An Important Clarification

One of the incidental, but important, results of the Liberation Workshops was the clarification of Co-Counseling between people coming from different sides of relationships which are oppressive in our society; Co-Counseling between blacks and whites, between women and men, between Latinos and Anglos, between adults and children.

We have understood for some time that it is correct for an RCer to stay in the role of "counselor" in any situation involving distress or restimulation, that this is the responsible, human attitude. We have agreed to try not to approach situations as "clients" in everyday life, to not put other people in the role of listeners to or handlers of our distresses. We try not to act on our distresses or restimulations or bring them up to others.

The only times we allow ourselves to be clients are when it is our turn in a Co-Counseling session to be counseled, when the second person has clearly agreed to be our counselor. Even then, it is part of our commitment that we not work on material that is distressing or invalidating to the particular person that is our counselor. When we plan to introduce a new person to Co-Counseling, for example, we plan to give him or her a session and then invite the person to be counselor to us, but we choose carefully what we bring up and how we discharge on it when we are client so that the newcomer will not be frightened or invalidated by our performance.

Yet Third World RCers at workshops or in classes with white RCers often find themselves asked to listen to a wide gamut of restimulations from the whites, both as client and as counselor, both in and out of sessions. These range from the blatant "You frighten me! (shudder, shudder). You won't rape me, will you?" kind of insult to the "subtle" "I've always admired black people's appearance. You're so exotic;" from the "I feel so guilty for the handicaps you people have endured. I eat Mexican food every chance I get," to the "I'm so glad, glad, glad, you're here! We've needed you!" to the "There was a Japanese girl in our class in Junior High."

All these behaviors have in common the exhibition of the white's restimulation to the Third World person, the treating of the Third World person as a stereotype, the failure to see him or her as the distinctive human individual he or she is. They are clear indications of the depth of racism that has been imposed on whites in our culture and of the unawareness which our guilt and other distress continues to use to hide it from us.

Usually, the white RCer who has been offensive in this way but has managed to discharge somewhat at the expense of restimulating the Third World RCer, will feel relieved and a little triumphant at having "worked on" his or her racism. He or she may even expect the Third World RCer to be grateful or appreciative for his or her having done this "difficult thing" in the interests of eliminating racism and achieving unity. Needless to say, the Third World RCer at this point is feeling pretty hopeless about whites in general and white RCers in particular, and is probably considering dropping out of RC.

"But," says the white RCer, when this is explained, "I couldn't help being restimulated, and I needed to work on what was on top." This, of course, is not so. The restimulation may be unavoidable, but to give in to it and exhibit it in this situation is pure irresponsibility and not Co-Counseling. This view of Co-Counseling is a caricature of real RC theory and policy, not only in these special cases, and leads to low-level counseling under any conditions.

"But, but, but " continues the white RCer's pattern, "If we don't Co-Counsel on these things, how can we get rid of our racism, how can we break down the barriers between us?" The answer, of course, is for white RCers to be clients on the subject of racism with a white counselor, preferably with a very sharp, determined white counselor who will lead the client from an incident of being oppressed himself or herself in some way to an incident of opposing or refusing to collude with white racism and, only then, to an incident of colluding with, or remaining silent in the face of, white racism. We have learned that the safety of the first two steps by-passes and contradicts the occluding guilt sufficiently for the white client to reach and discharge the basic content of racism distress, which turns out to be terror or deep grief at being forced by society to accept such inhumanness.

Similarly, a woman should not have to listen to a man work on his sexism. He can do this with male counselors.

Adults should not "dump" their distresses about children on children when children and adults co-counsel (or any other time). Disabled RCers should not have to counsel other RCers on their "feelings" or "attitudes" about disability. This is a general rule for Co-Counseling between members of any groups in our society which play opposite roles in oppressive or discriminatory relationships enforced by the society.

Should white RCers, on the other hand, undertake to be respectful, permissive counselors to Third World RCers as they exhibit and discharge their distress and feelings about whites (including their stereotyping of that particular counselor) and about racism, and never insist on a turn back on the same material? Should male RCers listen respectfully and indefinitely with full counseling skills and support to the grievances and distress of women clients about men, the particular male counselor, and sexism, without ever turning the tables? Should adult and parent RCers listen with respect and attention to all the complaints of a child about grownups, including the counselor, without feedback then or later?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

A white Co-Counselor at the Liberation Workshop said that Co-Counselors from the oppressing groups should do this because they are "beholden" to them, that they owed this to Third World, women, or child RCers. This is an expression of guilt, however, and is not a good enough reason.

Yes. Yes. Yes. For one good, overwhelming reason.

Because it works. For a member of an oppressing group (white, male, adult, etc.) to listen with respect and without reaction to, and to counsel well, a member of the oppressed group of the relationship is to contradict all distresses in this area and will lead to discharge (then sometimes, but, hopefully, usually later) and re-emergence. For a member of an oppressed group (Third World, female, child, etc.) to be listened to and counseled well and with respect and no feedback by a member of the oppressing group is to contradict all distresses in this area and will lead to discharge (later sometimes, but hopefully, right in the session) and to re-emergence.

Is this "fair" asks the cornered pattern? There should be nothing "fair" in our treatment of patterns. It is fair and positively helpful to the humans involved and begins to undo the enormous unfairness of the past.

Some Co-Counselors from oppressor groups may not yet be able to hold this correct attitude toward Third World persons, women, or children, but they should not attempt to relate in RC to these people until they can.

These are concrete guidelines toward the wonderful warmth and unity between all RCers of every group which we saw beginning to emerge at the Liberation Workshops.

Harvey Jackins

Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07