An Understanding Of Commitment

The present focus in RC on making a commitment brings together important practical and theoretical issues. Observing a person making a commitment is a very optimistic and challenging experience, the practical effects of which are confirmed by the few reports to date of people acting on their commitments in the wide world.

My initial reaction to watching a commitment done correctly (1978 Midwest Teacher's Workshop) was the sudden "falling into place" of my knowledge about human emergence; all of my RC knowledge about humans was placed in a clear perspective and brought to a sharp focus. There was a strong sense of seeing human emergence on a higher level than had been apparent with previous RC modes.

A unique aspect of the act of making a commitment is the way that discharge occurs. The distinct impression is that discharge is occurring as a by-product, that the discharge is not the primary activity. An examination of the particulars of the making of a commitment in more detail makes this impression quite understandable. Where is the person's attention primarily focused? On the commitment, of course; but what exactly does this mean? A commitment directly, one might almost say forcibly, directs one's attention to further emergence: not just further emergence, but to the known limits of human emergence. A decision is being made, a solemn promise to one's self and to others, to devote all of one's humanness to a particular course of action in a fearless manner. The possible consequences are truly inconsequential from the point of view of the logic of the commitment. As our attention is firmly and unceasingly focused on further emergence distresses are encountered that seemingly interfere, with the commitment. We are only subsidiarily aware of them and therefore they are discharged in a seemingly off-hand way.

A very interesting thought arises from the above discussion: Where our attention is focused has important practical consequences. What if our attention were always focused at the level of emergence that occurs in the making of commitments? One important consequence would be of our having a clearer and more correct perspective on the relationship between our emergence and our distress. We would not give distress our primary attention, although we would be no less aware of its existence and how it operates. Ideally, since we would always have the correct perspective on emergence vis-a-vis distress, we would never become inappropriately attentive to our distress, or be "hung up" on a pattern; no one would ever "plateau off" in their emergence.

The grasping of a correct perspective on the relationship between emergence and distress can be seen in the following fantasy. Imagine, some time in the future, some fully emerged humans discussing the history of human emergence and how it began on a consciously rational basis with RC in the 1970's. Imagine further that they are discussing the year 1978 and the practice of making commitments. Picture the compassionate humor that is expressed as they listen to tapes or even review memories of people practicing and making commitments. Why the compassionate humor? Because fully emerged humans would not have to practice making commitments. Their thinking would be focused on what we call full emergence, or on what they might call simply being human. If they were hurt in some way they would efficiently and thoroughly discharge so they could resume being fully emerged humans.

The principle of thinking all the time is now seen as having important practical consequences rather than being regarded as only a rational-sounding exhortation. The act of thinking all the time, which is a commitment, sharply focuses attention on human emergence and produces a clearer perspective towards emergence and distress, and thereby increases the possibility of rational behavior.

At the Midwest Teacher's Workshop, Harvey reported that people who have made commitments and successfully acted on them in the wide world state that it is like always having a counselor in your head. Such a statement further confirms the practical aspect of a commitment. It is similar to a co-counseling session where our behavior suddenly changes in the direction of further emergence as soon as our counselor says, "You're on," and looks us in the eye. A commitment is a call to emergence that combines rational thinking, discharge, and action in the wide world. The execution of a commitment, done correctly, is a decidedly different experience than those obtained from previous RC modes.

Jeffrey Von Glahn
Ypsilanti, Michigan
Present Time, No. 34, p. 32

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