Affection, Love, and Sex

A transcript of a talk given by Harvey Jackins1
at the University of Maine, in Maine, USA

(This talk was given in 1977, over thirty years ago, and shows the state of our awareness at that time of the oppressions of women, young people, and other targeted groups. Since then we have made tremendous progress in our awareness of these oppressions, and this talk, if given today, would be different in some significant ways. It remains, however, a rich presentation of some basic, important ideas about human nature that are central to Re-evaluation Counseling and, in addition, is a good introduction to the mind of Harvey Jackins. The complete version of this talk is newly available on CD and provides an even fuller and richer introduction to Harvey’s mind. [See pages 22 and 104 of this Present Time.])

We’re quite sure that what people really mean by “love,” when they speak of love between humans, is no more or no less than exactly the way that human beings naturally feel about each other, except when they have some hurts that get in the way. And that everyone feels this feeling toward another human being, where hurts don’t obscure or interfere with it, just exactly to the extent that he or she knows the other human being. That you cannot really know another human being and not love him or her.

Now at this point someone usually asks, “What do you mean by love, buster2? Are you talking about mother love, or sex, or . . . .“

I’m talking about love. We’re quite sure that this is the actual fact: that any human being loves, deeply, any other human being that he or she gets to know—regardless of age, sex, or anything of the sort—except where painful emotion has interfered and gotten in the way.

My guess is that, for most of us, ninety percent of our humanness is tied up in hurts that have gotten in the way. It isn’t surprising that our society has come to regard love as a precious sometimes-jewel and to teach us that once, perhaps just once, the peacock’s wing dips and touches us with its iridescence, and then love.

Of course, for many of us it is just about that rare. But we think that an accurate explanation would be much more like this: that the thorn hedge of hurts that has come to surround us (the loneliness, the rejection, and all the rest) has a few holes in it, maybe. And that what we take3 to be this wonderful happenstance that love has come into our life is really just where the hole in our thorn hedge has happened to line up with the hole in somebody else’s thorn hedge so that we take a quick peek through and meet somebody else’s eyes. And, by God, love. That this precious, rare thing (and it has been rare in our culture) is existing in tremendous amounts all around us. That all people are ready to love us except that they’re afraid; they’re hurt; they‘re sure of, or fearful of, rejection; they’re embarrassed. That they’re just as anxious to love us as we are to love them, except that we’re scared, we’re embarrassed, we’re afraid that we’re going to make fools of ourselves or get involved in sex before we’re ready, or something like that.

I think you all know this. Everybody knows this, but nobody dares talk about it to anybody else.

I love you. I love you very much. Now I don’t know many of you very well. I got acquainted with some of you over supper, and you’re lovely people. Some of you I knew last year, briefly. But I have by now enough experience and enough tried-out theory, tested over and over again, to say with confidence that I love you, that you are lovable.

If I could get through your embarrassments and my embarrassments, I know that I would find you a warm, wonderful person whom I would be very happy to know. I’d like to look into your eyes for long periods. I’d like to communicate back and forth. I’d like to listen as well as talk. I’d like to touch you. I’d like to touch your hands. I’d like to feel your cheeks, whether they’re soft, downy rose-petal or they’ve got a big bristly beard on them. You’ve got a good, touchable cheek.


I’d like to hug you. That may sound strange (maybe not to this generation so much), especially to the fellows. If you ever get up the nerve4 to really hug another guy—just hug him, and do it several times, get over your embarrassment—you’ll find that it’s real nice to hug a man, too. Just not quite the same as hugging a woman (laughter) but nice. Now, women know this a little better because they haven’t had the “big boy” conditioning dumped on them to the extent that we men have. Women are allowed to hug each other without somebody automatically jumping up and screaming, “Lesbian!” We big boys have this threat of being called “queer” that’s kept us apart. Whereas girls can turn to other girls (pretty much5, they’re walled off, too, of course) and can also turn to guys, we guys can only turn to girls, under particular conditions. And generally we’ve been so conditioned that we’re ashamed and embarrassed to act warm and gentle unless we’ve got sex on our mind, you see, because we’ve been told that that’s the manly thing and it’s expected of us, even though we’re awful damn tired6 of trying to live up to the expectation. (Laughter)

The truth of the matter is that we human beings love other human beings, and I don’t have to explain why or give reasons. Observably this is the way we function, if we get a chance.

Now I didn’t start out knowing this. When I stumbled on the beginnings of Re-evaluation Counseling twenty years ago, I was an uptight7 Norwegian Lutheran who was scared to death8 to shake hands with his girl unless he had a marriage license or something on the wall. I had to learn this from my clients, step after step, as their hurts peeled off. As they shed their tears, and they shook off their fears, and they laughed off their embarrassments, it became plain that though we’re all unique and quite wonderful in our own special way, there’s a common denominator that human beings are real9 good people, that human beings want to love and be loved. And that all of the dumb, stupid things we do, like hurting each other and hurting ourselves and acting at cross purposes10, we do simply because of the recordings of distress experiences that were jammed on us when we were too small to understand how to fight them off, before we had information. They are recordings that were put on us by older people’s recordings that were put on them before they were old enough to throw them off. And so there was this endless chain of contagion down the generations.

How many of you hugged someone else real good, and satisfied your need for that, at least once in the last week? Let’s see your hands. Well, that’s not bad. Being snowbound helps, I think. (Laughter) I’ve asked at other colleges and gotten a much lower percentage than that. I congratulate you.

It’s plain that at least a large minority of us didn’t get a hug this last week, and that’s living hard. It’s living very hard not to get at least four hugs a day. The loneliness, the restimulation of being lonely, creeps in. We wonder why we have trouble studying. It isn’t because we’re dumb. None of us are dumb. It isn’t just because we spend too much time doing other things (although many of the things we do are in a search for contact). It’s because we are too lonely.

