No matter who you are, you will have to confront some challenging concepts like death, disease, and suffering at some point in life. To understand and get through these difficult moments, many of us will turn to religious or spiritual teachings, hoping for (spiritual ) help or support. Others will turn towards psychology and science, hoping to regain their awareness through medicine or counseling. Some will even do both.
Because the truth is that we will all have to deal with the inevitable challenges that life throws at us, in moments of uncertainty, fear, anger, or grief, we will seek direction, support, and understanding. Even though most religions encourage some form of community outreach and work, there is an element of appearing to transcend prematurely at play most of the time. As Robert explains, “It means that we have a sense of wellbeing, from our beliefs that often prematurely suppress our human sides. We think we understand.” But when it’s our turn to face challenging situations, we may realize that we cannot get through it without asking for more love, care, and support. And that’s extremely important. It’s only natural. The key is to ask yourself how best to care for yourself through this or how you can apply religious teachings or extrapolate what your therapist suggested to reduce your emotional turmoil. It would also be highly beneficial to look toward when your spiritual or religious guides shared how they experienced similar problems. Then, you can learn how they used their traditions and teachings that ultimately helped themselves and others, including you.
It would be extremely beneficial if you could ask your spiritual or religious guides to share experiencing how they used their tradition to help both themselves and ultimately you too.
This is why leaders and teachers across religion, spirituality, and psychology need to model self-care for the mind and body. This can include sharing similar challenges and how they’ve gotten through them or offering direction and support through counseling or resources. Therapy is often values-neutral, so religious or even non-religiously humanitarian individuals can incorporate most of their learnings to amplify their potential across different spheres. For folks who are fundamentally healthy, therapy might not be fulfilling enough. Sometimes, there’s a need to contribute more toward loved ones, the community, or the world at large, which is when spiritual needs become primary.
The core takeaway across the best of psychology and religion is about maximizing your potential. That’s how we’ll be able to find ourselves and then help others along the way. It simply means that fusing the two will help you make a greater connection to humanity and human issues.
Mentioned in this episode
The Global Bridge Foundation
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The Missing Conversation, Episode 33.
Robert Strock: (00:07)
And so, it’s really crucial that we are able to identify the challenges and then to have some direction to move.
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: (00:57)
Thanks again for joining us for The Missing Conversation where we do our very best to address the most pressing issues that the world is facing today, and what we look for the most practical, inspiring programs and innovative ideas to support a greater chance of survival for our planet. Today, we’re going to stay focused on the way that our religious and spiritual traditions, I believe immensely by facing and presenting our human challenges as a part of the teaching. If you’re a student or a part of a congregation, it’s so important that we don’t just rely on our teachers to share their own challenges and how they use the principles and the teachings and the wisdom when wanting to engage these inevitable parts of our life, even if they haven’t occurred yet, it’s also up to us as students to really ask our spiritual and religious teachers to integrate this in front of us, to foster a greater healing potential for ourselves and for the world. So, I’d like to start out by introducing Dave, my partner at the Golden Bridge Foundation and closest friend for 50 years.
Great to be here. I appreciate especially this particular series. Uh, it is, uh, a series about things that have had, uh, maybe the most dramatic impact on my life personally, and the things we’re talking about are deeply important to me.
Robert Strock: (02:53)
Thanks Dave. So, those of us with our hearts really focusing on what really matters in life and really want to live a life of purpose and meaning are so well directed when we’re zooming into our actions and our attitudes. And even if we’re not in a religious tradition or spiritual tradition, we still can be not dealing with our challenges. So, we could be good natured and we could be kind, we could be doing good actions. We could be nice, but it’s important for even this group of people that we’ve talked about in prior episodes to realize that we could fall prey to not dealing with our own challenging emotions. And so, it’s important that we look at our human tendency and frankly, the way we’ve been raised to overlook these cues of suffering and learn from them by bringing qualities of caring, to support these challenges.
Robert Strock: (04:18)
And of course we have to first recognize them because of the way we’re raised. Unlike it is for many children. This is a very complicated area because it’s so far away from anything that we learned. So, it’s really helpful to have a guide to help practicing this. We may be able to find a great therapist or teacher or minister. And if you haven’t had access to that, I believe you can recognize significant support by going to AwarenessThatHeals.org and downloading the free Introspective Guides, which lists 75 of the most challenging emotions and 75 of the healing qualities and actions that will help support us in this endeavor. This guide can always be useful because whenever you’re not feeling good, instead of moving away from it, it can encourage you to want to move toward it and say, what is this? And then have a list to scan.
