This week Robert continues to delve deeply into using life’s challenges as a springboard to living a more authentic and joyful life. It is a normal human reaction to blame others or wish they were different, but wishing someone was different can only get you so far. If we suppress our most difficult feelings or act them out, we are in a kind of compulsive repeating of wounded history. It is a source of alienation, warfare, divorce or isolation. It takes awareness, honesty, humility and accountability to begin to respond differently to a reoccurring challenge.
Join us, as we focus on clarifying how to create external and internal boundaries to best take care of ourselves and others. Perhaps you need to set up a boundary within the context of a relationship. Perhaps you need to set a boundary within yourself to not act out. Perhaps you must decide to no longer participate in certain things because you need to take care of yourself. It is an art to ask “Which type of boundary can best take care of me in each challenging situation?” When we recognize that we need to become aware of our challenging feelings and combine them with an intention to heal, that is the way that we can set up the conditions for being guided toward internal and external peace.
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Awareness That Heals, Episode 60.
Robert Strock: (00:03)
And in these situations, our intention to heal is gonna need to turn inward. We’re gonna need to move toward inner acceptance, inner tolerance, and inner discrimination.
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: (00:58)
Thanks again for joining us at Awareness That Heals, where we do our damnedest to focus on bringing heart and wisdom to our life’s challenges. We repeatedly start again with being aware of what is most difficult for us. So, we know that we aren’t suppressing a very dear part of ourselves, and we see that these difficulties are universal for all of us, whether we recognize them or not. And we move from there or do our best to see how to move from there, to how we can care for ourselves at these crucial times. And 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. And I wanna emphasize that if we suppress our most difficult feelings or act them out, we are in a certain kind of compulsive repeating of history of really reacting from what might be called our lower nature.
Robert Strock: (02:28)
And it’s a source of alienation of warfare, of divorce, of isolation. And when we recognize that we need to dignify our challenging emotions and see that at is only a part of us that we need to treasure and care for and combine it with an intention to heal that that’s the way that we can set up the conditions for peace internally, for those we love and for the world. Today we’re going to continue to deeply delve into what I would consider to be the key consummation practice that has helped literally thousands of people directly to make a simple link between the most challenging feelings and situations we face each day and how to move toward healing and well-being. And this really is a grounded, inspirational way to live. And I’m not saying that to aggrandize myself because this really has nothing to do with me other than the fact that I’m speaking right now. It has to do with the sensibility of realizing that we suppress or act out our grounded challenges, that it really is the source of a more hellish life.
Robert Strock: (04:14)
And when we learn to integrate it as a part of our life that we want to care for and beyond is a source of a heavenly life. It always starts with authentically facing what is difficult and naturally leads us to inquire, how do you, how do I best take care of yourself, myself? And as I’ve shared in the last number of episodes, I have such a deep wish, and I’m gonna focus more on the future than the past that this is something that is included starting in kindergarten, going through PhD, that at any level, and frankly beyond PhD, all the way to we die that if we don’t really learn how to deal with our, what’s been called our shadow sides or our difficulties or our challenges that we really are contributing to the world’s suffering that we so easily see today. And so there really is a prayer as you’re listening to these episodes that you’re looking internally and seeing where are my challenges, where are my difficulties and how can I care for them and how can I spread this to other people to live a more fulfilling life. So, I’d like to start off by introducing Dave, co-president of Global Bridge Foundation. And, uh, maybe even slightly more importantly, my dearest friend for the last 50 years.
Thank you for that as always. Um, I appreciate being here. I, I find this particular set of episodes to be, uh, inspiring challenge, all of the kinds of things that go into, as you said, the a, a culminating practice. That includes what came before.
Robert Strock: (06:30)
Thank you, Dave. So I’d like to start off with an example of a friend of mine, and it reveals that many times our focus needs to be on being accountable for ourselves. And this especially applies to when we’re upset about something. Things aren’t going the way we want them to go, and this leads to us commonly reacting angrily, or withdrawing in some form. This is certainly the most common way it’s happened in today’s world and frankly, in my best guess, throughout history. So, this was a very, very painful example of something with one of my dearest friends and I, and I wanted him to talk about something that was bothering me, where he had asked me to do something that was compromising my integrity. He asked that I continue to act as a trustee for his trust, while being dishonest with his wife. And I, I had, I had told him that I needed to change either the, the trust or I needed him to be more honest with her.
