High Expectations of RC Leaders and Their Relationships

About a year ago, the two of us (whom we'll call A- and B-) were suspended from leadership in the RC Communities. Difficulties that surfaced in our non-RC relationship had begun to intrude into our work as RCers, and we were acting contrary to RC theory and policy.

One night, when B- was having a particularly hard time, A- made a last-minute date instead of spending time with B- as she had originally promised. B- told A- that she was not to leave and physically tried to keep her in the apartment. A- got really scared. What happened next is a bit sketchy, but it involved a very loud argument, a lot of struggling, a lot of screaming, and a bunch of cuts and scrapes. A- was pretty convinced that B- was trying to kill her, and B- was pretty convinced that A-'s thoughtlessness was to blame for the hard time she (B-) was having. A- left the apartment that night and told B- that she (B-) had to move out.

Initially it looked like B- was to blame for what happened. After all, she appeared to be the aggressor. But Harvey believed we'd both benefit from taking equal responsibility for not having addressed the problems we'd had in our relationship, for not doing something sooner when we'd seen the red flags.

At Harvey's direction, we have been working diligently to assist each other to clean up these distresses. We started out by doing a few four-way and three-way sessions with our Regional and Area Reference Persons. We then decided that we needed to have regular two-way sessions with each other and to ask for assistance from someone else only when we got confused or when the two-way sessions became unworkable. Instead of leaving the Community, or ending contact with each other, we are still keeping our commitment to Co-Counsel with each other weekly.

What follows is our attempt to give you an idea of what has happened in this last period of time. We want to share with you our commitment to cleaning up the difficulties that arose between us and our commitment to returning to RC leadership. First we want to tell you what things were like before the incident occurred and then give you a picture of how things have changed since we started discharging together.

HOW THINGS USED TO BE

We met outside of RC, and our relationship outside of RC was pretty complicated. We had been lovers and were still roommates, though one of us identified as Lesbian while the other didn't. After A- started pursuing men, she got pretty thoughtless about B-, which would make B- angry, sometimes to the point of throwing things around the house and breaking things.

In our relationship, we attached a lot of our chronic feelings to each other in the false hope that the other person would give us a hand. Unfortunately, that was not possible, for we were each rehearsing our chronic distress and so were in no shape to offer any assistance to the other person. Within the RC Community, we tried to maintain the pretense that we were functioning within RC guidelines as Co-Counselors. That is, we pretended to be sticking to the commitment to think well about each other and give each other assistance in discharging our distresses. Anything that happened in our relationship that was contrary to this, we kept secret. We both had fears that if people really knew us, they would not like us. That is why our Co-Counselors were not aware of how much things had escalated between us. Our previous fights had been few enough and far enough between that we'd just patch things up as needed and not really make any changes to the relationship.

WHAT B- LEARNED ABOUT HERSELF

I had a lot of confusion about Co-Counseling theory and practice and wasn't able to get correct information because of patterns of not being honest. I was dishonest out of fear of being wrong and not being liked. One of the first directions I received after this crisis happened was to admit that I lie as a client and to take the direction of being completely honest with my Co-Counselors at the risk of losing them. What is interesting is that my Regional Reference Person had been giving me this direction for months prior to the incident, but I didn't understand it then.

I had also maintained the false perception that the distress attached to me was "too big" and that I was incapable of successfully functioning outside of it. I thought that because I had had unfortunate incidents happen to me in my past, I was a victim of circumstance and it was someone else's job to excuse any dramatizing I might do as a result of these past experiences. I expected this particularly from A- and would become very angry with her when she tried to question my behavior. In doing so, I was able to scare her into colluding with my distress. Very early on in my life I learned how to manipulate the guilt and confusion of others. When they questioned my behavior, I would say that there was nothing I could do about it and that they should just accept me how I was because I had always been doing the best that I could. In a lot of ways, I felt trapped by my distress on two sides: on the one hand, I expected people to see me as being victimized by my distress; on the other hand, I wanted people to treat me as if I was smart and capable of handling myself responsibly.

When the fight occurred, I was convinced that I had been wronged. When I spoke with Harvey and found that he was upset with my actions, I was completely devastated by his reaction. However, as I thought more and more about what he said, I realized that I really needed someone to remind me that it is my responsibility to take charge of my distress, that my intelligence is much stronger than my distress, and that I have the ability to act outside of it.

Harvey also reminded me that the point of RC is to help us think better, not feel better, something which had completely eluded me up until then. At that point, I realized I had a lot of bad feelings to work through before I would be able to think well. At the same time, I realized that the most important direction I could take (which I continue to take) would be to never again take actions based on my distress. Through this commitment of acting solely on my thinking, not on my distress, I am able to discharge more thoroughly on my chronic material. It has also become easier for me to be honest with others about where my distress is interfering with my ability to think clearly, which makes it easier for my Co-Counselors to give me a hand in these areas.

As I thought about what transpired between A- and me on that particular night, I realized that I was completely convinced that I was experiencing a new hurt. The truth of the matter is, while I was badly hurt early on in my life by the people closest to me, I will never, ever, be hurt that way again. There is no need to be afraid of being hurt that way in the present, because it will never happen again. This insight has lent me a great amount of courage and confidence for dealing with present-time situations.

