Working on Commitment

The use in counseling of making an important commitment seems so far to be very effective and powerful, only in part because of the commitment itself, but even more so because of the opportunities it affords for effective counseling. The commitment form permits the re-emergence to go on between sessions and during wide world activity, but effective counseling seems to make a decisive difference in the preparation of the commitment, in the practicing of the commitment, and in the keeping of the commitment. It is the discharge and re-evaluation that makes an RC commitment so powerful and keeps it from being the kind of rigid phenomenon that even brave commitments made in the past outside RC have often become.

It is important that the counselor be alert and perceptive both as to the client's distress and the client's goals, and that the counselor become fully and bravely involved in sorting out what the client is trying to do. The counselor takes risks in helping put together tentative formulations of the commitment but stays alert to improvements. If the counselor suggests a modification of the commitment and the client resists, the counselor can insist on a few trial repetitions of the new form. If this is done the actual situation with regard to the suggestion will quickly come to light. The client will either recognize that this is an insightful contradiction to a pattern that he or she would have had difficulty in spotting and contradicting alone, or will say with confidence and hearable conviction that the counselor's proposal is not what the client needs to do but is coming out of a mistaken notion of the counselor.

As the wording of the commitment clarifies, practicing the commitment takes the form of "meaning" the commitment aloud, followed by relating the implication of keeping the commitment that comes to mind. Sometimes the pattern will produce a wooden repetition of the commitment's words followed by a "no thoughts," "no implications" statement. In such a case the counselor insists that the client think actively of what changes the commitment will imply in the client's life, that making a commitment is not just repeating words but thinking very hard and afresh in these areas.

The counselor stays aware, during the making and the practicing of the commitment, of the bundles of distress that come up as the client relates the implications between repetitions of the commitment itself. This enables the counselor to step in and give short sessions on these bundles, clearing the way for the "snowplow" of the commitment to function again.

The practicing and keeping of a commitment really function as a kind of powerful mental "snowplow" against distress patterns. When the process begins to work well, the client's mind brings up and places against the commitment a tremendous variety of distresses. The client repeats the commitment, and discharges thoroughly and profoundly with her or his intelligence staying fully active and engaged during the process.

It is important that the counselor formally release the client from the commitment at the end of the practice session. The client will pursue the idea of the commitment himself or herself just as much as the situation permits anyway, and to not release them is likely to leave a kind of "pressure from outside" on the client, pushing them in the direction of pretense, fantasy, repeating the words but not really thinking while they do it, etc.

The counselor also needs to be responsible to see that the client does not make the commitment "final" before in fact the client has had an opportunity to review the implications of the commitment exhaustively. The client needs to have discharged on them enough to be fully aware of the implications of the commitment and of the distress which he or she must contradict in order to keep it. The client must have judged his or her resources over some period of time and decided that he or she has the resources to carry it through finally, even without help or against opposition, before being allowed to make it a final, permanent commitment. When this happens, the counselor should retire from the client's side and become simply part of the audience (in a one-to-one session, of course, the only audience), while the client completely on her or his own, faces and discharges on the reality of the struggles which keeping the commitment will entail and makes it finally as a promise to himself or herself.

It is plain from experience so far that even a "final" commitment must be counseled on as well as used. Though a client can do a great deal by herself or himself, once the "counselor in one's head" is finally installed, the presence, active support, critical questioning and thoughtful intervention of a good counselor in sessions afterwards are extremely important in the use of the permanent commitment. The worth of the commitment as a tool for the most profound heavy discharge, re-evaluation, and change is not ended at the time of making the commitment final, but is, rather, accelerated at that point.

Harvey Jackins
Present Time, No. 34, p. 30

Last modified: 2014-10-18 18:59:28+00