Robert Strock: (05:32)
And then once you’re there, it can help. You asked a question and have a real tangible sense of how do I move from here? What qualities, what actions do I need to move toward? So, I can support myself and those around me now, many times when we’re in a spiritual or religious congregation or group or teaching, we presume that this is going to cover us in life. But as we’ve been talking about, there’s a great danger of premature transcendence, or sometimes it’s referred to as spiritual bypassing. And really what that means is we have a sense of well-being, we’re at peace, we think we understand, we know about death, where kind of riding in a good place, and that’s a wonderful place to be. However, we all are going to face the inevitable challenges of life, whether it’s the more serious ones of getting sick, friends getting sick death, dying, bankruptcy, disappointments, deep disappointments in relationships.
Robert Strock: (06:47)
And so, it’s really crucial that we are able to identify the challenges and then to have some direction to move. Now, I’m going to start off with an example of one more teacher that I had an intimate conversation who spent the weekend with, with me. And he was somebody that is really brilliant, great teacher, meditation, online teachings. And he shared with me very openly because it was quite obvious that I was asking 99% of the questions in our conversation, maybe 99.9. Did I ask him a question? Like, do you notice that I’m asking the majority of the questions between us and he kind of smiled and I smiled and it was friendly and he said, yeah, I do notice that. And to be honest with you, I know I’m a bit on the spectrum. And that means basically that I’m someone who can’t directly express love, or I can’t directly feel the normal empathy or have the same degree of personal communication from my side.
Robert Strock: (08:11)
And I said, I said to him, God, that’s brave of you to tell me that I really appreciate that. And can you see how beneficial that might be? Probably, especially when you’re in a group teaching, which is where I first met him at a private workshop in front of a hundred people. That if you shared that all the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people that are in the same situation could see that in spite of that limitation, you can be a teacher. And also, how are you dealing with that inside yourself with that recognition? I got no feel from that from either your books or your teaching or your workshop that you were dealing with, anything it appeared like you were riding above. And is there any way that you’d be willing to open up about that? Cause I think it could be incredibly beneficial for those that are on the spectrum or know people that are on the spectrum.
Uh, Robert, I’d like you to clarify because people have different connotations of being on the spectrum. And this is one element of it that people would, would understand if you’re looking at it from a certain point of view. And, and obviously this is a very highly in fact, ridiculously highly functional person, but being on the spectrum covers a lot more than that. Right.
Robert Strock: (09:45)
Right. I think it’s a very good question. Uh, there’s an incredible range of being, there’s probably a hundred levels of being on the spectrum where somebody can be a hundred percent fully functioning and you would never know it as you would never know it with him, unless you were really having a deep dialogue because he is not only functioning, but he’s massively gifted. And I think that’s one of the benefits of exposing it, that people can live a completely fulfilling life with a couple of limitations. And so, it’s not utterly transparent. And then it can go all the way from there where it’s very, very obvious and someone has severe limitations, and you could point them out of a crowd. So, that’s why I felt like it would be so beneficial so it could help people, both that are just barely on the spectrum, which is what he was because he was so high functioning and so capable of even being personable in his outreach, he’s got the effect of the inreach or, or more accurately,
Robert Strock: (10:59)
he is quite able to share things about his teachings, but when it comes down to really sharing deeper, emotional things about himself or asking you about deeper, emotional things about himself, that’s where the elements of being on the spectrum exist. So, your point is very well taken that most people see it as like a black and white feature and, and I’m using the term in the broadest sense possible. And there are tens of thousands of people that would not be noticeable, but still would be considered to have elements of being on the spectrum. I have a couple of friends that I would say would, would qualify as having elements that way. And for those that don’t know what the spectrum means, we’re referring to autism or Asperger’s and the whole spectrum from zero to a hundred. So that’s just to be clear, that’s what we’re really talking about.
Robert Strock: (12:07)
So, the main point that we’re really trying to emphasize here is we all need help with modeling. And if we just even acknowledged that we have a tendency to be withdrawn, that would be immensely helpful as a teacher. You know, I, I teach really well and in general, I’m relational and I married or I’m this or that, but I do have a tendency to withdraw. That would be a smaller example. And that’s something I have to remind myself, which is, I asked myself, how can I reconnect? And when I do that, that helps remind me to balance my tendency. But for those of you that have a tendency to withdraw, I want you to know I’m dealing with it too. And my relationships pointed out to me all the time. So, the question really that teachers need to ask themselves and students need to ask themselves regarding their teachers or their ministers or priests or rabbis, is, would you really be willing as they’re addressing their teacher or rabbi or minister, would you really be willing to share where your challenges are and how it applies to the teaching?
