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Scorning Fear

Harvey Jackins, at the 1981 World Conference of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities

By “scorning fear” we mean not respecting fear, treating fear with contempt, with amused derision.

About two years ago, we faced the fact that some of our most experienced Co-Counselors tended to be going ’round and ’round1 on some not-very-important grief, and not progressing rapidly. We recognized that people, in a way, did not know how to discharge fear or, more correctly, were not receiving enough encouragement and support against their fear to leap the boundary between tears and shaking. We used the slogan “Scorning Fear” to highlight the proposed solution.

I have great good news for us, in case you didn’t already know it. Most of our experienced counselors are now shaking freely and enjoying it at least as much as they used to enjoy their crying. Patterned distortions crept in, as usual, however, and I found in many places fear being “scorned” by the counselor sitting back and saying, “Scorn your fear, client,” and then complaining that the technique didn’t really work. (laughter from group) The reality of the matter is that the client has been scorning the fear all along, just as much as she or he could figure out a way to do it, and the real improvement necessary is for the counselor to scorn the client’s fear. If we don’t keep that clear, we will get into distortions, such as the counselor reproaching the client for having fear, or something like that. Workable practice consists of the counselor taking an unafraid attitude toward the client’s fear.

L—: Will you give us a demonstration of this sometime in the workshop?

Harvey: How about2 right now? What are you scared of, L—?

L—: Standing up and asking this question. (laughter from group) I’m scared right now of talking to you.

Harvey: That’s an interesting fear.

L—: Yes (laughter).

Harvey: You will probably meet your death from it, but keep on. I can see the headlines now: “Innocent Conference Attendee Has Heart Attack on Floor of Conference.” (much laughter from L— and group)  “Careless treatment by leader charged.” (more laughter)

L—: I’m glad I raised this question (laughter, shuddering).

Harvey: What are you afraid will happen?

L—: I’m afraid that I will say something really stupid.

Harvey: I think you can count on that. (much laughter from group and L—) (To audience) Light, pleasant sarcasm is not the only way to contradict the fear. Once the shakes get going, you’d better get your arms around him and let him feel that there’s some unafraid support there, and do many other things, but humor is not a bad way to get started. (To client) That’s a very interesting fear you have there. What else might happen?

L—: I might be massively rejected by this entire group for asking questions.

Harvey: Care3 to look around and see the expressions on their faces about your interruption of their valuable time?

L—: They seem delighted (laughter).

Harvey: I don’t get that impression. (much laughter from group and client) Okay to put a check on it4?

L—: Yes.

Harvey: Fear is scorned by the counselor. Incidentally—as in most counseling—tone of voice, facial expression, and the communication of relaxed confidence is very important.

To get started, we’re going to have to be a little daring. When the client says, “I’m afraid of death,” we can say in a relaxed way, “That’s interesting. Do you think you’ll ever die?” and if the client says mumble, mumble, we can happily say, “Well, you probably will,” and the tension will get contradicted and the client will begin discharging. You may choke on it a little the first time (demonstrates to group laughter), but if you try, somebody’s going to discharge a little, some small slack will come in, and we’ll be able to begin modeling for each other.

The basic fact here is that in order to get restimulated by our client’s fear, we have to identify our fear with the client’s fear. This takes a lot of work. You think it’s automatic, but that isn’t so. It takes a lot of effort. Anybody here5 who has a fear of death? (laughter) Okay. Whose death? Yours?

Q—: Yes.

Harvey: (To audience) Now, I’d actually have to go through a lot of work to think, “Oh, me too. I’m afraid of death. We are both afraid of death. We are in the same boat. Tell frightened me about it.” (laughter) That takes a lot of work. You want to remain rational. When she says, “My death,” you say, “ Your death doesn’t frighten me.” (much laughter from group)

Q—: I got confused because you’re joking about the fear, and I can’t see how that will bring trembling.

Harvey: Did you tremble when we joked about it?

Q—: A little bit.

Harvey: I don’t want to take the time for another demonstration, but I assure you that my lighthearted approach will bring discharge, though not necessarily instant approval, from you.

It takes persistence. You know how music tapes usually have a “leader”6 on them? Trembling and tears often have a “leader” of laughter that comes first, because all of us have been made embarrassed about our discharge. So always be happy to help your clients get started laughing, even when it is other discharge that they are after.7 Be happy if they laugh, because the other discharges will follow right behind.

From pages 94 to 97 of “Recent Discoveries:
The Key Concepts and Insights of
Re-evaluation Counseling to Date—Part IV,”
in The Reclaiming of Power


1 Around and around
2 “How about” means why not.
3 “Care” means would you like.
4 “Put a check on it” means stop there.
5 “Anybody here” means is there anybody here.
6 Harvey is referring to the reel-to-reel audiotapes of earlier years. The “leader” was the piece of non-magnetic blank tape that preceded the audio recording.
7 “After” means wanting.


Last modified: 2014-08-06 18:48:16+00