Enjoying and Working with RC Structure

We cannot achieve “mental health” liberation
without the RC Community: RC theory and
practice, and the actual people. RC Community members
have many years’ experience using the discharge process
and working out difficulties. This is invaluable, and not
duplicated anywhere.

In my experience leading “mental health” liberation, I
have seen a number of ex-psychiatric inmates (hereafter
called “ex-inmates”) struggle with RC structure or with
becoming RC teachers, stay on the outskirts of RC, or
even leave RC. To contradict this, I’ve developed a
class that I teach at ex-inmates’ workshops. Below is a
summary of the class, followed by some points about
ex-inmates that I hope will be useful to allies.


It’s up to1 us ex-inmates to move the RC Communities
forward on ex-inmates’ issues. We, and many others,
need to discharge the internalized oppression that can
get in the way of relating well to the RC structure and to
RC leaders. We need to understand the structure and take
charge and lead within it. The structure is workable; the
patterns aren’t. Re-evaluation Counseling is rare among
organizations (other than those run by ex-inmates) in that
it has a clear policy supporting our liberation.

Re-evaluation Counseling leaders know what they are
doing, in general, because they don’t become leaders
without having built a group of people around them
who look to them for leadership. Their experience can
be counted on because it is practical.

If we don’t like the way a leader’s patterns are affecting
how our RC Community works, we need to remember
that everyone has patterns. Leaving the Community is not
an optimal solution. The kinds of patterns that restimulate
us in one person will restimulate us in other people, too.
We will eventually need to discharge our restimulation,
so we may as well use the current opportunity.

Sometimes the RC structure may seem arbitrary, but it
is necessary. One person (at least) is thinking about the
whole picture and can see to it2 that certain distresses
don’t interfere with the growth of the Community. This
may make it hard for some of us to get certified to teach
RC, but any patterns we carry that are keeping us from
being certified can be discharged, and this is part of
our re-emergence. In order to teach RC, some distresses
must be discharged to where we can think outside of
them. Cleaning up these distresses helps to keep the RC
Community safe and effective.

Teaching RC includes moving others in the direction
of RC Community policies. These policies have been
developed and tested over time and are part of what
makes our Communities work well and what makes RC
consistent and strong worldwide. Many RC policies are
so workable that when they’re applied in the wide world
they make things go better there, too.

Something that may appear to make the RC structure
unworkable is when leaders have patterns—and all
leaders do. However, the patterns of leaders don’t stop
the workability of the structure if we continue to Co-
Counsel, including with leaders, and develop slack to
lead others.

We all wish that RC were perfect and tend to feel like
it should be because of the natural way things would
work without patterns and frozen needs.3 This feeling can
get in our way of thinking about the functioning of the
RC Community, as can past hurts and confusions from
experiences in other organizations, the “mental health”
system, and society in general.

Patterns that can come from being in a marginalized
group, such as “rebellion and disappearing” patterns, or
getting stuck in distress and not connecting with others
at all, do get in the way of our organizing ourselves as
ex-inmates and of our relating to the RC Community.
Frustration with those “at the top” often goes back to
our childhoods. Even if our problem seems to be a
particular leader, it really is not him or her but rather how
that person’s and our own patterns hook. If the patterns
weren’t hooking, we’d be able to counsel the leader, and
vice versa. The way to proceed is to first counsel with
someone else on our feelings (not mentioning the leader,
and working on the early distress and where we are
hooked), which may clear up the problem. If it doesn’t,
we may need to get close enough to the leader to be able
to counsel her or him. This will only be possible after we
are relaxed about our approach to the leader.

Every leader, because of the oppressed and oppressor
groups he or she belongs to, has some rigidities, and it’s
important for us not to go victim4 around him or her.

A lot of Regional and Area Reference Persons and other
RC leaders are white, middle-class, and Gentile—in
other words, “normal”—and often find it difficult to
show their true selves. Many of us ex-inmates are more
“out” about our difficulties and our true selves. We need
to keep reaching for people, assume that they can be
our allies, and keep discharging our feelings about their

This may mean cooperating and working with a leader,
and backing5 him or her fully, even if we disagree with
the leader or with RC policy. We can’t build a cooperative
society without doing this kind of thing. Patterns will
persist until we achieve a cooperative society, so to get
there we have to work around them. We have to think
continually about the whole picture.

Cooperation is not the same as unthinkingly going
along with oppressor patterns. Cooperation means
thinking as we work with someone and remembering
that we can always have a session later. Eventually we
will change our position, or bring the other person along
with us to a new position, and then it will be easy to
cooperate. But we sometimes have to cooperate first,
before we’ve discharged everything, to get where we
want to go.

If we each insist on following our own program, we
can’t all work together. We each get to take charge,
but we can’t all do it at the same time, from the same
position as leader.


