A Recent Introduction to RC

An introductory talk given by Tim Jackins1 at Re-evaluation Counseling Community Resources, in Seattle, Washington, USA, November 2007

Welcome, however you got here. My name is Tim Jackins, and I am part of this operation. It’s called Re-evaluation Counseling. There are lots of pieces to it, most of which aren’t apparent in this room. It began with some people who started out in the early 1950s with some ideas about what we humans are like, where we get confused and lost, and how to change things so that we can keep our minds more fully, enjoy life, and have larger lives. Over these fifty-some years, a lot of people have been involved and a lot of things have been figured out. There are many books back on those shelves. We have put out a lot of magazines. Different constituencies have their own magazines about how they’ve used these ideas in their circumstances.

I can give you a quick thumbnail sketch2 of some of the basic ideas. I don’t think they will be unfamiliar. They may seem a little strange in some ways, but whether or not you believe they are accurate, you will probably hope that they are, because they are a hopeful set of ideas and postulates—these things we assume about human beings. All of our work has been supportive of them, but they are assumptions because we can’t prove them in any definitive sense.


First, we assume that you are tremendously intelligent, that you have more intelligence than you ever dreamed you had. You have it. You have it. You have it. Apparently every human being is born with a vast amount of intelligence, unless physical damage has been done to his or her forebrain. If that didn’t happen to you, you’re tremendously intelligent. We can’t say whether you are more or less intelligent than someone else, but if there are differences, they are so small compared to how much intelligence you have that they don’t really matter. All the jockeying for position in society, the “who’s smarter than who,” we think isn’t really about humans and their intelligence at all but a confusion that people get into.

We think that human intelligence is unique, that humans think in a different way than other creatures do. Some of our close cousins resemble us in a lot of ways, including being able to do things that simpler animals can’t. However, no other species seems to be just like us. You can see that by looking around this place. No other species builds things like we do or has stained glass windows—has been able to remake the environment like we do. No other species has been able to spread across the face of the earth and survive and have good lives in all of the very different environments. It takes something to do that, and apparently we have it. This doesn’t mean that we are smart all the time, it doesn’t mean that we don’t make horrible mistakes or mess up large parts of the world, but we do have a particular ability to think and figure things out.


We also think that inherently people enjoy living, that they are excited about being alive. The best word we’ve found for it is “zest.” That’s the tone of the human mind when things haven’t interfered with it. If you look at small children, they wake up and “click”—they’re fully “on.” They want this day to begin now, and they go rouse their parents who no longer have that perspective. The young ones are ready to go. They are alive, and they love being alive. They want to try everything they have ever seen anybody try. They don’t care if they know how to do it. That’s not the point. Being successful at it isn’t even the point. They want to try. They want to see what it is like to be alive in all these ways.


We think another part of being human is to enjoy communicating and cooperating with other humans. There is nothing as interesting to us as another mind like ours, probably because there is nothing as complex that we could interact with. There are lots of interesting things in the universe, but there is nothing as enthralling as trading ideas or cooperating to do something together with another human being. We love cooperating and communicating.

We think that all of this is natural to every one of us, that it’s the way people would naturally live. However, I suspect that there are moments in your life that are not quite like that—moments in which you are not intelligent, zestful, or cooperative. Moments, just moments. Little exceptions. There might be someone who you don’t enjoy being with, or who you have trouble communicating with. Or perhaps waking up this morning was not so joyful. Or maybe you didn’t figure out a new way to handle the world—the house that you built fell down or you decided to move to a place where you freeze all the time. We make bad decisions, and we get stuck in them. And we have trouble with each other.


Having our intelligence doesn’t mean that we won’t make mistakes. It means that we learn from them. A mistake is just a mistake—we didn’t get something the way we wanted it. Watch young ones. If they are learning to throw and want to throw a ball at you, they will throw it, and because they don’t have any control, it will go way over there. Young ones don’t mind that. You watch them get closer and closer to throwing it to you. They learn from each attempt. When we adults make mistakes, we tend to give up. Or we make a particular mistake over and over again. Maybe we always burn the eggs in the same way, or bang our shins on the same table, or never remember to open the door wide enough. Over and over, we make mistakes that we don’t learn from. We make mistakes in our relationships. They aren’t that happy.


Repetitive mistake making and giving up are part of our lives, but we don’t think they are our innate human functioning. We think they are the result of damage that was done to us. It seems that when we get hurt, our minds can’t keep functioning in their natural way, or there is strong pressure for them not to, and we act in ways that aren’t thoughtful and things go wrong.

