The Communication of Important Ideas [1]

by Harvey Jackins

Human affairs are in several kinds of crisis today. These crises are not in themselves new, but are moving in these years toward some kind of climax. The existence of the Cold War has helped to make plain that rigidities in society threaten the well-being of humanity. Escalating warfare in Asia embroils the world. Nuclear armaments pose a danger to the existence of all life upon the planet. Racism, poverty, and irrational population increases are increasingly intolerable. Many people are becoming aware of these facts.

Fewer people are as yet aware of the nature or the source of the individual human aberrations underlying these social rigidities. These irrational patterns of behavior are present in every adult human; they distort and curtail every individual, group and society. Yet, because of the way these patterns function it is difficult to be aware of them.

This pamphlet is addressed to people familiar with Re-evaluation Counseling [2]. You are aware of the nature and source of individual aberrations. To you it is present knowledge that no individual need remain caught in patterns of irrational behavior. You know that only distress experiences leave irrational behavior patterns on a human being, and that thorough emotional discharge and re-evaluation will remove the sources of these patterns from any human. The alternative to remaining aberrated is an arduous alternative but a workable one.

Many of you who have used Re-evaluation Counseling techniques have suggested that society and social problems could be grappled with rationally and need not be handled within the framework of existing rigidities. You have suggested that Re-evaluation Counseling could remove the irrationalities from individual humans who would then be free to approach social problems intelligently.

You who have seen Re-evaluation Counseling work can conceive that alternatives exist to nuclear war, that it is possible to handle existing problems and conflicts of interest in ways other than by an arms race or a “balance of terror,” or by armed intervention by one country into the affairs of another. You can conceive it to be possible to apply rational methods to ending armed conflict, to the relaxation of international tension, to progressive disarmament, to solving the problems of transition to a peace economy, to meeting the real needs of the world’s peoples.

(These pressing problems are moving toward solution in any case through the inevitable social processes which periodically replace societies which have become unworkable with new social structures. These blind processes, however, have in the past operated through armed conflicts and mass violence. Modern technologies make these traditional channels terribly destructive and extremely dangerous to the very existence of humankind and place great urgency on the introduction of rational, flexible behavior into the arena of social processes.)

The knowledge of how this can be done is very precious. Only parts of it are shared as yet by other groups within the population. Lack of this knowledge is what has prevented humanity from coping, so far, with the danger of escalating war, of nuclear holocaust, of international conflicts, of unworkable societies and of lost individual lives.

To communicate this knowledge effectively is a sufficient condition for solving the most grievous and threatening problems of our day. This is so since possession of this knowledge inevitably makes possible discussion, communication and agreement among all human beings concerned.

The effective communication of this knowledge, then, becomes a key problem. Can we clearly and effectively communicate this knowledge to all our fellow humans? If we can, how can it be done?

Let us look at the general process of mass communication of new ideas as it has occurred in the past, and then relate it to the particular new ideas with which we are concerned here.

All effective mass changes of opinion have historically come about by what has been called a social chain reaction. A new set of useful and rewarding ideas is developed by an individual or a small group. These spread throughout the population rapidly relative to the usual slow communication of new ideas or cultural attitudes. Note that these ideas spread rapidly but begin in the minds of an individual or small group in every case. (This is the effective answer to the discouragement patterns which say, “We are so few, what can we do?”)

For a social chain reaction to take place in the past, the old established sets of ideas that governed human relations (whether their guise was religious, philosophical, political or sociological) had to become so unworkable that they were openly and obviously oppressive and dangerous to the welfare of most people. (This was necessary in the past but it need not always be so. In the future logic may replace despair as a motivator of change.)

This condition of unworkability is met by our modern situation where the future appears to be one of despair for most of the world’s peoples if the ideas of the past are to continue to dominate the world.

Secondly, for a set of new ideas to spark a social chain reaction, the new ideas must bring continuous rewards to their possessors. Acceptance of them must bring not just momentary reward nor yet rewards only after years of adherence, but must bring reward and individual satisfaction to their possessor day after day as long as they are practiced.

The knowledge which we call Re-evaluation Counseling meets this requirement of daily reward. To understand the possibility of freeing oneself from the grip of individual aberrations and limitations, and to use the techniques for doing so, is to be rewarded continuously. This has been the experience of people who have used Re-evaluation Counseling consistently.

These useful and rewarding ideas must also include within themselves a motivation for communicating the ideas forthwith to others, once they are accepted and understood. This is the chain reaction mechanism.

The chain reaction requirement is met in that one’s own enjoyment of increasing rationality, of the rewards of knowledge of Re-evaluation Counseling, is enlarged by the extent to which one has drawn family, friends and immediate environment into a similar attitude and quest for rationality. One’s own rewards are limited and endangered in their larger scope by the irrationalities of society and the threatening possibility of nuclear destruction.

