The Empowerment of the Individual

The Key Concepts and Insights of Re-evaluation Counseling to Date - Part III

ANY PHENOMENON CAN BE UNDERSTOOD BETTER IF IT IS EXAMINED FROM A VARIETY OF VIEWPOINTS. This has been recognized, at least partially, in a number of places besides RC. Start with the trivial example that it is better to walk around a house that is white on your side before you say confident that "the house is white." Another side may very well be painted red. In the development of science, of mathematics, of literature and art, it happens over and over again that the knowledge about a certain subject is pronounced "complete." Then someone looks at the subject from an entirely new viewpoint and there is great excitement in the field as tremendous quantities of knowledge proceed to develop from the new viewpoint.

This leads us close to another insight I will discuss later (the freedom to choose one's viewpoint), but just to recognize this much, that any phenomenon will be understood better if it is looked at from a variety of viewpoints, should arm us against any conclusion that any subject is closed, that everything is already known about anything.

Looking back, we have looked at Re-evaluation Counseling from many different viewpoints as it has progressed and evolved. An early view and still a beginning view for many people who come into counseling is, that RC is something that will make one feel better. It has certainly motivated many of us to have our first session or kept us going until we had our first good session. Later, when we tackle a chronic, we discover a new viewpoint and think of counseling as a way to help us think better and function better but not necessarily to feel better immediately.

Some people with no real knowledge of RC go into print with the viewpoint that RC is an "interesting, simplistic attempt at therapy." RC has been called "do-it-yourself psychiatry," and some people that we welcome in RC and who, because of their experiences, can help us expose and combat the mental health oppression system, will have to start with this viewpoint. Coming from where they come from, they have to think of it that way at the start.

We have moved through a number of viewpoints. The important viewpoint of the last couple of years is that RC THEORY AND PRACTICE IS THE UNCOVERING AND REVEALING OF REALITY. RC acts to strip the pseudo-reality from reality, rolls back the false reality which has occluded reality for almost all of us almost all out lives. The pseudo-reality has accumulated from the falsehoods, the invalidations, the pain, the unwarranted assumptions which have been presented to us as reality, assumptions such as that we are helpless, that whites are smarter than Third Worlders, that women's place is behind the kitchen stove, that working people are dumb, and so on and so on and so on, but also including much more subtle ones, such as the great foundation of liberal philosophy that "it is all hopeless but we must still do our best." (Group laughter) Viewed from one viewpoint, Re-evaluation Counseling is the stripping off of the false reality which has been imposed by patterns and oppression and misinformation and the revealing of the actual nature of the reality in which we function.

The attitude of powerlessness is almost universal. Even our RC'ers who have been raised to be "owning class" or to "rule" have a very limited concept of power. It may seem to those of " raised poor" that they feel very powerful in their patterns compared to the way we feel in the patterns we wear, but theirs is a very limited concept of power. THE ATTITUDE OF POWERLESSNESS CONDITIONED ON ALL HUMANS IS A FRAUD, IMPOSED BY DISTRESS AND CONCEALING AN ACTUALITY OF TOTAL POWER FOR ANY INDIVIDUAL OR RATIONAL GROUP. We are familiar, by now, with the slogan, "Powerlessness is a fraud. "

(Audience questions: Concealing an actuality of what?)

Of total power for any individual or rational group. I think it is necessary to put the "rational" in front of the group. We assume the individual person is rational but I don't think it is safe to assume it about any existing group.

OUR POWER CAN BE RECLAIMED. We have not yet been able to break through too much performance with this one. We are still pretty much pointing at it as a goal but we are coming closer, just the insight, just grasping the concept of total power immediately strengthened a whole number of other work fronts. Commitments began to work much better with the concept of the reality of reclaimable, total power in the background. Our work against oppression got stronger. It is as if reaching for power "put lead in the pencil" of a lot of our previously discovered concepts. To actually reach for power itself leads to a much more effective scorning of fear. To reach power has not been well demonstrated, as yet. I have been trying to sound powerful before workshops and to get other people to at least sound powerful.

Help is coming from another direction, however, from the concept that I will talk about in a minute. The freedom always to choose our own viewpoint appears to put the absolute recovery of power right at out fingertips. So far we must be realistic and not pretentious. We have not yet implemented the complete recovery of power.

