This week Robert focuses on a different set of needs called chronic needs or chronic feelings. These situations can be identified as when you are compromised due to serious things like your health or your partner’s health, hormones, trauma, or chemistry. Other examples of these chronic needs can show up in serious gaps in communication with people that are important to you, or in dealing with yourself when you are in your worst mood. Accompanying emotions like shame, inadequacy, or withdrawal are common. We all know at least someone that is in one of these states on an ongoing basis. We ourselves are going to go in and out of these emotional valleys. Robert begins to guide us through the conundrum of how we can best deal when we are in deep.
It is all too easy to think, this is not a mood. This is not a feeling. It is who I am. Being able to see that we have a tendency to identify as our moods and feelings, especially these chronic ones, as who we are is crucial. For example, if someone were to ask you how you were doing today? You may say, this is how I am. Rather, you could identify with your awareness and say, this is how I feel and this is how I’m doing my best to take care of it. The shift is nuanced but can create tremendous space for healing. If we are able to allow some acceptance, this will lead us to be able to keep inquiring as to how we can support ourselves and will help guide us to suggestions for a new direction. Robert has often referred to this as wisdom guidance which shows us how not to be dominated in a one-dimensional way by our feelings. For many of us, there will be that inner part of us that is driven towards achievement or simply feeling deep anxiety, grief, anger or alone. The best we can do is to keep guiding ourselves. This is not a consolation prize, as it is the peak of wisdom. What is the maximum we can do for ourselves today?
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 63.
Robert Strock: (00:05)
When we’re in these challenging chronic feelings, we wanna ask ourselves, how are we gonna take care of ourselves?
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: (00:56)
Thanks so much for joining us again at Awareness That Heals where we give it our all to focus on bringing heart and wisdom to our life’s challenges. We start again and again. And for those of you that have been with us through a lot of episodes, you know, I really mean it with being aware of what is most difficult for us, where we see that these difficulties are universal for all of us, whether we recognize them or not. And how we can care for ourselves at these critical and crucial times. This sets up the ideal conditions for us to have a chance to be deeply fulfilled in our individual lives and to contribute to the world by finding and living from our best selves. Today we’re gonna 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 and situations we face each day and how to move forward toward well-being and healing.
Robert Strock: (02:11)
Now, this sounds simple enough, but when we look closely, we haven’t even been genuinely guided to revere being aware of our own challenging feelings let alone expressing them to people that could receive them, let alone be aware of our core needs. So, even as you hear this introduction, I don’t want you to think this is a trivial focus because none of us that I know of were raised that way as the priority of our life. And I believe this is a very grounded, inspirational way to live as it starts with authentically facing, what is most challenging? What is most difficult and naturally leads us to inquire? How do I, how do you, how do we best take care of ourselves and those around us? So, I’d like to start with introducing my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation and closest and dearest friend for the last 50 years.
Thank you, Robert, uh, as always these particularly the episodes on feelings to needs and, and the core of just life’s experience, moment to moment, which we are all in as we’re listening right now is I am speaking right now, our poignant and meaningful and, and profound. And thank you.
Robert Strock: (03:58)
Well, thanks, Dave and I hope what you’re saying is true, that, that you, out there, really are looking at your own particular challenging feelings most prevalent today, and especially the ones that are repeaters and really asking yourself what needs do I most wanna focus on to give myself the best chance to move in a direction of health, peace, intimacy, courage, and a life that has meaning. So we gotta start off today focusing on a different set of needs, something that I would call chronic needs and chronic feelings when you’re in situations where you’re compromised due to serious things like your health or your partners health, hormones, trauma, inheriting chemistry, aging, serious gaps in communication with people that are important to you, dealing with you when you’re in your worst mood and maybe facing the accompanying shame or inadequacy, withdrawal, which is one of the easy ones to not look at.
Robert Strock: (05:33)
Because when, when, when you’re withdrawn, you don’t know you’re withdrawn or guilt and we see that when we really look at ourselves closely, we all at least know somebody that’s in one of these states on an ongoing basis. And we ourselves are gonna go in and out of that ourselves. So, it’s particularly important to see, well, how do we deal with it when we’re in deep, when we’re in deep needs, when we’re in places where we’re not in control. So, in most of these situations, that’s the question. But of course, the question can’t come until we’re aware that we’re in one of these states, which, where I started from, where let’s say you’ve inherited a depressed condition, or you’ve inherited an anxious condition, it’s all too easy to think, it’s not a mood, it’s not a feeling, it’s who I am. And so, it’s being able to see that we have a tendency to identify our moods and our feelings, and especially these deep ones as to who we are. Like, how you doing today?
