Robert Strock encourages looking into and beyond the self to save the planet. Previous podcasts explored facing our most challenging feelings, but the next step is to continue to work toward our best self and develop the person who cares for self, family, community, and the world. Without developing an outward focus, we run the risk of standing by while the planet dies. Strock encourages the kind of introspection that sees how to better the life of the individual and use what we have as individuals to benefit the world. Without a change in how children, parents, and society sees and responds to our relationship with world communities and the planet, the planet (and us) is seriously endangered.
Mentioned in this episode
The Global Bridge Foundation
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The Missing Conversation, Episode 22.
Robert Strock: (00:05)
Of the biggest misconceptions that frankly makes my heart sick is in America when we idealize freedom as being the big gift. And we don’t say freedom with compassion, freedom with accountability, freedom with caring for everyone, because freedom can be another word for narcissism or national narcissism or, freedom can be the best way to live
On this podcast we will propose critical new strategies to address world issues, including homelessness, immigration, amongst several others, and making a connection to how our individual psychology contributes and can help transform the dangers that we face. We will break from traditional thinking as we look at our challenges from a freer and more independent point of view. Your host, Robert Strock, has had 45 years of experience as a psychotherapist, author, and humanitarian, and has developed a unique approach to communication, contemplation, and inquiry born from working on his own challenges.
Robert Strock: (01:15)
Thanks again for joining us with The Missing Conversation where we do our best to address the most pressing issues that the world is facing today and where we look for the most practical, inspiring programs and innovative ideas to support the survival on our planet. And also finding a sense of unity, inspiration, and fulfillment that both we and the world needs very badly at this point in time. I’d like to introduce Dave again, my partner in the Global Bridge Foundation.
Great to be here, uh, looking forward to progressing here with psycho-politics. Um, very, very important in these times.
Robert Strock: (02:03)
So, we emphasized the last episode, the possibility of a positive contagion, that if we individually do our work to see what’s challenging us emotionally and can identify what the feeling is, and then ask ourselves, what do we need both to support ourselves when we feel that way? And also, what do we need to do to live our best self? And we’re doing our inner work and in psycho-politics, that’s part of the first step, it’s really learning how to see not only that, but then we have a tendency to favor ourselves and our family and our friends, which is perfectly natural. But at another level, given the time we’re in, as we’ve talked about and all the other episodes on psycho-politics, we need to expand our sense of self to include the other, the poor and the world is facing possibility of collapsing through global warming and other ways.
Robert Strock: (03:19)
The second principle is doing the same thing as the first principle, which is looking at caring for more than ourselves and our family and considering the poor in the world and relating it to money. And the third principle is questioning, am I optimizing one and two in my daily life? Am I really asking myself, am I in a good balance between taking care of my family, myself, and the greater world? And of course, if people are in a survival situation, am I doing my best to survive? And can I see the great dignity. There can’t be a better dignity than working toward your survival for your family and yourself, if that’s the situation you find yourself in. So only time will tell whether we need to have an absolute catastrophe hit us before we wake up, or whether we already see the warning signals of the fires and the famines, the hurricanes, and the devastation with global warming and all the other dangers of the planet.
Robert Strock: (04:32)
And my hope, our hope is that we can see the dangers and inspire ourselves to be our potential best self. As it relates to our own deepest standards, looking at the real world as it is now, not letting ourselves be lost in feelings where we’re still running from the old goals that were set for us when we were a child, if we’re older or our culture, and seeing that the American dream is no longer a sensible dream, it can be a partial dream, but if it doesn’t include others, then we become part of the global problem. America is great, and it is at its greatest when it’s representing the whole planet. Yes, it needs to take care of itself first and make sure that we take care of our poor, just like it’s natural to take care of ourselves and our friends, but then we need to expand beyond that and be an inspiration for the world.
Robert Strock: (05:44)
And if we don’t do it individually, as we’ve talked about, we’re not going to be setting it up for our politicians to do it. If we aren’t facing our challenges, we’re not going to be electing politicians that are doing the same. The premise that we’re operating from is that it makes sense for the planet to survive. I think that’s a pretty hard thing to argue with. It’s an easier thing to deny it and say, well, I haven’t seen any increase in fires or hurricanes, but then you’re not looking at science. So, the question is, does that really touch you enough to inspire you to want to ask these questions of what is my best self? Does it include something beyond those that I love? Am I doing the best I can given the uniqueness of my situation? One of the major, major keys that we’ve talked about a bit is that this change, in order for it to become a healthy contagion, is going to have to be represented by the way we parent our children.
