Discharging About and Handling Attacks

From a talk by Tim Jackins at the England Leaders' Workshop, January 2014

Attacks happen—and they don’t just happen when we challenge an oppression or the rigidities of an institution. They often happen on a personal level. 

Most of what are felt to be attacks are naive. The people attacking don’t really understand what they are doing. They are restimulated and act it out at you. We get attacked in relationships, at work—just about anywhere.

Almost always, being attacked is an indication that you are doing something rather well. If you weren’t, people wouldn’t bother to attack you since there wouldn’t be any hope of getting help from you with their material.1

What the “attackers” need is a session. They need help understanding their material. If they are not in RC, they generally believe their feelings. That’s what we all do until we get some theory and some perspective on our distresses.

It’s fine to be their counselor if you choose, if you think it’s the right thing to do to move the situation forward. But it isn’t usually enough to be a permissive counselor, to try to drain the pond by listening to them long enough. They need to know what’s happening. At some point you can start guiding the session. You can ask them what they are feeling, if they feel that way often, if other people have made them feel that way, if they remember a time long ago when the same thing happened. You can try to help them get a perspective on what’s going on.2

Sometimes an attack isn’t this naive. Instead, the person is looking to others for support for it. His or her material is hunting for other people’s agreement. Many people were ganged up on as children and are pulled to act that out. You usually need to interrupt this kind of attack before trying to counsel the people involved. 

One thing that works well is to not look worried. When three or four people come through the door looking unhappy, ideally you are not at all restimulated by it. Sometimes you know what’s happening and why. If your relationships with them are good enough and you are confident enough, you can give them a session. You can give them a better picture of reality than their distress presents. People really are hunting for reality, even when they get lost and target someone with their distress. 

You may need to talk about what you did that upset them. If you did a dumb thing, you need to say so. That can be enormously disarming and reassuring, because everybody is expecting you to rigidly defend everything you ever did.

If what you did was necessary but restimulating, you get to say something like, “I am sorry that what I did was hard on you, but something needed to be done, and that was the best way I knew how to do it.” You can describe what needed to be done and ask them if there was a better way. 

You are trying to get their minds out of their restimulations so that they can think about reality. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

It always helps to discharge on our feelings about attacks before they happen, to work on our own experiences with and fears about them. We can also discharge about the people who are likely to attack us. We tend to avoid talking about attacks because we don’t want them to ever happen, but we can’t make things nice enough that they won’t. We need to be able to handle contention and upset, even when it turns into an attack. Every fundamentals class needs to look at this.

We don’t have to “go victim.” Yes, it’s an attack. Yes, we are being targeted. So what? We don’t have to fall into all the feelings from having been attacked when we were small and helpless and react as if that’s happening in the present. It isn’t the same. We are not the same. We have a lot of information and abilities now. We have people who know us. We have allies. 

People often feel like they should handle an attack themselves. In general, it is more effective if someone else can step in and handle it. Most of us are afraid when somebody is attacked, so we step away. We get scared that there is a real problem, that we were fooled by the person. This happens consistently around anything connected with sex, or children. All you have to do is raise the issue and everybody backs away, even though usually they have no information at all. Their reaction is not the result of understanding something and deciding the best thing to do. They get scared that they have been fooled by the person being attacked and that maybe they themselves have colluded and will be blamed, too.

We all need to work on our versions of this fear so that we stand by each other. It would be nice to get to where we can look forward to handling attacks. We can imagine seeing an ally being attacked and ourselves stepping in and saying, “That’s it! No more. We will talk later. Back off! You don’t get to behave that way, no matter what happened in the past. Maybe there is a problem. Maybe there isn’t. We will figure it out. But you don’t get to treat anybody that way. I wouldn’t let anyone treat you that way. You have to stop, now.”

Just that step, by itself, will help everyone involved. Once you settle the waters, you have a basis for listening to people and working on things and figuring out what, if anything, needs to be done. Some people will want to run away. You will need to counsel them. You will need to tell them that attacks are inevitable, that you can promise them that. You can ask them, “Have you ever known anyone who was attacked? Have you gotten attacked yourself? What do you hope you will never be attacked for? Where are you most vulnerable? What would make you run away, or fall down and die?”

Another question is, “What mistakes have you made that you hope will stay hidden forever? (laughter) We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve done things out of our distresses that didn’t work at all and were hard on people. It’s all right. Whatever the mistake was, it’s all right. It isn’t all right to leave in place the distresses that could make us vulnerable to doing it again. That’s where the problem is. The past is not the problem. The problem is what’s messing up our ability to handle current events.

We need to talk about attacks before they happen. It’s much easier to get through to people before they are restimulated. We can be funny about it. We can suggest that they have a few raw eggs in their desk drawer so that when an attack comes through the door they have a way to respond. We can make light of it so that they can laugh about it. Most of us have been hurt in the area and need to discharge so that we are not immediately thrown into a panic when an attack happens.

Attacks will happen. I’ve been through a number of them that were really mean, really vicious. People tried to get me fired from my job, and so on. It can feel miserable when this happens. We can feel unjustly treated. We need to get sessions. We also need to talk to our allies. They need to see us willing to talk about it. The more scared we act, the more restimulated they get. We often try to hide our restimulations, but that doesn’t work. It scares people to see us restimulated and to not know what’s behind it, not know how bad something is or isn’t. We can get things out in the open so that we don’t add to people’s restimulations.


1 “Material” means distress.
2 “Going on” means happening.


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00