This next concept was on the cover of a Present Time. IF ANY ONE INDIVIDUAL RECLAIMS HER OR HIS POWER AND MOVES, THAT ONE INDIVIDUAL CAN GUARANTEE THE FUTURE OF THE WORLD. One such example will undoubtedly bring everyone else out of the timid bushes to fall in behind them, ready to take charge of things.

It is always good if we can find a little gleam of light in the culture, a little crack in the pseudoreality toward these concepts of reality that we are uncovering. The fact that even one individual acting out of confidence in her power will draw the necessary forces to her automatically is exemplified for me, at least a little bit, by a scene in a Charlie Chaplin movie (I think Modern Times). Unemployed Charlie, goodhearted, earnest, stands bewildered in a street filled with unemployed people. A truck comes by with a red cloth fastened to a stick protruding from the back, warning of a long load. The truck hits a bump and the stick with the red cloth falls off. Charlie notices it, rushes out onto the street, grabs the stick with the red cloth on it and runs after the truck to return it, but they don't hear him and the truck goes off. The little tramp puts the stick over his shoulder and walks on disconsolately. The camera shows him walking on and on but a sound begins and gets louder and finally you recognize it as the tramp of feet and the camera swings past Charlie and thousands of people are marching behind him (Group laughter), following him and his flag.

These other concepts about reality lead to the big one. REALITY IS BENIGN. In these efforts toward uncovering reality that we call RC we have drilled test wells through the grubby pseudo-reality in a number of places. RC began with one little piece of pseudo-reality being challenged. My first client was, fortunately, balanced just right between deep distress, classified as hopeless by professionals, and an eagerness to discharge, so that, in spite of my misguided efforts (mis-guided by the pseudo-reality that I, too, had bought into that if people are crying the most helpful thing you can do for them is to stop them) no matter how many times I stopped him and he agreed to stop if I took any initiative he started crying again. As you know, pattern wore out and I finally let him cry. That certainly was a great break. I could have started with someone not so ready to emerge. The next thirty-five clients I worked with who were deeply distressed didn't respond like that at all! (Group laughter)

The first little gleam of light came there. From underneath the pseudo-reality that said that to assist someone who is crying is to stop them from crying came the gleam of reality that if a person is crying it is good for them - let them cry. That was all we had for a long time. It was at least six months before the crack widened a little bit and we realized that one could not only permit the person to cry until they stopped but one could even bring their attention back to the subject they were crying about and they would then cry much more effectively with much greater results. As we begin to drill test holes deep into this pseudo-reality, we had other glimpses of reality here and there. The deeper we went the better the results,

How responsible is a person? Questioning went on session after session. How much responsibility can I take? The concept of responsibility broadened and deepened. I can take responsibility for myself. For my family? Yes, that fits cultural conditioning. What about responsibility for people I don't know? Oh, woe. Each step of additional responsibility that people moved to worked better until we came to the concept of total responsibility.

In the essay "Who's in Charge?" we reached the concept that if one doesn't assume responsibility for the farthest atom in the farthest star in the farthest galaxy, one has put oneself inside inhibiting limits. Once the concept was projected, people tried it in their thinking and, lo and behold, total responsibility turned out not to be a chore but a great liberation idea. We had drilled a hole all through the pseudo- reality and there was sunshine and fresh air on the other side.

(Would you explain what you mean by total responsibility for the farthest atom? I don't understand.)

I mean that one must not shut that atom out from one's awareness or concern. If one knows about something, that something is taken into account in one's thinking. It doesn't mean that we pretend that we can reach instantaneously to the other side of the star and manipulate that atom or anything like that, but it means that we assume responsibility for including that knowledge in our thinking, that we do not put up a barrier and say, "I will not think beyond this point because I can only handle this much."

During the Vietnam War a man came in for an interview, looked at me and said, "Well, I don't know about your outfit." He said, "I saw you marching in that peace parade, and I don't know if I want to get mixed up in anything like that." I questioned him, "Is it not all right to take some responsibility for foreign policy?" He said, "The President knows what he is doing. I have enough to think about just to take care of my family." He became a client, and worked on other matters. He "looked after his family" and left it up to the President to decide what was going on in Vietnam. Later, he came to me with his tragedy. His son had been drafted and sent to Vietnam and killed. The supposedly pro-survival limiting of responsibility had revealed itself as the crudest non-survival.

