A General Policy for Interrupting Distresses that Are Also the Target of an Oppression

To fully understand a particular phenomenon, it is useful to examine it from a number of points of view. It is also beneficial if it can be seen as an example of a wider class of phenomena that have a simple explanation.

Basic RC theory provides a simple explanation (the distress recording) for a great number of previously confusing human behaviors. The RC theory of oppression provides a framework for looking at a number of distresses as being the result of a general mechanism related to the basic nature of the society we live in. The work on internalized oppression and on oppressor distresses has been of great benefit to a large number of people.

RC is committed to the total elimination of all distress, whatever form it takes, even if it means that our stands are not viewed as being "politically correct." The recent re-statement by Harvey Jackins of what has been labeled "the Gay Policy," and the subsequent reaction to this policy, provide valuable insights into the difficulties that arise when a stand is taken on distresses that are also the target of an oppression.

These difficulties arise because the interruption of these patterns by a member of the oppressor group looks very much like the uncaring oppressive condemnation itself. When these patterns are interrupted by a fellow member of the oppressed group, it can be seen as a breach of solidarity, as a "selling out" to the oppression.

In general, the reactions to these difficulties have been one of the following. It is not clear which of these reactions is the most damaging to all concerned.

1. Avoiding these issues in the hope that the distresses will somehow "go away" with time. This, of course, is the most common reaction, as it is the easiest.

2. Insisting on or accepting the notion that the distressed behavior is either rational or inherent to the oppressed group, i.e., that there is no distress, and demanding that RC take a similar "politically correct" stand.

3. Colluding with the oppression by unthinkingly condemning the distressed behaviour of the oppressed group.

The following is a proposal for a general policy dealing with distresses that are also the target of an oppression. A number of examples have been added as well, in order to illustrate the general policy.

a. We (RCers) are opposed to oppression, no matter what form it takes and no matter how it is rationalized. Every oppression is an offense against all human beings. In particular, we are opposed to any oppression that in whole or in part consists of condemnation or mistreatment of an oppressed group for having certain distresses.

Comment: This is the most important part of this policy. It is essential that this point be made up-front and emphasized again and again, both in words and in action. The oppression reinforces the distress and creates difficulties in working on the distress. Effective interruption of the distress must therefore include a complete and uncompromising rejection of the oppression.

b. We are opposed to any form of humans harming humans. This includes all behaviors that are rooted in distress. In particular, this includes patterned behaviors that are also the target of oppression (in the form of condemnation, ridicule, discrimination, or incarceration). We are therefore opposed to any misguided liberal attempt to rationalize or otherwise condone these patterns in order to "comfort" members of the oppressed group or to avoid being mistaken for the oppressor.

Comment: Patterns of all kinds are hurtful and must be opposed, no matter how compelling they may seem at the moment and no matter how they are rationalized. We must oppose all patterns even at the risk of being "politically incorrect" or identified with the oppressor. Any other stance clearly compromises RC theory and our integrity and constitutes an abandonment of humans to distress.

c. We acknowledge the difficulty that an oppressed group has in distinguishing between the caring interruption of patterns that are also condemned by the oppression, and the uncaring condemnation of the same patterns by the oppression. We are committed to finding ways to make this distinction as clear as possible.

Comment: It is important to acknowledge the effect the oppression has on someone's ability to distinguish an interruption of a pattern from the pattern being the target of oppression. Such acknowledgment makes it clear that these difficulties, and the oppression, are well understood, and it also further clarifies the distinction between the interruption and the oppression.

d. We are committed to finding ways to effectively contradict patterns of all kinds. This includes patterns that are the target of an oppression. It also includes any patterns that prevent Co-Counselors from counseling people whose distresses are the target of an oppression.

