The Complete Appreciation of Oneself [1]

by Harvey Jackins

[click here] for Guide to Appreciate Oneself


What we call Re-evaluation Counseling developed as a result of some accidental experiences in 1950. Full-time exploration of the phenomenon which we had stumbled upon began in late 1950, and by February of 1952 it had acquired its present organizational form as Personal Counselors, Inc.

Spectacular successes happened often enough with these first years of “professional” counseling to overshadow any difficulties that we experienced. Dramatic changes occurred often enough and with enough clients to reinforce and increase our eager excitement at exploring this avenue that promised to answer the riddle of human warpedness and unhappiness. We learned consistently and became better and better counselors.

Yet certain distress patterns of certain clients held out against us. Many fine changes would occur with these same clients in other areas, but some distress patterns would persist in the face of all we could do. These were chronic distress patterns, consistently dominating the behavior and feeling of the individual, though we did not realize the distinction at the time.

Partly we were slow to realize this because, at the same time, we were having successes with other patterns just as chronic. With these, the counseling situation itself, our eager, enthusiastic and interested attention, the privacy of the counseling booth, etc., were sufficiently different from the contents of the pattern to achieve the necessary contradiction. Discharge would then occur consistently just as it did with the permissive kinds of counseling that were so successful with the non-chronic patterns. We noticed that these distresses required a great deal more time to discharge completely than other patterns. We spoke of them as “heavy” patterns and the non-chronic ones as “light” patterns, missing as yet the qualitative differences between them.

Student Co-Counselors had much more trouble with these chronic patterns than did the staff counselors. Difficulty in coping with one of these was often the excuse for switching Co-Counselors if not for giving up Co-Counseling.

Much discussion and experimentation went into this problem. We rigorously avoided the familiar rationalization of blaming the client for being “difficult,” for “not cooperating,” for “not trying hard enough,” for “not wanting to get well,” even though the chronic pattern often gave the client every appearance of just these things.

We began to understand the necessary factor in early 1954, and sometime in 1955 we were quite clear about the distinction between chronic and non-chronic patterns. We knew that chronic patterns are simply patterns that have been restimulated past a critical point so that they now “play all the time.” We knew that clients have identified themselves with the chronic patterns and are unable with only self-generated motivation to look at them objectively. We knew that enough factors in the counseling situation itself must contradict the chronic distress pattern before discharge can occur, whether these factors are achieved accidentally, intuitively, or deliberately.

This was a major development. It led to much more consistent successes with every type of client. It opened the door to a much more profound estimate of the intelligence, ability, and goodness of every human, however deeply this nature is obscured by the sediments of distress.


The application of these understandings to Co-Counseling has been a detailed and fruitful process.

Once the distinction in ways of handling the latent and the chronic pattern became clear, the search for dependable Co-Counseling procedures for chronic patterns began.

It soon became evident that discharge achieved from a chronic pattern tended to have more far-reaching results than the neater, tidier but also less important results of working on non-chronic patterns with permissive counseling.

With the new knowledge, discharge from a chronic pattern could be achieved beautifully on the days when the counselor was rational, aware and creative. On these occasions, the aware counselor quickly noted the direction and content of the chronic pattern, calculated an opposite direction to it and offered the phrases or actions which would put this opposite direction into effect. S/he then found the acceptable and possible avenues for motivating his or her client to use these phrases and actions to contradict the pattern and achieve discharge.

In actual Co-Counseling, however, an optimum counselor is not always available at any particular session. When the counselor was not aware, Co-Counseling that tackled chronic patterns did not tend to go well. So a search was begun for dependable directions; that is, directions which a client could take that would be “upstream” (against the pattern) under all or nearly all conditions. What was needed were directions that could be remembered or read off written notes on the days when the counselor was not “sharp.”

We soon found that validation of the client by the counselor was such a dependable direction. In general, distressing experiences are not stored away which include someone being rationally validating and approving to the victim. Later it became clear that the direction of self-approval was even more dependable. There are few distress experiences in which the victim is relaxedly pleased with himself or herself.

(In group meetings, it was found that the expression of affection was a dependable direction. To share and accept affection with and from a group of other humans is to contradict every hurt we ever had, apparently.)