We drilled holes in the pseudo-reality in other areas. How can you motivate children to learn? There were some "enlightened" theories from wide-world attempts in this field that you praise them for "good" results. You criticize them not too unkindly when they don't shape their letters right but you praise them if they get them facing the right way. You encourage them to do art as long it is "reasonable" and "really means something," but you encourage them not to waste their time with scrawls you don't like. That got challenged. People thought a little beyond that. Praise everything they do. Don't pay much attention to it, just praise it with glassy eyes. That was a little better. Thinking crept on. Finally, we drilled all the way and the concept arose that if you just make the information available, children will themselves decide what they want to learn, how they want to learn it and what is exciting for them. Everything fell into place, reality recognized at last, although not yet widely practiced.

Wherever we drilled a test hole in the pseudo-reality by challenging it and wherever we dared punch the hole deep enough, sunshine, fresh air, bright colors, flowers, good sense drifted through. There was apparently something different on the other side. It was much better than the globby guck we were used to living with.

ANY OF THE NON-BENIGN APPEARANCES OF THE PSEUDO-REALITY THAT HIDES REALITY, INCLUDING THE MOST THREATENING, THE MOST HORRIFYING, CAN BE FACED CLEARLY, CAN BE CONTRADICTED, CAN BE DISCHARGED ON, AND CAN BE ELIMINATED. We do not have to wall off from our attention or thinking any of the negative concepts or the negative appearances of the pseudo-reality even though we have been trained or conditioned to avoid them.

I think this is quite important. Consider death. We have already done some work towards challenging this. The phenomenon of death can be faced clearly and the fears of death can be discharged. Of course we have always had examples from the wide world of people whose professions place them up against death repeatedly and who necessarily discharge to the point where they can look death in the eye with contempt.

For a long time in RC this was difficult until we got some concepts out in the open to support us. It was difficult for people to work on death, difficult to face the death of a loved one. People were too horrified as they tried to think about the possibility of their own death, and at best escaped to pretense. "I am not going to die," I had an early client tell me. I said, "Why do you think so?" and he said, "The proof is all around you; I haven't died yet." (Group laughter)

Consider the Nazi holocaust, the genocidal holocaust of the Gay people, the gypsies, the Jews, the militant trade unionists. Too horrible to be thought about? No. In practice we have found that this horror can be contradicted, that discharge can be obtained, that it can be thorough.

What holds us back from doing a better job there? The lack of bold, effective counseling. All the way along on these clear, theoretical concepts we are up against a practical limitation which all of you know too well and frequently allow yourselves to be discouraged about. "Where am I going to get effective counseling?" "Where are the confident enough words from outside?" I rehearsed this discouragement at you a little bit at the beginning of the Conference. "Where can I get someone who is more confident than I am when I get restimulated by the latest of the long line of attacks made on me all my life?"

Consider the threat of nuclear holocaust. We have begun to work on it. I am very pleased with the way the three or four demonstrations we had the other night were beginning to reveal the variety of results that can come from one basic approach to contradicting this fear. Do I agree that we should put this by in order to emphasize the murders of the Atlanta children? No, I do not. I can understand this urge to deal with a restimulative but "smaller" issue instead, but I think it is an expression of our feelings that we are too powerless. I think the murders of the Atlanta children will be dealt with also if we throw our full weight against this numb horror of the overhanging nuclear holocaust. If we discharge on that, we will eliminate the fear that keeps us from taking care of these other issues.

Any particular clump of pseudo-reality, including the most threatening, such as terror of nuclear holocaust, can be faced, can be contradicted, can be discharged, and can be eliminated.

(Asked to repeat)

We do not need to avoid facing the most threatening clumps of the pseudo-reality by turning instead to ones we can face more easily, either as a priority or as a comfort or avoidance of the severe ones. We have the resources at this point. (We did not have them in the past or we would have come to this point earlier.) We have the resources, both in insights and in the advanced emergence of large numbers of people, so that we can now face the most threatening aspects of the patterns well. If we do this, we can then relate to the more localized, not-quite-as-intimidating aspects and deal with those at the same time with even greater power.

