The "Reality Agreement" Approach to a Session

The term "reality agreement" was decided upon as a name for this approach or "technique" after the article about it was written for the July Present Time. Many people have been discussing its use (as the news about it has spread by grapevine and telephone and workshop), and many names were being used for it. So it was decided to settle on "reality agreement" as a common title to use with each other when we discussed our experiences.

I will relate some further experiences of mine in using it, give some reports that I have heard, and, at the end of this article, reprint comments from some letters I have received.

It is a common conclusion by the people who've been using this that the basic reason for the effectiveness of the procedure is the agreement between the client and the counselor that they will communicate, answer questions, and support each other within their commitment to deal only with the rational side of the universe, persons, or situations. The two formally agree that the irrational, patterned, pseudo-reality will not be allowed to intrude into their communication or their attentions, and, if it does intrude, it will be rejected and attention returned to actual reality.

Reports from some Co-Counselors tell of trying to simply repeat the questions that they had seen work well in a demonstration (in which the agreement had been made) but not themselves making the agreement. They were disappointed. Without the agreement, the technique either "didn't work" or seemed to "run out" very quickly.

Other reports say, and my own experience agrees with them, that when the agreement has been made and understood by the client, the counselor often seems to have little more to do than to "be there." The counselor pays attention and is present as a reminder of the agreement. The client moves from one thought to another spontaneously and with continuing discharge, gaining momentum as time goes on. The client often reports feeling a sense of elation, discovery, and liberation which, as it is communicated briefly to the counselor, leads to fresh bursts of discharge.

The following is one version of the way the crucial agreement can be set up:

Counselor. For this to work, it is important that you and I are in agreement that the actual reality of the universe and everything in it is completely distinct from the pseudo-reality which has been accumulated from patterns, oppression, misinformation, lack of information, and mistakes of the past, which has often been presented to us in the past as a substitute for reality. Are we agreed that these two things, the reality and the pseudo-reality, are completely distinct and do not have anything in common at all?

Client (sometimes immediately, sometimes after taking thought): Yes, I agree that this is so.

Counselor: And in particular, the sub-set of reality which is you, the actual nature of yourself, is different than the pseudo-reality which has often been pushed on you as a description of yourself; the invalidations, misunderstandings, disappointments, and oppressions which you have been "told" are what you are like.

Client: Yes, I agree that they are completely different.

Counselor. With that agreement between us, I'm going to ask you some very simple questions, and I need your agreement that you will answer them only from the viewpoint of reality itself, without any pseudo-reality being allowed into your answers. You may find this difficult (some people do), but if you slip, I will remind you to keep your answers based in reality, standing firmly on that viewpoint and not allowing any pseudo-reality into your answers.

Client: Yes, I agree to that.

Counselor: How good are you?

Client. Oh, pretty good. In fact, I could say very good. Sticking to reality only, I am completely good. (Client begins to discharge.)

To start with "How good are you?" has generally been profoundly effective, apparently because the client's private knowledge that he or she is "completely good" contradicts the widespread invalidation which all of us have endured in our lives. When things are "right" between the particular counselor and the particular client, hours of discharge are available without much further activity from the counselor except his or her reassuring, committed presence.

My own experiences are leading me to think that the less of an active role I play, once the process has begun well for the client, the more skillfully the client will develop the ability for himself or herself of silently seeking out and examining a long series of past conflicts with the confidence of this new viewpoint. The discharge process will tend to gain momentum as it proceeds.

For many people, at least, the calm, silent expectation of the counselor that the client will proceed mentally to review present and past reality from the viewpoint of his or her "goodness," "innocence," "purity," etc., etc., etc. is more helpful than any intervention from the counselor. I have found that some of my own distresses (anxiety, over-eagerness) push me to tend to "help" too much. If I can remember to not "help," or if I restrict any interventions by me to saying, "Stay with it," the independence and initiative of the client gather strength and momentum. If the client is having trouble keeping attention on the answers to the question, the counselor can simply repeat the question softly and confidently.

It is true that many experienced clients will be found to have been "trained" to expect the counselor's intervention (and stop and wait for it), but the "training" can be undone by the counselor waiting longer and longer intervals between interventions, while appearing relaxed and confident to any questioning looks which the client turns on him or her.

We began working with this approach with the exploration of goodness, innocence, purity, confidence, competence, intelligence, and power. It seems as if we can probably move effectively also into the areas of affection, closeness, love, commitment, responsibility, and "ability to be self starting."

There has been some experimentation, taking into account the observed nature of particular chronic difficulties that the particular client has endured. When the client is able to respond cooperatively, these experiments have been effective. Among some of these questions that have worked well are: "How attractive are you?" "How charming are you?" "How successful are you?" "How much do I love you?"

I speculate that we may here be uncovering the tracks of a very ancient human mistake. If this is true, this mistake has side-tracked and distorted human progress for a long period of time.

Other species of humans besides our own have lived in the past. We are sure of their existence from the evidence of fossil remains. All present humans, however, are members of one very closely related sub-species that is estimated to have been in existence for approximately one hundred thousand years.

If the earliest members of our sub-species were as much like ourselves as the available evidence indicates, they certainly were vulnerable to being hurt physically and emotionally. This means they were vulnerable to acquiring patterns, by accident or by contagion, even though the principal current mechanism for installing patterns - oppression - was still a long way in the future.

Once a distress pattern was installed upon them, these forebears of ours must have noticed, perhaps from introspection, that part of themselves (their humanness and their intelligence) was not working as well as it had before the hurtful experience. They undoubtedly tried to do something about it.

If they responded in the way in which they had learned to deal with other difficulties in their lives, they undoubtedly tried to "take a look at" the phenomenon, "think about it," and "find a solution." It seems probable that this is just what our forebears did. For them and for us, when we have an objective problem outside of ourselves to be dealt with, the more attention we pay to it, the more we think about it, the more likely we are to find a solution.

Unfortunately, as I think we are finally coming to clearly understand, putting attention on a problem caused by a pattern only helps in very special circumstances, that is, when someone else will pay attention to us, when discharge is permitted and encouraged, and some motivation to persist in the process is furnished. To pay attention to a problem caused by a pattern in usual circumstances is to become victimized by the pattern, to have it extend its sway over us, to add another layer of distress to the pattern for each time we try to deal with it in this way. Dealing well with a problem caused by a pattern involves not putting one's thoughtful attention on it, involves placing one's attention away from the distress and on information that contradicts the distress, on taking an attitude that refuses to identify the pattern with oneself.

We have, in the last forty years, made many partial attempts in this direction. We have talked of and used "pleasant memories," "the benign reality," "the upward trend," "reclaiming power," and many other concepts pointing in this direction. We have increasingly noticed and proposed the effectivenes of "contradiction." We have cheered the emergence of the "repeated question" technique ("Why do you love me, counselor?") as involving no rehearsal of the distress.

I hope, expect, and am somewhat confident that these present developments around the reality agreement approach may mark a decisive turning point in our progress. If we can master the use of these insights, it should be possible to proceed directly to the elimination of the great piles of (invalidation, self-doubt, fearful conformity, and submission) distresses that have visibly accumulated upon almost every human.

It may be possible to regain the zest, confidence, initiative, and power that can change the functioning of the world decisively and in a very short time.

Harvey Jackins

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