Approaching a Major Turning Point

A number of insights have been occurring in the last few months. These and a number of shifts in the quality of work within the Communities and in their relations to the wide world indicate to me that a major change in the practice of Co-Counseling and in the functioning of our Communities is imminent or already taking place. In one sense this can be described as actually beginning to function and practice the way the theory has described. There are, however, some new elements as well.


One striking new development is the re-definition of "restimulation." An early definition of "restimulation" was "the involuntary association of past distresses with the present." This definition has been useful. It has enabled many of us to find a viewpoint outside of guilt and blaming of ourselves for being upset by conditions not in themselves very threatening. The notion "I was restimulated" was a very relieving replacement for "what in the world is wrong with me that I get so upset?" Historically this definition has played a useful role; but as counseling has progressed it has become more and more evident that there are some contradictions with our other insights in accepting this definition of restimulation. If we propose to reclaim total power, for example, how can we fit that with any notion of restimulation as "involuntary association over which we had no choice." We have also been talking for some years about "choosing not to be restimulated." This also conflicts with the old definition of restimulation. If it was truly "involuntary," how could we "choose"?

In particular, we have noted the different behaviors of different Co-Counselors. Some "rise to the occasion" and take charge of other people's upsets. Some play the role of being upset and demanding attention in all kinds of situations, whether this behavior is appropriate to the situation or not.

We are currently re-defining restimulation in the following way:

Restimulation is the, often or usually unaware but nevertheless deliberate, choosing to bring up past distresses, using the excuse of similarities in the present, in the hope of converting the present into a counseling situation for the person to be client where somebody else will pay enough attention that the person can secure some discharge.

This new definition has bothered and will bother a number of excellent Co-Counselors. It seems to them to fling them back into feeling guilty about all the times in the past when they have been upset. The re-definition, however, need not have that effect; and to operate on this new definition will certainly tend to restore the direction of our lives to our own control much better than acceptance of the old definition would or did. It may possibly have the effect of slowly encouraging all of us to become more in-charge persons, more and more not allowing the patterns to interfere with our thinking but continuing to think and handle present situations well regardless of any pull to notice similarities to past distress that the fading old habit will still tend to bring to mind. (We will be discharging sometimes, not discharging at others, but always keeping thinking.)

The fear expressed by many people that this new definition will return them to pretending calmness, "keeping a stiff upper lip," or suppressing discharge is not borne out in intelligent practice. It has long been plain that we can discharge without submitting to interrupting our thinking. Very possibly we may secure even more discharge in this mode than in the one that we have become accustomed to under the old definition.


An important insight came from the October 1982 Counseling-With-Supervision Workshop. This was that a principal reason why the practice of counseling has not lived up to its theoretical clarity is the existence, for all of us, of habit-patterns established from the time of our earliest hurts of keeping our attention at all times on our old distress in hopes that someone might pay attention to us so that we could achieve discharge. These habit-patterns have not worked well and are completely out-of-date once the theory of Re-evaluation Counseling offered the promise of effective sessions. These habit-patterns are now being countered by deliberate and repeated decisions to change these habits into the more effective ones of keeping our attention in present time.

(The guilt and fear of humiliation over not having lived up to our commitment to be counselors to others [having, in effect, kept our attention on our own distress when we had agreed to place it at the disposal of clients] is a reinforcing distress; but this is able to be coped with and is successfully being dealt with by a growing number of Co-Counselors.)


The recent workshops in England, Scotland, and Ireland improved our awareness of how these difficulties have persisted. Repeatedly Co-Counseling pairs, who individually are strong leaders in the wide world and excellent counselors within the Communities, stepped in front of large workshops to present their counseling for supervised analysis and criticism. Their performances as counselors were often so bizarre that we were forced to realize that we were dealing with a separate, though related, phenomenon.