Comment: All distresses are ultimately individual, and the hurts that installed these distresses are unique to each human being, even if they are very similar to the hurts of other individuals. It is generally difficult to generate thoughtful contradictions directed at a group as a whole. When the patterns are also the target of oppression, the difficulties multiply. Contradiction of the distress is most likely to succeed when done on a person-to-person basis. We must become expert counselors for each other. To accomplish this we must become experts on every oppression we come in contact with, and we must become uncompromising allies for our Co-Counselors against their particular, individual distresses.

Example: Women/Abortion

In the debate on abortion we have seen a heavy and rather unthinking polarization. "Pro-life" activists tend to disregard the effects of sexism, and "pro-choice" activists tend to disregard the extremely hurtful effects of abortions. Any policy that does not address both aspects of this activity is clearly incorrect.

A large part of the oppression of women consists of an imposed lack of control over their bodies in general and their reproductive systems in particular. This situation, which is reinforced by sexual violence, lack of information, coercion, and propaganda, often leads to pregnancies that are unwanted or have not been thoughtfully planned for. As a result, a great number of abortions are being performed to halt these pregnancies. The elimination of sexism and related distresses would be a major step toward elimination of abortions. If to this was added complete availability of the most modern pharmaceutical contraceptives and contraceptive devices, free to any citizen of any age, the pressure to perform abortions would quickly vanish.

Clearly, the oppression of women (sexism) must be strongly opposed and completely eliminated. In particular, we must oppose that part of the oppression which consists of the condemnation of women who choose abortion in order to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

An abortion is an extremely hurtful surgical or medical procedure. Not only does it result in the death of a new human being (its main objective), but it severely traumatizes the woman as well. Some women do not survive the procedure, especially when the procedure is illegal and (as a result) performed without competent medical assistance. Any attempt to label abortions rational (other than in dire medical emergencies) must therefore be opposed.

We acknowledge the difficulty facing women in the middle of an unwanted pregnancy. The sexism and the moral and other social pressures make it very difficult to calmly look at the consequences of having an abortion or not having it. The caring interruption of the distresses that make a woman seek abortion is easily mistaken for the uncaring condemnation from the moral and religious oppression.

Expert and individual counseling is required to allow a pregnant woman sufficient slack to make a decision she can comfortably live with.

Example: Drug Addicts/Drug Addiction

A particularly vicious group of distresses affecting a large number of people are those installed by the use of addictive drugs, such as alcohol, nicotine, methamphetamines, prozac, cocaine, heroin, etc. It is worth noting that the legality/illegality of these drugs is determined more by historical precedent and economics than by the particular nature of the drug.

Drug users are not only severely hurt by these drugs, they are also oppressed for their addictions. Depending on the particular substance they are addicted to, they may be ridiculed or incarcerated (or both) by the society. In the case of legal psychoactive drugs, drug users are subjected to heavy "mental health" system oppression, and in the case of illegal drugs, incarceration is a real risk. Clearly, the various oppressions of drug users must be strongly opposed and eliminated.

Many efforts directed against the oppression of illegal drug addicts have mistakenly taken a "liberal" stance, asking for a legalization of both drug sales and drug use, in effect condoning both. This may take some of the pressure (the persecution) off of (illicit) drug users. However, it does not address the ravenous greed that is fueling the drug industry, which leads to heavy promotion of these drugs. Furthermore, any notion that addictive drugs of any kind have a rational recreational purpose must be rejected as completely patterned. These drugs are very hurtful, and only severe medical emergencies would justify their use.

Both legal and illegal drugs are used to "numb out" the effects of all the various oppressions. There is also a specific oppression directed against drug users. Illegal drugs are often taken in defiance of that oppression. Young people "challenge" the oppressors by taking drugs (whether legal or illegal). The oppression makes it difficult for the drug user to distinguish between the uncaring oppression and the caring interruption of the addiction.

Drug use is always caused by individual distresses, even when these distresses are installed by oppressions. Individual counseling is required to interrupt the patterns.

