s not a bad time for you to just go back to the Awareness That Heals and, and kind of just in a, a couple of minutes, trace through how, how the foundation gets to this point.
Robert Strock: (05:49)
I think it’s always a good time to do that. And I’m planning on doing that a couple of times later on in this episode or the next episode, but I’m always happy to do it again. So, I think we starting with the very beginning of the book and more importantly, the process to really take care of ourselves. Nothing really works if we’re not really starting with the awareness of what’s challenging for us, what’s difficult for us, whether it’s a feeling, whether it’s a situation, whether it’s a relationship and identifying specifically the feelings that are there as, as being the crucial grounding first step, and really honoring that that’s a step in progress rather than, oh, I feel angry or, oh, I feel sad. It’s like, oh, good. I can see myself and hopefully without judgment or a minimal amount of judgment. And then as we really unwind out in the very first chapter, just alone is not enormously helpful unless we add an intention to care for ourselves, find a place inside us that really wants to care or move in a healing direction while we’re feeling the challenge or soon thereafter really, really crucial.
Robert Strock: (07:20)
And then we go from there to the very most difficult situations in life that frequently happen later in life, where we’re dealing with illness or death and dying, or friends dying, or really serious things where our feelings are so overwhelming that we really can’t shift them and learning how to develop our wisdom, our minds, intelligence, to guide us. And even if we can’t feel the caring toward these very difficult feelings, we can have a sane mind, which we call friendly mind, often that is guiding us as to what’s the next step. How can we take care of the feelings? How can we take this care of the situation we’re in? And then we move from there to looking at one of the most insidious and hard to see parts of life, where we reject ourselves unwitingly. And that might mean that we disassociate from our feelings, which in a certain way, we could call an abandonment, but we’re covering that in the area of, of self-rejection, or it could be in the form of judging ourselves and criticizing ourselves and learning how to ask the question.
Robert Strock: (08:45)
Am I caring for myself at that critical time when we’re feeling not very good, say we’re feeling sad and we’re saying, am I caring for myself when we see, we’re not that critical question of am I caring for myself, becomes the key of diagnosing ourselves when we’re in self rejection. And then we move from there to learning how important it is to ask ourselves a question, how can I most take care of myself? And as we develop, how can we take most care of ourselves and those we love. And that inquiry is so central all the way through just as being aware of our challenging emotions are. And when we practice that inquiry, it moves onto another level where we start to get guidances, where, which we’ve called wisdom-guidance, but we’re not attached to the words. We can use intelligence, suggestions, healing suggestions, where we’re actually getting guidance.
Robert Strock: (09:46)
And then when we move from there and we recognize that whenever we’re communicating with anybody, we always need to be aware of our tone of voice. And even when we’re not communicating with anybody else, just our inner tone toward ourselves and how important it is that we stay aware that that tone is so formative and predictive of how things are gonna work out. And then we move from there to where we are now, which is making a distinct relationship of the importance of identifying our most challenging feelings. And what needs would most help us in that situation? And it’s always unique. There’s no formula. Oh yeah. I know when I’m angry, I do this because every feeling is a unique situation. And we don’t know who we’re dealing with. We don’t know what situation we are in. We don’t know what the timing is. So, we’re dwelling on the feelings to needs. And then a forerunner of what we’re gonna be heading into the final chapter is transforming anger and resistant, aggressive emotions like irritation, uh, impatience, intolerance, into strength and intimacy in finding a balance.
I wanna clarify one thing you said just within the last minute about challenging feelings and what the needs are. And I, I think, and this is what I would ask you to clarify that, are you saying that every challenging feeling has a connection to an underlying need?
Robert Strock: (11:32)
I’m saying every challenging feeling can be supported by a need, uh, not necessarily has a connection to an underlying need. So, there are ways in which we can take care of ourselves, no matter what we’re feeling, but we can have very difficult feelings that are caused by chemistry, by hormones, by trauma. And, and it isn’t the wording of an underlying need, it can be, it can be a physiological reality. It can be a traumatic reality. So, it’s not so much underlying need as much as while we’re having it. There are needs that are there that can support us.