We have trouble in our relationships. Our parents—shall we look at them as an example? There are places we get stuck with our folks. Every time we go home (all we may have to do is walk in the door and hear that tone of voice or sniff the smell of the house), all the old difficulties flood back into our minds. This is because when we get hurt, things freeze in our minds. They don’t get thought through in the same way as when we are unhurt. Everything gets frozen. We say that a distress recording forms. Everything in that lousy incident gets wound together and is undigested. Our minds can’t make sense of it—and we respond somehow, but not thoughtfully. We turn around and stomp out of the house, or we sulk for days, or we yell back, or we go to our room and slam the door—whatever the habit is in our family for handling upsets. That’s bad, because we lose an opportunity to figure something out, but the hurt also causes us to have more trouble later on, when we’re in a similar situation. Every time we go back home it gets harder. We’re more lost more quickly. When all of the old feelings of difficulty come back in this way, we say that we are “restimulated.”

I taught in a community college for about thirty years, and it was clear that the students had picked up an amazing collection of distresses related to learning in schools. They were coming back to school because they wanted to. There were things they wanted to learn. But you could see them walk in the door and start to slow down, from all the memories of earlier difficulties in school. They’d find a seat and sit down, and a certain percentage of them would fall asleep. All the old feelings from back there—of being defeated, of being bored, of being belittled, of not being understood—would start coming back, and they’d literally pass out. If you did much school, I’m sure you’ve had that kind of experience—you’ve opened a textbook, looked at it, and fallen asleep. Something like that has happened to almost everybody. It’s a result of the way our intelligence got interrupted by distress patterns.

It happens a lot. How many things upset you? Four thousand three hundred and seventeen today? Some of them embarrass you. Some of them scare you. Some of them make you sad. A lot of them make you feel lonely. Some of them make you feel bored. Getting sick or injured puts in distress recordings, too. Do you notice how you almost always get sick in the same way? You get the same tickle in your throat or the same headache? Certain things keep coming back. All it takes is something similar enough to the way you got hurt in the past and your mind brings up all the things you couldn’t make sense of back then. Then it gets really confusing. Take relationships. You have a relationship with somebody. How much is that person like someone else you knew before? When a relationship blows up,3 a lot of people go off and find someone else who is much like the person with whom they had the earlier relationship. They have relationships with a series of people who are reactively attractive to them because there is something the same as before, and the same difficulty occurs every time.


The patterns we acquire interfere with our learning, with our relationships, with our doing all sorts of things. And as we get older, we get more of them. They aren’t so noticeable in children. Children get hurt—they are made to feel ashamed or embarrassed or scared about something—and the next day you look at them and you can’t tell.4 They’re just as bright and active. But as we get older, something happens. The recovery takes longer. We are upset for a couple of days. We’re told to go home from work when something upsetting happens because “You will just make mistakes if you’re that upset.” They know, we know, that we aren’t thinking well. “Do not drive heavy equipment” when you are feeling that way; it’s dangerous.

A large part of what’s considered old age in our societies is the accumulation of distresses. For example, it’s likely your grandparent would talk to you repeatedly in the same ways. It was out of the past. We don’t think this is part of natural aging for humans. It’s the accumulation of distresses. My grandmother lived until she was ninety-six. She was in a nursing home after she broke her hip. I would go there and get her out of that place—take her to eat something in some bright little restaurant. I would wheel her over, put her in the booth, and then move her wheelchair out of the way. One time after I’d done that and come back, she looked up at me and asked, “When did you grow up?” Her mind was in the past. I was still her little grandson, and she was trying to figure out who I was.


What happens to us is an unpleasant picture. We are vulnerable to getting hurt and collecting distresses. However, another aspect of our mind is that we have a way to repair this. The damage is not permanent. It installs confusion on us, but it doesn’t change our ability to think. It just makes it murky. Our minds have a healing process that removes the difficulties, if we get to use it. It’s in our minds. We were born with it, just like we were born with our intelligence. You have seen it operate, and you have tried to make it operate, but in every organized society it’s suppressed. It’s not allowed to happen. It’s interrupted, either in a friendly way or a harsh way.

We can get the best picture of it by noticing small children. When small children are hurt, they turn and look for somebody who might listen to them. They go toward that person to get close, and they talk about what happened and they cry about it. And they cry and they cry. Almost always nobody can bear to let them cry. “There, there, it’s all right,” “Oh, shut up,” or, “Here’s a bottle.” As we get older, it’s a pill or a drink to keep us from showing how we feel.