WHAT A- LEARNED ABOUT HERSELF

I'm realizing that everything I seem to struggle with in present time is actually rooted in early hurts. Knowing this not only helps me discharge on what I need to, make better use of my sessions, and not take present-time struggles so seriously, it also helps me tremendously in not taking B-'s (or anyone else's) distresses personally. They're not about me. And any feelings I have about her aren't about her at all. They just got attached to her. Likewise, any negative feelings I have about myself aren't about me at all. Only early invalidation and isolation could force me to think this.

The way that B- and I took each other's (and our own) distresses seriously and personally was what got us into trouble. It was great that we could notice where the other person needed a hand, but we lost judgment to the point of letting feelings, not thinking, guide the relationship. Now, as Co-Counselors, we're actually able to think about each other. It's clear we plan to stay in each other's lives, and we continue to think and discharge about whether that will include some form of friendship or not.

Besides the difference it's made in my relationship with B-, the work I've done in the past year has profoundly changed other parts of my life. First and foremost, I'm learning to really think about my relationships with people. A sense of desperate loneliness and a lot of undischarged fear of upsetting people drove many of the actions I did or didn't take in my relationship with B-. As I work through those, I'm learning that it doesn't make sense for me to take just anyone as a best friend or lover - that whoever I choose to play those roles in my life shouldn't be whoever I happen to stumble across. Instead, I have to actually think about who would be good for me and why, and what criteria they should meet, and then go after them. Doing this is forcing me to face all my old fears of being unwanted, of being left, of not being liked, which is much better than just finding someone else I can take care of and feel bad for.

Losing B- (at least temporarily) as a friend has also challenged me to work on closeness in a way I hadn't been able to before. I had assumed I'd just learn to get by without B-, or most anybody. Being forced not to pull back from B-, not to shut her out of my life, has helped me learn how to fight for the people I love and battle my fears of showing them how much I care. I can see now that this search for closeness in my life most certainly won't focus solely on one person whom I've chosen to pursue, as it has in the past.

Part of that, I've learned, means being much more open and honest with others about my life than I have ever been before, instead of settling for letting them see me "look good" all the time. I've been amazed at the number of other young adult women I've talked to who have revealed serious problems in their own relationships that they, as I used to, simply keep hidden from others. A lot of them are Co-Counselors. Many of us don't intervene or take a firm stand when we see other people in relationships that don't make sense. Fewer of us decide to thoroughly discharge what has led us into those kinds of relationships, because we carry so much shame and want to look good to others.

All of this is helping me to reclaim my own thinking about my life. I am learning that truly, no one else can think about me as well as I can think about myself.

WHAT WE'VE LEARNED ABOUT COUNSELING EACH OTHER

B-: Through our two-way sessions, A- and I have assisted each other in fighting some very big battles. In particular, we have tackled the places where both of us stop thinking in the face of fear and pretense (our own and each other's). As a raised-poor woman of color, I have learned that it is possible for me to turn a situation around when someone is acting out of fear and pretense, and that to take a position of powerlessness is to act within the distress I carry. At one point in one of our sessions, I had to step outside of my frustration and fear in order to point out the places where A- was pretending as a counselor. I insisted that we stop my session and that she take a few minutes. What followed was an amazing session on some of her very early distress. I was able to counsel her well, and when we resumed my session she also counseled me well.

A-: At times it has been difficult for B- to believe that I won't get scared as her counselor, in the face of her chronic distress. I've had to learn how to listen to her get angry about the ways I failed to think about her in our relationship. As a middle-class woman, it has been a big step for me to learn how to help B- discharge on the struggles she has as a raised-poor woman, instead of blaming her for having them or just pitying her. I have had to face my fears of being criticized for making mistakes as a counselor. I have had to learn not to "fake my way" through someone's session and, at B-'s suggestion, to take a few minutes if I stop thinking. I have also learned to be open and honest about my thoughts as a client - that there is no shame in having distress.

We have had an opportunity to measure our progress. I got entangled in a relationship with a man that wasn't good for me. Instead of dramatizing resentment or frustration, B- put her feelings aside and counseled me well on the chronic distress that led me into it.

We have realized that the difficulties that arose between us were rooted in early, early hurts. All along the way, we have insisted in sessions that the other "go back there."

OUR COMMITMENTS TO YOU

This is not to say we have cleaned up everything. There is still much more work for us to do. In many ways, we've just begun to scrape the surface of chronic distresses we hadn't really understood before. But with the assistance of the other, we continue to battle. Having to face each other and each other's chronic distress, instead of running away, has been such a huge contradiction that we'll never be hooked by the distress in the same way again. Besides the effects this direction has had on our individual lives, it has ensured that an incident we thought was destined to drive us apart actually helped to bring us closer in a way we couldn't have imagined.

We are very confident that we are ready to return to leadership within the RC Community. We want to thank those of you who have offered us counseling, advice, and support. It means so much to us that you have cared about us, not just because you like us or think we're nice people, but because you expect us to act like the intelligent people that we are.

A- and B-
USA


Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07