Robert Strock: (06:52)
That means we need to expose them to the world. We can’t quote, “protect them.” The idea of protection is one of those outdated conditionings. That of course is healthy. We want our kids to be safe, but the idea of protecting them in the same old way, when we don’t see what the international and national dangers are, is insanity. We need to upgrade how we parent, we need to have education, start preschool with having people get it. Their little kids have their hands in the dirt, learning how to grow and symbolically affect them. And then have education start in the first six years of life about basic psychology of facing your challenges. Psychologically, that can be dumbed down to be easy to learn. And then how do I become my best self and have that become something that frankly, every eight year old I’ve ever talked to about it understands, they understand it better than adults do, but they’re not taught.
Robert Strock: (08:00)
They’re not reinforced and they need to be reinforced. And then our, our sense of religion or spirituality, when you get into beliefs that in some way reinforce a sense of superiority where inclusiveness and interconnectedness, isn’t the basic tenant. Then that tenant needs to be added to whatever spiritual beliefs or religion you have. If we look at Christianity and we look at Jesus, Jesus was the ultimate proliferator of love your brother as yourself, but how much, what percentage of Christians can say that that’s how they’re living at a very high percentage. If Jesus was to come into town, would you be able to look at him in the eye and feel like, yep, I’ve been living how you taught me to live, and that’s not to say that you need to be a Jesus or one of his disciples it’s to say, you need to look honestly and openly as to whether you’re being your best self.
Robert Strock: (09:06)
And frankly, even if you are being your best self, do you really think repeating that for the rest of your life is enough. Being your best self as a movement, as Buckminster Fuller said, it’s a verb. We’re a verb we’re constantly changing. So, we can be our best self today. That doesn’t mean we repeat it tomorrow. Maybe we find a whole other way. We come to a whole other level of insights. So that needs to keep moving, whether that’s in our, our schooling or our parenting or our religion or our politics. And yes, we need to inspire enough people where there’s a ground swell movement of healthy contagion that, that moves into our politics. We need to share responsibility for having our politicians as being a reflection of a part of us, even if the other party is the party that we hate.
Robert Strock: (10:02)
And we’re, we’re sure we’re right. That doesn’t mean we’ve been a model for our party. That’s inspirational because neither party is modeling this in a significant way, even though one party seems to be doing it more. So, from my view it may be 10% there, and it needs to really see that it needs to uplift the poor and give the opportunities for employment and for doing work that could help the planet and get out of the blind spot of treating the lowest class as if it’s below the middle class. One of the biggest misconceptions that frankly makes my heart sick, is in America when we idealize freedom as being the big gift. And we don’t say freedom with compassion, freedom with accountability, freedom with caring for everyone, because freedom can be another word for narcissism or national narcissism, or freedom can be the best way to live.
Robert Strock: (11:10)
I’m not arguing with that. I love being free. I’m grateful that I’m in America, very grateful, but it’s given me the freedom to be my best self. And if we don’t add that and we just stay with freedom, then we are very likely a major contributor to the planet. Not surviving. If we’re one of those people of which I’m not thrilled to say, many of my friends are, if we’re one of those people who is very concerned about having enough, and that concern is one where it is based on old conditions and all the standards, and it isn’t based on present reality. It reminds me of a particular session I had with a client where they weren’t quite sure where they wanted to leave their money and their worth a hundred million dollars. And they had a way of getting rid of 40 million when they died.
Robert Strock: (12:08)
So, the theme of the tape that I did for him was $60 million on top of your coffin. And the theme was look at what a waste it is to not even have all the money you have be used for some good, energetic purpose that your best self determines. And that in your questioning, you’re certainly bringing that up. And do you really want to wait until you have to die? Do you really not want to consider how much I want to die with, do I really want to die with this much money? If you are in that situation and that’s not a one-time answer once you get into it, it becomes a progressive series of questions. So, when you hear statements like freedom, please include freedom with accountability, freedom with caring, freedom with looking at the reality of the needs of the planet and using that freedom to help it to some extent, it’s another version of our president, getting up and saying, God Bless America.
