Transforming Emotional and Spiritual Standards – Episode 9

Transforming Emotional and Spiritual Standards - Episode 9

We continue to explore impossible standards that impale our progress toward healing. Friendly Mind guides us to do and be all that is realistically possible while helping us to not be slaves to these pressures. With personal examples, we closely explore the myriad of ways we guilt and pressure ourselves to be different from who we are and can be in our own bodies. We push ourselves to get rid of our anxiety, depression, and fear or religion, spirituality, non-spiritual beliefs, or intelligence. However, Friendly Mind teaches us to come back again and again, doing and honoring our best efforts. It also encourages us to gain a bit of humor at our desire to be more than our best efforts.


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

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Announcer: (00:02)
Awareness That Heals Episode Nine.

Robert Strock: (00:04)
Many times friendly mind leads us to the unknown, to not knowing. And that’s every bit as respectable as knowing and many times much deeper than knowing.

Announcer: (00:19)
Awareness That Heals is a podcast that helps its listeners become more at peace with all states of their mind. Your host, Robert Strock has practiced psychotherapy for more than 45 years. He’s coined the term awareness that heals to help you develop self-caring and the capacity to respond in an effective way to life’s challenges. Especially at times when you’re most prone to be critical or to withdraw together, we’ll explore how to become caringly aware of our challenging feelings and how we can use our friendly mind to respond and help care for these difficult feelings to live a better, more inspiring life.

Robert Strock: (00:58)
I truly appreciate you joining us today as we continue to deal with friendly mind and how we lay impossible standards on ourselves and how developing our capacity to understand and use friendly mind as our greatest asset in our times of great need it’s totally invaluable to us today. Both Dave and Shelley are joining us again. And as you’ve unquestionably heard from prior episodes, Dave has been my closest friend for 50 years partner in the Global Bridge Foundation. And Shelley is a great skilled therapist and my close friend for 12 years. So today we’re going to start with a standard that we frequently lay on ourselves, whether we’re attractive or not, that we’d like to be more attractive. And this is something that particularly becomes true as we get older and older for many of us speaking for myself at 72. And it’s so important that we ask ourselves now, as we’re exploring this, do I lay any kind of a trip?

Robert Strock: (02:19)
Do I think I’m a little bit too heavy? I think I’m fat. You know, it might, it’s my skin sagging. Is there somebody prettier down the block that got the person that I wanted? Is there any way in which we’re unkind to ourselves in relationship to our face, our body, our hair, our missing air, whatever the case may be. And as we explore this, hopefully we get the joke that, okay, I want to be two inches taller. Yeah. Without a nose job. I want my nose to change, now. I want my hair to be blonde, without dying. And we start to see that maybe the humor, which is often the best catalyst for friendly mind, because we can see the absurdity of trying to change something we can’t change. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to spend our whole lives trying to change it just because we laugh.

Robert Strock: (03:27)
Once we want to try to bring that humor, that sense of absurdity to really look at our lives closely and see how do I relate, relate to my body. And when we see a place where we don’t like it, it’s important, friendly mind would have us ask, am I doing within reason what I can to have the appearance I want? I may eating fundamentally healthy. Am I exercising in a way that I want to exercise? How do I feel about makeup? Am I optimizing it? Am I following somebody else’s standard about how much makeup I should or shouldn’t use? Yeah. Should I get, uh, a boob job? Should I get a toupee? Whatever it is, how do you relate to that? And where are you most critical and where would friendly mind come in? And what would it say? So please, as always, forget me, forget Dave, forget Shelley, have this apply to you and don’t just take this in the head. Oh, this one doesn’t apply to me. Don’t be so quick to assume this one does not apply to you.

Shelley Pearce: (04:57)
It’s nice to be here again with all of you and, uh, talking about these, these critical issues that we all face and, and face them more and more as we get older. And I know for me as a woman, I have had, uh, well, I’ve been told I have body dysmorphia, but of course I don’t believe it. And I, you know, I’ve struggled with, with body image stuff and, um, you know, not, not only, um, not only not feeling good enough, but also feeling like I’m not doing enough that I could, having forbearance around what I put in my mouth. And, uh, you know, just, just taking care of myself in ways that are, am I being optimal or not. But now that I’m in my mid-fifties, it’s sort of shifting now. I sort of feel like, well, geez, I’ve, I’ve been healthy my whole life.

