The Intensive Use of "Understatements"

This year, 1998, brings us to a second major change in the development of Re-evaluation Counseling. We've accomplished a great deal in the first forty seven and one half years of RC. However, we have accomplished this in spite of our beginning unaware assumption that the most effective way of discharging our distress was to put attention on the distress and then contradict it by finding, furnishing, and putting attention on other information that was contradictory to the distress. We did this in hundreds and even thousands of ways that we were able to develop, invent, and discover. We called some of these ways techniques.

Particularly in recent years, there were many indications that our counseling worked better and better as we began to experiment with putting our attention "off of" or "away from" our distresses.

We had started out, we are beginning to realize, in a situation in which adults in our entire culture had most of their attention in most situations on their distresses. We grew up into these situations and tended to take them for granted. If we were not rehearsing our distresses unawarely or awarely, we were engaged in a search for situations or directions or information that would tend to distract us from the distress that habitually preoccupied us and dominated our lives.

Recently I speculated about how and why the intelligence of people became so distracted in this direction. I thought of a possible explanation. My speculation was that once our ancestors, in our evolution as a species, developed intelligence, they came to realize that in some experiences their survival was enhanced by "thinking" about the difficulties they had to handle. They "learned" something from their "successes." Faced with a real problem in actual reality (for example, how does one fasten a stone arrowhead to a wooden arrow shaft), they would put their intelligent attention on the problem, and the more attention they put on the problem, in general, the more quickly they would "learn" from their experiences and come up with a "solution" to the problem. Generalizing from this, it would have come to seem to our ancestors that the way to solve problems was "to put attention on them."

At some point in their lives, however, they would find themselves faced with a "problem" which arose, not from reality, but from a distress pattern they were wearing from a previous hurtful experience which they had not discharged.

Not having any understanding or suspicion of the phenomenon of a rigid distress pattern severely limiting their ability to think, our ancestors would innocently put attention on that particular kind of problem in the same way that had proven useful in solving the attachment of an arrowhead to an arrow shaft.

The results would be quite different than with the problem from reality, but they would not easily "catch on" to the difference because what they needed in order to be able to notice that difference, that is, having their intelligence functioning, would have been interrupted by their being in a pattern.

In spite of occasional accidental insights, this confusion would persist for thousands of years of human pre-history and history (until it began to be the object of sustained attention during the activity that began in the summer of 1950 and developed into Re-evaluation Counseling).

If this conjecture is valid, our cultures have taken the many-times-noticed usefulness of "thinking intelligently" and confused that with "directing attention toward." We have been pushed by this confusion to imbed almost all of the population's attention almost all of the time in the individual distresses superimposed in chronic layers on our minds.

For forty seven and one half years we have struggled to discharge the huge accumulations of distress and have only accidentally or intermittently contradicted the assumption that we must necessarily start out with our attention tied up in the usual background preoccupation with distress.

I propose that the year 1998 be dedicated to establishing the primacy of putting our attention away from distress and to learning and practicing every possible way of doing so with consistency.

We have been in touch for over two years with a promising process for moving in this direction. We have called this process the "Understatement." We have used it mainly in two forms, which we have called the Short Understatement and the Long Understatement. It has worked very well most of the times when I personally have tried using it as a counselor with other people as my clients. It has also worked well when other enthusiastic people have taken a firmly insistent attitude of requiring people to actually try the workable forms of the Understatement (instead of letting their clients' confusion identify these forms with previous Co-Counseling techniques and so distort them from their actual function).

Having reached this much clarity and with the enthusiasm engendered in me by reading the letter printed below from Catherine Land of Arizona, I feel I will probably solve the problem of making use of the Understatement well as a client in the next period. Catherine's letter takes very much the enthusiastic, insistent tone that I have offered to all my clients who have been successful in using this.

I think that this use of the Understatement can be an entering wedge for a much wider exploration of the general approach of keeping our attention away from distress.