Robert Strock: (13:22)
Don’t bless the other countries. No, just bless America. Now I have no problem with God Bless America and may America and God bless the rest of the world. That would be fantastic. And I do believe America has been one of the leaders of, of doing that to a very small extent, because nobody’s done it to a large extent, but we need to recognize that we can be the inspiration for the world because we have the wealth. We have a lot of people that are generous souls, but the old conditioning is still ruling. And we need to question, is this conditioning really? What I see as my wisdom right now, my best self, or is this what I was taught? It’s pretty evident. Even if you just go back to John Lennon’s “Imagine” that governments have an orientation toward prosperity and wealth being in this boundaried area.
Robert Strock: (14:29)
So, it’s being held just like we’re individually holding it. And if we don’t make significant friends outside our boundaries, isn’t it obvious it’s a setup for alienation. Isn’t it obvious that even our allies, we can support more? And certainly our enemies. We need to find a way to have a meaningful contact, but it’s not going to happen. Unless we individually, on a mass level, have an evolutionary step. It really is nothing short of an evolutionary step and leap of what it means to be a human being, this excessive importance of self. And when I say “self,” I’m including it to be those that we love and friends, not that we don’t love friends, of course. This excessive importance has been viewed even by psychology as being, I feel really good about myself, I have high self-esteem and yes, that’s the best, second-best place we can be. If you have high self-esteem and you’re doing well, that’s great.
Robert Strock: (15:44)
But if we stop there and we they’ll keep questioning and see that there’s another level of having, having or being esteem itself, esteem for more than just ourselves, it’s like it is “the more the better” and psychology needs to learn this. Psychologists need to include this interconnectedness, the sense of contribution to others, much more significantly than it does. Not much more than the token that is given in general in the psychological world. Especially as I said earlier for healthy neurotics the real question is, does this seem true to you? And does it seem true enough to you where it’s going to lead to this daily questioning? Because in hearing these podcasts, if it leads to questioning of these three steps of our relationship, your relationship to yourself and others and your relationship to your money and others, and if it leads to really ongoing curiosity, we recognize you’re not a fixed self, you’re an evolving self, or you are a fixed self, or you are your conditioning. You aren’t really a self, you’re really, you’re really another, your sense of self is what you were taught from prior generations. And if you can tell with that, I know what I’m saying is not going to be heard at the level that I’m trying to speak to.
Just want to take one step, a small step back, and as you were talking about psychotherapy, psychology, its approach, it’s not being taught that way, is it? It’s not really in the lexicon even to go beyond self-esteem very far, it’s similar to what you were talking about, relative to how everybody generalizes their own sphere of what they’re going to take care of so narrowly.
Robert Strock: (17:53)
Exactly, the field of psychology, which I really, uh, I sensed from at a very, very early age of 18. I had a recurring dream that damn, here I was in the finals and I forgot to study again. And I had this dream 30, 40 times in my freshman year of college. And then I’m sitting there really freaked out. I’m sweating. I’m really upset with myself. How could I forget again? I’ve I know, I’ve done this before. And then I looked up at my teachers and I looked and I said, I saw they were depressed, they were empty, they were just in their head, there was no inspiration, there was no fulfillment. And I say, no, I don’t mean none, but I mean a very, very small amount. And when I saw this, I broke out in our hilarious laughter and I walked out. And so, it was very evident to me that psychology were teaching theories of how to gain self-esteem at best and yeah, whether it was power or sex or, um, or heart empathy, all of it was toward gaining self-esteem.
Robert Strock: (19:16)
And if we had 8 billion people that had great self-esteem and they all took care of themselves, and none of them took care of each other, the planet would have already died. We were better than that. But the ultimate fulfillment of psychology is it has to have another level. Now there’s been therapists like Maslow and, and Young, and they’re the ones that have certainly talked about another level, just there’s too many therapists to mentioned. But the degree of application of that, even with those therapists of going to the other level is so small and that the central principle needs to be a caring relationship with self, facing your own challenges, and then expanding that to the people around us and the community around us and the state around us and the country and the world around us. And if there isn’t an expansion of that, we’re predictably going to be alienated from the other by definition. Self-esteem is a wonderful thing to have and actually on an evolutionary scale, speaking of Maslow, I think he had it exactly right.
