The Logic of Being Completely Logical [1]

by Harvey Jackins


In our progress toward more complete mastery of the environment, we who use Re-evaluation Counseling frequently notice confusion arising from acting on the basis of “feelings.”

In other discussions we have carefully separated “feelings” into “natural feelings” and “feelings of distress.” In theory we assume that the natural feeling of a human being is zestful enjoyment of living and that all distress feelings are the result either of distress experiences immediately present or of past distress experiences which have been stored as recorded patterns and which have been re-triggered by present events.

In actually distinguishing between rational and distressed behavior, however, the label of “good” and “bad” feelings has turned out to be an undependable criterion. Certain distress feelings are subjectively described by their victims as “good” or even “delightful” because such an assertion is part of the distress pattern itself and is apparently verbally concurred in by the human victim when the distress pattern is operating.


The reliable criterion for distinguishing rational from reactive behavior turns out to be the question of its rigidity or flexibility. The response is rational if it is new, accurate and workable in the particular situation. It is recorded and irrational if it is old, repetitive and ineffective. One cannot determine the rationality of a particular attitude or response by whether the person making it reports feeling “good” or “bad.”

I recall a client once reporting: “I was awfully uncomfortable, but I stayed aware this time and I handled things differently. The people looked surprised but they seemed to like it. Things worked out fine!” Here was a report of “uncomfortable” feelings, but a rational response.

On the other hand, there are many narratives like these: “That whiskey was too good to pass up. It was a wonderful spree, but I surely have a mess on my hands now!” “I’m no hero; I gave up quick once the pressure was on, and I didn’t accomplish a thing. It was just too uncomfortable the other way “


There is some reason to think that simple animals (arthropods and simpler) are immune to what we think of as pleasure or pain, i.e., they are lacking in any general responses of the kind that we associate with experiences we term “pleasant” or “unpleasant.” Creatures on this level seem to have very specific responses triggered by very specific agencies—the flavors of certain foods, the specific attractant odors of members of the opposite sex, the “food discovery dances” of other members of the hive, and so on. “Pleasant” and “unpleasant” (as general concepts) seem to have little meaning in discussing the behavior of insects, crustaceans and the like. An early naturalist reported feeding a dragonfly its own abdomen which, presented in this way as food, it ate with apparently good appetite.


Mammals and birds certainly have a more generalized kind of response, a discrimination which has been called the pain-pleasure decision or the pleasant-unpleasant choice. With birds and mammals other than human beings, this mechanism seems to have some survival value. To avoid pain or a too unfamiliar environment and to seek food, sex, companionship and familiar surroundings is a notch above the clockwork behavior of the grasshopper or the hermit crab. This operation of choosing a response based on whether pleasant or unpleasant feelings are aroused is easy to observe in mammals other than humans. Trainers of animals use this response to condition the animal, that is, to warp or distort its inherent responses into new forms more useful to its human masters.

Because this mechanism is easily observed it has been used as a basis for explaining animal behavior and animal “learning,” so-called. It has been used over and over again in attempts to explain human behavior. These attempts have succeeded in explaining almost everything about the human being except her/his humanness.


The potentiality of the “seeking of pleasure-avoiding of pain” type of behavior persists in humans in some kind of latent anachronism even though humans have evolved to a rational capacity. It persists because a human being meeting distress subsides for the duration of the distress to a more primitive level of functioning. Her/his rational intelligence, her/his ability to create new, precise, accurate responses, suspends.

While unthinking, s/he tends to respond on the more primitive basis of avoiding the unpleasant and seeking the pleasant, of retreating from discomfort and grasping at any kind of “comfort.” These acts then become recorded as part of the distress recording and are in the future likely to be repeated by the individual whenever s/he is restimulated and compelled to re-enact the recorded experience pattern once more.


People’s first experiences with Re-evaluation Counseling often lead to a great improvement in their “feelings.” They feel uncomfortable while they are discharging but once the discharge is at an end and the session is over, they often feel light-hearted and free. Understandably, in the absence of adequate theoretical guidelines, these new clients or Co-Counselors tend to think of the “good” feelings they are now enjoying as the goal of their counseling. In a session they are still somewhat willing to feel their old distresses while they discharge them but they expect “good” feelings after a session and between sessions. They may try to choose a direction for their own progress on the basis of whether such a direction leads quickly to “feeling good” or not.

This misses the point, the real point, of Re-evaluation Counseling, which is its role as an avenue for the re-emergence of human beings to complete rationality. Once the rational ability was evolved or created in a human being, this ability to think flexibly, to come up with a brand-new accurate answer based on one’s own goals is the only acceptable guide for a human being’s behavior. Feelings are not at all a dependable guide to action in a rational human sense.

For a human, feelings are to be felt, not acted upon. “Good feelings” can be enjoyed but they are no substitute for thinking. If the urgings of our feelings coincide with the direction of our logical thinking, fine, so much the better, but it is still our logical thinking that is our guide. If our logical thinking goes counter to our feelings, then the more our actions contradict our feelings the more we will feel them (and discharge them) but our logically-thought-out direction will be the direction we try to follow, not any direction our “feelings” urge upon us.

People have recognized this intuitively. When one’s child is asleep in a burning house, the feelings of fear and pain urgently direct one not to enter the fire which will hurt her/him and threaten her/his life. Instead, the human being feels the pain, faces the risk and rescues the child, and human beings everywhere applaud it as the human thing to do.

The same sort of issue is met less dramatically many times a day by each of us. It is met in its clearest form when we attempt to use Re-evaluation Counseling.


A person, for example, after discussion and agreement, sets a direction of always appreciating her/himself without any reservations. S/he knows ahead of time from her/his counseling experience that s/he will feel like a fool as s/he does it. S/he knows it will seem irrational to do it once the old feelings of invalidation begin to throb and before they discharge. Yet s/he continues to appreciate her/himself in spite of the feelings.