The direction of self-approval worked particularly well. At the same time, the persistence of a helpless, dependent attitude on the part of the client whose chronic pattern was being attacked became increasingly noticeable as a difficulty.

It was plain that the helplessness and dependency that invaded the Co-Counseling relationship once chronic patterns were attacked had its origin in the actually dependent status of the child whom the client had been at the time the foundation distresses of the pattern had been laid in. Yet the progress of the client emerging from a chronic pattern was slowed by this very dependency.

Good direction by the counselor to contradict the chronic pattern and earnest attempt to follow the direction by the client would lead to heavy discharge and a good session. At the end of the session, the client would typically tend to reverse polarity, slump into the direction of the pattern itself and stop progressing until the next session when the counselor once again would give a good direction, etc.


In the fall of 1963, a turning point was reached in response to the question, “How far should a person go in approving of himself or herself?” A dozen stopping points were immediately suggested by those of us discussing the question, but examination failed to uphold any validity for the proposed limits on self-approval.


The conjecture then followed: What would happen if a person approved of himself or herself without any reservations whatsoever? Over a period of time, this question was attacked logically, philosophically and experimentally.

Logically it turned out that any proposed limitation on how far a person might rationally go in approving of himself or herself was always rooted in a distress pattern of invalidation itself and could offer no valid stopping point.


Philosophically we began with an important distinction that had been faced early in our work, the necessary distinction between a person and a distress pattern with which the person is afflicted. It became very apparent in the very beginnings of Re-evaluation Counseling that to be effective in any human relationship, and especially in such a demanding one as that of counseling, it was necessary to sharply differentiate between the rational human and the distress patterns which have parasitized him or her.

It is true that distress patterns are attached in some way to a human and repeatedly turn him or her off and present themselves as if they were the human; but their rigid, repetitive non-survival activity is qualitatively and completely different from the flexible, creative behavior of the rational human. They are attached to the human only in the sense that a tick is attached to a host, or that a tin can is attached to the tail of a harassed dog.

To fail to make this distinction and on the one hand to treat the pattern as if it were the person, is to attempt to reason with it, to try to communicate with it, to seek to elicit a flexible response from it. The pattern cannot be reasoned with, cannot be communicated with, and is in its very nature capable only of repetitive, rigid responses. The person who makes such a mistake will almost certainly have his or her own frustration recordings restimulated in the process.

On the other hand, to treat the person as if s/he were the pattern is to invalidate the person, to fail to communicate, to behave as if the human were an idiot. This does not work well, either.

We had known this distinction for some time. Applying it in the context of the human’s approvability, the rational human being is immediately seen to be admirable and approvable without limit. Any reservations held about the human or any canards or smirches thrown in his or her direction must really be directed at attached patterns that are distinct from the human.


Experimentally it was found possible to explain the above and communicate it to a group of intelligent people.

It was found possible to secure agreement from each person in the group that this was the correct attitude to take toward each of the other members of the group. Then when the agreeing individual was confronted with a request to be logical and apply the same standard to himself/herself, to the first person singular, to face and exult in his or her own elegant nature, satisfactory discharge followed promptly.

There is a dependable direction for contradicting, discharging, and emerging from chronic patterns which can be reached by prior communication and agreement (not just offered by the counselor and accepted on faith by the client). It is to appreciate oneself in every way without any reservations.


This may not seem very different from previous attempts at self-approval but the “without any reservations," appearing as a quantitative enhancement of the approval, turns out to bring important qualitative improvements in the whole nature of counseling.

“Without any reservations” gives basic logical support to the direction of self-approval under any and all conditions. Any apparent “thoughts” that call for changing or limiting the direction of self-approval while engaged in trying to follow it can be arbitrarily but accurately labeled a reservation and ignored or resisted on the basis of the previous logical commitment.


In practice, the client is beset by reservations. The more enthusiastic the self-approval s/he attempts, the more his or her mind is invaded by the “fruit bats” of self-doubt, self-criticism, suddenly remembered and apparently genuine flaws in his or her character and the whole miserable record of his or her apparent past failures and shortcomings. These, of course, are just the recordings out of which the chronic pattern of non-survival behavior was built. To the client, however, they tend to seem more and more brilliantly logical and accurate than his or her previous logical commitment to unlimited self-approval. His or her commitment to self-approval begins to appear to be a ridiculous, mistaken fantasy which s/he has just matured away from in the last few minutes.