This year should see the effective development in RC of a turn away from the hard work of "contradicting distress" to the relative ease (once one gets over the initial resistance) of ignoring distress and rapidly regaining of one's inherent courage, initiative, and vigor. This can bring about a very rapid change of the situation in the world (which is certainly ripe for change).

The letter from Catherine Land can, I think, serve as a key pronouncement, and I commend it to your attention and use with high hopes. If it makes any sense to you at all, don't just ponder it. Put it to use, take initiative, become a leader in its use.

Harvey Jackins

Dear Harvey,

I want to share some of my thinking with you about the Understatement ....

I am having a really good time working with the Understatement and thinking about the implications of being able to get my attention off distress. I haven't been this excited about RC theory since learning about what distress is and how to discharge it. I have spent almost all of my session time using the Understatement and thinking about it. I want to share with you what I've learned and check my thinking with yours.

Learning From Experience With The Understatement

My first experiences using the Understatement were unremarkable. I tried it after reading about it in Present Time. I couldn't understand what it was supposed to do, so I figured I would have to wait until someone demonstrated it in a workshop. I was delighted when you talked about it at the West Coast North America Pre-World-Conference Conference. I remember you started out by saying that you would be talking about something that would change the face of Co-Counseling. When you said that it was a mistake to put attention on distress, I felt a huge relief. I was so excited to finally hear someone come out and say it. Not, "It might be a good idea not to put attention on distress," or "I wonder if it ever makes sense to put attention on distress." I was so excited. I couldn't believe everyone else was just sitting there, all still. I wanted to wiggle and giggle with excitement.

I couldn't understand why everyone at the workshop didn't start immediately counseling with this new insight in mind. I kept getting irritated that people would try to get me to client with my focus on distress, or to do something other than the Understatement.

I had the good fortune to be returning home with another counselor who used the Understatement throughout the conference. We were both thunderstruck by our ability to stay outside of distress when the conference was over. There was none of the usual after-workshop dive into restimulation as we listened to people in the wide world speak with each other in horrible tones of voice. We did not shut down or just rigidly react out of our restimulation. We stayed thinking and clear, able to see and notice much more than either of us had been able to do before.

It really struck me that the effect of being able to notice reality, outside of distress, remained in between the sessions in which I used the Understatement. The clear thinking that is possible when one's attention is firmly focused on present time was spontaneously sticking around much longer than my time in session. I noticed this right away, because I haven't seen other Co-Counseling tools have this consistent an impact on my own and other people's ability to think and stay present. I can't recall any time in my conscious memory when I've felt so alive, aware, sharp, and full of the joy and wonder of life.

It occurred to me that my experience with this theory and this new tool might not be the same as for other people. I have been watching closely what happens with others, because I do have a lot of counseling behind me and from a younger age than a lot of the people around me. Also, I've been working hard for a long time at deciding to keep my attention off distress. So I thought, maybe it's just me. Maybe for other people it won't have the dramatic impact that it's having for me. I have been trying to notice what happens as people try it out, wanting to see if it's the Understatement or something else in my experience that has changed things so radically/enabled me to take advantage of the Understatement the way I have. So far it seems to work for anyone who is willing to stick with it.

The possibilities and ramifications of the Understatement seemed to me to be so important that I decided to stick with it exclusively in my sessions and think about what I was noticing about my own and others' use of it. One "side effect" of doing this has been that many of my counselors ask me to go first now, because they are inspired by what I am saying, and by the theory, to handle their own clienting differently. Many Co-Counselors get so excited about what I am saying that they have started using the Understatement a great deal.

One thing I notice is that the Understatement seems to give people a way to be able to notice reality. And when people do actually notice what it looks like outside of the distress, it becomes much more interesting to them. They don't want to put their attention back on the distress. Once people have the experience one time of counseling with their attention fully off the distress, it is obvious to them how much more productive it is.

