M.5. Handling Oppressor Patterns, Including Sexual Misconduct and Addressing Mistakes, Disagreements, and Criticism[149]

This Guideline has two parts. The first part [A] describes how we handle oppressor patterns, mistakes, disagreements, and criticism in RC. The second part [B] addresses our commitment to keep the RC Community free of sexual misconduct and states the actions we will take if it occurs. The principles in Part A apply to Part B.

Click here for resources addressing M.5.B.

Part A. Handling Oppressor Patterns and Addressing Mistakes, Disagreements, and Criticism

Our Commitment

The RC Community works to end all forms of mistreating people, including all oppressions.[150] We are committed to caring about every human, learning about their experiences of oppression, and becoming increasingly effective at ending oppression.

All of us have grown up in oppressive societies and so we bring undischarged distresses and patterns of behavior from oppression into the RC Community. The RC Community has developed understandings and tools to address these distresses and behaviors. Much of our work focuses on helping people recover from being mistreated and preventing the acting out of undischarged distresses. We also assist each other to reclaim the ability to notice and intervene when oppressive behavior and mistreatment occur, including when we ourselves act in an oppressive manner.

We do these things without losing sight of the goodness of all humans. We understand that no one mistreats anyone else without first having been mistreated and that no one is free from acting out some form of oppressive behavior.[151]

How to Take Responsibility         

We don’t want any Co-Counselor to be mistreated in our Community. As humans who are inherently caring, we want things to go well for ourselves and all other humans and to set things right when they don’t go well. As a peer organization, when we make mistakes, mistreat each other, or act oppressively toward each other, we want to, are committed to, and, count on each other to, take responsibility for our actions. This is our collective responsibility, and includes the following:

  1. Stopping our own or others’ oppressive and hurtful behaviors
  2. Understanding what has happened
  3. Acknowledging the impact of our actions on others
  4. Not reactively denying, defending, or justifying our behavior
  5. Discharging on the underlying distresses and remedying any lack of accurate information that led to our actions so that we are less likely to act in the same way again
  6. Making efforts to resolve any negative effects of our actions, which may include listening to the experiences of and apologizing to the people involved

We are committed to not leaving anyone alone with these struggles. Accomplishing this requires a great deal of discharge in the context of a caring Community.  All patterns, including those that lead to harming others, can be discharged and not acted upon.

We want to build relationships without acting out our distress recordings at each other. We understand that many of our conflicts, disagreements, and feelings of hurt and mistreatment are based on the restimulation of past distresses rather than on current issues. We can also be confused by unrealistic expectations that the Co-Counseling relationship and the RC Community will be free of all oppressive behaviors

Addressing Issues and Concerns

The steps outlined below[152] can help us interrupt patterns (including oppressor and internalized oppression patterns); correct mistakes[153]; address disagreement, criticism, and upset; discourage gossip and attacks[154]; and promptly address an issue we have with another Co-Counselor, including an RC leader: [155]

  1. Counsel, discharge, and think about the concern raised
    1. with the goal of seeing the situation as clearly as possible;
    2. with the goal of resolving the issue in a manner that supports the re-emergence of all involved;
    3. in ways that don’t spread the upset by restimulating others (for example, without using names, by working on the related early hurts, and by counseling with someone who has both a good relationship with the other Co-Counselor and can maintain confidentiality).
  2. Consult with an RC teacher or Reference Person for assistance.
  3. Think of possible ways to resolve the situation and take the action(s) most likely to lead to a successful outcome.
  4. Communicate directly with each of the Co-Counselor(s) involved, providing them the opportunity to discharge on the situation with another Co-Counselor. Then meet together with them, exchange listening, and resolve the situation if possible. If oppression has been involved, the person(s) in the oppressor role should listen for a lengthy time without speaking. Involving a third Co-Counselor is often useful.
  5. If direct communication and discharge do not resolve the situation, or if communicating directly with the other Co-Counselor is not workable for any reason, request the assistance of an experienced Co-Counselor, an RC teacher, or an appropriate Reference Person.
  6. If the situation still does not resolve, take it to the next level of Reference Person, including an Regional Reference Person (RRP), International Liberation Reference Person (ILRP), International Commonality Reference Person (ICRP), or the International Reference Person (IRP).

Most upsets, criticisms, and disagreements can be resolved with discharge and communication without taking all these steps.

We have found it is most effective to counsel and discharge about these difficulties in sessions. Trying to resolve these difficulties without the attention of an aware counselor has, in our experience, not been effective. Also, it is most useful when we discharge on the early distress that underlies our feelings and resist any tendency to use Co-Counseling sessions to act out our feelings of upset.