This is why it’s hard and our brains fog up—we’re too dang11 lonely. If we’d just establish a relationship with each other such that when we feel bad we’d go to each other and say, “I need a hug,” which is what people in the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities (which are beginning to spread across the country) are learning to do, we’d be amazed at how much better we could think. With just four large hugs.


All of us, or nearly all of us, are conceived and then live the first nine months of our lives in warm, intimate contact with another human being—our mother. (The old myth that babies are little vegetables and are insensate until they are born has, of course, been pretty12 well exploded. Life Magazine has even gotten some cameras up into the uterus to see the lively life of a baby before he or she is born. There are a lot of indications that babies are very aware of their environment long before they are born. There are a lot of indications that newborn babies understand most of the language that’s spoken around them. They don’t speak it yet—that requires a lot of development. There are a lot of indications that babies are born enormously intelligent, with a much greater grasp of what’s going on13 than has usually been considered.) Each baby, and that was every one of us, emerges having been used to warm, intimate contact with another human being and is of such a nature that intrinsically he or she cannot function well alone. Human beings cannot function well alone. I’ll say that flatly. To do well, they need warm, intimate contact with other human beings.

And yet in our society, in the name of sterile conditions, and so on, most of us were taken from our mamma, had steamy drops put in our eyes (in my generation) and were slapped hard to make sure we started crying. Then we were wrapped up tightly and bundled into a glass-fronted nursery with about twenty or thirty other very unhappy little babies, and we screamed our despair at each other and once in a while got picked up and changed14 and were taken down to feed, or something like that.

The loneliness was jammed on us very quickly at a time when we desperately needed reassurance because we’d just been through this tough emergence from water-breathing to air-breathing. That was a tough one. Even if it was natural childbirth, it was a tough one. And most of us had anesthesia. A newborn baby who has had a beautiful delivery, has been given attention right away, will focus on you. It is nonsense that children don’t see you right away. They do. It’s the anesthetized babies who don’t see you for several days. And they will start yawning right away. They’ll start discharging the tension.

Birth was a traumatic experience. Just when we needed warm reassurance, we were given intense loneliness. In effect a plastic bag was wrapped around us, and for most of us that plastic bag has seldom been pierced. We continue to grow up lonely. We reach out for somebody, and the recorded response is, “Be a big boy,” or “Dear, I’m busy,” or whatever.

None of the adults meant to hurt us. Those were just recordings that were infesting them and hurting them before they passed them on to us. But the loneliness continues, as we grow up lonelier, lonelier, lonelier.


In our teens there’s a sort of permission to break down the loneliness a little bit and maybe go out and touch another human being. We’re expected to sort of get in contact with the other sex sometime in our teens, if we haven’t already been made too embarrassed, too shy, too scared, to dare to do it. There’s a considerable percentage of children, of course, who are just scared to reach out, scared to make contact.

Even when it’s at its best, there are all sorts of inhibiting cultural factors. A boy is teased if he’s interested in girls—from the time he’s five (or four or three or whenever it starts) up to the time he’s fifteen. Then he’s supposed to be a warm, outgoing date. No. He’s still full of the embarrassment and shyness that was dumped on him by the teasing.

I guess this generation is breaking through on this one, but in my generation girls were terribly shamed if they made any reach at all. They were supposed to wait. The old dances used to set it up. The girls used to sit on these damn folding chairs against the wall and wait (you know the expression, “wall flower”), and wait, and wait. Or they were supposed to stay home and wait for a boy to call them, and if they called a boy, without the most elaborate strategy to make it seem accidental (laughter), they were “forward.”15

I actually grew up thinking that this was the intrinsic nature of girls—to be shy and withdrawn and not interested in boys. I really thought that, until I was grown up. Only when I began having a lot of women clients who told me everything (and I mean everything) many thousands of times over, did I begin to realize that girls are far more interested in getting the show on the road16 than the average boy is (laughter)—that most of the arrangements, and so on, most of the drive, has had to come from the girls. The boys have been so “big boyed” that they’re frozen. They can’t reach, or if they do, they do it so awkwardly they fall on their own feet—if the girl doesn’t somehow deftly rescue them from the situation.

As we boys grow up, we start reaching out and yet by then we’re so embarrassed and uptight and tense that we do it very poorly. We have few guidelines for a relationship between the sexes. No one ever talked to any of us about what it meant to be a boyfriend, a husband, or a father. We had to figure it out. We picked it up17 from the example at home, which often wasn’t too good because he’d been raised the same way. Or we picked it up from dirty stories from the other children, and that wasn’t very helpful. Women wonder, “What in the world18 is wrong with men?” Well, what’s wrong with men is the way they were treated when they were little boys.


And the guidance that girls got, in my generation at least, was very weird. How to choose who will be your mate, for example. Well, all the love stories used to say, and the mothers used to say, and the whole culture said, “You’ll know.” (Laughter) “But Mother,” she persisted, “how will I know?” “Oh, you’ll know. I remember when I first met your father . . . I went around in a kind of fog. I couldn’t eat for days.” (Laughter)

The love story says, “Suddenly she confronted Jeffrey on the path. Her throat was dry. When she tried to speak, her breath caught in her lungs.” (Laughter) How did you know when Mr. Right came along? He made you sick. (Laughter and applause)

This is a deep strain19. All love stories have it. Didn’t Cole Porter20 write, “This can’t be love, because I feel so well”? The thing that restimulated your distress pattern and made you sick—that was true love. You knew that was right.