Robert Strock: (07:00)
Well, this is how I feel. Not, this is how I’m taking care of how I feel. So, these are all examples of how much we can be deeply identified with these deep core needs as being ourselves. So, the starting point is being aware of it and then finding our intention to want to care for ourselves. And then asking the question, how can I best take care of myself in whatever way you wanna ask that question. Now we’re, we’re identifying with our deepest, challenging feelings. So, when we’re in these challenging chronic feelings, we wanna ask ourselves, how are we gonna take care of ourselves? You know, and most likely we’re gonna see that we wanna be harmless because we wanna take care of ourselves and we don’t wanna create harm. And we wanna look for things like bare tolerance or acceptance, or how do we find our innocence again?
Robert Strock: (08:10)
And this will lead us to suggestions of guidance that we’ve called wisdom-guidance in prior episodes and steer us how not to be dominated in a one-dimensional way by our feelings. Just knowing that we have a foundation of recognizing that we have the capacity to find our feelings and our intention to wanna care for ourselves. That itself differentiates us from being fully identified with our feelings, cuz we have our feelings and then we have a part of us that splits off from those feelings and wants to care. So now we could make a good case for the fact that we’re more wanting to care than we are our feelings, or at least we’re starting to become competitive in, in a noncompetitive way.
Robert Strock: (09:11)
And as we start to ask that question, you know, we’re going to be looking for thoughts that we can have actions that we can take attitudes that we need to develop, while we’re having these chronic difficult feelings. So, for example, if you are someone who’s had a lifelong depression or anxiety and it’s in your DNA, it’s in your chemistry, it’s in your neurology. Then I give you a strong encouragement, this is not you, this is your chemistry. And being able to identify that could be the biggest breakthrough of your life. So, pause for a moment if this applies to you and if it doesn’t apply to you, then look at where you’re most lost in a particular feeling, but staying with where you’re really identify with feeling depressed or anxious. That is the time, if you’re able to afford it, to look for medical help through medications with your doctor. This is hard wired and therapy doesn’t work to take those deep-seated chemistry issues away.
Robert Strock: (10:40)
So, be able to know that we aren’t limited to being our challenging feelings is a big breakthrough in itself, but we need to learn a little bit of the technology that we have to find a place inside ourselves that wants to care. And if we feel helpless and hopeless and cynical, then we wanna see those feelings and see, no, I don’t wanna cave into those feelings. I wanna persevere further and get to the doctor, get to somebody that’s gonna guide me. So, along the same wavelength, ask yourself now, what are the most chronic needs that you have in your current relationship? Or if you’re not in a current relationship, what are the chronic needs that you’ve had repeatedly or most repeatedly in prior relationships that were not fulfilled? That’s a big question. So let’s say the need was for someone to either practically care for you or to be interested in your experience or to spend one-on-one time and look at what way you communicated that need not being fufilled and see whether or not you are able to not only, at the beginning, potentially, or the middle, but whether you’re at any point and especially at the end point, whether you’re able to really say, you know, I would really love it.
Robert Strock: (12:37)
If we could spend more one-on-one time, what do you think about it? And finding ways to do that, that are timely, that are direct and seeing what your tendency is. Is your tendency to avoid these expressions of needs or to express them with an attitude?
Robert Strock: (12:58)
And no matter what you find, see, if you can hear the suggestion right now, I wanna move right straight into there and I wanna do some inner practicing of expressing it in a tone that’s most likely to be heard, the next opportunity I get, whether it’s the next relationship or whether it’s the current relationship and never get up on it. I have seen so many therapists that have had in their practice, long-term couples that have given up on themselves. And I say it that way, cuz that’s not the people I’m seeing these days, but, but close to half of our nation are in long-term relationships where they’ve given up on being able to communicate how they could be closer. Those stakes are very high. And for those people who are in that situation, please go to AwarenessThatHeals.org and download the free list of Introspective Guides that will help you identify the chronic feelings that are challenging and the chronic needs that will help you with those challenges. And let’s return to you finding your number one needs that you have with your partner and how you have expressed it, where you are with that. And whether you need to move into perspective, as we’ve talked about the last couple episodes or whether you really need to give it your very best effort and then ultimately give it the perspective that it deserves.
Robert Strock: (14:50)
So, I’d like to then move from there, trusting that this is something that you’re going to carry on, on your own, with a case example. And this was a client named Gina who had a son who was pretty much in a maladjustment in his life all the way through. They came from a lower-class neighborhood. They were angry at, at the understandably angry, I might add at the horrible imbalances of the poor parts of our culture, not giving opportunities for work. And they had good reason to be angry because our society is not set up to significantly, significantly give opportunities to the poor and both she and her son had that anger and she had resolved it enough to be a psychologist, PhD, still with a bit of an attitude inside, still working it out or more accurately, still not fully working it out, but at least was a functioning psychologist.