People are discharging more deeply and over a broader range of the discharge spectrum, and I'm seeing people spontaneously re-evaluating all over the place! And really thinking. Not the kind of talk clients sometimes do in session that grandiose sort of talking where their sights are really high (where we want them!) but you can tell that they are not going to have the attention to step outside of session and carry out their plans. This kind of thinking and planning (with attention all the way off distress) is actually bolder and more decisive than anything I have heard come out of these clients' mouths before, AND I am positive that they will actually be able to carry it out. And then they do!

This is noticeably different than all my years in the past, leading addictions support groups and watching people struggle sincerely, with enormous bravery and resolve, to decide to act differently, discharging profusely, and then not being able to carry through, over and over, and so feeling terrible about themselves. It broke my heart. I knew something was missing - some piece of theory or some tool that we didn't quite have. It wasn't for lack of discharge/lack of wanting to get there. I think the problem that kept us from doing what we wanted to was having our attention ON the distress. How can people possibly make a clear, definite, actual decision with their minds all clogged up from being focused on the lies and confusion of old recordings? It's virtually impossible. I keep thinking back to my time in twelve-step programs. It seemed to me like everybody who got to where he or she made the decision to quit the addiction had gotten to a place where he or she was able to notice that it was possible to do that. That he or she believed it was possible had to come from a place that was outside the distress. It's not a thought one would have while one's brain is being run by a distress pattern.

I have seen people in Co-Counseling for ten, twenty years, discharging heavily and consistently with no problem. They are really healing distress--I can tell. But their lives just aren't moving. They are not doing what they want with their lives. They are not happy. Many look worried all the time or wear some other chronic distressed expression. I've listened to long timers in RC talk about working their tails off discharging old hurts and still not "feeling" any better. I knew that had to do with things feeling like they feel, until they are discharged completely. But I also knew they were right to long to have access to the enormous amount of slack they had to have cleared out with all that discharge. It wasn't that they still had occasional pockets of bad feelings, or some places they were still vulnerable to being restimulated. It was more that the bulk of their lives seemed to be plagued by still having attention bound up in distress to a large degree saw people drop out of counseling or "take a break" when they'd get discouraged that the actuality of their lives was not better than it was from all the work they'd been doing.

I think this Understatement gives people the tool that's been needed to access the slack that's been built up better than anything we've tried to date. I am hugely encouraged. The insight that attention belongs away from distress seems to me to be just as key as the knowledge that discharge is how we heal from hurt. It seems that fundamental to me. Like two pieces of the puzzle. If you can discharge the hurt and if you can put your attention outside of all the ways you've been hurt, then you can take advantage of every place where you've cleared out some of the distress and use that presence of mind to build the life you want.

I notice that when people once get their attention off distress, there seems to be a large amount of re-evaluation and clear thinking that happens spontaneously. People go on and on, thinking out loud, in pleased, proud, excited tones, figuring out things which had puzzled them before, making new, fresh decisions. It's absolutely thrilling to hear. If I'd heard people speaking like that before, in tones like that, I would've jumped up and down from the excitement and spent whatever time it took to figure out what was different about that session.

Since I started Co-Counseling when I was ten years old, I have understood that re-evaluation follows discharge. But as I watch what happens when people use the Understatement, and see the huge amount of re-evaluation that happens spontaneously, I think that some of the re-evaluation that might have followed a lot of the discharge we've done has been blocked somehow. It looks to me like the discharge has happened, but because of the preoccupation with keeping attention on distress, the re-evaluation that should have followed was tucked away somewhere until the person could get his or her attention sufficiently off distress. The shift with using the Understatement is spectacular. It makes me want everyone to have access to this quickly. Are you seeing this large volume of re-evaluation, too?

The Understatement puts Decide, Act, Discharge in a whole new light, because it seems to let people be able to notice reality. Once people can get there, decisions and actions are relatively easy. And they are good ones, based on solid thinking. This is one of the reasons the Understatement fascinates me so much; I notice how easy it is to make decisions when you have your attention off of distress. Very easy. It's clear what the right thing is to do, and you want to do it. It's much more interesting to do things outside of distress. The implications for cleaning up addictions, and other chronic, addictive pulls are exciting.