I have by now counseled many, many married couples who married on this basis: “I just knew she was right for me.” (Laughter) And you give the guy a couple of sessions, “Who did she remind you of, who did she remind you of?” “Oh, I can’t think, I can’t think,” and finally he bursts into tears and cries loud and long: “It was Grandma . . .” (Laughter) “Grandma died when I was four, and I always wanted Grandma back, and the way her little beady eyes glittered through her spectacles reminded me of Grandma. And I have never until now been able to believe it was a mistake, even though she could never cook and the house was always dirty and she was terrible with the children. I kept waiting for this wonderful fulfillment when she would be Grandma.”

We marry on a patterned basis, over and over. And when you realize how much of this goes on, you become filled with overwhelming admiration for human beings that any of them have ever made any success out of any relationship. And yet they have. Marrying for all the reactive button-pushing reasons, they have stuck with it, fought their way through to a human relationship, raised good children who are in far better shape21 than they were, and made a “success” out of their marriage.


Of course, what’s a success in a marriage depends on how you judge it. All married couples have distress patterns, which if they live together very long get tangled with each other. The one pattern pushes the button on the other pattern, which pushes the button on the other pattern . . . . This happens with roommates, as you well know. There’s a reason they take the guns away from the guys in the barracks22 at night: they’d shoot each other otherwise. (Laughter) Restimulation happens to anyone who lives together. And it happens in every marriage. These sorts of things pile up. You become filled with admiration for people who have been able to make a go of it23 despite this.

By the U.S. cultural standards, a successful marriage is one in which the couple recognizes there are certain areas that they better stay out of with each other, that they better leave alone. They communicate around these areas. They give up on sex, but they discuss the future of the children, and they keep a neat yard, and they are active in the community club together. They have a “good marriage.”

You never know which will be the tough area. The next couple says, “Boy24, we can’t talk to each other, and certainly not about the children, but if we can just get to bed, ahhh . . . that’s all right.” You don’t know which will be the area they can reach.

A good marriage, by the U.S. standard, is one in which the couple walls off certain areas under a tacit or sometimes spoken agreement. They agree that they can’t handle them, and they maintain a relationship around them. A bad marriage, by U.S. standards, is when they can’t stay out of that tangle and they’re in there beating each other over the head with it all the time. There isn’t a marriage that doesn’t have a tangle in it.


I only know of one that came close to not being tangled, and I only heard of this one after the fact, but it’s kind of interesting. I was doing an introductory lecture, and after the question period was over and people were getting ready to go home, a woman in the audience came up to me and said, “Have you got a few minutes? I’d like to tell you something. I’ve never told anyone before, because I promised I wouldn’t. But I think the person I promised would want me to tell you, because now I understand something that I never understood before. I’m a widow. I’ve been a widow for five years, but I was married for twenty-seven years and it was a good marriage. Now wait a minute—I know what you think about a ‘good marriage.’ I really mean this. We were close. We communicated. We cared for each other and supported each other in all respects. We never had a quarrel that lasted more than a few minutes. For twenty-seven years.”

She said, “I think I know why. When we got married, we were just kids. We went off on our honeymoon. We were at one of those resort lodges, and of course we were very eager to get in bed. When we got to bed and we tried to reach for each other, both of us started crying. We cried and cried. And when we tried to touch each other, we stopped crying and we started to shake. We cried and we shook. We didn’t know what to do. Both of us were just as frightened as could be. We thought we were ‘crazy.’ We didn’t know what was going on, but both of us were scared of anybody on the outside more than we were of each other, so we just lay there and cried and shook. We’d get calmed down and turn and try to touch each other, and it would start all over again. It was very alarming, and it kept going. We just cried and shook and went on with it, and by morning we managed to hook our little fingers together. And when daybreak came, we talked. We decided that we couldn’t tell anybody else, because they’d have us locked up (laughter), and that we’d just make the best of it. So we got up and went out to see the sights around the place.”

She said, “You know, it was a good day. We laughed a lot. And we kept reassuring each other that that foolishness the night before was over—until we got back in bed again and we started to cry. We went on crying and shaking and laughing. Gradually we got closer and closer together. We got our arms around each other, but if we tried to even think of sex, we started shaking and crying again. That went on for about two weeks (laughter), through the entire honeymoon. By the end of that time it was over. We could get real close, and it was just lovely. We agreed that we would never tell anybody, because everybody would think we were ‘crazy.’ But we went home and we had a good life, all through the twenty-seven years, and now I think I know why.”

Isn’t that a nice story? It’s the only one I ever heard like that.


Now most of you people aren’t married, or close to marrying, yet. The problem is, what do you do with all this affection you have pent up in you? What do you do to break down the loneliness? How many here have at least one date a week, on the average? Let’s see. Okay, that’s about like it was when I was in school. The majority of us are lonely.

Do you men know that all girls like boys? (Laughter) Do you know that? I didn’t know it until I was in my thirties, but I’m glad to share this fact with you: that all girls like boys. If they appear not to, it’s because they’ve got a hurt running around and they just need a nice boy to stand and smile at them until they can cry and call him names for a while, and then they’ll like boys. (Laughter)

All girls like boys. Mark that25 fellows. All right, you don’t believe me? I see some skepticism. Will the girls here who feel that I’ve made a correct statement—that all girls like boys—please hold up their hands? Now look around fellows. (Laughter) Isn’t that great? Doesn’t that change the complexion of the world? (Laughter) Okay, you have a remaining shyness. You think that all girls like other boys, but not you. (Laughter) Okay, is there a man here who feels that girls like other boys but for some strange reason they don’t like him? Can I see your hand? (Laughter) Okay, come on up, would you? Come on. (Laughter and applause)

(Demonstration with the young man, on dating. Harvey asks him to describe what he does on dates—first date, second date, third date, fourth date—whether he holds hands. He doesn’t, because he was teased and still feels tense about it, so Harvey invites a young woman up and asks them to hold hands. The demonstration contains some beautiful counseling by Harvey and is clearly presented in the CD of this talk. [See pages 22 and 104 of this Present Time.] It provides a great example of how to be a counselor and of Harvey’s use of the ideas of Re-evaluation Counseling.)