To keep the process working, however, s/he need remember only one thing, that is, to stick by his or her guns and keep expressing unlimited self-approval in words, tone of voice, posture and facial expression.

It can happen that the client will “get lost completely,” that is, be unable to remember a single positive thing to say or with apparent helplessness listen to nasty negatives spill from his or her mouth. She or he is not without landmarks even here. She or he need only force him/herself to examine the negative thought or utterance which by then seems so sublimely logical, laboriously compute its exact opposite, the statement that would be 180 degrees in the other direction, and utter it at least three times out loud in a happy tone of voice. The negative words are thus used as a reverse direction finder. The negative statement by being happily contradicted is turned into fuel for the discharge process. Discharge is on its way once more.


An important corollary of the “without any reservations” shift is the theoretical ending of the dependence of the client on the counselor. Once logical agreement is worked out (not to be attempted to be re-logicked in the middle of the discharge process, of course) the client is never without a direction. Always and at all times, s/he knows what to do. His or her job is to approve of him/ herself out loud “without any reservations” in word, tone, posture and facial expression.

The distinction between direction in sessions and direction between sessions disappears. It is correct for a client in a session to approve of him/herself continuously “without any reservations” utilizing to the fullest the attention of his or her group or counselor. At the end of the session and until the next session it is just as correct for the client to approve of him/herself “without any reservations” to friend, fellow worker, family, shaving mirror, steering wheel or fence post.

At the beginning of his or her next session, it becomes correct for him/her to approve of him/herself “without any reservations” to his or her counselor or group, etc. The client never has to wait for someone besides him/herself to tell him/her what to do. Many sessions in the future will undoubtedly have the counselor begin by asking, with this implied agreement on direction already established, “And what do you need to do today?” For the rest of the session, the direction will be left up to the client.


We have enough experience already to make it plain that the counselor who is used to giving directions has a re-training period ahead of him/her in which s/he learns to wait for the client to give his or her own directions. No matter how slow the process may seem to be at first, when the client does take the steering wheel in his or her own hands without external urging, the resulting discharge will very rapidly make up for any slowness in the beginning.

The counselor is not left idle or passive in giving up his or her old directive role. There are an infinity of ways to assist the client in his or her appreciation of him/herself and the counselor is much more effective as s/he “assists” in this way, than s/he was “directing” in the more elementary kind of counseling.


Group meetings flourish especially well this way. The giving of directions, which used to seem so necessary, was inevitably an invitation to restimulation, tangle, and group difficulties, since good intentions were no safeguard at all against directions being given from patterns instead of from rational awareness.

Now we can dispense with directions completely, once the group meeting itself begins. The available time is divided evenly among those present so that each person has so many minutes to have the rest of the group pay her/him full, friendly, aware attention as s/he appreciates her/himself. The other people are free to discharge also during her/his turn but they have agreed to pay attention and to make no “helpful” suggestions. The order of turns can be assigned by drawing straws or any similar procedure.

If a member “forgets” and “wastes” her/his turn at one meeting or even at several meetings, that is strictly her/his business. The others will refrain from scolding or “helping” her/him. When s/he does get around to using her/his turn well, it will be under her/his own power and will have much greater results than if s/he is “helped.”

A person having a turn before the group may ask and be given any assistance s/he desires from another member or from the whole group except being told what to do or what to say. This is her/ his sacred right and duty to figure out for her/himself.

It seems to work well for there to be a short discussion before the group session itself begins, for the members to refresh themselves on their direction and the use they intend to make of their time before the group. These discussions can well be a statement, by each group member, of what s/he understands about appreciating her/himself. These discussions will often be creative. At the foggiest they can consist of reading the contents of the box on page 36 of this book. The discussions seem necessary to refresh the “appreciate oneself” direction against the only difficulty it encounters—the difficulty in remembering it and remembering to do it.


There are many indications that the “Complete Appreciation of Oneself” is very close to the ultimate direction for emergence from all irrationality. Every time it is applied, it works. We seem able to better remember to do it the more we practice it.

Consistent practice of it by many people is the next step.

[1] First published in 1964 as a pamphlet.

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