Robert Strock: (20:32)
It’s just that instead of it being focused on peak experiences, it needs to be dominantly focused on supporting others and including a sense of identification, others as self. And that expanding definition of self is a moving target. And oh, goodie. I met another person today that I love, and that person loves people. My life’s just expanded and they’re going to be introducing me to other people. And I can only say that this is massively contagious, that when you, when you really decide, you want to seek out people who are facing their own challenges and looking for how they can care for themselves with their challenges and go a step beyond that, of how can I care for the world? It is contagious because there’s an immediate recognition. When you see someone in that situation, even if the person hasn’t done the inner work of facing their own challenges deeply, but they have pretty good self-esteem and they’re running a foundation.
Robert Strock: (21:48)
Even if you have a connection on that level, that level of interconnectedness, that also is part of the healthy contagion. It’s just that some of the dangers of not doing the personal work and not being personally open runs the risk of that going amuck somewhere down the line and can create a limitation, but there’s tremendous benefit to including this interconnectedness and the importance of facing your own challenges, facing the best responses to those challenges, and then expanding beyond the self that needs to be the foundation of psychology. And yes, you’re right, it’s a percent of a percent, as far as how my experience is of therapists that have that as a central focus. Now, I want to also say at the same time, as I’ve said, in a prior episode, if I’m laying a trip on my clients and I’m saying to them, you should be more like me.
Robert Strock: (22:54)
You should be more like my values. You should be a humanitarian. If I’m laying that trip and I’m not asking them to be their best self, then I do deserve to be fired. I am violating them. I am not being true to the ethics of being a good therapist. However, knowing that I’m rooting for it, if that door opens and knowing that the way that I can most effectively do that is to say, what do you think will bring you to a quality of life where you’re living in an expanded way? And for many people that means they first buy another house or they buy another yacht and then they’re, then they finally say, well, you know what? I’m satisfied now. And then, then they say, you know what? I, now, now I’m ready to go. I’ve got everything I could possibly want.
Robert Strock: (23:43)
And I’ve got enough money now I’ll give it away. And then that’ll be a level. And then they go to a place of, well, I’m still feeling empty. Well, maybe that’s because you’re still living in the old-world standard of what security means and you’re in conflict. Good. I’m facing another challenge. Now I’m moving again. Now I’m another, another best sense of self that’s what psychology needs to convey that this is not a matter of working primarily on problems. This is a matter of primarily working on being evolved, primarily being more caring, being more honest with yourself, being more aware. It’s not about validation. It’s about loving the truth, loving, love of humanity and loving the freedom. This is a place where I would value freedom, the freedom for the individuals to find it for themselves. And you’re there as the continuous encourager of, of letting the person know, is this really?
Robert Strock: (24:47)
What, what you’ve told me your best self is this. So, you’re reflecting back the best self that they’ve told you and their words preferably. And when they’re conflicting and they’re arguing with their spouse and they’re not really containing, they’re not really trying to express their needs. Do you think this is really your best self? And yeah, sometimes it’s, it’s mirroring for them. What they’ve already told you is their best self when they lose it. That’s a big part of being a psychotherapist, but that’s not laying a trip. That’s laying what they are, I’ve already told you is their best self in front of them for them to see. And if I’m projecting on you, please tell me. So, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that we’re all in the same boat. And the failure to realize that we’re all in the same boat will inevitably result in all of us sinking and being doomed to sink we’re in the same boat in the sense that we all have the freedom to be in our conditioning to run away, to act out, or we all have the freedom to ask ourselves, what is our best self?
Robert Strock: (26:01)
Not simply just following our feelings that are really our conditioning’s, the falling out wisdom, our wisdom, not my wisdom, our wisdom, your wisdom, caring about your wisdom. And by asking yourself that question, it will shift from maybe at the beginning, it will feel a little bit like a pressure, but if you get the knack of it, it will be a joy. It’s sweet time. It’s time. You’re inviting yourself to see where your heart lives and how you can grow your heart, how you can grow your caring for your own challenges and care for them, and then expand. And when we see that the alternative is to let our boat, our planet sink, or be utterly destroyed, hopefully it becomes an incentive, motivation, and an inspiration to want our planet to thrive, to want everyone to have an opportunity to survive. And that very obvious thing, everyone having an opportunity to survive and getting out of this really kind of dumb prejudice, thinking that the poorest of the poor are dumb and seeing the inspiration to give the chance of the poorest of the poor to earn their own survival and to help the planet survive and finding the sense of purpose and inspiration and finding that place inside ourselves.
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