Harvey: Okay, let’s try it. (Laughter) Now (laughter) the only way to get over this uneasiness is by laughter. So I’m going to ask you a few things that might bring a couple of chuckles, okay? (Laughter, shuffling noises, more laughter) Isn’t this beautiful? It’s working, it’s working. That laughter is the only thing that will solve it. Now Billie, I want you to look at Paul, and Paul you look back at her. Just look at him like this, Billie. Look at him and go (Harvey makes satisfied noises). (Laughter from crowd and clients) Don’t stop laughing. We’re only doing this to make you laugh, because the laughter is what makes the difference. Paul, you look at her and go, “Ahhhh.” (Both clients and crowd laugh) Don’t wait on each other. (General laughter) That’s the big mistake. You wait on the other one.

(Harvey directs them to make the sounds back and forth, for a good while. Much laughter.)

Harvey: This is the language of love—that you’re embarrassed, because unless you discharge the embarrassment you’re going to have a tough time, you see. You’ll be going on a date with icicles all around you, and you’ll wonder why it doesn’t work. All embarrassment, like this. But if you keep going, “Ahhhh . . . .”
(Crowd claps, laughs, cheers)

Harvey: To really work it out, these two need to do this and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh. To do it right, they need to do it for hours. For the first four dates, you shouldn’t do anything but hold hands and look at each other and go, “Ahhhh . . . .“ (Laughter) You’ll have a marvelous time, you really will! It will be a fun evening.

(Demonstration continues. Harvey asks them whether it’s nice to hold hands and has them each say so to the other. He helps them with their tone of voice. He asks them to ask each other questions about what they are interested in. He has them say what they like about each other. All done with much laughter. He asks each of them if it’s okay if the other hugs them. They say yes.)

Harvey: All right. Now I’m going to coach you a little bit. You’re out of practice. (Laughter and clapping) When you hug a woman, don’t get all uptight about the fact that you’re “touching her body” euuuuuuu . . . .” you’re “touching her body” euuuuuuu . . . .

(Crowd laughs) It’s a perfectly good body. (Laughter) But think of the woman, not her body. I mean, she’s all one. When you hug her, take a real good grip on her, but don’t jerk her, see? Don’t jerk her or try to squeeze her because you’re scared. You may be scared, but keep your arms relaxed, though not standoffish either. Don’t hug yourself behind her back. (Laughter) That feels terrible. You’ll notice when you hug her that she has breasts. (Laughter and clapping) But that’s just one of the facts of life: she’s supposed to have them. (Laughter) And actually, it really improves the hug—the fact that she’s got them. It feels real good, see. Now, they don’t have to be big breasts (laughter); or little breasts; or sharp, pointed breasts; or (laughter) anything like that. That’s all nonsense. The playboy type of stuff is just nonsense. It’s pushing buttons on patterns that were put on guys because they were scared. Any woman’s breasts are just right for her. Any woman’s breasts are just lovely. They’re just right for her, and they feel real good. I have hugged thousands and thousands of women (laughter), and they feel just right. So when you hug her, you notice her. You get your arms around her and touch her—with your hands, with your fingertips. You hold her close, and you hold your head against her, and you just enjoy this warm, wonderful human being.

Now if you’ve been real shy, the bats may start to fly through your head and make you think, “Oh, my God, what am I doing? I’ll be involved in sex, or she’ll think I’m an ungodly person,” or something like that. That isn’t true. You’re just a warm, wonderful human being. If you do get all stirred up sexually, fine, enjoy it. You don’t have to do anything about it. (Laughter) Just enjoy it. It’s not a bad feeling at all. (Laughter)

Don’t expect to do this well the first time. I’ve had lots and lots of practice. (Laughter) But go in and do the best you can on your first try. (Laughter) I’ll hold your jacket. (Laughter, applause) Don’t let go of her until I tell you to, okay? (Laughter) Try to pay attention to her instead of the crowd. They’ll have their own fun. (Hugging demonstration continues.)

Harvey: Okay. Now, I’d like to propose to you not that you fall in love, or anything of the sort, but—just because both of you need this, obviously, from the way the laughter spilt—that you spend an evening a week together. If you can’t think of anything else to do, spend half of it looking at each other, holding hands while you do it, and saying, “Ahhhh,” (laughter) and the other half hugging. Okay? For the next three weeks, would you spend an evening a week together? Now this is not intended to send you off together on the rosy road to romance, you see, but you will both find it much easier to relate to the opposite sex as a result of doing this. Okay? Can you do it? Shake on it. 26(Laughter) Now hug on it. (Laughter) Okay. (Applause for the two volunteers)

If you decide at the end of that time that you like each other, I’m not forbidding you to continue, but there’s no obligation on either of your parts. This is just a simple exercise in breaking down walls. Does everybody understand that? Okay.

(Harvey then asks the audience how many of them would have liked to have had such a “practice session” with someone. He has them stand up and look at each other and commit to setting up pairs after the meeting and doing the same things he did with Billie and Paul, so that they can laugh and discharge some of the tension.)


I’d like to ask a question here. How many of you think it would actually be a good idea if we could get to the point where people met each other and did hug? (Clapping)

Okay now, we’re not powerless. We feel like it, because we feel so isolated, but we’re not powerless. We had just about unanimous agreement. Now I’d like to see the hands of those who will promise me that for at least the next three weeks, anytime they meet anybody who was at this meeting, or anybody else with whom they think they can get away with it27 (laughter and applause), they will stop and say, “I want a hug,” and hold out their arms. Let’s see the hands of those who will promise to do it.