This is not just theory. In practice each person who has become a participant in Re-evaluation Counseling has spontaneously felt the urge to “pass the word” to others. What has not been well thought out or solved to date is the problem of communication itself. How can we transmit these useful and rewarding ideas to someone else so that s/he understands them and begins using them in his or her daily life?

There have been many suggestions. “A book on theory.” (One book has been published and more are in preparation.) “Pamphlets.” (There are now several, including this one.) These publications, along with lectures, speeches, television and influential supporters have not, by themselves, accomplished the kind of communication we are discussing.

There have been other kinds of successes, too. Good communication has been achieved many times. A substantial and growing number of people use Re-evaluation Counseling regularly and communicate its knowledge to other people at an increasing rate. Looking at these successes carefully, some key insights emerge.

The first of these is that communication is essentially a personal, individual process. Television, printing, tape recordings, movies, leaflets, mass meetings and lectures can only be auxiliary to and helpful with the main job of communication which necessarily takes place on an individual, person-to-person level.

Corollary to this is the realization that the usual avoidance of this type of communication and the rationalization that it is too slow, too tiresome, are simply covers for people’s own fears and shyness which make it uncomfortable for them to attempt this person-to-person type of communication.

It is easy to demonstrate mathematically that individual chain communication, once in progress, will reach people “in time.” If we start with one hundred communicators and if each of these passes the idea on to two other people within a month, decisive sections of the population will be reached within a year and a world transformation in thought will occur within two years. Not only is such individual communication rapid enough, but actually the television network one’s embarrassment would substitute simply cannot do the job with such important ideas. Human beings are not built to respond in this area to anything less than another individual in person.

A second insight is why this is so. Communication of important, new ideas can be given only to a person who likes or loves the communicator. It is simply not possible to hear and accept anything that contradicts one’s existing fears, prejudices and other rigidities as sharply as do the ideas of Re-evaluation Counseling except from a person whom we hold in affection.

Does this impose an insuperable barrier? However much we want to communicate, most of us have spent our lives feeling very, very limited in the number of people who love or like us. It might seem that if we knew any way to get people to love or like us as much as this requirement demands, we would have already done it long ago.

Instead of frustration, however, this leads directly to a third insight which is something we have known for some time. For a person to love us or like us, it is usually necessary for us to love or to like him or her, and to communicate this to him or her in the first place.

What could hold us back from doing this, since the person whom we wish to love or like is that most wonderful creation in the universe, a human being? Why, only our own fears and shyness, of course (sometimes masquerading as prejudices).

Here we need not be stopped. We have at hand the tools and techniques for freeing ourselves from fears, embarrassments, shyness, self-consciousness and all similar impediments. We have a sizeable group of people working with consistent success at shedding such fears and embarrassments. The means are at hand, are available to each of us.

These means are already being used. Many of the people who come to talk to me about Re-evaluation Counseling introduce themselves with some sentence like, “John —— has been of great help to me and I’d like to learn how to be that helpful to someone else,“ or, “There is this woman in my office who has awareness most people don’t have. I want to be that way myself, and she says counseling made the difference for her. “

Where shall we find people to communicate to? Everywhere. Everywhere around us are people as eager as ourselves for this knowledge, regardless of the contrary appearances which their patterns sometimes give. All humans will wish to hear an alternative to individual unhappiness, to a poorly functioning society and to nuclear holocaust if we will communicate it so they can hear it. They will be eager to learn the tools and techniques to make this knowledge workable and the means of communicating it to others.

This is true of our families, our next-door neighbors, our colleagues and our fellow workers, the members of our house of worship and trade union and P.T.A. It is true of our classmates, our teachers and our students.

It is true of every person regardless of his or her social position or the irrational attitudes which s/he wears. It is true of the “warmonger” and of the “peacenik.” It is true of the person in the White House and the person in the People’s Palace of Peking. It is true of the people in the armed services and it is true of the people on whom their guns and napalm are turned.

Everywhere people are waiting eagerly, though unawarely, to be loved or liked and communicated with. When they have tried what they have heard and felt its workability, they, in their turn, will prepare to communicate it to others. Thus, all humankind will receive the missing information which it needs to solve its problems. It will receive it through the thoughtful communication of individual humans such as yourself, and, in particular, through you.

[1] First published in 1964 as a pamphlet; revised in 1968.

[2] For a brief introduction to the concepts of Re-evaluation Counseling, see The Human Side of Human Beings (audio of Harvey here or text here) by Harvey Jackins, Rational Island Publishers, 1965.


Warm, loving humans everywhere surround us

Fogged in by fossil fears from old distress.

From out our own dissolving fogs, turn to them.

Appreciate, approve, love, touch, caress.

Their eyes and ears will struggle to come open.

Knowing themselves again, they’ll grasp our word.

With tears and trembling, stormy talk and laughter,

They’ll move with us to act on what they’ve heard.

Last modified: 2023-04-15 09:24:12+00