The following is some information for allies:

1) It is worthwhile for other Co-Counselors to become
allies to ex-inmates. Ex-inmates have many strengths as
Co-Counselors. Here are just a few:
• They recognize the value of RC. Because most of
them were stuck at one time in heavy distress, with
seemingly no way out of it, they treasure how RC gives
them tools to get out of distress.
• They are not afraid of lots of discharge nor of subjects
others may find difficult to Co-Counsel about.
• They tend to love freedom and be tough liberation

2) While institutionalized, most inmates are declassed
and expected to remain outside of “normal” society.
After they return from being hospitalized, they are
usually left with heavy patterns of isolation, mistrust,
and compulsive non-conformity. When someone tries to
“make them follow the rules,” they may become stuck
in patterns of defiance and non-cooperation. Assuming
that with discharge and relaxed expectations they will
cooperate, often leads to good results.

3) Because most ex-inmates have been institutionalized
in an irrationally hierarchical system, they may be
restimulated by the structure of the RC Community. If
an ally can get close to an ex-inmate, which may mean
counseling him or her on trust, it can allow the ex-inmate
to know that someone backs him or her and is on his or
her side. This can help the ex-inmate to discharge the
restimulation and be able to function well, within the
RC Guidelines.

4) Ex-inmates need to have regular Co-Counseling
sessions and be involved in classes, but their patterns
of isolation often prevent them from “getting with the
program.” They may need a buddy who is clear about
pulling them back in when they start to wander away
from RC. Especially useful would be a buddy who is
connected with the Area Reference Person and/or other
RC teachers in the Community or who is one of those
people. Additionally, ex-inmates often need to follow a
program of getting and staying present (a useful one is
described on page 36 of Recovery and Re-emergence6
No. 5) in order to be able to take charge of their reemergence
and their connections to others in the

5) Ex-inmates were often massively mistreated by the
people who had authority over them in the “mental
health” system. This can sometimes lead to their being
restimulated when they relate to RC leaders. They may
need to get angry, in sessions, at those who mistreated
them in the past, so that they don’t confuse them with
leaders in the present.

6) It is useful to have workshops, classes, and so on,
that address “mental health” oppression. It is also useful
to set up support groups on “mental health” liberation or
to have other support groups occasionally focus on how
“mental health” oppression affects their constituencies.
In workshops, classes, and support groups, ex-inmates
need to hear, every once in a while, someone, preferably
an ex-inmate, tell his or her “mental health” history
and discharge about it. So far, in most Regions, these
opportunities have been rare.

Leaders often struggle with trying to address all the
issues that need addressing in their Region. Because
“mental health” oppression is so hidden, and people
tend to have difficulty talking about it, ex-inmates can
become frustrated by the lack of understanding of their
oppression. Even though no leader in the Region may be
ready to teach a class series or lead an entire workshop
on “mental health” liberation, “mental health” issues
can still be addressed in other ways. For example, an
ex-inmate who has become an RC teacher could be
in a demonstration at an RC teachers’ and leaders’
workshop on her or his experiences with “mental
health” oppression, or an ex-inmate at a working-class
workshop could be in a demonstration on how classism
has intertwined with “mental health” oppression. We
can find many ways to make the RC Communities seem
safer to ex-inmates.

7) Most other liberation groups build up their
constituency in a Region until it is big enough for there to
be a workshop for the constituency. It has been difficult
for ex-inmates to pull that off.7 Sometimes a strong exinmate
leader has pushed “mental health” liberation
in a thoughtful way and been able to start moving it
forward. More often, the ex-inmates in a Region are
not “out” enough to know about each other. In fact, no
one may know that they are ex-inmates. They may not
Co-Counsel about it at all. Thus, ex-inmates’ liberation
has usually been most effective when it proceeds from
workshops or classes on “mental health” liberation that
are open to everyone. When everyone in a Community
gets a chance to discharge on how he or she was
hurt by “mental health” oppression, it contradicts the
heavy terror installed by the oppression on everyone,
and allows everyone to begin counseling on it, which
opens up a space for ex-inmates to break through their
internalized oppression and identify themselves. (The
internalized oppression can make them feel like the
subject is better not discussed, like they weren’t really
hurt that much because it was long ago, like they are
too despicable to deserve to have their issues addressed,
and so on.)

8) Despite the differences outlined above, ex-inmates
are really just like everyone else.

Janet Foner
International Liberation Reference
Person for “Mental Health” Liberation
New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion
list for Regional Reference Persons

1 Up to means the job of.
2 See to it means ensure.
3 Frozen need is a term used in RC for a hurt that results when a rational
need is not met in childhood. The hurt compels a person to keep trying
to fill the need in the present, but the frozen need cannot be filled; it can
only be discharged.
4 Go victim means act out a victim role.
5 Backing means supporting.

Last modified: 2020-11-05 20:52:01+00