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“Normal” Patterns and RC Leaders

As we fully reclaim the discharge process, we go up against the irrational system/society. Being inundated with “mental health” oppression (MHO) is necessary for the system if it is to hold itself together. Society has to shut down discharge and make it seem bad and unthinkable. It must force us to continually go against our human nature in order to keep all the oppressions in place, to keep us in our oppressor and oppressed roles. It has to make it seem “weird” and “crazy” to discharge. It must force us to go numb, to not care, to not be alive and human, to not show ourselves, to not show our feelings.

Therefore, doing and spreading RC necessarily means doing “mental health” liberation (MHL) work. We have to discharge enough and get close enough with each other to change things. If we don’t teach about MHL while teaching RC, RC can also seem to exist in a bubble: “Here in RC you can discharge, but out there, don’t worry about it.”

It can seem like there is something bad about discharge, or bad about our minds because we need to discharge. Later those messages get associated with the words “crazy,” “losing it,” and so on. MHO sets things up so that we are always trying to suppress and control our human nature in order to live in society. This turns everything upside down: humanness is denigrated. We try to stay in control instead of letting our minds do what they naturally do—our thoughts would naturally flow freely, as would our discharge.

We get to discharge about how capable our minds are. We get to discharge about how, if we can truly be ourselves, we can be powerful and big enough and have intact enough minds to change things in big ways.

It is hard to imagine having millions of people in RC. When many of us first hear about RC, it can seem like a “weird” counterculture organization. That it feels this way is MHO. We are going up against a society that is anti­discharge.

MHO oppresses everyone by cutting off our discharge as children. It can feel terrifying to work on this. Our minds are what make us human; it is scary when the mind is attacked.

We were cut off from discharge, so we developed ways to control it, to hold it back. If this were not the case, we would not feel like it is unthinkable to discharge in public.

Going against patterns that control discharge can feel impossible. These patterns don’t just disappear, even though we are told that discharge is okay, and even a good thing, when we begin RC. They also hold us back throughout our RC practice, whether in a one-to-one session or in a class or workshop. People often don’t see the cutting off of discharge as a problem; MHO is so insidious that it seems “normal.”

MHO puts most of us in an oppressor role in relation to “mental patients.” Even ex­-inmates were conditioned into the oppressor role before they were hospitalized. Then when we are institutionalized, we turn these recordings against ourselves and other inmates (ex-­inmate internalized oppression).

We need to bridge the gap between ex-­inmates and “normal” people. Ex­inmates generally feel on the outside of society. We also tend to feel outside of RC. We have viewed the society from the outside; this is one of our strengths. However, it isn’t useful to play out our alienation from society in RC. (“Normal” people understand how to “make it” in society—this is one of their strengths—but they sometimes can’t understand the implications of MHO and how MHO works in relation to all oppression.)

We can apply all this to our work in RC. If we discharge on MHO, it will become clear how being cut off from discharge affects our ability to use RC. We will notice how scared we are about “losing it,” especially in sessions. We will notice that we don’t work on things that include intense discharge that goes on for a long time. We will see how afraid we are of our Co­-Counselor “losing it.”

We need to discharge about what it was like growing up “normal,” what they did to make us behave, how we were made to feel “different” if we said what we really thought. We need to discharge about how we had to pretend to be a certain way to avoid being put down by others, how we felt unsafe to say our thoughts for fear of being criticized, and many other things.

We RC leaders need to discharge on how our roles intertwine with MHO. This will help us realize that people can have many different kinds of patterns, discharge them, and grow into leadership. Sometimes middle-class people are encouraged into leadership more often than working-class people because middle-class patterns make people more “normal,” more willing to follow rules, more willing to support leadership, more willing not to make waves. Sometimes approaches that appear to support our work actually slow it down. For example, we may encourage people to lead who follow the rules too much, who are not thinking creatively and independently, who are not trying new ideas.

We need to remember that things going right and well, and things being proper, are not the same thing. For instance, a family workshop is right and is going well when things are messy and “improper.” Being thoughtful isn’t the same as containing or controlling things.

Discharging about the intersection between MHO and “normal” will help us work flexibly as RC leaders.

Janet Foner

Excerpted from a talk at the 2016
RRP/ILRP MHL Leaders’ Workshop

Last modified: 2018-02-27 03:17:54+00