So we all learn to hide the way we feel. We know, secretly, but we don’t tell anybody—or maybe we have one friend. If you were lucky, sometime in your life you had a friend with whom you could sit down and actually show fully what it was like in your mind, and cry about the struggles and disappointments. Or maybe you just locked yourself in the bathroom and turned on the water and cried—that’s where you could figure out to do it. All of us try to recover, and few of us get any support, much less help. We are belittled, or something else happens to stop the healing process.

Tears are part of this healing process. They are an outward sign of it. They are a reliable outward indication of what we call the discharge process. I can’t tell you what happens in the mind. But I can tell you that if a person is allowed to cry long enough, he or she notices an effect, and other people notice a change, too. It may take a large amount of crying if the person has had to carry the distress for a long time. (Small children may cry for fifteen minutes and afterward you can’t tell that anything hurtful happened to them—they are “out” again.) If we are allowed to cry, if we are listened to and not given advice, not shushed, not pushed at by somebody else’s urgencies, if we are just listened to, we will cry and cry and the tension from the hurtful incident will drain away. We will then be much more relaxed about what happened. We will be able to think about it without being upset by it, and a distress pattern won’t form.

You should have had this opportunity when hurtful things happened to you, starting at birth. I have proposed that we create a new position called “baby catcher,” someone whose sole job is to be there at a birth and pay attention to the baby if the baby needs to cry. That would be all they would do. They wouldn’t worry about the baby’s health or anything else. Other people could take care of that; there are well-understood professions that do that. But the idea of actually listening to somebody isn’t well understood. And because none of us got enough of a chance to be listened to, the hurts we acquired stayed in there, and they trouble and confuse us in many different ways.


They don’t just build up individually. The big hurts—for example, sexism, racism, and classism—have become part of our society. They put distress recordings in our minds, and once we have those recordings, we compulsively act in racist and sexist ways—not because we think it’s a good idea, but because we can’t think well once the hurt is in there. So part of what we get to work on is the individual ways we got hurt—by the accidents, and the quirks of our family—and part of what we get to work on is the way people are targeted in our societies by distresses like sexism and racism and classism.

If you are targeted, you know how hard it is. Everybody who has been a target understands what it’s like. We have been slower to understand that the people who’ve been trained to be the agents of oppression (men toward women, white people toward people of color, owning-class people toward middle- and working-class people) have had a large set of distresses put on them to make them act that way. And it spoils their lives, too. An example is class. Owning-class people have a lot of material resource, but they are just miserable. The people who are trained to play oppressor roles are badly damaged by it. Everybody who grows up in a society with lots of oppression is hurt. (It’s interesting that this is more important than having material resource. We need a certain amount of material resource to survive, but past a point, our minds are much more important than material slack.)

So here we sit with a great collection of painful things that we can’t forget and another set that we can’t even remember happened to us. And they all affect us. However, the healing process works our whole lives. The ways we’ve been hurt remain accessible to it forever. I have worked with people in their eighties who talk about growing up on the farm and how mean their dad was when they were six, and they blow up at him and cry and yell, and something changes in their mind. Something that had dogged them for eighty years starts to relax; something eases so that they think better. They feel better, too, which is interesting, but it’s not what I care most about. They actually think better, and start deciding things differently and living larger lives.


We have not found any distress that doesn’t start to move when we get a chance to work on it using our natural healing process. A large part of Re-evaluation Counseling is figuring out how to get this process working in our own minds, and learning to listen to and support somebody else as they use the process. In a Co-Counseling session you take the time you have available—one hour, two hours—and you split it in half. In your half of it you get to talk about what you need to talk about. What you talk about is up to you.5 And you can talk about it in great fuzzy generalities or in precise detail, depending on how safe you feel with your Co-Counselor. That turns out to be the important factor. As you get to know the person better, you feel safer and you start talking more. You get to talk for half the session, and then you switch roles and the other person gets to talk and you listen.

For the first several sessions your fundamentals teacher advises you to “Shut up and listen. Don’t say anything. Don’t give advice. Don’t start telling a similar story of your own. You will get your time. Don’t do anything to interrupt. Just be interested in the person’s story.” Later on, when you no longer feel like you have to interrupt, you learn to ask questions that encourage your Co-Counselor. The questions are not for your information. They are to help your Co-Counselor keep talking, because most us are afraid that no one is interested. Most of us are also afraid that no one will understand, so we talk in careful terms for a while

It’s interesting. It’s often a startling surprise. We notice that someone is listening to us, and we also notice how unusual it is to have someone do that. We are shocked at how little we’ve been listened to, and how little we’ve listened to others. And of course that is part of how the healing process hasn’t been allowed to operate. (The conditions for interfering with it became part of our societies long before we got here. We just inherited them.) So it is really interesting just to talk, to be free to lay out the thoughts in our minds to someone else. Often that is all that happens for the first couple of sessions. If you continue having sessions with the same person, you become less worried. You tell the same stories, but the stories change. The first time you tell them, it’s like you are telling them in the third person. You are talking way over here. It’s a “once upon a time” sort of thing. Then after you’ve told the stories once and come back to them, you feel like you can count on your counselor a little more. You put a little more of yourself into it. And then a little more.