Robert Strock: (13:25)
Because it would be so beneficial to me and I believe others. And it would allow things like what we’ve talked about in the past, in our other series, that’s Awareness That Heals, where we use friendly mind, where if you have your issues, which we all do, then you want to meet them. Instead of with criticism, you want to meet them with a friendly mind that supports you, and if possible, a friendly heart too, but at least have our mental awareness there to support us. So, we don’t sink when we’re dealing with our greatest challenge. Now the solution might seem obvious to you, but there are frequently complications and you might say, well, why don’t I just go to therapy for this kind of help and the difficulty with going to a therapist? And this is very subtle, and this is not meant to be a put down on therapy, maybe a limitation, but not a put down, is that therapy in general is really taught to be values neutral, and focuses more on adjusting to the world and finding a way to feel better about ourselves with greater, greater sense of self.
Robert Strock: (14:54)
But it isn’t based on spiritual values. If we went in as a therapist with spiritual values, that would be laying a trip on a client. And so, if you’re asking a therapist on a more traditional level, which is probably 95% plus, they’re, they’re not going to look at compassion or loving the world or humanitarian values as being part of the deal. They’re going to be, yeah, they’re going to be looking at self-esteem and they’re going to be looking at how you can trust yourself more, but it’s not going to go right into the marriage of therapy, says, oh yeah, we’re facing our challenges and let’s look at what the spiritual values are that we can help you integrate. Now, there are a small percentage of therapists that definitely would do that, but it’s important I think for you to realize that this is going to require something that not only identifies the challenges, but also is looking at these core spiritual values and principles to really have a greater sense of mental health that really we could call spiritual religious health.
And you distinguish a little bit, uh, as far as the therapy side, somebody that comes in with an anger problem or, uh, has tendencies towards abuse or other kinds of things that would in a way from the therapist, point of view, potentially align up with the values you’re talking about, but at the same time, not necessarily because of the same reasons that they would aim in that direction, but yet the result would be something similar.
Robert Strock: (16:52)
Yeah. I, I would say similar, but a little bit different. Yes. So, certainly anyone dealing with anger management would be dealing with, how do I help this person contain their anger? How do I help this person become harmless? How can I help this person feel the anger, but not acted out and also not suppress it? So, that’s immensely beneficial and that will help lessen abuse, violence, alienation in relationships, but they aren’t necessarily going to take it. As far as developing deeper strength, that’s going to support the world. It may be strength that’s going to support your relationship, but it’s not necessarily going to expand into values that are dealing with our brotherhood and sisterhood. So, it’s much more personal and localized, you know, like a family system or a friendship, but it’s not going to expand, generally speaking beyond that, now there is a great need for therapy to, in my view, obviously I’ve been a therapist for more than 45 years, and this is immensely helpful.
Robert Strock: (18:09)
And in a certain way, you could say from my vantage point, it’s a great warmup for really looking at, okay, now I feel better about myself. How do I feel even better about myself? So, it really helps to create a sense of self-esteem. If it’s a good match with you and your therapist, it would help you as you’re talking about with anger issues or anxiety issues, or all kinds of issues. If we’re talking about standard neurotic issues that people are facing, again, we’re not dealing with really serious mental health issues, which is crucial for therapy, but for people that are going in that are fundamentally healthy, but they’re just trying to tweak themselves to be more satisfied and happy. That’s really going to work in a way, but if someone is really in touch with a longing for making a contribution to our world, which frankly is so much more common these days, because the issues are so immense to, to face a world that may not survive, uh, to, to face a country that’s divided against itself. It’s become even more obvious that mental and spiritual health need to merge and melt, which is something that we’re going to be going into later in dealing with the field of psychology of how important that it does include some values, and isn’t just values neutral and this gonna help the individual more than their relationship to their local environment or their internal reality. But it’s going to expand to the relationship to humanity in a broader way.
Just want to clarify one more thing about that. And I am assuming, and I, and, and I, and I believe I’m right in what you just expressed being the greatest potential, but at the same time, the value and the potential of an individual just within their own person or their own setting, whatever that may be, uh, taking care of business embodying those values in itself has a value. No?