The change in my own life has been pretty exhilarating. I had already been making big changes, acting outside of old patterns fairly consistently for the last few years. I noticed that this seemed to build on itself. The more I did, the more I was able to do in the next sweep. But now, with the addition of these new tools, I realize that I was not challenging myself sufficiently, considering the amount of slack I actually have. Even though I was trying out new things and making new plans fairly rapidly, still I was getting complacent and needed to figure out a step that would be a bit bolder. I asked myself what the key thing was that needed to move and understood right away that I needed to make the decision to eat rationally and use my new-found slack to stay thinking there. I also decided to take another stab at using fresh thinking on my old problems with overwork and sleeping. I have had some promising successes with both. Things are different enough in my behavior that I am very encouraged. I am interested to see just how good my life can get.

After using the Understatement for about a month, it seemed like the first time in my life that I had had such an enormous amount of slack. This is not because I have suddenly discharged some huge key chunk of something. It is clearly a result of shifting my attention off of distress. I had no idea of the extent of the slack I had been able to create from clearing out distress over the years because I hadn't been able to get to it and use it. It has actually been startling to realize how much slack I had cleared off. Even though my whole bundle of existing distress is still there, I have been able to handle situations which just recently had been massively restimulating. And even though I still have the same spots where I am vulnerable to restimulation, the choice about where to put my attention has often become refreshingly easy-accompanied by a light thought, such as, "Well, it just wouldn't be as interesting to go there." I am waking up just full of energy and charged-up about my life. At the end of a recent workshop, I used a mini-session to scan back through the whole Pre-World-Conference Conference, trying hard to think of a time when I had been sunk. I finally thought of a brief span of time when I remembered feeling a little restimulated, but I can't honestly say I was really sunk then, either. That was four days!

What I am realizing is that I have had this kind of slack for a long time. But even after about eight years of working hard to get my attention away from distress, I haven't been able to consistently keep my attention off of it.

It seems as if we have so habitually focused our attention on our distress that this has seemed like what was real about the world a lot of the time. It was like we Co-Counselors had cleared out this huge dung heap and we had this little dust pile of distress left over in the comer, and we were sticking our noses into that, all day, every day. What a way to live life! As if that could possibly help anything - running around acting as if, "thinking" as if, feeling as if, whatever hurt us way back when we were very young was what was going on all day, every day, everywhere we went. As if life was nothing but patterns on top of patterns.

Being able to think with attention away from distress has helped me to really understand some of the basic Co-Counseling theory. I'm getting it that thinking/logic is necessarily human. If it is thinking, then it has to be human, loving, caring, thoughtful, and powerful. Thinking is absolutely different than what goes on in my mind when my attention is on my distress.

If we can give people the ability to discharge the hurt, and couple that with the ability to get and keep their attention off their distress, we can easily end the situations in which people are starting wars, etc. That is not thinking behavior. If we can restore people's ability to think, then it will be for human concerns.

Another piece of our theory that has become crystal clear to me with the use of the Understatement is that every one of us is brilliant beyond belief, once we get our attention off of our distress (and we are also brave, too!). Solving the problems that are going on in the world now and figuring out what to do until we get the distress off of people will be much easier once all our leaders grasp this.

Getting a picture of what happens for people when they have their attention solidly away from distress makes it clear that dramatizing things or acting as if old hurts are present-time reality grinds distress in a little deeper. So I think my counseling is going to change a lot. I'll be damned if I'm going to leave people flopping around in their distressed confusion and acting it out (myself included), when they could be moving with their lives. That's what our organization is all about, after all. It's right there in the very front of our Guidelines. It's the only thing people have to agree to be involved in - to be fighting for their own re-emergence and helping other people fight for theirs. I'm just not going to sit around while people are rehearsing old hurts and running them in deeper.