And would it also be fair to say that in just that very example about, about chemistry, which so many of us have challenges that are just, uh, inherited genetic, um, environmental, you know, things, things happen that affect us. Uh, we’ve been in the military and exposed to things. Uh, so many examples beyond what I could even give that I’m sure the audience, uh, either has some experience with or knows people, but in a associated way, there could be an underlying need for peace or for, uh, coexisting with this fact of life that has become part of who you are for no reason or no fault of your own.
Robert Strock: (13:07)
Yeah. And, and when I was speaking of underlying, I meant that it actually caused, uh, the suffering because, uh, we didn’t have a need met. Um, and in the sense that whether it’s underlying or above that healing ointment, uh, we could say it either way and not getting semantically caught up in that. So, for example, I, I loved your association with the war, with coming back from war, because that’s, we haven’t really talked about that, but it’s such an amazing trauma. I, I, I can’t even imagine how horrifying that could be to see people around you dying or to, or to face the fear on an ongoing basis for periods of years. And so that would be a good example of, you know, is it, uh, is it, that is, that would be an underlying need. But for example, if you are going through menopause and you’re having a hormonal challenge, you could still say that’s the underlying need, but it’s not one that you can control.
Robert Strock: (14:22)
You know, there are certain physiological realities in life or traumatic realities in life that we can’t control. So, it’s most important to realize, yes, every feeling can have supportive needs and we can learn to be literate about both and by, and by being literate about both, give ourselves the capacity to really take care of ourselves and others, you know. Hopefully, it becomes equally important that how do I take care of my need is how do I take care of what’s needed? And that’s kind of an evolutionary, not kind of, it’s actually an evolutionary stage of where you’re not primarily self-focused and you’re primarily focused on yourself and others in a pretty even sort of way.
Thank you for that. That really, really helps. Yeah. Really helps.
Robert Strock: (15:12)
Yeah. And I hope, I hope those of you, uh, hear that loud and clear because it’s such a incentive to want to discover what your feelings are and want to discover your needs. And, when we really see the benefit to us, it’s not a should, it’s a, we get to, and it’s like a, a formula for really caring for ourselves and others. So . .
And just to, just to, again, reiterate, when you earlier were talking about friendly mind, about our wisdom, or whatever word we would choose, The aspect of self-recrimination, all of those things. Uh, and, and things that we can maybe even justifiably say, you know what? I screwed up, you know, what I’m, I’m doing harm to myself, or other than ways that I don’t want to do, versus I’m in a situation that just life has presented me that I don’t control. I don’t have an influence, I don’t have an impact, but yet it impacts me. And it, it influences me in ways that I maybe physically feel or emotionally act out and, and differentiating between those two, I think is what you just helped clarify in such a important way.
Robert Strock: (16:40)
Yeah. And, and what you’re saying is also an enhancement that just because it wasn’t a thwarted need psychologically doesn’t mean that it’s not very serious and very dangerous to start a constellation of feelings that can create all kinds of warfare psychologically and even physically. So, in a way we might even say that the physiologically caused forwarded needs for health or well-being might even be more powerful. Might, might even be more difficult to stay aware of, to recognize that, oh man, I’m really, I’m really having, uh, a, let’s say a hormonal reaction, or I’ve had a chemistry reaction. And since I was an infant, I inherited my mother or my father’s conditioning in its hard as hell to get anywhere there. And those are, are frequently the kinds of things that would require a friendly mind to be guiding us and supporting us. And we aren’t necessarily able to get relief, or we might need to seek medications and support that way. Whereas other needs that are more, uh, let’s say, influenceable, we may be able to solve with our relationship to ourself or with communicating with others. So, we ended the last episode with realizing that sometimes we might communicate our needs virtually as perfectly as possible, and we’re still gonna receive the message from our partner either directly or through their actions, that they’re just simply not interested.