We have come to understand that simply criticizing an individual, including a leader, is different from disagreeing with the person’s idea or policy and is not useful to either person. Instead, we can discharge on restimulations that pull us to unawarely and mistakenly act out distress recordings at other Co-Counselors, including RC leaders, and at the RC Community, so that we can make constructive contributions.

Issues with Leaders and the Community

If a Co-Counselor believes that a leader is mistreating them and defending that behavior, the Co-Counselor should bring their concern, as quickly as possible, to their RRP or another local RC leader. We do not want any mistreatment in RC, by anyone.

If the concern is with the RRP or other local leader and you need help outside the geographical Region, contact another RRP or the IRP.

We recognize that Co-Counselors can sometimes attach distresses to leaders.[156]

Before addressing an issue with an RC leader, it is useful to discharge (with someone other than the leader) on any distresses we have about leaders in general. This can help clarify the issue for us, making it easier for us to resolve the issue, and to think well about ourselves and the leader.

As leaders, we need to discharge on any early hurts that could make us feel defensive or attacked, so that we can listen to and act on the information and possible correction being offered to us.[157]


This Guideline supports the development of loving, affectionate, thoughtful, effective, and caring relationships against the pressures and confusions of the societies that surround us.

Many of our disagreements and difficulties with each other will be resolved with continued discharge and new information and do not require immediate resolution. (See also Note IV. Reaching Decision [print version page 101].)

At the same time, we want to end the acting out of oppressive attitudes and behaviors. We want mistakes, mistreatment, disagreements, criticism, and upsets to be handled thoughtfully and effectively, and in a way that is re-emergent for everyone involved, improves our relationships, and supports the ongoing work of the Communities.

Because of our hurts, we often are unaware that we are acting in an oppressive way until we have done considerable discharge. When our oppressive behavior is brought to our attention, we may be restimulated, disagree, deny we have acted oppressively, and/or suggest that the person in the oppressed role discharge, as if their feelings are the issue. Instead, we can consider what we are being told as an opportunity to listen, learn and use the discharge process with others before responding.

We know that many of our feelings of upset are based in the restimulation of past distresses. We may feel critical of or upset at one another with little or no basis in the present.

Direct communication (without acting out distresses) gives each person the opportunity to

  1. learn directly about the situation;
  2. think about the content of the issue and any connected upsets;
  3. challenge old feelings and patterns of internalized oppression and powerlessness, coming from having been victimized;
  4. fully discharge on any harm or restimulation;
  5. identify and discharge on any distress patterns or oppression in the situation;
  6. be reminded of the human qualities of each person;
  7. use discharge and communication to resolve the situation and make needed corrections;
  8. strengthen our relationships; and
  9. enlist other Co-Counseling resource when necessary.

Mistakes, oppression, sexual misconduct, disagreement, criticism, and upsets can negatively impact individual Co-Counselors, Co-Counseling relationships, and the RC Communities. Systematically using this process can deepen relationships and strengthen the Community


[149] We distinguish criticism (pointing out someone’s faults in a judgmental way) from telling someone they have made a mistake or offering feedback with the understanding that people are always doing their best given the hurts they have acquired. Instead of using punishment, which reinforces distress patterns, we seek to end harmful behavior by offering, when possible, Co-Counseling sessions as part of a process to heal and resolve any effects. 

[150] Oppression is the one-way systematic mistreatment of a group of people by the society, or another group of people who serve as agents of societal oppression, with the mistreatment being encouraged or enforced by the society. Examples include racism, classism, and sexism.

[151] We encourage Co-Counselors working on oppressor material to primarily work on it in sessions with other people who are not members of the oppressed group. One should ask permission before counseling on oppressor material with a person who is targeted by that oppression.

[152] This procedure is similar to other traditional and legal models including Restorative Justice, Alternative Dispute Resolution, mediation, and other models in many different cultures.

[153] Mistakes by leaders are also addressed in Guideline E.1. Structure of the Community: Leadership.

[154] See Guideline O.2. Handling Attacks.

[155] Any Co-Counselor involved in a situation applying this Guideline. is always welcome to have a Co-Counselor with them in a supportive role at any stage of the process.

[156] Such distresses might include rigid anti-authority feelings, tendencies to express disappointment in and criticism of leaders, and feeling powerless to think about or share thinking with leaders. These feelings may be rooted in our experiences with the adult "leaders" in our early lives, such as our parents and teachers.

[157] See Articles Supporting Our Understanding of the RC Community Guidelines at rc.org/guidelinesresources.

Last modified: 2024-02-21 21:50:58+00