Question: I am a little confused by the concept of attacking the "larger" issues in order to think more clearly about the "smaller" issues. This occurred to me when you were talking about the comparison between nuclear holocaust and the Atlanta murders. It seems to me that there are times when people have to respond first to what is the primary life-threatening factor to them in order to think clearly about survival in the short term. If I am a citizen of Upper Volta and my primary need is getting enough food to live on, it seems difficult to ask me to contemplate nuclear holocaust when I may starve unless I search for food. It seems to me that there are primary and perhaps secondary levels of intensity or of concern about life-threatening issues. Clearly for me in that position, starvation is much more primary than is nuclear holocaust, although it is also clear that if nuclear holocaust happened, it would be all-embracing. It seems to me it is important theoretically to make some kind of distinctions in our lives between dealing with those issues which are most life-threatening for us immediately and in the longer term. It may require us to counsel or discharge our distress on what is immediately life threatening for us just in order to survive, before we can concentrate on other issues. I would like you to try and incorporate that kind of thinking in your proposals. I believe you are right in your conceptualization of the importance of preventing nuclear holocaust, but I think we should discuss this other factor, too. This comes up for me over and over and over again. It is hard to decide what to emphasize because some people simply cannot relate to the holocaust concept, not because of their numbing fear but because it is not an immediate or primary life-threatening factor.

Yes. This is one of the places where we really have to think our way through. In a way we have come against this difficulty before in goal-setting. I talked about this the first morning, about the patterns about goals with which our early Co-Counselors had to contend. The imbalance of goals came in many categories but tended to fall in two familiar ones. There was the person I mentioned who couldn't be bothered with our policy in Viet Nam because he had to look after his family and that was very short-sighted; but also there was the wide -world -changer, the revolutionary, the social change artist who never washed his underwear nor looked after the feeding of his family. Back in the 30's, I met a radical Montana farmer who talked like I was thinking, but when I asked other farmers what they knew about him, they were full of contempt. They said, "He talks about changing the world. Hell, he didn't even get his crop in this year." It was plain that the imbalance of goals, the imbalance of emphasis, made him ineffective. Although his heart was in a new society, he wasn't going to get anywhere near a new society and no one would follow him because of the imbalance of goals. Our conclusion was that we had to have a program of goals at all levels for our goal-setting to function well.

The conclusion we reached was that we have to deal with everything. We must deal with the threat to the children of Atlanta, we must deal with where our next meal is coming from, and we must prevent nuclear holocaust. We have a whole spectrum of issues that have to be dealt with. Even for the resident of Upper Volta who has starvation staring him or her in the face, the issue of eliminating nuclear weapons must be faced when there is slack to do so.

We have slack. We are sitting here in a comfortable auditorium with an opportunity to think, an opportunity to work out policy that can mean a lot to all the people of the world, that can perhaps be crucial. We must not allow one concern to reject the others. Maybe I am saying it better here. We must not allow our concern for the Atlanta murders and our need to do something about those to, in effect, reject thinking about nuclear holocaust and discharging our fears of that. Is that better?

Question: This brings up "When does the counselor know best?" Obviously most of our work is client-centered and client-led. Often, I think, a counselor can better see the road ahead and at times it is very useful for the counselor to direct the client's attention. Sometimes it is useful for the counselor to insist that the client move ahead. At other times I think not, because if the client can't feel that issue or can't deal with it yet, the rightness of the fact that that is the next issue doesn't really help the clients move from where they are. I think this is true not only in what order we discharge our distresses, but also in what issue we put our attention on. The fact is that nuclear holocaust is the central issue for us all. The question is, is each person in a position where they can focus on it? And if they are not, is it correct to push toward it and try to work on it or more important for them to discharge where they are? I don't have an opinion. On that subject particularly, I am not sure; but I think that is the question. I think it is a serious question because I think that question affects our one-point program as we see ourselves becoming a little more activist.

Two points further on I am dealing with just exactly the question you raised and I thank you. For now, I would just remind you that we are meeting here not as clients but as the thinking leadership of a world-wide community. I think that in that context we will come out okay.

Harvey Jackins
(Present Time, No. 46, pp. 6-9)

Last modified: 2014-10-18 22:22:49+00