Robert Strock: (18:34)
This leads us on our own to do our best and realize we need to ask ourselves, how do we take care of ourselves? Given the fact that our partners given us a clear message, they’re not really going to be interested in that part of our needs. Now what we’ll see more and more clearly, and we’ll be going into it in this episode is that we very likely are gonna need to start off by setting some kind of boundaries if it’s an important need. Uh, certainly we’re not gonna want to keep asking for the same thing when it’s utterly clear that they’re not gonna respond or just setting ourselves up for a fight, and we’re gonna need to learn how to accept things as they are and realize, you know, what, every relationship is not a mirror of ourselves begging to please us, you know, that, that we, we don’t wanna have the illusion that a good relationship means that all of our needs are gonna be met just as Dave mentioned, right at the start of the episode, uh, which I thought he was quite kind actually in the way he said it.
Robert Strock: (19:43)
that just because we’ve been closest friends for 50 years, doesn’t mean we don’t have some really serious disagreements. And, and that the key is that we don’t really hold onto it. The key is that we see the comprehensive, good nature, goodwill and love that we’ve shared over those 50 years. And that has an abundance of goodwill and, and love that will allow us to disagree and maybe stay disagreeing forever or more accurately, sometimes staying disagreeing forever about a situation. Was it your tone? Was it my tone? Was this how you remembered it? Was it obvious, you know, those kinds of things that we’re gonna see differently. And it’s important that you, as you hear this, don’t hear it, an idealistic fashion that if we’re best friends, it means we agree on everything. In fact, I would say, if you agree on everything, it means you probably haven’t gone that deep because when you have two people, there’s always gonna be disagreements at times. And the whole, the hope or really the earning ground is when you have enough interactions and enough times together that you’ve been such a support for such an amount of time that you can absorb those disagreements. And that’s true in the not only friendships, but it’s obviously very true in a love relationship as well.
Robert Strock: (21:13)
So, let’s take an example where we’re with a partner and we’re communicating about several important areas of our life, and they aren’t interested in what we’re asking and let’s, let’s stay with the area that the need is a need to communicate. What do you do? What do you do? What is your tendency? So this is a question asking you to look at yourself and if your greatest need isn’t a need for communication, then allow yourself to change the need. If your greatest need is sexual, or your greatest need is, uh, consideration, or your greatest need is support with your family, whatever that need is, stay aware of that need, and then see how it isn’t fulfilled. And then ask that question together with us as we go through this example with communication substituting in your need. So when there is no response or more accurately, there’s a, there’s a response that’s saying I’m not interested.
Robert Strock: (22:25)
The first effort that we’re really supporting is how do you hold this? You, you ask yourself how big a deal is this to me, you know, is this humongous or is this kind of garden variety that is relatively easy to accept, but let’s assume is something that’s not garden variety. And it’s something that really is important to you. And so, we’re gonna try to find ways to move toward acceptance, and that might be a prayer for acceptance and perspective. It might be an inquiry. Asking yourself, how can I gain perspective? And that’s usually really what the beginning options are when we face that dilemma. And oftentimes if it’s a deep need, we’re not looking for something so grandiose, appreciation, or complete acceptance, it might be something like barely being able to tolerate it at first and wanting to move toward a greater tolerance and wanting to move toward greater acceptance.
Robert Strock: (23:34)
But sometimes that can take months or years, and the key is not to suppress it and to keep working on it. If someone’s really forwarding a need that you have, that’s vital to you than barely tolerating, it is way better. You know, it sounds lousy on the surface, but barely tolerating it, rather than being intolerant, rather than being angry, rather than being irritated, rather than staying contracted, rather than withdraw is a huge step. So, starting with it, at least barely tolerating, it is usually the beginning point when you’re communicating a need and, and your partner’s conveying that they’re not interested.
Can you get more into what it means in a real visceral practical sense to barely tolerate and use this example that you have about communication? Because it’s so, uh, a fundamental door slam. Uh, so that one in particular, uh, if it’s really important to you, what does it mean to barely tolerate it?