Okay, that’s fine. That’s enough. If you people who held up your hands will do it, by example and contagion the entire campus will be giving hugs. (Applause)

At the last workshop I led, we had sixty-seven people who had learned to hug each other thoroughly in the eight days they’d been there. No one ever passed anyone else without a good long hug. They wouldn’t dream of it being any other way. The last evening, when we were having dinner, a bunch of uptight high school students came in from one of the well-to-do Presbyterian churches around Los Angeles (California, USA). (Laughter) And they looked at our crowd, you know, like this . . . . (Laughter)

We were a little amused. These were real nice young people, just beautiful, and they were all stiff with each other. So during the indoctrination that the camp director was giving them about how they must be on time for meals, blah, blah, blah, and so on, I got up and asked for their attention. I said that I wanted to make an announcement that we were leaving the camp now but that we had firmly established a tradition there and we wanted to pass the tradition into their hands. That we’d established a tradition that no one ever passed another person without giving him or her a long hug, and that if they would take that tradition and carry it on, then the ghosts who used to haunt the grounds would stay quiet and not wail and howl all night.

They looked incredulous for a minute. Our gang was getting ready to leave, and we were saying good-bye with all kinds of hugs, and they looked at each other and began to giggle. A bunch of the girls laughed real hard, and started to come over, and slowly the fellows followed them. They came over and inserted themselves in our group and started asking for hugs from us. Then after three, four, minutes they started hugging each other. And when we left, when we drove out of sight, the entire gang was just hugging the hell out of each other.28 (Laughter and applause)

It will spread. It will spread. And if you see somebody you don’t feel like hugging, because he or she is looking like this . . . . (laughter), remember that that’s the very one who needs a hug. Someday you may be very tense, and you’ll need someone to come up and get you. Do I make sense? That’s the very one who needs a hug. And don’t worry that you’ll do too much of it. You can’t possibly do too much of it. We’re all several years behind on getting enough closeness.


Person: How do you feel about a couple living together before they get married?

Harvey: Marriage as it has operated in the past certainly is not going to be long for this world, and for good reason. The institution of marriage, as it’s been pushed on us, has been a property relationship. Its roots are in slavery and the ownership of a woman, and in tying down the man to make sure that he stays home and takes care of his children. You know, all a kind of anti-human enforcement. And it really hasn’t helped for a good human relationship.

If people are going to be really human, they are going to care about each other and they’re going to have a caring relationship. In the past, society didn’t know what to do but try and enforce everybody. And, of course, it still does that. But what matters is not the particular form—whether you have a marriage license or not. The point is to have a caring, aware, loving relationship.

Learn to exchange caring help with each other, and as you peel off your distresses, you’ll have a good relationship—whether you’ve got a marriage license on the wall or not. And people will stay together and take care of their children because they really care, not because they’ve been coerced by rules that of course don’t work anyway. Marriage as an institution is obviously breaking up at the present time. I think probably something good will survive, but I don’t think it will be the old shotgun, handcuff, don’t-do-it-until-the-judge-says-it’s-all-right type of relationship29.


Person: Do you think it’s possible to love more than one person at a time?

Harvey: I think it’s impossible not to. This is one of the things we learn in Co-Counseling. You cannot counsel well with another person without loving him or her. Not only are you not effective until you love the person, but if you’re effective in your counseling, you get to see that person for who he or she is and you love him or her.

This is true. I work as a professional counselor, and very, very disturbed people come into my hands—very disturbed. And yet, once you lift the lid of the distress that’s on them and look inside, they are dear, good, kind human beings who are trying really hard to just be warm and loving, and it’s only the old scars, the emotional scar tissue, that leads them to do bad things. I fall in love with everyone I counsel. I fall in love with all my clients—the women and the men—and I stay permanently in love with them.

In the modern period, the suburban husband discovers that he loves the next-door-neighbor’s wife, you see. Oh God, he’s got to do something about it. He’s got to sneak around and have an affair, or propose that he and his neighbor trade wives or set up a group marriage, or whatever variation is going on in that particular suburb. Well, that isn’t so. It isn’t. It’s quite possible to love a whole lot of people very well, and just love them. You don’t have to run and crawl in bed with every one of them at all. In fact, if you do, pretty quick you’re going to acquire a bunch of painful emotion and you’ll lose the love. Just love them.

The compulsion to go make a mess—you know, sneak around, have an affair, all that kind of thing—basically flows out of the terrible patterns that are jammed on us “big boys” when we’re little that say that we’re not really a man unless we assault them sexually. If you love somebody, you’re expected to do something—be the bull of the woods or something like that. That’s just nonsense. Sure, people enjoy sex. They don’t enjoy it very much without love, and the ones who claim they do are generally in the grip of some kind of compulsion: “Got to have sex, got to have sex.” And that hasn’t anything to do with the real enjoyment. That’s just a pattern of anxiety riding and running them. If they discharge, they’ll find that sex, as well as the love, is a very relaxed thing.

A person should certainly not ever have sex unless he or she loves the other person. It’s a mistake. This is not putting down30 the desperate people who have so many blocks in the way of loving, that they can’t find their way out of, that they just resort to sex, hoping it will open a door. Sometimes it does. I don’t mean to pick on31 anybody. But in a human sense, no one would ever have sex with anyone unless he or she really loved the person, because it’s so unsatisfactory otherwise. It’s shallow. It’s meaningless. The real thing about sex is that it gives you that extra closeness, that extra measure of closeness and humanness, with someone you love deeply.

But you can love someone very much, and even want to have sex with him or her, and you don’t have to do it. Now that doesn’t mean that it might not be reasonably healthy to have sex with somebody once in a while, but you don’t have to be promiscuous just because you find that you love lots of people. And basically, I think everyone does love lots of people.