Robert Strock: (16:08)
And her daughter was living with her, and she was not able to get a job. And this was in Santa Monica in a rent control apartment. So, there was not a very high economic need and she was in an endless power struggle with her daughter, you know, getting upset. Why don’t you go online? Look for jobs, you know, before COVID, you know, when the, when she was able to, at that time she was going out and going from, you know, asking her to go from store to store and look for job opportunities. And that was just an endless power struggle where they were fighting and fighting endlessly. And I talked it over with her and I said, you know what? You’ve been trying to do this through power, through strength, through aggression, you know, through frustration. How about you, just the fact that you feel helpless, that you feel afraid for her well-being and give up the strength, join her with sharing your vulnerability and recognizing that you can’t do it for her.
Robert Strock: (17:35)
And, and so, oh, over the next couple of months, she changed her tune and, and she started saying to her, I feel helpless and frightened that you’re not going to be able to support yourself. And I recognize it’s now up to you. Now she had suffered, the daughter, with ADHD and was, had all kinds of other issues. But when she experienced her, her being vulnerable, she didn’t feel any urge to fight back. And guess what happens? You know, the vulnerability led to the daughter also feeling afraid for her future because the mom was already in her late sixties, had her own series of illnesses. And it was only a matter of time until she had to get it together. And by letting her daughter know, and for you parents out there, it’s a very important lesson that to stay with your strength, to stay with your authority is doomed, if it doesn’t work fairly quick.
Robert Strock: (18:51)
Then you know, you’re heading for a long-term power struggle. But if you share your vulnerability and you let your child know that it’s up to them and that you can’t control them, and you may very well have to set certain boundaries, put them on a tighter budget, but when it comes right down to it, you need to support their independence. And that they’re old enough now where they’re the ones that are going to move the direction in their life. That what happened in this situation was the daughter started to become motivated because she was facing her fear. Instead of blaming her mom’s attitude, she no longer was able to be defensive in that way, and cutting a much longer story short, over a period of the next six months, the daughter found a job and it was through becoming an Uber driver and this led to a whole different dynamic where she was able to support a minimalistic lifestyle where, with their rent control apartment, she was able to feel secure that now she was on a path not even having to advance, although obviously hoping for it. She would be able to take care of herself. Now the key here is understanding the power of vulnerability and the futility of taking an authoritarian stance. So, I’d like to give another final client example.
Robert Strock: (20:35)
Julie was someone that was extremely attractive and convinced that I would think that she was crazy because she was bright, attractive, even sensitive, but really unhappy and came to me with suicidal thoughts and had nothing but failure in relationships. And of course I did the normal checkout, as every good therapist would, which is to make sure that the suicidal thoughts were not serious. And whether she had a plan, they were, they were just suicidal ideation, they were not serious thoughts. And I thanked her for being so open and let her know that it touched my heart, but she was so transparent, which really disoriented her cuz she thought for sure, I was gonna judge her for being stupid. Cuz she had so many advantages that she wasn’t taking advantage of. And she was surprised that I told her that most people, even in the first session and beyond hid behind a persona and that right here in her first session she was presenting it exactly like it was.
Robert Strock: (21:55)
And she was clear as we talked about it in the first session that this wasn’t chemical, this wasn’t hormonal, this wasn’t inherited that this was to do with her family dynamics and that she had been driven and validated and encouraged to be successful, to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be smart and nothing at all about being a vulnerable human being, nothing at all about taking care of her human needs, nothing at all about communication, nothing at all about caring for herself. And that she told me she had done all the right things, but she felt completely empty and like a complete failure in relationship. And I said to her, you were taught how to be a performance object. We haven’t probably heard the words, performance object very much, but in reality, most of us, and I’m asking you to really think about this. Most of us were taught how to be a performance object, which means you are how you perform, until you die.
Robert Strock: (23:10)
If you preform well, you win. If you preform badly, you lose. That’s the scale. So, from my vantage point, you’re either completely screwed or you’re mostly screwed if you’ve performed really well. And that’s it. And you aren’t taught about the inner life at all. You’re screwed, if you aren’t able to perform well, you’re deeply screwed. So, I asked her pretty much toward the end of the first session, what she believed. She really needed to really be happy, to really be having a chance to develop a good relationship. And in that first session she said she had no idea. And I offered to her to be part of her healing team and to explore with her what were her core needs. And obviously at that point, I handed out the Introspective Guides that identified both the challenging feelings and the core needs. And I gave it to her in the first session and asked her to come back after reviewing it. And she came back in the second session and she was aware that she needed to be able to communicate. She wanted someone to treat her warmly. She wanted affection. She wanted to be able to be sharing and being self-sufficient with her partner and that she wanted to be able to develop compassion and not be so judgmental toward herself cuz she was buried under levels and levels of self-recrimination for having as she described it, the whole package and still not making it. But when she saw that the package was largely devoid of essential needs.
