Handling Oppressive Behavior in RC

At the 2017 World Conference we strengthened our Guideline on “Handling Disagreement, Criticism, and Upset” to make it clear that it should also be used for handling the acting out of oppressor distress. We strengthened it again in 2022 (Guideline M.5.A.)

We have a strong culture in RC of not acting out distress recordings at one another, of treating each other well, of acting as allies to one another against all forms of oppression. But oppressor distress recordings are installed on all of us in our society, and their effects are deep and confusing. So despite our best efforts, we act them out everywhere, including in RC.

In RC we work to interrupt all distressed behavior without blaming, shaming, or gossiping about each other for having distresses. (Blame, shame, and gossip do not free people from distress recordings or move a situation forward.) We strive to remember each other’s humanness and to treat each other as human beings. We have also worked hard to improve our ability to stand up and speak out against oppression. And stopping oppressive behavior in the moment is usually more important than the way in which we do it. (We will attain elegance with practice and discharge, but we should not wait until we can act without restimulation.)

Many times we are unable to recognize oppressive behavior in the moment, or we recognize it but are unable to take action in the moment to stop it. In these cases, we should follow the multi-step procedure in Guideline M.5.A., moving through the steps as needed to resolution. Central to this is speaking directly to the person who has acted oppressively toward us instead of going to others to complain about them.

Applying Guideline M.5.A. to an incident in which we have been targeted with oppression, and have gone through steps a - d1 could look like this:

We conclude that someone has acted oppressively toward us. We communicate to them that their behavior is oppressive and how. Then one of the following happens:

  • They listen and agree with us. We each have a session (always in a way that doesn’t spread upset about the person acting out the distress). We come back together for clean-up and an apology from the oppressing person.
  • They disagree. We separate and each have a session. If after discharge and further communication, they still don’t agree, we discharge to keep clarifying our thinking. If we still think the behavior was oppressive, we ask an experienced Co-Counselor or an RC leader to help us as we continue to address the issue. If the issue still is unresolved, we might involve our Area or Regional Reference Person or the relevant International Liberation Reference Person.

Speaking directly to Co-Counselors and RC leaders2 about how they’ve acted out oppression may be difficult until we have discharged enough on how we have been hurt and silenced for standing up for ourselves. But being able to speak up when we are being oppressed, or soon after, is important for us and for the RC Community. We struggle especially to address leaders who have acted in oppressive ways. But everyone, including leaders, has been damaged by oppressor distresses, and it’s important that we use our process to correct our leaders as well as fellow Co-Counselors.

We want to be free of any distress that makes us passive in the face of the acting out of distress by anyone; we want to help free each other from oppressor distresses; and we want our Community to be free of them. Because the distresses that silence us and make us passive can be heavy and take time to discharge, we ask that if addressing oppressive behavior is difficult for you, you request assistance from an experienced RCer or an RC leader, so the issue can be addressed. We do want these issues addressed and resolved at all levels of the Community.

Usually these issues are addressed successfully (though not always easily or quickly) within local RC Communities and everyone grows from handling them. But if they are not resolved with assistance from the Area, Regional, and Liberation Reference Persons, Tim Jackins (the International Reference Person) or I (the ex-Alternate International Reference Person) want to be involved.

Our policies in this area, as in many others, are different from policies outside of RC. They may not make sense without our understandings that everyone is in both oppressed and oppressor roles, that oppressed people can reclaim full power, and that people with heavy oppressor distresses can free themselves from them.

Because we know that people can change with discharge, we usually do not give up on people or exclude them from our Community. (However, if the oppressive patterns are heavy and the Community does not have the resource to handle them, we might need to exclude the person or remove them from leadership to protect the Community, at least until we have the resource to counsel them.)

We will not be perfect in applying this Guideline. We have been pulled to tolerate too much acting out of oppressor distresses, as we often feel uncertain about ourselves, powerless to stand up, or afraid of the reaction if we interrupt them. But I have seen this changing in the Communities, and I am excited about the level of commitment to the liberation of all people that is possible if we consistently stand up against oppressor patterns.

Please discharge about Guideline M.5.A. and using it to address oppressor distresses along with disagreement, criticism, and upset.

Diane Shisk

Seattle, Washington, USA

(Present Time 190, January 2018--updated February 2023)

1 a. Counsel, discharge, and think about the concern raised

    1. with the goal of seeing the situation as clearly as possible;
    2. with the goal of resolving the issue in a manner that supports the re-emergence of all involved;
    3. in ways that don’t spread the upset by restimulating others (for example, without using names, by working on the related early hurts, and by counseling with someone who has both a good relationship with the other Co-Counselor and can maintain confidentiality).

2  Guideline M.5. reminds us to discharge on our distresses about leaders (see subsection Issues with Leaders and the Community).

Last modified: 2023-02-28 01:59:32+00