Additional Reports On "Reality Agreement" Counseling

The "Reality Agreement" approach to counseling continues to be a live, active frontier. It has been taken up more quickly and used with more success and enthusiasm than any previous advance in our counseling practice. Not everyone has been willing to try it, of course, even where it has been explained carefully, but in these instances the hesitation seems to be based on fears, rooted in past experiences, that this approach could turn into a unthinking "formula." (There have been some other specific resistances which also seem rooted in past distress.) With careful discussion and encouragement I think all people will eventually find ways of trying this that will be acceptable to the individuals who now hesitate to use it. My judgment, at this point, is that this approach will eventually have good effects on everyone's counseling.

Many people have written to express opinions that the Reality Agreement approach is only a logical offshoot of some previous developments in counseling. "This is just another way of putting attention away from distress." "This is a way of contradicting all distress at once." "This is a way of getting the counselor's role back to that of listening instead of giving directions that the client probably doesn't need."

I think these analyses and suggestions are probably all "true." I think, however, that there is some kind of a qualitative shift involved with use of the Reality Agreement approach (when it works well) that can give us a better picture of our real nature and functioning than we've usually until now been able to glimpse through the murk of patterns and patterned activity. Just as "holding directions" between sessions first enabled clients to resist the re-assertion of the chronic pattern, so the keeping or re-establishing the agreement on the fundamental distinction between reality and pseudo-reality and the persistent effort to think and speak from reality only seems sufficient to produce continuing and reoccurring discharge.

During the long development of counseling theory and practice, I have persistently tried to find ways to motivate a client to act against such deeply installed chronic patterns as those which enforce timidity, irresponsibility, and powerlessness. I have shamelessly experimented with sarcasm, embarrassment, and use of other fears to try to motivate the client to contradict these heavy chronics since rational appeals usually seemed to have little effect. (Success with this has not been overwhelming.) All along it has seemed true that rational motivations would be far more effective than such trying to contradict one pattern with another. The intelligence of the client is certainly where the real power lies. The apparent "effectiveness" and "power" of a pattern can only be a borrowed bit of the actual power of the intelligence being held hostage by the pattern.

Now some things have happened with the Reality Agreement that encourage and excite me greatly. A number of clients from many different backgrounds have agreed on the absolute distinction between the reality of the Universe and the "pseudo-reality." They have also agreed on an absolute distinction between the real nature of the client and the pseudo-reality which has been projected at him or at her. On agreeing to this distinction, these clients have immediately begun to discharge. They did this without any questions or prompting from the counselor. With the counselor remaining silent, or at most offering encouragement to the client, they continued to discharge.

If we collect these clients' communications of what it seemed to them they were doing during this spontaneous activity, I think we may be able to learn and communicate to each other some remarkably effective ways for the re-emergence process to proceed.

Even more exciting to me are two experiences that I had with strangers. These people did not know me, knew nothing of Co-Counseling, and seemed to have the usual kind of conditioned inhibitions about discharge.

Yet, after brief discussion, they expressed agreement with the distinction between actual reality and "pseudo-reality." They at least agreed that it was an "interesting idea." At that point, without any further communication between us, they proceeded to discharge. Every minute or two, their eyes would catch mine. Sometimes they would mention briefly what seemed to them to be "funny," or what seemed "moving." They would then resume discharge, at least as effectively as any of the RC leaders have done with this Reality Agreement approach.

Why does this excite me? It seems to me this opens the possibility of unleashing re-emergence on a wide, public scale. If some of us can find our way enough out of our remaining timidity and shyness patterns to do this, we can show people how they can begin to dramatically change their lives without the awkwardness, confusion, or delays that we old-timers have settled for with previous techniques.

Harvey Jackins


Last modified: 2019-04-19 19:07:21+00