I have also noticed that some people are "concerned" that getting attention off distress will get confused with "denial" or a "pollyanna" attitude. However, putting attention away from distress is absolutely different from pretending that everything is "fine." With my attention off of distress I can actually notice and think and discharge about the most horrible things and stay thinking. I have recently been able to listen to the news for the first time in years and stay present and thinking. I have been able to think about things that used to make me go numb, plan actions that make sense, and take the actions. Other people who have been using the Understatement also talk about this--discovering that they are not getting frozen into terrified numbness or reacting in rigid rebellion in places where they had before. Actually, in order not to shut down in the face of horrible things, I have to have my attention off my distress.

People using the Understatement have been discharging buckets, all over the entire spectrum of discharge, moving from crying to shaking to laughing to huge yawns without skipping a beat. They make statements like, "Why would I ever want to put my attention anywhere else?" (than on reality) and "I never realized life was so easy." People don't seem as interested in repeating the story of what happened out loud to me. They are busy discharging it, and they act annoyed if I pester them for their thoughts too often, as if I am getting in the way. They have the contradiction they need, and they are working hard. Too much intervention from me seems to get in the way.

It looks like some preoccupation with "telling the story" has lifted. I noticed I had strong pulls to move back to that when I was first using the Understatement. This pull felt like a frozen need to me--an old need to be cared for, listened to, heard, that wasn't met; trying to get attention which in reality was already there. I still notice this in between sessions. I have thoughts that it will be so great to get to a session where I can talk about how horrible I've been feeling about something or how some old feeling has been swimming around in my head. But then I get to the session and all I want to do is the Understatement and get my attention off of the old pulls. I still have momentary worries that if I don't get to put my attention on my distress then I won't get rid of it and my life will fall apart, but when I look at what is happening to my life in between sessions, I have no doubt that I am doing the right thing. I have never in my life zipped forward so fast!

The Understatement seems to shift something in people so that they are able to notice the attention that is there and use it for discharge, rather than waste part of their session time rehearsing a frozen need, waiting passively to see if the counselor can come up with the "right" contradictions so they can finally feel safe enough, or well enough thought about, or cared for enough, or whatever. Discharge seems to be heavier and more sustained in general. For myself, it feels like I am crying with my eyes wide open. It's not literally my eyes that are wide open, it's my mind, my brain, that's wide open.

I also think the Understatement is key to Co-Counselors discharging old terror. I don't think most people have been able to get adequate contradiction from outside themselves to really do this. Being able to think and act outside of distress is really reassuring. It makes the world feel much safer to get the confidence that you have everything it takes to handle it and to be actually doing that--handling things outside of distress. I suspect the client may be providing a more clear and powerful contradiction internally than it was possible to obtain from outside "assurances" that life is benign. What could be a more powerful contradiction to all those old terrors laid into us when we were very little people than to notice that we can handle just about everything that comes our way. Certainly someone could shoot us, or some kind of accident could happen, but aside from those sorts of things, I think most of the troubles we're in today, most of what's blocking us, has to be based on our distresses.

I can't see a problem on the planet today that isn't solvable if we're able to act intelligently and discharge the places we're still restimulatable. The real problems are relatively simple to solve, like inequity, unfair distribution, and pollution. The actual fixing of the situation, if we're acting outside of the distress, is fairly easy

People seem to need both the theory and the tool of the Understatement. I notice that people will try it, then not seem to get something quickly enough, and then give it up. I think unless people believe that there is something there, they won't make the decision needed to stick with it long enough to see what's there. So far, everybody I've seen stick with it has gotten to that place where he or she can notice reality. That is what's different about the Understatement from any of our other counseling tools I've seen to date. Contradictions, commitments, deciding to keep our attention away from distress - none of these seemed to me to lead to where people were consistently noticing reality. It seemed like almost all the work we were doing was with a big chunk of attention on distress.

