Getting Out of One Pattern, Not Falling into Another

Dear Harvey,

I'd like to share my experiences of working with the "Gay Policy." I've worked on it on and off ever since it came out, but last winter X- and I decided that, in view of our leadership roles, we "ought" to counsel systematically on the policy, using "homosexuality is based in distress" as a direction. So that's what we did, for quite a few months.

From the outside, it must have looked fine. I discharged loads of fear and anger and some relief (more of that below). What didn't show was that I was completely locked into a set of authority patterns around X- (who had a more senior leadership role than I did). In those sessions I was shriveling up in terror of her/RC's authority and discharging from a position of "knowing" that if Authority said it, then Authority Must Be Right, and that I was there to discharge until I was ready to believe what I was told. In other words, the situation had restimulated all my early chronic distresses, including the guilt about having sexual feelings and in fact about wanting to enjoy my own life in any way. When I was little I was always expected to "be good for other people," with a distinct strain of that Puritan ethic that any form of pleasure or enjoyment was somehow wrong. Another bit came from school and religion-being taught parrot-fashion what to think, that authority figures were always right, and that my role in any organisation was to learn what I "ought" to think, persuade myself that I really did think that, and then teach that thinking to others with the voice of authority, i.e., switch from the victim to the perpetrator end of the pattern.

It's no coincidence that during that period all my wide-world relationships with Gay men went badly and my internalised shame and disgust got in the way of even simple friendships. I even came to feel disgust at seeing two men holding hands affectionately in a Gay context. I had less and less confidence in my own thinking and at work got sucked back into colluding with and enforcing the oppressions I had started to challenge. (I was in the classic middle-manager trap of being expected to carry out oppressive decisions that I was not meant to be able to control.)

I think what turned things around for me was sticking right in with another Co-Counsellor, whose thinking and distresses around authority were very different from mine and who kept her confidence in my ability to think for myself (thanks, B-!). We reminded each other about the one-point program-that we were to help each other recover our own intelligence, not tell each other (however "lovingly") what to think. At the same time, our Area Reference Person reminded us that RC is based on genuinely thinking and caring about each other. As I put those pieces together, I remembered that ever since we started working on the policy I had occasionally heard people agreeing with it in ways that sounded to me like internalised oppression speaking. And I'd never dared say anything. It looked wrong to me, but of course that must be my distress; I couldn't really be right! At least I quietly avoided counselling those persons in ways which could restimulate the oppression. I'm proud of that so far as it goes, but I'm not proud that at the same time I failed those persons by not fully trusting my own thinking and not counselling them for themselves, without reservation.

My counselling has moved on by leaps and bounds since I came to grips with the authority and leader/follower patterns within it. I am now absolutely clear that my role as counsellor is to help the client recover her/his own intelligence and that the way to do that is to trust my own thinking and think clearly and flexibly about that person-who he/she is, where he/she struggles, what is and isn't useful to her/him at this time, what is really going on for her/him in the session. I'm noticing that as I do this, I see the real person more and more clearly and focus less on his/her identities. Thinking about someone (or myself) as "an identity," who therefore "ought" to carry the classic chronics of that identity, can get in the way of seeing clearly that wonderful real person and the distresses that he/she does or doesn't carry. I'm also getting smart at spotting leader/follower patterns where they are most comfortable for me, which is where my Co-Counsellors run their follower patterns around my counselling and leadership. I contradict that well, but there's one bit I haven't figured out yet: so long as the contradiction is coming from me as counsellor, it still seems to perpetuate the pattern! I'll be delighted when one of my Co-Counsellors takes total charge as client of his or her follower patterns and firmly, without waiting for me, contradicts the bits that I haven't spotted yet, and maybe even moves in to contradict any of my leader patterns that are getting in the way for both of us.

As for my Gay sexuality, the more I work on it, the more I see it as basically a rational and beautiful part of myself and as part of our rich variety as human beings-just like my right-handedness, my curly brown hair, and all the other unimportant but delightful little differences that make each of us the individuals that we are. That's not copping out from dealing with the distresses on top of my sexuality-there's plenty of them, and they are well worth cleaning up! Joan Karp said it so well: "Sex is a wonderful way of getting close to another human being." That's true for all of us! She was also absolutely right when she said, "Unfortunately, most people do not experience sex this way very often, if ever." That's where the relief came in when I counselled around the policy. I've found it hard to reclaim my loving sexuality from the internalised oppression, and sometimes it has felt hopeless. Therefore, it seemed like a relief to be told to give up on that struggle and settle for life without that special form of closeness.

One final thought: Society seems to be very obsessed with sex, especially the sex in Gay relationships, and I'm wondering if the stress we are putting on this area isn't simply bringing that distressed obsession into RC. Maybe the answer is that whatever role sex does or doesn't play in a loving relaxed relationship (of any sexuality) just isn't very important. What matters is our ability to form and keep those relationships, of whatever form.


Dear D-,

I think you have done an excellent job of exposing a patterned attitude, an attitude that can develop with RCers if they are not careful, and that is essentially oppressive and does not represent what the Community is trying to establish.

The attempt to establish a "Gay Policy," for which I have been a principal spokesperson, was never intended to result in any unthinking attitude, support any intolerance, or reinforce oppression in any way.

I am certain that the attitude or identification described as "Gay" arises only from experiences of distress. I am certain that if people can receive skillful, intelligent counseling with that as a background assumption that much re-emergence will take place. I am certain that the person who has previously felt committed to "Gay" feelings and practices will, on his or her own decision, become liberated from such pressures and be free to choose to be Gay or non-Gay on his or her own informed judgment. Most of the results of the very considerable increase in effective counseling about sexuality for Gay and heterosexual individuals has had this effect.

For you to call attention to your experiences of unthinking "submission" to somebody else's opinion as a possibility that can occur, even with the best intentions of the individuals involved, is a real service.

Anyone who has counseled very many individuals well on "any experiences connected with sex in any way at all" has certainly learned that heterosexual individuals are, on the average, as distressed about sex as the people who have identified as "homosexual" or "Gay." Individuals in both groups have a great deal of discharging and re-evaluating to do. And it is certainly understandable that people who have identified with "Gay" roles are often motivated to re-identify with their "Gay" attitudes by the obvious intolerance and inhuman attitudes of the oppressive "straight" societies and individuals.

The growing support in the society for tolerant and "liberal" attitudes toward people who identify as Gay, Lesbian, or bisexual is a net gain in the direction of rationality, but does not represent a fully rational position. (A spreading cult, based on worship of the Great Pumpkin at Halloween, would be preferable to the persecution of calico cats, but would not necessarily be rational or supportive of thinking in other areas.) The reality is, in every case of a client whom I have been able to work with persistently, that homosexual practice and identification has arisen only through mistreatment (however occluded that mistreatment has come to be), and the free choice of the person thus previously identified has moved away from that identification with enough discharge.

(It is also common that the seduction of young persons to Gay practices is justified and excused under the claim that "it's rational to be Gay," and this is definitely harmful and destructive to the young people so seduced.)

So although I cheer and applaud you speaking out as well as you have against the transforming of a person's attitude by the pressure to conform to someone else's thinking, I don't think the attitudes you've stopped at are a good place to stop. You've got a lot better life ahead of you than you have been able to live so far if you clean up both sets of patterns that have been pushing on you-from your past and from your thoughtless Co-Counselor-and discharge your way to a completely rational position.

With love,


(Present Time No. 110, January 1998)

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