Robert Strock: (20:32)
Absolutely. I mean, I, I hope there’s nothing that I’m saying that is interpreted as not validating that I, I am pro great therapy for everyone. As a matter of fact, I don’t even see it as being dominantly, just working on problems, but it’s also working on healing and, and developing character, uh, at to a certain degree. So, for someone to be more emotionally literate for someone to be able to be kinder to their environment, for someone to be a better, uh, local citizen, for someone to be a better lover for someone to be able to communicate all those are immensely valuable. It’s just that it doesn’t deal with the fact that what that might create is a lot of, you know, millions and millions and millions of healthy islands, but the islands are not necessarily linking to the greater world. So, the difference between therapy, if we were going to kind of use it as a metaphor is it’s going to make you a healthy island.
Robert Strock: (21:41)
And I think that there are certain people that that is all they really want. And so, it would be laying a trip on them to talk about spiritual values or humanitarian values. On other, on the other hand, there are a lot of people who are not satisfied with therapy because they realize, you know, what, there’s something empty inside me. And that emptiness is really a bit part of what leads to the calling to a greater connection to humanity and to the life issues, whether it’s economic injustice, or whether it’s global warming or whether it’s terrorism, somehow there’s a feeling like I’m connected to a greater part of humanity and maybe even the issues of life and death, um, or a sense of greater purpose. So yes, absolutely. It’s, it’s a vital path for almost everybody to be able to utilize and not at all, even in the orientation of primarily because you’re sick in fact, many times, not at all because you’re sick, but because you want to become more well.
And to take that to the next step about what you just described about, um, spirituality, religion, inner connectivity, I’ve known people, uh, at different times of my life. I even experienced this and identify with us that I am struggling and working with these values, these spiritual values that you’ve described, uh, recognizing my limitations and, and see value in. Sometimes it takes a great deal of time to move into the next level.
Robert Strock: (23:37)
So, from my vantage point, there is an all too frequent tendency, especially clients of therapists that are really quite together to not have another level to merge the benefit of spiritual values and have that really be the pivot from challenging emotions to being able to look at not only how can I take care of myself, but how can I take care of a greater amount of people and have that be an ever expanding potential. And it’s important for therapists not to lay a trip on their clients. So, this is a very gradual process and the way I frame it is how can you improve your quality of life and let them be the leader. And when they say, gee, I’m pretty happy. I’m pretty content say, well, how could you imagine your quality of life being even better? So, you keep expanding that without pushing someone into a spiritual or religious direction, I found that that is the really the master key of not laying a trip, letting them guide themselves, and then leading them into the question of, am I really interested in spiritual values or am I done? And some people go one way. Some people go the other way. And it’s irresponsible from the oath that we take as therapists to push people. Uh, on the other hand, it’s unfortunate if people are ready not to keep asking them that question. So, it’s important summarizing this show to see that for most of us, we live in a certain kind of compartmentalization and that compartmentalization might be before we get to therapy.
Robert Strock: (25:54)
And we aren’t aware of our emotions and we aren’t aware of our needs. And we’re, we’re just following the program we learned as a child, or they might be another kind of compartmentalization, which is more subtle where we’re actually pretty content, but we aren’t aware of the fact that the world might be dying. And we may very well have, as we’ve learned recently, we very well might have some terrorists from our own country coming and having internal uprising. We know we have political division, we know our democracy is threatened, and there’s a compartmentalization from that awareness. And there’s another level of that. Not being healthy without laying a trip on anybody. So, what we’re trying to do in this series, isn’t to lay a judgment, but to see that there’s levels of mental and spiritual health and there’s ways in which, especially our spiritual teachers, our religious teachers, our religious ministers, and all the derivatives of that could model this for us, tie it into the issues that humanity is facing and how they themselves, both personally, and in relationship to these greater issues would benefit the congregation that they’re teaching too.
Robert Strock: (27:33)
If they could include that and that the teacher and that the students have a responsibility to ask that of the people that they’re learning from. And they very well might be willing to make that shift. If a lot of us came forward and said, gosh, would you be willing to share how you’re dealing with your love relationship in some way that could help me or whatever your issues are, if we can move forward and ask that of those that we revere the most. And from my vantage point, whether it’s therapy or whether it’s spiritual teaching or religious teaching, we really want to just maximize the potential because our world is in such peril right now that we need to really reach out, no matter where we find ourselves. So, I hope that’s clear to all of you and that leads to an inquiry. Am I living my potential from wherever I am? And that’s my greatest wish for all of us. Thank you very much for your attention.
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