I think the distance of the Understatement from one's personal hurts is key. It bamboozles the pull to focus on your own distress and the places where you were hurt. Unlike directions, it's not supposed to contradict your particular distress. It's not supposed to be related to your own distress in any way at all. It's so far "out there" that your brain can notice that it actually is true. I find myself running through many thoughts related to the Understatement as I work with it, some of which come in very close to home. Actually, I find myself able to work on even deeper hurts than I could with attention on distress. But if I find myself too close, and my attention drifts to my distress, one out-loud saying of the Understatement takes it way back out where I can get the focus on reality again. I've noticed a pull to add things to the Understatement that don't belong there. It seems like other people feel this, too - a desire to "customize" it or turn it into a direction related to one's own particular distresses. I have been resisting the urge to do this because I am trying to learn all I can from this approach, and I sense that I have a long way to go, a lot of benefits to be gained from the Understatement just the way it is. There's something powerful here, and I want to understand how it works.

What seems to work best for me, so far, is to stick primarily to the version "It sometimes happens that someone likes somebody." (It's the version I've used most, and I usually don't even need to say the words out loud to be working with it.) Occasionally I try the version "There are recorded instances in history when everything turned out all right."

I've taken the position for now that "It's working, so why mess with it?" I want to learn everything I can about this so I can explain it well to others, help others access it.

It's a little shift. A tiny shift. The only difference, really, is where my attention is. Yet it's incredibly significant. I think it absolutely changes the way we've been doing things.

Thanks again, Harvey, for your persistence in figuring out where we need to move and how to get us moving there.

Catherine Land,
Regional Reference Person for the State of Arizona,

The use of the Understatement will seem to many experienced Co-Counselors, when they first try it, to be simply a "direction," such as we have used extensively in the past. The purpose of these "directions" was to "furnish a contradiction" to the distress that was operating on the client's thoughts and behavior in anti-survival ways, to contradict the patterns which tended to discourage or invalidate the client or lead him or her to carry out non-survival activities.

In the development of our theory, there has been a more-and-more-clearly-stated and committed-to assumption that the client, once having evolved in his or her ancestral line into the possession of intelligence, is best treated as excellent to the point of near-perfection and that it is only the accumulation of distress patterns which create a negative distortion away from such excellence. The use of the Understatement brings this situation into bold relief.

It was, at the time, a surprising discovery that a statement (the Short Understatement), which was totally positive in any possible reference to the client, when repeated over and over by the client, would eventually begin to have an effect upon the client that went beyond simply contradicting his or her distress.

The first Short Understatement was tried with a young woman who was chronically dominated by negative feelings that she was disliked. Reassurances that members of her family "loved" her brought indignant denials. Praise for her accomplishments left her cold.

It seemed to me at that point that some positive assertion was needed, but reminders that individual acquaintances of the client held a positive attitude toward her were not "believed."

I then decided to try being gently and generally positive and, without identifying any particular person, asked the client to repeat, "It sometimes happens that someone likes somebody."

At this point the angry resistance and arguing by the client seemed to abate somewhat, and actual discharge occurred in small amounts. After a few minutes, the client, pleading shortage of time, left the session, traveled about a half-hour to her residence, and then phoned me with an announcement: "The whole world has changed!" Asked over the phone to repeat the phrase, "it sometimes happens that someone likes somebody," discharge occurred with each repetition.

In discussing the impressive change and the dependable discharge, I began labeling that particular sentence "The Understatement."

Many subsequent sessions have taken place with this client, and by now hundreds of others, using this first wording of the Short Understatement.

With many clients, the repetition of the Understatement tends to bring up resistance at first, but with good-humored insistence from the counselor, discharge eventually tends to occur. Some clients will explode into intense continuing discharge. Others will resist repeating the statement and will appear to want to argue. They will sometimes say the exact words of the Understatement and then say a sentence contradicting it. They may even conduct a verbal debate, repeating both the Understatement and words which contradict it. If the counselor persists in cheerfully insisting that only the Understatement itself be expressed, clients will increasingly discharge, though they will sometimes say, "It's not a bad direction, but it's just another direction."

Resistance will sometimes continue for a long time (but never in my experience for longer than two hours, and usually for only a few minutes).

A large number of clients who have tried working in this way with me, who are already quite successful in their re-emergence from distress, simply burst into steady discharge of one kind or another and continue to discharge without seeming to need any action from the counselor except the persistent expectation that they will restrict themselves to the words of the Understatement and to the thoughts that each repetition of the Understatement produces.