As s/he continues, discharge will occur repeatedly, often without her/his noticing it. Profound changes occur, not only in her/his daily behavior but also in her/his fundamental outlook. S/he becomes a more totally rational person, in greater mastery of her/his environment.

True, when we discuss this direction as a policy in a group of Co-Counselors, we are likely to hear loud outcries, groans and other indications of discomfort. “Be logical all the time? Ugh!” “You can’t do that all the time, a person just needs to flop and relax once in a while.” These are not responsible contributions to the discussion. These are only expressions of the familiar discomforts of going against an aberration pattern, of moving upstream, of being responsible. This kind of discomfort is a good discomfort. It is a satisfying discomfort. It is the satisfying discomfort of discharge, the discomfort of sticking to a diet and losing weight when one craves to be gluttonous, the discomfort of keeping the house picked up and fit to live in, the discomfort of having been patient with a child who needed our patience even when we had a headache.


The other kind of discomfort is the kind that masquerades as “comfort” or “need.” It is the “numbness” of being swamped in a hurt pattern. It is the “comfortable” feeling of being shut down, of being stupid in a familiar way.

The heroin addict swears with perfect sincerity that it feels “good” to get a shot of heroin, that it is a wonderful experience worth all the waste of her/his life and others. Heroin is a poison that hurts the human deeply when injected. This hurt creates a distress recording which acts to compel its own repetition, just as any other distress recording does.

The confirmed alcoholic is apparently sincere in her/his recorded insistence that getting full of alcohol is the only desirable way to live. Alcohol is a sedative that shuts down the rational ability and installs a recording of the experience of being full of alcohol. This recording acts to compel its own re-playing, getting the human full of alcohol again, just like any other distress recording.

This is what addiction is: the insistent urge, usually rationalized and defended, of a distress recording to take over the human, shut down her/his intelligence and replay itself with the shutdown person acting as its puppet. We are addicted to being fearful, to introspection, to yelling at our children, to blaming others for our difficulties, to blaming ourselves for everything. We are addicted to whatever is the content of our hurt recordings.


Not all addictive urges are active ones, to be logically contradicted by refraining from action. Probably the majority of chronic distress patterns are inhibiting in character, passive in their effect, apathetic in their tone.

These patterns urge their victims to stay in bed, to put off decisions that need to be made, to not take responsibility, to refrain from initiative, to follow rather than lead, to accept a subordinate role. They insist on things being “easy,” i.e., not contradicting their chronic feelings.


To act logically for any person requires assuming full responsibility, seizing and keeping the initiative at all times, playing an active, leading role, and accepting that the rewards of a rational effort are usually proportional to the difficulty of that effort.

New humans, i.e., unhurt babies, are continuously active and aggressive when not asleep, are ceaselessly and happily probing the environment and extending their understanding and control of it. This is still our real nature when we are adults, beneath the concealing patterns of distress. Our logical behavior will be active in accordance with this nature.

Acting on logic alone offers a workable tool for smoking out, identifying and resisting these addictive urges. Allowing feelings to be included as a guide to action leaves us helpless to tell a goal from an addiction.


“The good taste of whiskey” says the ad and the addict repeats the words. Ask an unaddicted child what whiskey tastes like. “The clean, fresh taste of a He-Man Cigarette” says the television commercial and the conditioned addict. What does it taste like when someone else blows their cigarette smoke in your face?

“I need to think this thing through” rationalizes the introspecting pattern as it retires its captive human away from the decision s/he needs to face and make. How much thinking is done as the human introverts and shuts down?


The dependable direction for emerging from all irrational patterns and regaining full humanness is that of acting on logic at all times. Holding this direction, we do what needs to be done even though we feel afraid. We resist restimulated feelings of grief and depression while we get the chores done. We try to force a smile, not only to spare those around us restimulation by our droopy expression, but also to contradict the restimulated grief. If we contradict it enough, tears will flow in full discharge and we will emerge from depression permanently.

Many people have in the past tried to urge a similar direction upon others. There are hundreds of cults and self-improvement systems and books which urge one to “think positively,” “boost, don’t knock,” “turn the frown upside down.” Some people have been encouraged and helped by these exhortations while others have been bewildered.

For this kind of direction to become effective, a full understanding of discharge and of a Co-Counseling relationship is required. With these as a foundation, it becomes fully effective.


Not only feelings viewed as negative by our culture must be excluded as guides to action. Feelings which our culture will often label as praiseworthy must also be resisted. We may feel tremendous “sympathy” for someone, but if we act on it without thought, without awareness, we can easily find ourselves in the familiar situation of waiting on a “helpless” chronic pattern, of feeding a “sympathy seeking” aberration and being of great disservice to its victim in so doing.


All human beings need to follow their own logic in all their actions all the time. Those fortunate human beings who have with awareness grasped the tools of Re-evaluation Counseling have a special opportunity and responsibility to progress toward uninterrupted functioning on this basis. Feelings will be felt, but need not ever be used as guides to action. If our “feelings” happen to concur with our logic, fine. If they happen to oppose it and we act on our logic, then we will certainly feel our feelings but we will just as certainly discharge them and be free of them, without letting them guide us in the process.

[1] First published in 1965 as a pamphlet.


Cold logic? No! For logic knows to care

And care effectively. It’s fear that’s cold,

Illogic cringe short-sighted, selfish, failing;

Nor is there warmth in sympathy to share.

That’s just the throbbing of distresses old

In tune with ours, agreement with our wailing.

Only the zesty, eager human mind

Will always notice, care, and move to action

For self, for loved ones, and for all Humankind.

Warm logic brings success and satisfaction.

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