Robert Strock: (07:55)
And after a few years, and I mean, years painful years in this area of having 20, 30, 40 conversations and hopes that I could still serve that function, he still didn’t change the will or the trust and his attention just wasn’t there. And I felt like complaining and striking out, getting off or just going home and just tearing things up. And it was a challenge for me to not just act out. So, I remembered with great ambivalence in a certain moment that I needed to shift my, my anger and my complaining. I can’t believe that he’s doing this and pivot from those challenging feelings of anger and intolerance to being aware of my own intention, to heal. And I needed to be accountable for my own anger and set a healthy boundary with a decent vibe. So, this required months of contemplation, even though I was very familiar with the process, my friendship with him was in my top five friends of the world.
Robert Strock: (09:21)
And in one way was the dearest friendship of being able to connect me with teachers and quality people throughout the world. So, I knew I was threatened with a very deep loss if things didn’t go well. So, I basically told him that if he didn’t make this change, that I was gonna rip up the trust and I wasn’t gonna represent him anymore. And I did it with a deep prayerful vibe asking that he really understand that I felt like I was betraying myself because I knew his wife and I knew he was sincere and he wanted to leave all the money to his son that was not from his current wife. Now, this was, this was devastating. And I actually felt like I did it the very best I could over a whole weekend where I was spending time with him. And the end result was–now a little other story to go in–
Robert Strock: (10:39)
My son came over and I had worked on this letter and actually Dave, as he does frequently, did about 30 revisions of the letter with me, where I decided that it was better to give him a chance to be, not, to be immediately reactive and put it in a context of how much I loved him, how much I revered him, how much I was grateful for all the people that he had introduced me to, how irreplaceable he was in that regard for so many things, how, how much fun we had had. And then I, I got in the, in the middle of the letter to saying, this is what I needed from him. And that I hope he understood that I would do anything that didn’t compromise my integrity. And he was very angry with me. He said, well, you know, my wife is an alcoholic.
Robert Strock: (11:36)
And I said, no, I don’t know that. I know that you believe that, but I believe he’s been very dedicated to your son and actually been quite a hero. So, we went through a number of things like that, where he had discounted her and justified why he had put her in a place of having to sell the house if he were to die before her. Well, the end result was my friendship. Well, actually, let me go back to story. So I, my, my son came and I said, I want you to read this letter. And this was the final letter that Dave and I had gone over 30 times. And his response was, I’ve never heard you kiss someone’s ass so many times, you know, either in a letter or in person. And I sent the letter, that was kind of the final confirmation that I had succeeded in giving a good vibe.
Robert Strock: (12:42)
And it ended our relationship. He was so offended by the difference in perceptions that it, it literally ended my relationship, and cut off an artery of something that was very dear and important to me. And I realized that was why it took me a few years because I realized that it, there was a great danger that this was gonna happen. Now, all of us are gonna have situations that are gonna simulate that, hopefully not with the same outcome. I’ve had many situations, most situations. This is one of the very few in my life where it ended so drastically in a way that was really created even more suffering for me. I did feel like to be true to myself, I had to set this boundary, and certainly I practiced what I preached in terms of contemplating it for maybe you could even say a neurotically long period of time, but I would say very carefully, because of the stakes were so high. So I think as always, I’m asking you, as I share this very personal story for you to apply this to where you, you may need to be setting a certain boundary, or you may be needing to have a certain communication, or you may have certain difficult feelings where I, I felt like I was like prostituting myself, that I was selling out my soul for what he had been giving me for decades.
Robert Strock: (14:36)
And you don’t have to have the example be the same severity. Obviously, I have hundreds of examples in much more minor form. But look for situations where if you were true to your truer, to yourself, you would tell your husband or your wife, you know what, I don’t really like it when I start talking to you and you’re obviously thinking about work, or I don’t, I don’t like it when we’re having sex and you do what, what I’ve asked you not to do so many times. Or you’re with your boss and, and you’re, and you’re feeling like you can’t stand the way he talks to you, but you don’t want to get fired and you’ve gotta figure out what’s the best way to deal with it. The stakes are very high. How do we best take care of ourselves? So, if we’re in a work situation, if you’re in a work situation, if that’s your example and you hate the way your boss is talking to you, but you’ll be homeless.
Robert Strock: (15:36)
If you get fired, then obviously you need to be resourceful and look for other job opportunities before you take that risk. So, every situation is utterly unique, but to develop this where you’re starting with the feelings that are difficult, and you’re looking at what your needs were in this case, my need was to be true to myself. My need was to be sincere. My need was to be honest, my need was also to be accepted, which in this case I had to turn it inward, which was to accept the consequences of not being accepted and to accept myself that I did everything I possibly could, which is a very, very important element that all of us need to go through. Now, this reminds me of a time that was 35 years ago, where I did a workshop at Santa Monica College. And it was a really popular workshop and it was called, Bridging Anger and Closeness.