What tends to happen then is a new, exciting development in the general use of Re-evaluation Counseling. Clients seem to shake off the until-now chronic submission to the almost universal habit in our cultures of keeping one's attention on and "looking for" distress. Some kind of realization seems to take place that the client is free to choose to put his or her attention on the enjoyment of discharging. These clients begin to move their attention to topics which will bring discharge as soon as they think of them.

For a while, the relaxed, confident expectation of the counselor that this will take place may play a helpful role. However, as the client gains confidence in the continuing discharge, and discharges more and more easily, he or she will become a self-motivating discharger, enjoying the continued self-directed "cruising" over all the topics available to him or her in his or her mind, discharging with persistence and apparent efficiency as much distress as is conveniently available on a particular topic. As discharge cleans up one topic, the client then moves his or her attention to the next topic that is ready for discharge, tackles that, and stays with it, usually without any consultation with the counselor - in fact, this often continues when the client is by himself or herself, driving in a car, taking a walk, or relaxing in the evening.

Clients become very enthusiastic about this process and about the results of it in their lives.

The Long Understatement

The Long Understatement, as far as it has been used, leads to effects similar to those achieved by the Short Understatement.

In the beginning of the creation of a Long Understatement, the counselor assumes a creative role. He or she asks the client to repeat words offered by the counselor which are a description of "a person" whom the counselor says is "a friend of a friend of mine" who "reminds me of you in some ways." This non-identification of a client with the subject of the Long Understatement seems to play an important role in the flexibility which the client's mind can assume. The client is not deceived by the "non-identification," but any patterns of the client's which would lead him or her to feel embarrassed are deceived. Thus the usual self-consciousness that might become an obstacle to working with the client is bypassed.

The counselor then describes certain praiseworthy, positive characteristics (which the client would probably be very pleased to assume are characteristic of himself or herself) as being true of the "friend of a friend of mine." These could include that the person is intelligent, brave, responsible, "admirable," and "successful," in spite of difficulties that he or she has had to confront in the past.

Regardless of the background of the client, it seems to be universally useful if the character in the Understatement is described as "sexy" in nature (although also very respectable and well respected). This is a place where the discharge of embarrassment can easily begin.

If the counselor is aware of any particular struggles which the client has successfully overcome in the past, the counselor will praise the person described in the Understatement, with great respect and enthusiasm, for having triumphed in such struggles. Sometimes after describing these struggles, the subject of the Understatement will be spoken of as "fi-i-i-nally realizing that everything about her (or him) is just exactly right (and always has been)!"

This last phrase is best said in a tone of excited satisfaction.

Discharge ordinarily will occur at several places and should be greeted with smiles and admiration from the counselor. The counselor allows and encourages the client to repeat the Understatement from the beginning many times, memorizing the text of the evolving Understatement along with the client. Any time the creation or repetition of the Understatement is interrupted by discharge or discussion, the counselor asks the client to "start over." From various clues furnished by the client's demeanor and discharge, the counselor and client continue to polish and improve the Understatement and experiment with various tones of voice, as the two of them go over and over it, again and again.

Because of the lack of support which every client is certain to have experienced as a child, it is helpful for the counselor to describe the character in the Understatement as having powerful allies who are completely supportive of him or her. These allies are totally committed to the triumph of the character in the Understatement. Ancient gods or goddesses; the Great Spirit of Native tradition; saints from the Christian heaven; the pantheon of Hindu gods; Oden, Thor, Freija, of the Norse tradition; any of these may be used.

As the client discharges, he or she will furnish many hints as to what will strengthen the scenario of the Long Understatement in ways which will bring continuing discharge and the resulting confidence and effective thinking.

As this works well, use of the Long Understatement will become an increasingly enjoyable activity of the client, resorted to in sessions, in solitude, in groups.

Harvey Jackins

(Present Time, No. 111, pp. 3-11)

Last modified: 2014-02-11 23:09:29+00