Starting Re-emergence "at Home"

Dear Harvey,

I think of you most days. I use you as a model in my mind for getting my life and RC as I want it in the world. Sometimes I just say to myself, "What would Harvey do?" By thinking back to things I have seen you do and say, both as counselor and leader, I can sometimes just stop paying attention to my distress or anyone else's for the next few moments. When it gets hard for me to stick to my commitment of keeping to the Guidelines, because of some hurt I got, I remember you and all the frontier work you've done. I think of what you've said about putting forward rational suggestions, even though it appears no one is hearing them, and remembering that the irrational ways will burn themselves out. This helps me to not give up when it seems I am getting nowhere, and to instead notice that this is the process of getting to the more rational point of view. Your modeling and writing about this have been my main, constant, reliable place to get back to clear thinking.

I wanted to write to you and tell you what I've been up to because I am feeling proud these days. I am so persistent about sharing RC and making my world around me better bit by bit.

When I moved to the area where I now live five years ago, it meant giving up simply driving to the other side of town for sessions. It made sense for us to move to this area because a large portion of the community is young families. My son was two at the time, and we were learning a lot about parenting. Also, our move meant less travel time to work for my husband. He and I were running a small business seven days a week, and time at home was a big issue. I had no friends in the area, which made the move feel more isolating than ever. I did manage to have counseling time on the phone several times a week, often several times a day. At the same time, I noticed that a lot of my struggles in using RC or having RC in my life had to do with my partner's lost sense of his dreams and what he really wanted in his life. So I made a commitment to myself to share RC with him and be his ally by getting him to look at what he really wanted, even though he called RC a lot of funny names and said he didn't want anything to do with it. One of the things I did that was useful was to just wait until he really needed to express his feelings and then physically get in his way when he looked like he was going to kick the wall in. I would shake all over and tell him how sorry I was that he got the hurts that he did and remind him he was a good person. Sometimes I cried while I told him this. After the discharge he would talk excitedly for a while about his love for surfing and his desire to stay physically fit enough to be able to do it forever. Each time we got a better picture of where the hurts got laid in and where his inspirations had been clouded. One day he came home and told me about an exciting surfing trip someone had told him about. I listened and listened. When he finished I said, "Well, it sounds like you have to go there and do this." He was surprised that I wasn't threatened by the idea of his pursuing his dreams. After he came back some months later, he talked about all the things that were hard about the trip and what he would do differently if he had another chance. I realized then that he never expected to get another chance in his whole life! So I said, "Well, I think you'll have to go again. That way you can learn from your mistakes and be really easy on yourself." He discharged heavily for a long time. No one had ever given him support to get things just the way he needed them. I explained that this was about being an ally to him and to all men.

Every day I felt bad about myself. I kept thinking I wasn't doing enough "official" RC (teaching classes, etc.), and I had to discharge a lot of this self-criticism. But I was certain I could do anything in the world if I had my husband's understanding about RC and his support. Each time I offered him a turn like I described, he discharged heavily. When we talked after these sessions, little by little we started to notice that our class backgrounds gave us very different perspectives and that there was something liberating about this. He was raised owning class, and I was raised poor. When he worried about money, I could see the terror and hurt and could remind him that our current life was "safe" compared to the one I'd had and that everything would be fine. After about a year of living in this new area I began to make friends with his life-long friends. I began to get a big picture of how badly owning-class people are hurt by the inhuman way they are treated at a very young age. I often offered help and lots of working-class solutions to his friends and always got a rude awakening when they told me that my ideas were un-useful. I started to see that these folks really believed they were only as good as their money would allow. Each of his male friends was in the process of giving up on his dreams in order to remain upwardly mobile.

One day after a particularly good session, we began to talk about the things I had read and learned through RC about the systematic hurts owning-class people endure. I told him then that I had made a commitment a few years ago to find out everything about his class hurts as a way of becoming his ally. He was visibly moved. I told him that what I wanted from him, when he was ready, was for him to find out everything about how it was for people who were raised poor. He said he would. I was enthralled. At last I could share with him my agenda.

As we kept at parenting, using Patty's and Tim's ideas about special time with our son, we ran into lots of challenges. I kept insisting that our home policy be discharge instead of arguing, yelling, physical violence, or anything else. It was hard feeling like the only person on earth that had this thinking. I constantly battled with the feelings that I should be teaching RC to large numbers of people.

At some point along the way my son made a plan to go to a friend's house for a sleep-over. He was clearly too tired, and I revoked the plan. I often let him make his own plans, and so it appeared oppressive to him that I wasn't letting him choose. He screamed and yelled and cried for forty-five minutes. I kept to my position and just said no. Eventually he stopped crying and asked for a glass of water. After a few big yawns he said in a quiet voice, "I think you're right, mum. I'm too tired to go. Thanks." After we put him to bed, my partner had a lot of feelings about the way things went. He discharged some and then talked about how believable our patterns are, and that if we don't stay counselor for each other we never get free of them. I felt so proud of myself.

After my partner's "dream" surfing trip, we began talking about the oppression of owning a small family business. It was the beginning of a lot of talks that led us to selling the business. Doing this went against everything my partner had been raised with and told. Making a decision to be a worker instead of an owner was scary for him. This decision helped him to discharge lots of hurts that had been in his way of seeing that he could have his life and dreams back.

Then last year I taught my first fundamentals class since I moved. I had shared RC with lots of mothers by giving them good attention and sharing a little theory here and there. But each of them had very young children and were struggling with time factors and exhaustion. It was too hard for them to get out to a class. A few people had called me for a class, and then my husband decided he would take the class, too. After eleven years I was getting somewhere! All of the students were men. It was a really good place for my partner to start-with men, and in particular other dads. We worked on men's oppression. I reminded them what a great task it was to get past men's oppression and come to a class about having feelings. I appreciated them over and over again about this.

After the class finished, things were different in our house. My husband and I were both in agreement that RC is vitally important. When I would set up sessions and RC activities, he was there to do the other jobs in the house. For the first time I began having the real support I needed to spend time building our southern Area. I set up three women's support groups, one of which is for working-class women over forty years old. I began counseling with people for the sole purpose of getting close to them and supporting them in their leadership plans. I organised a pregnant mothers' support group which has now become a parents' support group. I received lots of love and encouragement from the local Area RCers to set up a gather-in for our Area so we could really see who we are.

Only now can I see how important it has been to start RC at home, in my backyard, with my family and neighbors. It has kept me real, honest, and challenged. Going across town to have a session with the only person I thought loved me hadn't allowed me to work on all the difficult relationships I've had in the past that resulted in the same difficulties in current relationships. Doing RC this new way is very self-correcting. I can now be with people from other class backgrounds without being so restimulated that I feel like running away. Instead I can see clearly that we are all good and trying our very best.

I'm expanding, building new relationships, and getting much closer to people than I ever have before. My husband loves his work, has eliminated many of the addictions he had when we owned the shop, and has good attention for our relationship and our son. To me it's like having the launching pad built. I'm rocketing forward.

Cynthia (Bird) Johnson
Hampton, Victoria, Australia

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