Creating the Conditions

Thanks, Michael, for raising this question [see “Working on Early ‘Unbearable’ Distress,” by Michael Levy]. I, too, have been thinking about the “nuts and bolts” [practical aspects] of accessing and working on early “unbearable” distress.

Thanks also for listing some important characteristics of this distress material. They seem accurate to me.

Everyone’s experiences and hurts are different. My deepest hurt was uniquely early as well as severe, so I don’t know to what extent my conclusions will apply to others. However, experience sharing can be useful, so I’ll proceed.

I remember Harvey Jackins doing his creative best to get me to face and feel my worst distress. Mostly I couldn’t “go there.” It was only later (after eventually being able to access and discharge the feelings) that I could make sense of what he had been observing and trying to get me to do.

However, even without his pushing and without my trying to access the feelings, the feelings eventually “came up” (came all the way out of occlusion). Then I had no choice but to discharge them.

I was wall-to-wall [continuously] miserable for two years, but discharge was readily available throughout that time.

A lot changed in my feelings and functioning after two years of intense daily discharge. I hadn’t cleaned up my whole collection of distresses, but I felt like I had been “born again.” Everything seemed new. It was amazing.

There is more to discharge, both of the early incident and of patterns that developed as a result of that foundational hurt. However, I know I’ve felt the worst. I know I can “survive” the worst feelings, just as I survived the original incident. Therefore I am no longer “booby-trapped” [vulnerable to being unknowingly triggered]. There is no longer a big, terrifying, mysterious “land mine” that I have to shape my life to avoid. When a residue of the feelings comes up again, I recognize it—“Oh, that’s you!” and go straight to discharge. Life is much better. Of course my “little girl downstairs” never stops wanting to access and discharge any and all of the rest of my hurts. We all have a strong ally in that regard.

I think that in my case the “little girl” wasn’t ready to “pull the switch” until certain conditions were met.

Some of us may have distresses that are configured such that the early “unbearable” distress can be more readily accessed (and perhaps the intense discomfort can be largely restricted to sessions).

Others of us (like me) apparently won’t let ourselves fully access our most “unbearable” distresses until we have the right conditions.

For me, the following conditions were met by the time my deepest hurt “decided” to come up for discharge:

  • I had two strong, long-term counselors who could be unconditionally there for me and stay unconfused no matter what I was feeling (or saying about what I was feeling). Each was available at least once a day for a mini- or a longer session. Plus I had a near-daily Co-Counseling session with one of several additional counselors.
  • I understood basic RC theory—which was a life raft and a light while I was “underwater.”
  • I had already recovered the full range of the discharge processes—crying, shaking, and so on—and could also let myself be close to someone physically, which was necessary for discharging my terror.
  • I had been in RC long enough that the above were in place.
  • I had space in my life for enough sessions.

In addition to the above, some people might need at least some of the following conditions to be met before they can go after [pursue] their unbearable distresses (or allow them to “come up”):

  • They have faced that they might be uncomfortable, both inside and outside of sessions, for an unknown length of time (it can feel like forever).
  • They have the determination to keep functioning (including in the counselor role) no matter what they are feeling. Otherwise, it’s too difficult to keep attention out. Basically, they need to have understood that it’s necessary to act on logic instead of feelings—and have the ability to do that.
  • They have enough time. At the time when I was feeling my unbearable distress, I had some slack in my schedule. Lack of time could be a significant obstacle and keep people from “going there.” One needs time for lots of sessions (I did, anyway); otherwise it could truly be unbearable.
  • Their life is in reasonably good order. Being surrounded by lots of restimulating challenges could be overly distracting, and the “little person downstairs” might pull back from feeling the deeper hurts.
  • They don’t believe “mental health” oppression. Society says we are “mentally ill” if we “fall apart,” feel bad much of the time, discharge a lot—basically, if we are not numb and “normal.”

Two additional ways to access the distress are as follows:

  • We can end an addiction “cold turkey” [immediately, not bit by bit]. This will generally bring up “unbearable” feelings for discharge. I discharge some of the residue of my early “unbearable” distress when I don’t eat addictively.
  • We can take on [undertake] a real-life challenge that brings up “unbearable” feelings.

Of course we have to “get ourselves” to do these last two things. And many of us won’t do that unless enough conditions are in place so we can discharge what comes up.

We need to ask ourselves, “Is it worth doing whatever is necessary to recover from these early ‘unbearable’ hurts?” I think it is.

Thanks for creating the opportunity for me to think about this, Michael.

Katie Kauffman

Seattle, Washington, USA

Reprinted from the e-mail discussion list for RC teachers

(Present Time 191, April 2018)


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