The ones who say, “Oh my32 no, that’s terrible!” you question them. “Don’t you love other people, too?” “Well, yeah, I love my children, but that’s different.” “Do you love anyone else?” “Well, maybe my parents.” “Anybody else?” “Well, I suppose you could call it love. I’m very fond of my girlfriend” (this is a woman talking). “Anyone else?” “Well, I certainly don’t let myself think about it.” But if you insist that she think about it—sure, she loves several men. She doesn’t let herself, because she has this pattern, from what was put on her, that says it’s so wrong, But the more she can face the fact that she’s very loving, that she’s got love enough in her heart for all humanity, the better job she’ll do of loving the guy she’s got at home.

To say to yourself, “You’ve got to only love this one,” when his patterns may be driving you up a tree33, is to put yourself in a kind of cage where you will start running around and having affairs and doing something stupid. See? But if you face the fact that you can love other people, then, in a Co-Counseling relationship in particular, you can go lean your head on somebody’s shoulder, get a hug, and cry like hell for a couple of hours. You’ll feel the love there, and then you can go home and handle the guy you’re sleeping with, and find that you can get back your sense of him.


Other questions?

Person: Okay, you’re affectionate and loving and hugging and hugging. Well, what happens when you’ve gone the five or six days and thoughts turn to sex?

Harvey: I think the first thing you better do, if you are going to fool around with sex, is get a little relaxed about it, because if you don’t, it isn’t going to be much fun. And sex should be fun. It’s ridiculous to ever have sex that isn’t fun. So don’t be in a rush about it. If somebody is uptight, or you’re both equally uptight, talk about it. Agree that you’ll sit there in the parked car, or where do you have your dates here? (Laughter) Well, sit there in what privacy you’ve got and agree that you’ll take turns, five minutes each way, saying to each other with an anguished look on your face, “I want S-E-X,” using a scared tone of voice. (Laughter) Or, as the case may be, “I don’t want S-E-X,” using a scared tone of voice. (Laughter) You’ll find that you both discharge a lot. The one who’s uptight and wants sex will think, “Oh hell, I don’t need it. Let’s go have a coke.” And the other one may even come around to saying, “In due time . . . .” (Laughter)

Now, I don’t know. Do you have a big information gap still, or do you all know all about contraceptives? Well, if you don’t know all about them, there should be some place to find out. Is there a place on campus where a shy guy or girl can go and find out?

Contraceptives are just chemicals that work more or less well. (Laughter) The one outstanding rule is that they don’t work if you leave them in the medicine cabinet. If you aren’t prepared to have children, you should certainly know something. If you’re going to play around with sex, you should know about contraceptives and you should know the laws of averages, and the batting averages34 of the different kinds. If you are very concerned and anxious, you should use at least three of them at once. (Laughter) That helps. It’s much better not to have that fear present, you see, in your first adventure.

But generally—talk about it, laugh about it, relax about it. Most people who rush into sex do so because they think it’s the only way to get close. You’d be amazed at how much the hugging—the long, slow, good hugs—takes the edge off your supposed sex drive. You’re really wild to be close, you see. That’s the real drive. That’s the real, heavy drive, because people need that to survive.

You‘ll find as you get more relaxed (speaking as a man who’s had lots of Co-Counseling sessions on it) that the so-called sex drive isn’t much of a drive at all. It’s an ability. It’s very much under the control of your rational faculties, if you get the tension off the subject. You plan what you do with sex, you plan it to be real good, real pleasant, so that it has good results for everybody concerned, and you don’t fool around unless it does.

You get away from that desperate feeling, you know, “I’m going to go ‘crazy’ unless I make out35 tonight,” or something like that. Because it isn’t true. You’re going “crazy” from loneliness, from not having a chance to touch. That’s the real thing. But it’s given this light coat of paint that says it’s the sex, you see. And maybe you get an erection whenever you think of hugging a woman, so you think it must be sex. No. Just hug for a while, whether you get an erection or not, and you may find that it goes away and you’re just very happy.

You see what I’m saying, don’t you? That really sex isn’t the big issue. I’m not knocking it36, you know. It’s great stuff in its place, if you go about it37 rationally. You don’t make love unless you love. If you are perceptive and caring and pay attention to your partner and ask, “What would you like to do?” and “What’s your favorite approach to this?” and if both of you are agreeing completely, you both experiment very carefully. But don’t feel that you have to rush over the cliff at any particular time.

The big thing is that you get acquainted and you get to love each other. If you don’t have sex or you do have sex, that’s fairly unimportant once you get down to being close and warm and loving. And you can do that right out here on the sidewalk. A great deal of it. You don’t have to have that desperate urge to hide away in a corner somewhere because that’s the only way you can get closeness, which you think is sex.


Now, I learned these things the hard way, because I sure started uptight. I remember a client I had, a woman who was quite a bit older than I, and she was a very lovable character, but she was a character. One night she had a crisis and called; she had to have a session. That was about the first year I was working as a counselor, and I came down to give her an evening session. (I was foolish about that in those days; I didn’t save my own time.) She talked about what was bothering her, and then she said, “I want to tell you something.” “Yes, what?” She said, “I want to tell you I love you.”

I thought, “Oh, God.” (Laughter) “What will I do? I’ve got to remain true to my boy counselor’s oath. I don’t want to break up my marriage.” I had all kinds of “crazy” thoughts. I said, “That’s fine, but now let’s get at what you need to work on.” She said, “I am getting at what I need to work on.” And through green lips I said, “Yes?” And she said, “I love you.” I objected. She said, “Look, this is my time, and I know what I need to work on. I just want you to shut up38 and sit down there and listen. I want to tell you I love you.”