Robert Strock: (16:50)
It was a standing only crowd. And I started with a very similar kind of thing that we’re talking about today, where the first step was being aware of your challenging feelings. And then there was the emphasis on, okay, right in the middle of these challenging feelings or afterwards, as soon as possible, finding your intention to heal. Well, and up to this stage, everyone was going, oh, wow, that’s really cool. And I had a list. I don’t remember how, how many feelings and needs I had at that time. But I had a list on the, on the, you know, on paper, on that everyone could see and people were thrilled. They were like, oh, that’s really cool. You know, I can see my feelings and I can see what I, what I really needed. And then the third part was as lovingly as possible with good timing, you know, and really being able to ask the question.
Robert Strock: (17:47)
And, and then the, the four step was the timing really. And it was, when’s the best time to actually express the need. And everybody was really, I could tell it was like a, a joyous place where I think, I think I would’ve been cheered up to that point. And then I asked a question, and by the way about 90% of the people in the room were housewives, about 10% were husbands. It was, it was largely a married crowd. What do you do when you fulfill all these steps, and you communicate in a way that’s exactly what you need and your partner says, or acts like I’m not interested. I, I, I don’t wanna do that. What do you do? And suddenly the whole room sunk, it was a mood of complete depression filled the room, cuz people had no idea what to do because they wanted what they wanted. They liked being able to express the needs. They like being able to be aware of the feelings. They like doing it in a loving way, but they didn’t like the idea that they might do everything perfectly, but still be out of control in a very, very important area of their life. And then I spoke to the fact that, well, at that point, it seems like you have three choices.
Robert Strock: (19:13)
You either set a boundary within the context of your relationship and maybe you’re not going to, maybe it’s a setting a boundary for yourself. You’re not gonna look to them for that part of your needs or you’re setting a boundary where you’re not going to, in certain things, because you need to take care of yourself. And so, the relationship is still good enough, but a very core need isn’t there. So, you’re setting internal or external boundaries. The other two options are that you decide, you know what, this is serious enough that I actually need to leave the relationship. Or it’s actually not that serious where I don’t need to set any, any boundaries. I can accept it pretty easily. It’s not that big of a need. And it’s our responsibility. And again, the mood stayed very depressed. It’s our responsibility to figure out which of the three it was.
Robert Strock: (20:17)
So, we need to ask ourselves the question, which of the three is it for you? And I asked for people to raise their hands and pretty much universally got, I don’t know, I don’t know how to move the next step I’m lost, I feel outta control. I feel like it’s really justified because my partner doesn’t communicate or he’s treating me with disrespect or she’s treating me with disrespect or whatever it was. And this highlights the difficulty of even when we do things perfectly or as close to perfectly as we’re capable of, we still need to find a way of how do we best take care of ourselves? Cuz guess what? The world, or our partners, are not gonna cooperate with us reliably, you know, as happened in the prior example, which is what made me think of this one. Sometimes we’re gonna get exactly the answer we most dreaded and how can we, out of our own maturity, find the right place of those three options.
Robert Strock: (21:34)
This is a, a major evolutionary step. And I think it makes it clear how this practice is not a formula for guaranteed global success. It is optimizing how we can be our best selves, but it’s also coming to a co-realization that we may be facing a loss or a death of a relationship or a loss of, of a capacity to share. And so, we are gonna then need to focus on accepting our own difficult emotions that come with a loss. Even if it’s one that only requires setting boundaries, it still can be a heartbreak. Now, how do we cope with a heartbreak and still love? Well, guess what? That’s when it came down to now, not in this workshop, but for this podcast, then in relationships, if you listed your top 10 needs, most of us at best get 7 outta 10. And if we get 7 out of 10 and my God, if we got 8 outta 10 and a mature version of ourselves in my view would be to accept that there are limitations.
Robert Strock: (23:05)
Every relationship I’ve been in has at least one or two or three limitations that I’ve loved the most. And so that maturity not having that maturity is why the divorce rate is so high and even worse that when you’re divorced, you hate the other person because you hold them responsible for the one or two or three or four key areas. Now, of course, in many relationships it might be eight areas. In which case, you know, the problem was the selection. Not so, not so much how you could have maneuvered once you were in it. Cause a lot of people don’t even ask the question. Now this is a bit of a diversion, but it’s an important diversion that before you enter into a relationship, you wanna identify your 10 most important needs and ask yourself how many of these needs are likely to be compatible with this person.