Shelley Pearce: (05:55)
When I look back at it and gosh, really beat myself up for most of my adult life. And now I look back and I go like, Whoa, why was it to myself? And so now, you know, mid-fifties, and hearing aids and glasses and hair extensions and hormones, and all the things that you, you know, you didn’t need in your twenties and thirties and forties create a whole other layer of feeling, feelings of not being enough, just not, not let’s say the best we could be from the outside. And it’s really hard. It’s really hard. And my, I don’t have much of a friendly mind about that. The best I can do is have a little bit of humor, but you know, that’s not my strong suit.

Robert Strock: (06:42)
So that’s a very important thing to say that it’s an area where unlike many areas where I know you are living friendly mind that this is an area that slips by the board. So the question that I would ask myself is how can I support myself and forgetting to ask that question, which is so common for all of us all day long. I mean, I’m guessing most people don’t ask that question. 99% of the time, even people that are introduced to friendly mind might do it 30%. So it’s so important that you say or ask. So how would I care for myself in my relationship to my body? Am I being too hard? Am I not being disciplined enough? Is it both and friendly mind might be, don’t be so hard on yourself and you may want to take more walks or you may want to develop a cardio routine.

Robert Strock: (07:59)
What do you think Shelley? And then Shelley responds back and says, well, I’m not very disciplined. Friendly mind will go, well, you may not be as disciplined as you need to be to feel your best. Does it matter enough? So sometimes friendly mind gets in a dialogue with you back and forth to where you say, okay, I’ll settle on once a week for 10 minutes are off in a small way, but we can’t afford if we want a quality of life to ignore the question that induces friendly mind and friendly mind is not a guaranteed friendly mind on top of garbage. It needs to be earned. So if we really believe we haven’t disciplined ourselves, or we know we haven’t disciplined ourselves in ways we need to, then we can’t use friendly mind because the back of us says, we know these are just words.

Robert Strock: (09:03)
Friendly mind is powerful when we’ve done what we believe we can realistically do. And we’re living the way we believe and know we need to live. That’s when it’s really powerful. And even when we do live the way we need to live, we can still be unfriendly to ourselves. And that’s where the potency is. We get ourselves straight. We say, no, that’s not true. You’re doing, you’re doing what you need to do with your body. And you are giving yourself a hard time. So I’m telling you right now, you truly do look right. Go ask your five closest friends and see, do a reality test. So for you, it sounds like in a minor way, you might need to a little bit more, but in general friendly mind would say, no, you’re, you’re still turning heads at 50 in your fifties and, and you, you do feel like, you know, that you’re in good enough shape, but you might want to tweak it a little bit. What do you think?

Shelley Pearce: (10:21)
So, so I think that’s, I think that sounds . . . what about, I actually have a friend who, uh, went out on a date recently has been on, on sites and, um, the gentlemen said to her, like, I don’t understand why, why women don’t wear makeup. And she said, well, wait, do you mean why I don’t wear makeup? And he said, well, yeah, well like, because women look so much better with makeup and like, so that kind of external invalidation for who women are, it’s like, it’s, that’s a really difficult thing. And that’s, that is something that is very real for most of us.

Robert Strock: (11:07)
Yeah. I mean, that’s a really good comment because it brings up so many subtleties. Number one, is she really in love with the guy? Number two, is this enough to make her not be really in love with a guy. Number, number three, does he think that he’s actually touching a place inside her where she’s unconscious or does she think he’s, uh, a pompous asshole? Um, and so it is an invitation to go back to her truth. And of course, nobody likes to be told, you know, why don’t you get a nose job? Why don’t you wear, you know, don’t wear red lipstick, put some hair extensions on or whatever else. But the key thing is you gotta be true to yourself and you’re not here to please somebody else. However, if you really love somebody and it doesn’t matter to you, it really doesn’t matter if you say you’re putting a little makeup on, who cares, and it’s going to make the world of difference to them, then it’s fine obviously. But you get to be the decider for yourself, but you also don’t want to suppress anything yourself or the other.

Shelley Pearce: (12:25)
So when she, when she, so I think her response was, wow, this guy’s a jerk. It was a first date. Right. And so, but, but it’s, it’s also played on her, you know, she’s, she’s really, she’s felt bad about it. Like, yeah, she, she, wasn’t going to go out with him again. But you know, since that time it’s kind of hard to . . .

