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Building Men into the Center of RC

I just returned from a Virginia Regional Men's Workshop led by Chris Austill, the new RC International Liberation Reference Person (ILRP) for men (or, as he puts it, the new International Liberation Hooty-Toot for Men). I'll give you a report.

Chris is totally unpretentious and completely without arrogance, very warm and accessible to everyone, hilariously funny, and a brilliant and thoughtful counselor. He shows himself fully all the time and discharged almost continuously throughout the workshop. He said that showing ourselves is the key issue for men these days: to not wait for the conditions to be right to let people see us fully as ourselves. This means showing our embarrassments, fears, etc., and it might mean discharging openly in any situation. To cover up our real selves, our real thoughts and feelings, is a lie; to show ourselves takes courage and integrity. This is not the same as "inappropriate clienting," and the difference is where our attention is. With inappropriate clienting, we are trying, wittingly or unwittingly, to cajole a session out of someone. Showing ourselves shows our humanness.

Chris spoke at some length about the transition from Charlie Kreiner having the role of men's ILRP to Chris having it. Charlie (who has changed many people's lives, including mine) got Chris into RC, and Chris organized counseling for Charlie during his recent life-threatening illness and liver transplant. At a late stage in Charlie's illness, Harvey appointed Chris (with Charlie's approval) as acting ILRP for men. Six months later, Harvey made the appointment permanent. I think it was an excellent choice.

A small example of Chris' thoughtfulness throughout the workshop was the way he had us set up sessions. First he had the people who had never been to a workshop stand up. Each of them picked whoever they wanted as Co-Counselor, and then that person could pick a third person to make a three-way, if he wanted. Then he did the same with men who had never been to a men's workshop. Finally, the remaining folks picked partners. This allowed the newest people to set things up for themselves and allowed more experienced people to learn by counseling with the newer folks and also allowed them to pull in other experienced people if they wished.

During topic group time there were three groups: one on teaching fundamentals, one on men's support groups, and one on Community building. They were run as "clinics," allowing people to talk and discharge on their successes and difficulties in these three areas and to plan and discharge for the future. I led the one on Community building. We focused on the necessity of building men's RC and also keeping men in the center of general RC Community-building as well.

Saturday night's class started with the shocking news of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, and the first part of the evening became an excellent class on Jewish liberation.

For the remainder of the evening, Chris talked in a clear and real way about men's oppression and did a marvelous demonstration with a Gay man. I learned a lot about counseling, particularly the importance of slowing down and establishing connection and not trying to jump into flashy discharge.

Later we had a great creativity class ranging from yoga to juggling to Chopin to Iranian classic poetry to "Great Balls of Fire." The night ended with a jazz jam session and dancing.

Although I had to leave the workshop early the next morning, I understand that Chris spoke about men putting ourselves in the middle of things. He also gave a report on his Beijing experience and laid out his five-point program for men's liberation in the next period:

  1. Teach Co-Counseling and develop new counseling leaders.
  2. Make ourselves central in the Co-Counseling Communities.
  3. Organize ourselves as a movement.
  4. A men's support group in every pot.
  5. Become experts at backing leadership.

I left the workshop feeling enormously reassured about our men's work in RC and anticipating good forward movement in recruiting men, keeping men in RC, and getting organized as men and also in the general RC Communities. I also left having made many new friends, re-energized for my own men's work, and feeling I have a great friend, peer, ally, and leader in Chris.

Ed Rejuney
Kensington, Maryland, USA

Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00