As you build the relationship, something interesting happens. You don’t plan it. Your mind takes over. At first you are steering the session carefully and you don’t reveal too much or take “dangerous” chances. Then at some point, when you feel safe enough, your mind makes a decision that you didn’t intend to make. It sort of takes the control away from your worries and you start telling the story just like it was. You remember how it felt.

Where before you had only one little tear slowly coming down your cheek, more tears start to come. It’s like you have gone back and are there and fighting the fight for yourself instead of being victimized by it. You get a glimpse of not being pushed around by what happened to you. At that point the process works the way it should have worked at the beginning, the way it’s been waiting to work for all these decades. You see something shift in your mind.

There’s a group of us that have been doing this for fifty-seven years. We know a lot about it, but you can’t just accept anything we say, or what you read. The process won’t work unless you think about it and test it. You have to think about it, because it’s not a rigid thing. It’s about getting your mind back. We have guidelines to help you not make all the mistakes we made in figuring it out, but it’s important that you really think and try things out your way.


We want you to have access to everything we’ve figured out. We have Communities of people doing this in places you’ve probably never even heard of—for example, in Ufa, Bashcortostan. There is a good Co-Counseling Community there. It’s near the Ural Mountains. We have groups in Africa, Japan, China, and many other places. There are lots of people who have figured out this recovery process well enough that they are working together and building Co-Counseling Communities. There is a good sized Community here. There are big Communities in lots of different places. Co-Counselors use what they’ve learned to help each other keep clearing out their minds and taking on6 more challenges.


Part of our progress depends on making these ideas accessible to more people. We can do a lot in our Co-Counseling sessions, but a piece of helplessness remains unless we are trying to reach more people. Children care about anybody with whom they have contact. It doesn’t need to be family. Our families are just where we have an excuse to be with each other. What children look for is another mind, another human being. If you can show them that, you’re family to them, they come toward you.

Leaving other people struggling and unable to get out of their distresses slows everyone down. So people who use these ideas, after some preliminary work, tend to try to get more minds involved. Doing that seems to accelerate their own use of the discharge process.

We think that everybody can lead, and do all sorts of other things too. We don’t think that any of us who leads is special, except that maybe we had some chances earlier than other people. I had an early chance because my father was working with Co-Counseling. I got involved forty-nine years ago and got to have lots of sessions, figure things out, make lots of mistakes, and try to reach lots of people. As you do that, you will understand the process better and better. It will work better for you as you involve others.

So that’s what RC is about: helping people learn this thing and supporting them in figuring it out. The usual way to begin is in a fundamentals class that meets one night a week for sixteen weeks. There will be two to twenty people in the class. A teacher talks about the healing process and works with people in the class. Most important, you Co-Counsel with someone between class meetings. You try out these ideas with another student and come back to class and talk about how it went. Maybe it got scary or confusing and you feel like you never want to do it again. The teacher can help you figure it out and take the next steps.


It turns out that you have years of things to talk about. However, in the beginning, because you are uneasy with the process, you may not know what to talk about. Often your fundamentals teacher will suggest that you tell the story of your life, starting with your earliest memory. Some people do this in about four minutes. For some, the hour is up7 and they are at age five. You will recall a scattering of good things, but much of what will come to your mind is experiences you need to go back and counsel on and discharge about. There are unresolved struggles back there. If you tell the story of your life every six months, the stories don’t resemble each other very much. If you’ve had the chance to discharge, things that seemed big and important and tied up your mind get smaller, and other things start to show.

You will be working on hurts that you didn’t get to discharge. Partly you’ll need to talk about them, you’ll need to put your mind on them. There are also other things that can help. For example, we have DVDs of my father8 talking, or working with people. When I was thirteen, I learned by watching my father work and talk. I studied what he did, why he asked a particular question, how he helped someone’s mind go to a place where it couldn’t go by itself. That’s why we ask questions in Co-Counseling—to let people know that we’re interested and to help them keep their mind in the place where they are trying to work. It’s hard to do that by yourself. It’s always useful to have someone else there thinking with you.