Robert Strock: (25:18)
Now you could make a case for the fact that one of the essential needs was taking care of herself. Okay. Maybe she was given the need to take care of herself financially, but the other ones were pretty much just God given. She was naturally bright. She was naturally attractive. So, she hadn’t really developed any of her core needs, but she started to have an idea of what it takes to actually have a relationship where you feel considered, where you recognize you’re a being, you’re not just a performance object of doing. Now, look at yourself and see how much this has been true for you, too. That, not that, that, not that you were at this extreme. But all of us were taught to be performance objects to one degree or another. And very few of us were taught the importance of having an inner life, learning how to care for ourselves, learning how to communicate, learning how to be sensitive, how to be empathic, how to have courage.
Robert Strock: (26:40)
Those were not things that were isolated. Now, some of us had better upbringings than others. I was taught a lot of these things through sports and how to be a good teammate, how to consider other people, how to still make my best efforts. You know, numbers of us were taught half of it. But I was also taught the importance, especially by my mother, of success, of being attractive, of being smart, going to a good school, pressured in some of those directions. And so, the key of being able to add the inner world is not something that belongs just in our mind right now, even as I’m speaking to you, it’s like how much have you implemented one, versus the other? What would you say? The ratio of being a performance object and really having your focus toward what would allow you to care for yourself and your partner and all the different skills that would be involved.
Robert Strock: (27:52)
So, highlighting this division is something that is very important for all of us to see inside ourselves that we’re going to be unwittingly driven by our unconscious. Cause it’s not only our parents, it’s our movies. It’s our culture, it’s our plays. It’s what we read. The emphasis is so strongly on what we do in life, not who we are and what we need in life. And so don’t dismiss, you know, this case study as being an extreme and thinking that just because she was focused in the extreme way and that Julie was caught in extreme situation, that you don’t have a partial yourself. You know, it makes me think of another client, which I’ve shared in an another podcast who is extremely successful. And in spite of the success, we did a tape recording on 60 million dollars on top of your coffin, which was emphasizing that he was on the other exchange where he had completely succeeded and had no idea how to spend his money.
Robert Strock: (29:15)
The drive was so strong. The performance object was so strong and he was literally a performer in life. Meaning that his career was being a performer, that he didn’t focus on quality of life. So, the incredible benefit to his quality of life wasn’t even being absorbed, even though he has succeeded as much as anybody could possibly succeed. So, leave this episode with recognizing whether you recognize it or not, your unconscious is going to keep moving you in directions, especially if you don’t watch it closely. And even if you do, it’s still gonna move you in those directions. It’s gonna want to move you in those directions of being performance object, and you are gonna have to train yourself, to guide yourself to those core needs and identify the ones that are most crucial, wake up in the morning and really want to focus on them.
Robert Strock: (30:22)
And it’s not something that you get to learn in a podcast and it’s not something you get to learn in a year and it’s not something you get to learn in therapy. It’s something that you need to live day-to-day, hopefully hour-to-hour, in your life. Because when we go blank that means we are forgetting that our quality of life matters. So, hopefully this registers inside you, that you’re always going to, I’m always going to need to deal with a part of me. That’s gonna be driven toward achievement and performance, and we need to keep guiding ourselves to what’s the maximum I can do today, at that level and not go to this future or the past to condemn ourselves. And how can I focus on inner needs that are always potentially accessible everyday, whether it’s our relationship to ourselves or our relationship to those that we love and beyond.
Robert Strock: (31:30)
And my dearest hope is that you go away inspired or at least motivate to identify your core needs on a daily basis. And then have a check-in at the end of the day and during the day as to how am I doing? How’s my tone, how’s my reaching out. How’s my receptivity to other people’s core needs. And that you see that we’re here in this life to expand into a quality of life, that more and more moves in a direction of seeing our interdependence with everyone else. But of course, realizing we can’t bring that interdependence into our lives unless we start with ourselves and we bring a quality of life into ourselves and then we really have something to share. So, my wish is we start with ourselves and those we love and we realize we’re here to bring this quality of life to this planet and this world that we live in. Thank you very much.
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