Robert Strock: (24:49)
So, let’s say you are, you’re a husband. I’m gonna reverse the standard thing. It’s probably 70/30, more often the other way. So I’m gonna take the husband’s, side or not side, but let’s say unmet need. And let’s say, you’re the husband. And you’ve asked your wife, ya know when I come home, you’re always dealing with practical things and you never ask me how I am. It’s just like an ongoing series where I get home and you’re not interested in what my daily experience was. And I’ve asked you that need, you know, numbers and numbers of times. And then you’ve finally figured out, you know what she’s, she said, no, and she’s acted no. Now for a period of weeks or months, and that’s the need. And at first inside yourself, you feel like Jesus, is it that much to ask for you to ask me how my day was.
Robert Strock: (25:40)
I mean, my God, that’s like, you know, love 101. You know, why, why can’t you even start out there? So inward you’re, you’re having the experience of anger or frustration or helplessness or disappointment and or comparison. You’re saying, geez, I always ask you how you are and you never ask me how I am. So, you start off with a, a deeper feeling of intolerance, frustration, anger, and you stay aware of that deep feeling. And you go into an inquiry of saying, how am I going to be able to integrate this without this catalyzing more fights? How am I going to be able to move in a direction where we can still stay close? What is my way and what will come if you stay with it, is this is a big enough need that you’re gonna have to start off with the most skimpy kind of positive quality, which is barely tolerating it. Which means that you’re not acting out the anger,
Robert Strock: (26:42)
you’re not acting out to frustration, you’re not withdrawing, and that inwardly you’re having an experience of hopefully mixed in with some self-compassion: This is hard for me, and I’m in a place where I can barely tolerate it, so I don’t have to bring it up. I can process this internally, this bare tolerance. I might be a little tight. I might be a little irritable, but I have an awareness of my intention to move toward caring in the relationship. And that carries me to where inwardly I’m experiencing a bare tolerance. And so, I can carry on ordinary conversation without having it bleed into, uh, my life with, with my partner. And that, that goes on, you know, that may be it for the rest of your relationship, or you might give it six months or a year. And maybe at that point, you might re-approach it again.
Robert Strock: (27:42)
But bare tolerance is something that is a huge victory when you compare it with anger and all of its derivatives or withdrawal and all the levels of withdrawal that you can have. So, we can see how something like bare tolerance can sound mediocre. If we really aren’t living with our real world and our real needs, but it’s so important that we ground ourselves with our most challenging feelings, as we’ve been talking about all the way through from the very beginning and have summarized today, and then move into questions of how we can best take care of ourselves. And that will lead to those needs. And as we’ve shared most episodes, and we would probably do justice to share more than once that having the list at awarenessthatheals.org and downloading the free Introspective Guides will give us that list of 75 challenging emotions and 75 healing needs.
Robert Strock: (28:59)
And we can identify those very, very clearly so that when we’re not feeling, but we don’t know what it is. And then when we discover what it is, we can circle the, the needs that would be most helpful to help us focus on making that linkage together and making that linkage together is truly a miracle in real life. Cuz so few of us are able to both identify the specific needs that when we’re challenged and the needs that are gonna be helpful and implement it with a tone, that’s not going to hurt us, but actually gonna help us and the person that we love. So, this is a big aspiration, it’s a lifelong aspiration and we’re gonna continue to delve more and more deeply into this vital link between feelings and needs, and hopefully you continue to apply this to yourself, not only during this episode or the episodes, but it’s stoking your inspiration, your aspiration to really find a source of a grounded peace and love in your life, both for your well-being, the world around you, and hopefully the greater ripples of influence in the world around everyone. Thanks so much.
Join The Conversation
Thanks for listening to Awareness That Heals. Please click subscribe, so you won’t miss an episode. If you love the podcast, the best way to help spread the word is to rate and review the show. This helps other listeners, like you, find this podcast. We’re deeply grateful you’re here and that we have found each other. We encourage you to download our Introspective Guides at awarenessthatheals.org; they will be helpful to you while listening to our podcast.