Don’t Take It Personally

Much of our progress in Re-evaluation Counseling and the evolution of the insights that constitute our theory come about through a “sorting out” process. The “infor­ma­tion” that has been offered us from the occasion of our birth up to the present, both in explicit words and sen­tences and in the modeling of the people around us, is a thoroughly garbled mix­ture. It consists in part of actual information about the nature of reality, but also, in large parts, of misinforma­tion. This misinformation is composed of patterned attitudes, preju­dices, deliberate falsehoods, “innocent” falsehoods, and many, many threats and op­pres­sive attitudes directed at us and the people around us.

So our progress towards re-emergence necessarily con­sists in great part of this “sorting out” process, separating the true information from the false, separating the inher­ently human atti­tudes from the patterned ones, separating our own accurate perceptions of what is going on from the distorted perceptions passed on by others’ distresses and ac­cepted uncritically.

As our theory has developed, critical turning points have taken place in this sorting out pro­cess. The “No Ancestors, No Descendants” article marked such a nodal point in the re-evalua­tion of their relationships for many RCers, or so, at least, they have told me. I think such criti­cal points probably mark the re-evaluation of whole classes of information.

I have recently had an insight which is proving valuable for me. I now communicate it on my assumption that it may be valuable for at least some other Co-Counselors.

The insight:I now realize that not one of the injuries, wounds, grievances, or invali­dations that I have endured, suffered, felt bad about, or resented in the past, was ever directed personally at me.

I had taken them personally. I had thought of them as personally directed at me. That it has seemed reasonable to me to take these offenses personally will also, I think, seem ob­vious to readers of this article.

After all, I had been the individual named and publi­cized during many humiliating episodes. I had been ridiculed in person in the hearing and sight of thousands of people. I have survived many tense, important discus­sions during which my innocent motives were lied about, maligned, and condemned. I was once told by someone very close to me and on whom I depended for emotional support that she wished that I had been killed in­stead of my brother. I was once served with a subpoena that had my name printed on it, was charged with “being contemp­tuous of Congress,” and after many following lies and at­tacks was sentenced to prison. I was once expelled from a union which I had fought very hard to build.

Of course I had taken these attacks “personally.” If you had asked me, until recently, why I had such a persistent sense of receiving injury and rejection and hostility and feel­ing discour­agement and despair, I would have said that my feelings were not only rea­sonable and under­stand­able but also difficult to contradict. I would have told you that I had only partially dis­charged this distress through the most persistent and difficult coun­seling.

Then one day I was listening to a client wrestling over and over again with the failure of the people in her family to welcome her existence or to pay her aware attention. She re­counted many incidents in which parents and sib­lings seemed to give a clear impression to her that her exis­tence, her functioning, and her personality  were unim-por­tant, unwel­come, uninspiring. She seemed to be held in contempt by them.

By chance I knew the parents and siblings who had, over half a lifetime, acted in these ways to her. I did not doubt that they had acted that way since I had observed some of their manner­isms in other situations as well as in her presence. But I also knew that they were very intelli­gent people, gifted, gracious, creative, and people that one would always be glad to know and associate with. At that moment it seemed plain that their attitudes and actions (which had left such a load of distress upon her) had to necessarily be recordings of previous distress experi­ences playing on the members of her family. The client could not rationally have called such responses forth since the client herself is a thoroughly charming, attractive, gifted, cooper­ative person, enjoyable to think with, to relate to, to be around.

In that moment it seemed plain to me that all the actions and attitudes which had been pro­jected at her necessarily had nothing to do with my client or with the people from whom she had felt such injury and rejection. They had to be recordings of previous dis­tresses in their lives being played out by the members of her family. It seemed neces­sarily true in that insight that the things they did and said had to be the rehearsal of patterns from their pasts, that while they were acting so offensively they “weren’t even there”!

It seemed plain that all the actions which had left such a hurtful impression upon her had been the acting out of scenarios from past distresses by these other people, and that her pres­ence had simply been borrowed by them as a kind of unaware stage prop to help complete the dramati­zations. Caught in the rehearsal of their ancient distresses, they had not only “not been there” but were necessarily completely unaware that she was there. Her tremendous load of in­validation, fear, and discouragement was the result of a complete misconception of what was going on. It was as if a person had acquired a permanent atti­tude of terror from hearing what appeared to be her own murder being plotted in the next room, and only after being thoroughly saturated with the horror and danger which the sounds called up, coming to realize that the sounds were from a radio that someone had left turned on and that a broadcast program had been the sole basis for the feelings of danger and horror.

Seeing this situation clearly with my client forced me to think that the great load of dis­tresses with which I have wrestled (for thirty-four years before counseling began and for forty-one-and-and-half years since Co-Counseling started) was never directed at me per­sonally. I am sure I must find a way for much additional discharge. I think it will come easier now that I am ea­gerly realizing, at least several times a day, how the many until-now dismaying events of my life were simply rehearsals of someone else’s past distresses. I thought they were directed at me, but in­stead they were voiced by people who really “weren’t there at all” as they rehearsed them. It has been my un­der­standable mistake to have taken the threats and the dramatizations and the attacks “personally.” The threaten­ers and dramatizers and attackers not only “weren’t there” themselves, but they didn’t really know that I was present either.

I propose that I (and you, dear reader, if you will) begin a systematic review of all the mem­ories and attitudes of our pasts in which it has seemed to us that we have been vic­timized, as­saulted, or personally injured in any way. I propose that we and our counselors seek to find additional ways of contradicting these old oppressions and that we fight our way to a clear real­ization that, although we inci­dentally got bruised and sidetracked by many of these in­cidents in the past, the feelings of being personally victim­ized can be elim­inated. I am hopeful that we can come to view our pasts as a marvelous series of narrow escapes and dramatic experiences from which we have re-emerged unscathed.

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00