Robert Strock: (12:50)
Yeah. I mean, I would say if it’s the first date, the second date, if there is one, she needs to say to him, you know, I’m debating whether I want to go out with you or not again, because I, I felt like that was pretty presumptuous on a first date. And I don’t want to be mean to you, but if you’re, I took it as on the first date you’re not that attracted to me because I’m not wearing makeup. And if I feel like I’m going to have to wear makeup to please you in a significant way, my whole life, that’s kind of a deal killer. And if you just meant, you know, little tweak here, a little tweak there, I would like you to know that I’m actually a little bit sensitive. I can tell I’m sensitive because it actually affected me for quite a bit afterwards.

Robert Strock: (13:35)
So I take some responsibility that obviously it’s not my most secure area that I need you to be more sensitive to me,

Shelley Pearce: (13:43)
Communicate your heart.

Robert Strock: (13:45)

David Knapp: (13:46)
So by the way, also great to be here . . . it’s Dave. Um, appreciate hearing Shelley what you shared and, and, uh, you know, just to relate to it from my own angle, people who would know me a long time, they’re probably the, uh, I take, I guess, a very . . . I’ve, I’ve not paid much attention to, for instance, what I wear. Uh, if there’s holes in my clothes, I don’t seem to care. Um, what I do care about and, and so as far as appearance goes, um, it’s mostly been in my life, the process of aging. It’s been the process of, uh, taking care of my health in such a way at a given point where I needed to lose, which was not hard for me. I wasn’t significantly overweight, but I had a beginning diabetic condition where I needed to drop 20 pounds. I did quickly,

David Knapp: (14:52)
And I look skinny to myself. And I think some people seeing that sudden weight loss had concerned about me. Yeah, my hair’s thinning. Um, but mostly I, for the most part, it’s my appearance in relationship to my health and my appearance in relationship to my health and, and drilling down into that is, is a much more, a deeper conversation. Uh, a relationship to mortality, a relationship to my exercise, being my way of making sure I stay healthy, so I don’t die sooner or at all in my, in my most omnipotent ridiculous view of my life. Uh, I have, um, helped other people with their health, but when I’m looking at myself, I feel very anxious when I have a health issue. Um, sometimes it manifests as appearance, but sometimes it manifests as how is my body. It is like a, a scan of my body health, not necessarily the view of it, but the health of it though, the measuring of the health of it.

David Knapp: (16:09)
And yes, I’ve been fortunate and yes, this fear I have, anxiety I have, over being healthy has for the most part, made me more healthy. It’s also made me more anxious and it’s made me more afraid. And so it’s manifested in a different way. It’s not, um, I don’t find myself, obviously if I, I don’t seem not to care too much about how people feel about how I look, seem to certainly at this age, uh, I think I cared more when I was, uh, trying to seduce women early in my life, uh, in mostly unsuccessfully in high school. Um, it tran . . . obviously we’ve all been through many transitions and ultimately at this point body and, and image and taking care of myself, relates for me to health. And that’s how I relate to it.

Robert Strock: (17:10)
So the question becomes, am I in the right balance between being skinny in my own eyes and healthy, and is that in the right balance?

David Knapp: (17:25)
And that is, yeah. And it’s more than that, by the way. It’s, um, friendly mind for me. First of all, I, I, I, wasn’t skinny. I am not skinny. Um, but yet that’s how I’m perceived. And so meeting, medically speaking again. Okay. So I, I came to, to be at peace. That’s what I need to be. I need to be at this weight, which I’ve now done nine straight years within five pounds in order to maintain my health. It, it, doesn’t, it’s not ideal. I don’t like exactly how I look as a result of it, but the friendly mind part for me, relates to how I handle the anxiousness and the fear and the, if you want to talk about unrealistic expectations, just that I can be healthy forever in my life, you know, that I am not going to have … and if I, if I do all the right things, the outcome will be that I will not have a disease ever. And so my friendly mind, as I talk about it with myself is, hey, this is a natural part of life. And God knows I’ve seen it with my parents, with other people and relaxing around it, not taking my need to take medication or to have certain other tests as a failure of my effort to take care of myself. Uh, but taking it as, as part of what is natural. And that’s the hard part that, that is the self-talk I have.