I said I’d shut up and sit down and listen. And she said, “I love you. I love you. Oh boy, but I love you.” And she started to cry. And she cried. And she told me she loved me, and she cried and she cried and she cried. She had a real good session. Well, I felt a little better about it by then. I knew about crying. I didn’t know about this other. (Laughter)

And she went on and she cried a long while, and she kept telling me that she loved me. And she shuddered, she shivered, she shook, and she told me she loved me. And discharge was going on just the way it’s supposed to. And then she laughed. She said, “I love you,” and she howled. It was getting late, and finally she sat up, put on her shoes, and said, “Well, I feel a lot better. I feel quite a lot better. You’re a good kid, but you’re really not much.” My relief was enormous.

You run into39 this in Co-Counseling all the time. You do a good job, you counsel each other, you see how human the other person is, and, oh my God, you love that person. And he or she loves you. And beginning Co-Counselors go,40Oh, what will we do?” If you take Co-Counseling classes, you’ll see that we have some instructions called the “blue pages,” in the back of the elementary manual, which say in effect, “Do not socialize with somebody you met as a Co-Counselor. It won’t work. Do not romance your Co-Counselor.” Now if you knew him or her beforehand, that’s different. You had another relationship. But if you met him or her in Co-Counseling, keep it to counseling.

But this doesn’t keep people from falling in love with their Co-Counselors. You have to help people with it all the time and basically have them work on it in a session. See?

You gave me a hug a while ago, didn’t you? Do you love me?

Person: Yes.

(Harvey calls the woman up to work on it with him. He has her tell him that she loves him, over and over. She laughs and laughs. He asks if she’d like to hug him while she says I love you, and she says yes. She continues saying I love you and laughing. He asks for her thoughts, and she refuses to say. He has her say, “That was an interesting thought,” which brings more laughter.)

Other questions?

Person: Does repetition ever make the word “love” meaningless?

Harvey: Not in the real sense, but it will take off the charged up, phony meaning that you may have associated with it. “This can’t be love unless I’m sick to my stomach.” That sort of meaning will disappear, because it’s just the fear and embarrassment and grief that are tied to the love. But the real meaning of the word, no.

You try to say, “I love you,” to a girl or a guy, and you mean to say it, “I love you” (with a loving, warm tone) and it comes out “I love you” (with a scared, tense tone). You’ll notice the embarrassment and tension in your voice, and sometimes the tension will masquerade as meaning to you—you’ll feel the vibration and think, “I’m near to something.” Actually, you’re near to discharge, which is why it feels so significant. If you can discharge, then you’ll wind up41 with, “God, I love you” (with a warm, loving tone)—your relaxed, warm, caring love that doesn’t have to do foolish things or be jerked by puppet strings. It’s so much better.


And there’s lots of that in the world. There’s lots of love. You’re surrounded by oceans of it. All of you here want to love at least six other people, don’t you? See? And everybody here is dying42 to be loved by six other people. Right? Help yourself. (Laughter) You have this ocean of caring for each other.

I’m saying that really, love is love. And you should go to bed with the one it make sense to go to bed with. You should love as many people as possible, and only go to bed with the one it makes sense to go to bed with and only marry the one it makes sense to marry.

I’m saying that love is really wide and that there aren’t different kinds of it, there aren’t different kinds of love. You have different degrees of openness, but you can work toward more openness.

You get this argument about the U.S. love marriage versus the European planned marriage. In the U.S. love marriage, you follow your heart. (Laughter) In traditional U.S. culture it’s considered ridiculous to check on how much money he makes, or whether he drinks too much, or anything. No, you act on your heart. Anything else is crass and intellectualizing, and so on. This is a deep tradition in all the love stories: you just know who it is; you follow your feeling. Well, feelings are not a good basis for human beings to act on.

Now, it’s nice to have good feelings and do logical things at the same time, and we find that the more distress people get rid of, the more they do this. But feelings are a guide for other mammals, and for birds and possibly reptiles. They were a great improvement, a great step forward, over the more primitive clockwork as a guide to action. The seeking of pleasure, the avoiding of pain, was an improvement for mammals and birds and reptiles.

But a human being has the ability to think logically. For a human being to act on feelings, against logic, is to take a step back, and this is what usually happens, because of the distress patterns that we accumulate. We do just that. The U.S. culture says you should act on your feelings. You should marry the one who sets your heart pounding and makes your throat dry. Love! In the European planned marriage, the families get together and discuss whether or not the two people are suited to each other in tastes and temperament and the amount of dowry; whether or not they could make a go of it and would be good parents together. Then they tell the young people, “You’re going to marry so and so.”43

Now the USers have derided the European planned marriage, and with good reason because there’s enforcement involved. You’re not allowed to think for yourself about who you want to marry; somebody tells you. And the Europeans have replied, “But the planned marriage works out at least as well, on the average, as the U.S. love marriage.” And they’re right, you see, because two kinds of mistakes are being made.

What I’m saying is that everyone should be open to and close with a lot of other people. You should love lots of people, and then from all the people you love you should, on the basis of good sense, choose the one you go to bed with, choose the one you marry. I think we have the best of both worlds there.

In the United States, when you ask, “Why did you marry him?” so many young people say, over and over, “He was the only one who asked me.” Well, this is terrible, because lots of people would have asked her except that she was too shy, or the culture was too inhibiting for her to get out and swing her hips where anybody could see her, or something like that. She didn’t get around; she didn’t know how to make friends. So she’s caught in this thing.

I’m saying that all of us should love a lot of people. Every guy should date lots of girls and get to know them well and fall permanently in love with at least fifty of them, with whom he’ll have warm, loving relationships all the rest of his life regardless of how often he sees them. Every girl should have the same, at least fifty. It would keep you busy, but what the hell are the youthful years for? And then from all these people you know, choose wisely and with logic the one who will make a pair, the one who will make a good husband and with whom you want to settle down. But you’ll never quit loving the other forty-nine. That’s my proposal.