It became plain that the permissive and tolerant atmospheres which we had deliberately created within the Co-Counseling Community and its various functions as measures of safety had encouraged the development of "inappropriate clienting" (or, as the working-class workshop termed it, "cheating") into a widespread addiction within our Communities. We have allowed people to remain ineffective counselors through tolerating their attempting to bring up their own distresses when they had agreed to be counselors. We have encouraged this addiction through tolerating such poor counseling when we were clients and through excusing it or allowing it to pass uninterrupted in our workshops or classes.

In general we have acted out a willingness to condone and permit regular violations of the basic Co-Counseling relationship. This relationship requires that the counselor's attention shall be toward the client. It is also basic etiquette that one shall not seek to play the role of client except when someone has awarely and explicitly agreed to be counselor. It is plain that we are dealing with a group or Community phenomenon here, not just with an individual one. This addiction has contaminated much of our Communities. Many Co-Counselors have tolerated "cheating" by their counselors and then "gotten even" by doing the same thing when they were counselors in their turn.


This explains a number of puzzling things. Our theory and our work as a Community has won us the admiration of many people in the wide world. But we have also received rejection and avoidance from some people (whose admiration and cooperation we seek and need) because of the appearance given by many Co-Counselors of being completely wrapped up in their own miserable pasts or "compulsive introspection." This also perhaps explains why some of our effective leaders in the past have dropped out of activity, even though they understood and used the theory well. It is possible that they became so disgusted with this addictive "clienting all the time" practice that they chose to take their leadership into the wide world where people, whatever their other difficulties, had not picked up this "loathsome addiction" of "clienting all the time" at others.

The knowledge of how to handle human relationships, which we have acquired in Co-Counseling, has been taken into the wide world by a small minority of Co-Counselors and has been found to work extremely well in wide-world situations. It has often worked much better in the wide world than it has worked inside the Community. We can see now that this was because the habit-patterns and the "loathsome addiction" were interfering with its function between ourselves. The "addiction" has observably erupted more when the expectation or presence of lots of free attention was present in a situation.

These successes achieved by a small number of RCers who have taken what we have learned about human relationships into the wide world and applied it encourages initiative for much more direct changes in the situations around us. We can plan much, more active intervention to eliminate the danger of nuclear holocaust, for example, or to organize people against enduring the costs of the economic collapse of the society.


The initial successes of the Wygelian Leaders' Groups has made it plain that we can very quickly build representative Communities which embrace every section of the population and achieve a workable system of cooperation between them. We are actually applying, in this form, our realization that people have been so deeply divided by the oppressive society that it is necessary for each group to find safety in homogeneous organization first; and then, and only then, reach out with aware, clearly-expressed communication to the other groups.


Taken together, these insights and changes and prospects also indicate that, as individuals, many of us are about to take complete charge of our own lives. I think we are about to, at last, live our lives fully, accomplish all the desired and necessary changes in our environments and model for and organize large numbers of people around us to participate in the necessary upward trend actions. It seems that we are about to houseclean in our Communities to root out some of the nonsense we have tolerated in our practices. We can expect to unify our theory and practice and to begin to function in a business-like manner that will attract to us the most advanced and aware elements of the population around us. We should soon begin, in a decisive way, to interrupt the destructive antics and careenings of the collapsing society.


Our theory has evolved quite successfully in spite of the confusion that has attended our practice. Our theory is available to us. Our literature speaks to anyone who reads it, in spite of the limited use we have made of it to date. The distinction between "Co-Counseling" and "the wide world," which was correctly created for the purposes of safety but which has acquired so many confusing patterned trappings, can be cleaned up and kept rational.

To eliminate the addictive phenomena of tolerating bad counseling, tolerating inappropriate clienting, tolerating people rehearsing obsessive interest in their own distresses, will take a group effort. I think that firm commitments and decisions to be counselor when we are in the role of counselor, to apply our knowledge vigorously, to not tolerate bad counseling, to use the tool of supervised counseling, quick reviews of each counseling session, the client counseling the counselor, and even, on occasion, the Golden Ring will take care of this very well.

A period in which the promises of RC will be fulfilled for all of us, instead of just for some of us, appears to be imminent.

Harvey Jackins

Last modified: 2016-12-20 06:43:20-08