Robert Strock: (19:01)
Yeah, no, of course you’re branching and expanding beyond just body type into anxiety about health, which is good because it allows us to cover that too. And again, I think the question is, is my anxiety realistic doesn’t mean I can get rid of it, but it means the friendly mind can tell the unrealistic feeling, which probably can’t be changed very much. You know, you’re kind of a joke. You’re acting like you can cure death. And, you know, I don’t think you have a very good sense of humor. You’re not even laughing, you know, it’s, it’s like, you, you really believe that you’re going to cure death and you had to catch yourself when you said if you know, or, or whatever, like if I ever get sick. And, and so I think the key is, is being able to ask that realistic question, am I in the center of where I want to be and responding to that question that says, yes, I am in that middle point between which I pushed you, by the way, when I used the word skinny, cause I wanted to challenge you a little bit, cause I know you don’t like hearing those words particularly, but when I appear skinny to others and maybe even a little bit to myself, is that perfect because it’s what makes me healthy and healthy is way more important than being a muscle man in complete appearance. And I appreciate the fact that I’m making a little bit of a sacrifice in looking a little thin to some people, but inside my mind, I know I’m doing the best I can to have a quality of life and a longer life as possible and I really liked that in me.

David Knapp: (20:49)
And what you’re saying is so, so true for me. I mean that, that, that actually nails it and it is a vacillation, it is, it is a back and forth. It is something, as you were saying, I don’t know if it was in this particular podcast or the one before, but it’s not the first time. It may not be the second time. It may take three or four times. It may be an ongoing thing. It may even be ongoing for months, uh, in and out. It takes time sometimes. And it’s, uh, and it can be provoked by different things. It can be provoked by me, of course, not during the COVID times, but by seeing people I haven’t seen in a long time, uh, going to a high school reunion where all of a sudden I’m seeing people that, uh, I haven’t seen in many, many years and going back into the feelings I felt when I of course knew them well when I was 16, 17, 18 years old. And so all of those things take time and it’s it’s, I know what what’s going on with me, but nobody in many cases has any clue what’s going on with me.

Robert Strock: (21:57)
So as Dave is showing and revealing, and it’s so important that again, you let Dave catalyze you, in the depth of the ongoing conversation. This is not even a debate, whether it’s one or two or three in the tough areas, if we really take our self in our potential, we’re going to be having this dialogue on for weeks or months in some cases, decades, and just tweaking the statement. That’s going to be our deepest truth about an important area, where we have an unconscious standard, where we’re giving ourselves a hard time and how we’re being seen or how we see ourselves. And we finally arrive at a given moment with exactly where we need to be, but that doesn’t mean two days later, we’re not going to regress. And so we need to keep that inquiry going on so we can find that friendly mind. And in a sense, have it become more important than our feelings. Really having that friendly mind be something that we aspire to be even more than our conditioned feelings that are so often rooted in how we were taught to live, by people, quite a fair amount of neurosis. And we don’t really want them to be our gods. We really want our truest self to guide us, not the past people that have their own issues.

David Knapp: (23:28)
And I just want to correct one thing I said, uh, and that is to say that I think when I was about 12 years old, I was about as tall as I ended up being maybe 12, 13 years old. I was almost six two, and I felt like a freak. I was keeping up with a person who ended up being seven feet tall and I kept saying to myself, I don’t want to grow. I don’t want to grow. I mean, like I had some kind of power over it and I was gangly and I was awkward and I was a head taller than the people, my age in general. And it felt like, uh, again, growing into yourself, you know, at any given age, growing into yourself, seeing the different feelings that come up over time and in different phases in my twenties, in my thirties, in my forties and all the different phases of life. Um, it, it just such … if I really look back as Shelley was talking about before and, and, and I really look back at how I could have been more accepting of myself, which is of course, retrospectively clear, so hard to do as it’s happening.

David Knapp: (24:46)
It’s so hard to do even now, which is what I think your point is. And so it is that conversation of friendly mind, which is again, chastened by the fact that I could have done it. Didn’t do it in the past. And here I am still doing it in the present. And what can I learn from that? As I talk to myself.

Robert Strock: (25:06)
And again, I want to acknowledge that friendly mind, even though this is being repeated, it has to be repeated, friendly mind requires us to ask the question of what’s my dead center. What’s, what is really true for me. So when you felt like a freak, when you were young, you would have said, well, can I do anything about it? And if you were wise you would have laughed, if you were taking it seriously, you would have cried. But if you kept tweaking that process, you would have said to yourself, you know what, no matter how tall I get, I can find a balance that I’ll be okay and I’ll be adaptable. And if you didn’t believe that you’d have to go to a therapist that would help you, we’d have to go to a guide or a good friend that would help you find your friendly mind, which many cases we need to do.