There comes a time when you want to get married. And you don’t have the overwhelming push on you anymore that you’ve got to have children or the human race is going to die out. Up until about now, people have had this on them, you see. Two generations ago, people had twelve kids, and ten of them died before they were six, so they had this enormous push on them to procreate before the human race got wiped out by disease or weather or something.

As soon as we have a rational society, we’re going to say openly to people, “Please don’t have children until you’re prepared to be a good, warm, loving parent to them and not pass on any of your hurts.” People will hear us if we say that right. And boy, the birth rate’s going to drop awfully44 fast, because it takes getting rid of your own hurts first to keep from passing them on to the children.

A lot of the urge now to have children is simply loneliness. For many women it’s the first time they’ve had somebody they could be really close to, and they tell you this: “My little baby, he’s mine . . . . Mmmmmmmmm, how good he smells,” or something like that. Well, babies are that nice. I get a little one in my hands, and I say, “Oh God, how can I stand not to have one every day?” until I think of the work involved.

But a lot of this is just loneliness. Actually, there are so darn many children waiting for parents, waiting to be adopted, that there’s no need to push the population. We’ve got to clean up the environment and allow the biosphere to flourish again. So you’re not under any kind of pressure to get married.

Even so, there’ll come a time when you’ll want to try living with somebody and seeing how deep of a relationship you can get. You’ve worked out the stuff, you know you can get along for a few days maybe. What would it be like if you just got to know each other better, and better, and better? And you do that. Of course, if you’re smart you don’t get any idea that you’re just going to sit and look into each other’s eyes all the time, because you’d bore each other to death. A good marriage certainly has independence in it as well as togetherness.

Old Kahlil Gibran45 said it so well in his little marriage ceremony: that the pine and the palm do not grow well in each other’s shadow, or something like that—that you are always two, you are never one. And of course that is true. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a lovely relationship. So, I think you’d want to get married (if that’s the term we’re still using).


Person: Have you ever found yourself in a bind in which the opposite sex has taken on46 possessiveness in her love—a demand? Whereas your kind of love would be different toward her? Have you ever run into complications like that?

Harvey: Sure. Often a woman client will feel love for me, and I’ll reassure her that I love her, because I do. But then, because she has some hang-ups47 about sex, she’ll ask, “When are you going to bed with me?” And I’ll say, “Maybe never.” “But I want to go to bed with you!” And I’ll say, “Again.” And if she says it three times, she’s either crying or shaking or laughing so hard that the edge comes off48. And I’ll keep her at it49, and we’ll wind up very much in love with each other but with no hang-ups, no enforcement. The stuff will discharge, you see, and dissipate like that.

Person: I just wanted to say, not possessive like wanting to go to bed but possessive like, “You’re not going out with50 other girls,” or, in my case, not wanting her to date other guys. I think there are girls like that, and guys like that.

Harvey: You need to have a session in which you take turns saying to each other, “Me, only me.” (Laughter) When you’ve both done it a lot, you’ll say, “Okay, once a week,” or something like that. Now, I hope you all understand that I’m not saying step out on51 your true love. That isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about loving, not being promiscuous or round-heeled52 or anything like that. Okay?  

  1. Harvey Jackins was the founder and first International Reference Person of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities. 
  2. Buster is a somewhat confrontational way to address a male person.
  3. In this context, take means believe.
  4. Get up the nerve means find the courage. 
  5. Pretty much means in general. 
  6. Awful damn tired means extremely tired. 
  7. Uptight means tense. 
  8. Scared to death means extremely scared. 
  9. In this context, real means very. 
  10. At cross purposes means in opposition to each other.
  11. Dang is a slang word that adds emphasis. 
  12. In this context, pretty means quite.
  13. Going on means happening. 
  14. In this context, changed means had our diaper changed.
  15. “Forward” means overly aggressive. 
  16. Getting the show on the road means making something happen.
  17. Picked it up means figured it out, learned it. 
  18. In the world is an expression that adds emphasis. 
  19. In this context, strain means theme. 
  20. Cole Porter was a U.S. composer and songwriter.
  21. Shape means condition. 
  22. Barracks means military barracks. 
  23. Make a go of it means make something out of it. 
  24. Boy is an exclamation.
  25. Mark that means take note of that, remember that.
  26. Shake on it means shake hands to show agreement on it. 
  27. Get away with it means do it without there being any bad repercussions.
  28. Hugging the hell out of each other means hugging each other a lot.
  29. Shotgun, handcuff, don’t-do-it-until-the-judge-says-it’s-all-right means enforced.
  30. Putting down means criticizing. 
  31. Pick on means criticize. 
  32. Oh my is an expression that adds emphasis.
  33. Driving you up a tree means irritating you greatly.
  34. The batting averages means the chances of success. 
  35. Make out means am sexual. 
  36. Knocking it means finding fault with it, criticizing it. 
  37. Go about it means do it.
  38. Shut up means be quiet.
  39. Run into means encounter. 
  40. Go means say.
  41. Wind up means end up. 
  42. Dying means desperate.
  43. So and so is a way of indicating somebody’s name.
  44. In this context, awfully means very.
  45. Kahlil Gibran was a Lebanese American artist, poet, and writer. 
  46. In this context, taken on means adopted. 
  47. Hang-ups means distresses, confusions. 
  48. The edge comes off means the tension dissipates. 
  49. At it means doing it. 
  50. Going out with means dating. 
  51. Step out on means be unfaithful to. 
  52. Round-heeled means yielding readily to sexual intercourse.


Last modified: 2018-04-15 02:22:08+00