We have guidelines that summarize what we have figured out about making a Co-Counseling Community of people function well together. One thing we require from you, if you’re going to take a Co-Counseling class, is that you not set up any other kind of relationship with anyone you meet in Co-Counseling—only a Co-Counseling relationship. There are lots of important reasons for this that you will understand better the more you Co-Counsel. The big one is that a lot of our distresses and struggles are about relationships and we are trying to keep the Co-Counseling relationship separate from those struggles and not get it tangled with them. So when you meet someone in RC, you’re going to be Co-Counselors (if you want to be) and nothing else. This is a requirement. It makes it safe for you in the Co-Counseling relationship. Your Co-Counselor can’t request or expect anything from you except being a Co-Counselor. We all have odd expectations we can put on other people that confuse things. We are here to do a particular piece of work with each other, and we get this relationship to do it with. We don’t get to go to the movies with each other, sell insurance to each other, or go to bed with each other. We don’t get to have breakfast or coffee with each other. We get to be Co-Counselors. You’ll find that you can make that a very big relationship. You can care deeply about each other without trying to do all the other things you haven’t figured out how to do well in other relationships. We try to keep the Co-Counseling relationship separate and clean. It’s a good idea. I’d like you to agree with it, but you are stuck with it anyway.

You will feel like having additional relationships with some Co-Counselors. Co-Counselors will often be immensely attractive to you, partly because of your distresses. You’ll have longings from old times when things didn’t go well, and you will attach them to people. I can predict that this will happen. You will swear that it won’t. “No, not me.” But it will, and it’s all right as long as you are not confused by it. It’s a good way to work on the ways you got hurt in earlier relationships.

The policy protects you. It also saves the Community from a lot of work in cleaning up messes. You will have distresses that get attached to someone, and that’s fine. Just understand what they are, counsel on them, and tell your teacher about them. We can’t have you around unless you are willing to fight to hold that line. It’s what makes the Community safe for a lot of people. They can sit down and have a session with someone and not have to battle all kinds of uncertainties. It’s very important.


Another policy concerns addictions. Every mind wants to discharge, and certain chemicals interfere with that. Anything that affects the mind and central nervous system can get in the way. Alcohol does this, badly. If you are going to have sessions and be in a Co-Counseling class, there is no point in your doing it if you have been drinking, because the discharge process isn’t going to work. So you are asked to stay off alcohol before and after the times when you Co-Counsel or are in a class. Eventually everybody who’s been in Co-Counseling very long decides that alcohol isn’t useful and gets off of it completely, but to have the discharge process work, you have to stay off of it at least around sessions and class times.


 Confidentiality is also a biggie.9 What are you going to tell somebody about your life? How secretive are you going to be? Well, it depends on how much you trust them. So we have a guideline that says that anything I tell you in a session you never get to talk about with anybody else, period (unless I give my permission), and the same goes for anything you tell me. That understanding underlies every Co-Counseling relationship, every Co-Counseling session. If you can’t do that, nobody is going to want to counsel with you. Maybe they could have nice little sessions on small upsets, but those aren’t the things that have ruined their lives. The things that have ruined their lives are the things they can’t talk about easily, and they won’t be able to talk about them unless they can count on10 you. So confidentiality is an important requirement.

There’s a scattering of other policies, but those are the big ones: no socializing, avoid addictions, maintain confidentiality. If you can decide, however much of a struggle it takes, to hold to those, then you are welcome.


We would like to have you. Like I’ve said, we’ve worked at this for a long time. I took my fundamentals class forty-nine years ago. We know a lot. We do a lot. Last weekend I was leading a workshop in New Zealand; the weekend before in Australia. There were a hundred and thirty people there in Australia and fifty in New Zealand.

We want you to have everything we know. But you have to work. Knowing is not enough. You have to put it into practice in your lives, in your sessions.

We want to get these ideas out where people can use them, because they make a big difference in people’s lives. Eventually we want to change society so that the ways we get hurt, for example, by racism and sexism and classism, don’t happen anymore—so that we have a society in which people aren’t operating out of greed and exploiting other people and taking advantage of them. To do that we’re first going to have to clear a lot of minds. That’s where we are at this point. That’s us. So welcome.

1 Tim Jackins is the International Reference Person of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities.
2 A thumbnail sketch is a short overview.
3 Blows up means falls apart, ends.
4 In this context, tell means see it.
5 Up to you means your own decision.
6 In this context, taking on means undertaking.
7 In this context, up means over.
8 Harvey Jackins, the founder and first International Reference Person of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities
9 A biggie means very important.
10 In this context, count on means depend on, rely on, trust.


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