Robert Strock: (26:00)
So another area that will be our final one with dealing with impossible standards, even though there are many, many more is our relationship to religion or spirituality or intelligence and how we feel like, well, I’m not Catholic enough. I’m not Jewish enough. I’m too Jewish. I’m too Catholic. My Catholicism is screwed up my, my sex life. I’m not smart enough. I feel intimidated when I’m next to somebody else who knows so much more than I do. I’m not well-read. So the question is, where are you in relationship to your sense of being nonreligious? Non-spiritual religious, spiritual, intelligent, not intelligent. And I haven’t met hardly anyone who I believe is at deep peace, a hundred percent. And so at first glance you say, Oh yeah, I have faith, no problem. Or at first glance, it’s like, dust is dust and that’s it. It’s over, one liner out and through.

Robert Strock: (27:20)
But if we look at it more deeply, we’re going to see that there are places where, you know, I’m not so sure. I know the total answer. I might have faith, but I might realize, I don’t know anything. I don’t know how God graded himself. If I believe in God, or I don’t know whether there’s past lives or I don’t know if there’s just dust or maybe I’m convinced I don’t know. But then if your convinced you don’t know, and that that’s the right answer, that means you, you know, you don’t know anything. So somebody else has the right answer. So no matter which way you go, it needs to be a little bit of humility, a little bit of questioning to come to a greater peace. So all of us need to keep asking what is my friendly mind? Tell me what are the questions I need to ask to come to this deeper peace, maybe some vulnerability too. That’s healthy vulnerability. As we ask ourselves about our relationship to religion, spirituality, intelligence, and the reverse.

David Knapp: (28:36)
I just want to add something there. And I think, I think invariably, I remember buying, um, I’m Jewish. I remember buying my grandfather a book of all the rules. He was essentially Orthodox. And so I bought him a book, which I thought he would appreciate. And actually he did, but it contained the rules for how you should live your day and your week and your life as an Orthodox Jew, this was a thick, thick book. Virtually every moment had a prescription for how you should spend it. What is right? What is wrong? When you can walk here, when you, you can walk there, how you can eat, what you can eat, what time of the day, what, what happens at sunset on certain days of the week and overlaying that, and just your natural rhythm, it made me, as I looked at him, I, I, I saw how I, I was nowhere near that, but I saw that overlay and how crazy it made some time, for me sometimes. I remember going, and this is the last thing about this, to my rabbi when I was going to be, uh, you know, a pre-confirmation interview. And at that point I was 16. I was driving and I took a wrong turn. I was late and I walked into his office and he said to me, he said, I guess you’ve been taking wrong turns your whole life, haven’t you. And just this complete judgment that made me feel angry, made me feel bad, but it made me more feel angry. Like what in the hell? You don’t even know me. Maybe this is the second time I’ve talked to you. Maybe you’ve known me one minute in my life, but yet all that overlay, all that stuff that gets put on us.

Robert Strock: (30:41)
And again, it’s a great example of what must be a hundred thousand or a million different ideas of what the truth is or how we should live. And if we can really look at them all, but not them all, but let’s say a bunch of them, we’ll get the joke, who in the hell is going to tell us how we should be and knows us well enough to know what our truth is. It reminds me of when I was in, uh, what grade was I, I was in seventh grade and I was going to temple and I got in my report card, Bobby seems to think that Saturday School is a playground and I got an F. And I, I remember saying to the rabbi’s, said, well, it says here that God is all. So that means I’m God. So that means that I don’t really have to listen to you.

Robert Strock: (31:34)
And, and I was immediately sent out of there in the hall, kicked out a Sunday School or Saturday School. And that was it. But I didn’t know enough to get the joke. I knew enough to rebel, but I didn’t know enough to go all the way to friendly mind and say, you know what this might be your truth, but my truth isn’t formed yet and brings up another whole element that we haven’t deeply covered. But many times friendly mind leads us to the unknown, to not knowing. And that’s every bit as respectable as knowing and many times much deeper than knowing. So again, I want to thank you all for your attention, and I hope that what you take away from this is yourself and your gap from the questioning of friendly mind and the finding of friendly mind and the desire or the aspiration to utilize that as a part of yourself that will make life align with who you really are. Closer and closer and closer. So thanks again, and look forward to seeing you the next time.


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