Robert Strock: (24:03)
And have I started to check it out? Or am I just going on a romantic attraction, a sexual attraction, a power attraction, a socioeconomic attraction, you know, the classic societal formula, according to one of my earlier spiritual teachers were that relationships are really socioeconomic relationships. You know that basically, you know, the man is the man in classic, over stereotypical fashion is gonna be attracted to the woman cuz he’s attracted to her and the woman’s gonna be attracted to the man because he’s gonna bring in a source of wealth. Now in today’s world, that’s very outdated, but as, as an extreme, but it’s still a significant half-truth. And if it’s more than a half truth, boy, are we in trouble? Because the reason why we’re entering into love doesn’t have to do with our deepest needs, our most essential needs, taking care of our heart, taking care of the other person’s heart that might not even be on the screen and what we’ve identified.
Robert Strock: (25:06)
So again, for those of you that are, are maybe even listening to this for the first time, going to awarenessthatheals.org and looking at the Introspective Guides that are free download, being able to see the 75 essential needs, you can identify which of these are most important to me. Isn’t it obvious that that’s a crucial element of picking your love partner either for life or for a while, no matter what it is, or even a girlfriend or a boyfriend. So, returning to the workshop, we, we see that even practicing this implementing it is not gonna liberate us reliably from our challenging feelings. And that means we just have another cycle to go through and we get to start to and notice I say, we get to, rather than we should, or we have to, we get to start with the awareness of our challenging feelings and having a reverence for them and then looking for our intention to heal.
Robert Strock: (26:16)
And in these situations, our intention to heal is gonna need to turn inward. We’re gonna need to move toward inner acceptance, inner tolerance and inner discrimination as to whether or not this is such a big deal that it’s all or nothing, or whether we need to actually say, you know what? You can’t always get what you want. That, that, that, that’s part of it. Even if it’s a need, you can’t always get what you need either. But if you try, sometimes, maybe you’ll get 7 outta 10, maybe you’ll get 8 outta 10. And that’s a very crucial part of maturity.
Going to the workshop as you described it. It was people that were dealing with anger. So, they were already at a level of agitation or let’s say several steps removed from maybe some other core feelings underneath that were being expressed to each other and, and in their own way creating their own damage. Uh, but what I’m hearing you say now is this applies, even if we’re at our best, but we’re different. And if we’re at our best and we’re different, we’re still at, at best, maybe 7, or 8 outta 10.
Robert Strock: (27:41)
Exactly. And thank you for reminding me, uh, because part of that workshop and part of the presentation, wasn’t leading people just being angry. It was intolerant or impatient, it was also acknowledging the importance of being able to see the vulnerable feelings underneath the anger or the intolerance. So, the people were grieving. They, they were frightened of, of bringing this up. They, they were, they were feeling a loss, they were feeling helpless and, and that was part of, and they liked that part of the workshop too. That was fine. It was only when asked to be accountable, when you didn’t get, have control of what you want in the world. And it really shows so much the desire that we have for control of our world, and that is an opposition to our needs. And so being able to see that control is a desire not a need.
Robert Strock: (28:47)
And that for, for almost all of us, maybe even all of us, we have a part inside of us that wants control and that’s a dangerous place. And that unquestionably has been the source of many alienating divorces and many wars. So, I hope that unlike the workshop, I hope that you who have listened to many of the podcasts or are developed in other ways prior to listening to the podcast that you are left with recognizing, yeah, this is really truly a challenge. I’m not gonna get what I want or even what I need probably with anybody, probably with no religion, probably with no spirituality that I’m gonna be left with many of my needs being met if I go for it, but there’s gonna be a couple, one or two or three in almost any path, our political party, our nation, and so left with, yes, it’s natural that you’re going to suffer with that.
Robert Strock: (29:59)
And how do you care for your suffering? How can you, as I said earlier, discriminate between, do I need to leave all together? Can I more easily accept or do I need to set internal or external boundaries? That’s something that’s inspirational because when you get down to that level and you really engage it, then you’re really grounding yourself in a type of maturity where you’re ready to live in this world and be a lover of this world. And when you don’t get what you need, it’s not gonna have a predictable negative response. It’s gonna have almost likely, almost inevitably a negative feeling that you’re gonna have to work through, through finding the intention to heal. But then you’re gonna know when you’ve really been able to face that, that your dignity, your empathy, because you also hopefully will realize, guess what? You’re probably not giving 10 outta 10 either to anybody or to any party or to any country that there’s no perfect people on this planet, which is a big part of the realization. And hopefully we all will be humbled to be aware that we’re unaware to be aware that we’re not in control and to be aware that we’re not gonna get all of what we need and we still need to go for being the best selves we can possibly be. Thanks so much.
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