Example: Jews/Circumcision

A large part of the oppression of Jews consists of a condemnation of their religious practices. Throughout history, Jews have been forced to "convert" to other religions. Under the threat of death, they have been forced to give up their own religious practices and to go through religious rituals foreign and reprehensible to them. Anti-Semitism has been used as a weapon against all humans, by scapegoating Jews whenever the economic situation in a country deteriorates enough to anger the working class. Clearly, this oppression must be opposed and eliminated.

Circumcision is a surgical procedure during which the foreskin of a male's penis is removed. It is mostly done on newborn babies, often with little or no anesthesia. While the procedure is rationalized as being a way to reduce the possibility of infection and cancer (both for the male and his sexual partner), there is no medical evidence to support this. Nevertheless, it is routinely performed (fifteen percent of all male babies worldwide are currently circumcised).

Needless to say, circumcision, like any surgical procedure, is extremely hurtful. It often leaves the victim with heavy emotional scars that have lifelong devastating effects on trust, closeness, and sexuality. Because of the nature of a distress recording, the procedure is often most ardently supported and promoted by people who themselves have had it done. Circumcision is thus generally passed on to the newborn with no thought as to the consequences, in blessed acceptance of the "fact" that this is the normal thing to do to a newborn male child. The foreskin is a normal and functional part of the male body. Any notion that circumcision is a rational practice (for any reason other than rare medical emergencies) must be strongly opposed.

One of the most important rites of Judaism is the Brit Milah, during which a baby is named and male babies are circumcised. This rite is mentioned in the Torah (Genesis 17:7-14) and is performed under enormous social pressure, caused in part by the external pressure of anti-Semitism. This pressure makes it difficult for most Jewish parents to consider alternatives, even when the parents are not supportive of circumcision.

It is essential that RCers find ways to make it safe for Jews to counsel on the distresses that are left by the rite of circumcision, in particular, and by anti-Semitism in general. Such counseling is likely to make it possible for Jewish parents to think better about the "necessity" of performing circumcision on their newborns.

Example: Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals

The oppression of Gays, Lesbians, and bisexuals (GLBs) consists mainly of the systematic harassment and condemnation of this group for their sexual practices. This oppression is extremely damaging, not only to GLBs but to all of humankind. Because of this oppression, humans are generally fearful of touching and getting close to other humans of the same sex. This oppression thus interferes with one of our most basic needs and keeps us separated from each other. Clearly, the oppression of GLBs must be strongly opposed and eliminated.

One of the basic observations of RC theory on sexuality is that most, if not all, of what we "know" about and do in this area is patterned. The experience of RCers who have worked consistently and exhaustively on their distresses around sex has generally been that they have relaxed greatly and lost most of their interest in sexual activity. This attitude is certainly very different from the frantic preoccupation that is common in society.

Given the heavy oppression of GLBs, it has been difficult to consider the fact that most, if not all, of their sexual activity is rooted in distress. Such a suggestion is understandably too easily confused with the oppressive condemnation of the practice of same-gender sex. It is no surprise that this confusion has led to widespread misunderstanding of the Gay Policy. Indeed, the oppression has often led to misguided demands that same-gender sexual activities be labeled rational. Such demands are clearly wrong and must be opposed.

Distresses around sexuality are very individual, and RCers must find ways to make it safe for GLBs to counsel on all distresses related to sex. To do this we must strongly oppose the oppression of GLBs (homophobia) as well as the notion that the sex-related distresses and activities of GLBs are necessarily rational. This, in essence, is what has been called the "Gay Policy."

It is my hope that the above may help shed some light on a complicated issue, that of interrupting and counseling on distresses that are also the target of an oppression. The examples have been chosen because most people are familiar with them. There are many more examples of these kinds of distresses. By acknowledging the nature of these distresses, we can think better about our Co-Counselors and become better counselors and allies for them.

Allan Hansen
Westminster, California, USA

(Present Time No. 110, January 1998)

Last modified: 2016-08-22 02:11:22-07