Way of Accessing and Simplifying Reality

Dear Harvey,

I first started using the short understatement in July, 1997. I learned how to use it from Eddie Green, who had just returned from the West Coast North American Pre-World-Conference Conference. Eddie told me some of the things you said about working with attention off of distress and that you asked people to use the short understatement for the entire six days of the Pre-World-Conference Conference. Eddie and Catherine Land did just that, and Eddie reported to me many exciting things as a result of working this way.

One thing he told me was that if you get your attention off of your distress, you contradict, simultaneously, every distress pattern you have. He said that it is no longer necessary to chip away at this pattern over here and then that pattern over there. By getting attention off of all distress, you create a crack or a gap that allows you to push all of your distress patterns away at the same time. I was immediately excited about this potential.

I had been using the commitment to keep my attention off of my distress except in sessions. It seemed a logical extension to me to continue keeping my attention off my distress once another person arrived who had agreed to pay attention to me and remember all of the inherent human qualities that I possess.


Eddie told me to say, "It sometimes happens that someone likes somebody," and that after I said it, I should either discharge any feelings that surfaced or share my thoughts if there was no discharge. He emphasized that the understatement was not a direction, but rather a phrase, the only function of which was to assist the client to get his or her attention off his or her distress. He told me that for a while the short understatement may have the effect of a direction if the client had some distress about being liked, but that after discharging any being-liked distress, the phrase would stop working as a direction and start working in a totally different way. I had to go through various restimula-tions about doing it right, but I did discharge and do lots of clear thinking in that first understatement session. There was much yawning, and there continues to be.

As my sessions continued, I began to notice that I took longer amounts of time between saying the phrase. My counselors would begin saying the phrase for me during my pauses, and I felt that they were interrupting me by doing so. It was important to let my counselors know that I had my own pace.

Soon I only had to think about the understatement, and I would begin to discharge (especially yawning). Most of the time now, when it's my turn to be a client, I start discharging without even thinking about the understatement. It's like, "Okay, it's my turn," boom, my attention is off of my distress and I'm discharging.

All this time the nature of my sessions was changing as I worked more and more with my attention off of my distress. My thinking became much more clear and insightful. One of the first realizations I had was that when my attention wasn't on my distress of choice (or when I wasn't trying to figure out what I should work on), a deeper part of my intelligence would take me directly to where I needed to go.

Sometimes I would have a memory or otherwise be aware of what I was discharging, but often I would not know. It reminded me of some of my best sessions, when I would start off with a recent restimulation, look for the earlier hurt that was being restimulated, and then wind up discharging profoundly about something. I wouldn't always know exactly what it was, except that it was old and big, and I would be left with good attention and more slack afterwards. The difference now, working with the understatement, is that I don't spend time and attention looking for what happened and where it came from, but rather I go directly to discharge. I continue to make connections and have an even clearer picture of how I was hurt and the effects these hurts had on me. My re-evaluation has never gone better.


After months of working with the understatement I began to lose my focus, and I was pulled to pay attention to my distress in my sessions. I now find that if I review some theory before or at the beginning of my sessions, my sessions are more productive and I am able to keep my attention off of my distress better. I do this in two ways: (1) If I am in a class or support group and I hear some theory, or if I read some theory before a session about a particular topic, I often discharge about that topic even though I use the short understatement. (2) I often start a session by reminding myself of what I am doing. I bring to the front of my thinking some of the things I know and believe to be true, like that choosing to put my attention off of my distress will allow my greatest intelligence to discharge exactly what I need to at that moment.

If I just get out of the way by not paying attention to any distress, my discharge and re-evaluation go better and faster.

Another useful thing I do is to read and think about theory from a place outside of my distress. I recently reviewed some of the Guidelines in session, and I was able to discharge what I needed to in order to be really clear about the information. It was effortless and fun.


I discovered that I have judgmental distress patterns about what a good session is. While it is true that I have understatement sessions that lead me to heavy crying, sweating, laughing, and shaking, the most common discharge I have with this technique is yawning. I have to remind myself that yawning is legitimate discharge. I have not found any RC theory that says that yawning is less important or will contribute less to a person's re-emergence than other forms of discharge. I am beginning to let myself relax into long sessions where I say the understatement and yawn over and over and over again. I have lots of clear thinking during my yawning spells. I make many connections and decisions in and around my big yawns.

Sometimes my yawns are so big and long that my face and head hurt. I noticed that I can relax my head and face during yawns without interrupting them. I also have experienced an old sound (last heard in my childhood) during some yawns that I believe is the bones of my skull shifting as I release physical tension.

I realized that each time I was hurt there was probably a physical tension that accompanied that hurt. Experiences of grief, terror, embarrassment, or boredom had an effect on my body. Hurt upon hurt left layers of physical tension. It makes sense that there would be lots of yawns in me, and I am welcoming them more and more.


I hear from some experienced Co-Counselors who haven't worked in this way that the understatement and working with attention off of distress look like denial or pretense. While I can see how it could look that way, I find the opposite to be true. I think that if we consciously choose what we are going to discharge on, we may avoid certain places for various reasons, all based on distress. I see many people, including myself, avoid certain places because they're too scary, painful, or don't feel safe enough to look at. With attention off of distress, a client can discharge these distresses without being dragged through the muck. Not tying up part of my intelligence by paying attention to my distress keeps my distress from getting in the way of my intelligence moving on with my re-emergence.

I recently set up some three-way early sexual memories sessions in which I have emphasized working with attention off of distress. I have noticed that the clients seem to be able to approach this distress more easily and are talking about stuff they never thought they could tell anyone. They are having good sessions and are reporting more slack. And I am no longer having early sexual memories "hangovers" after these sessions.

I also use "attention off of distress" to look at my patterns. I used to tell my counselor, "Oh, this pattern, blah, blah, blah, I hate it, etc.," and I would put myself inside of that distress while trying to figure out how to discharge and eliminate it. Now I get my attention off of my distress and look at the same pattern. This makes it much easier to see it as a pattern and to figure out ways to contradict it. I am also discovering patterns that I didn't know I had, again because I am getting outside of them.

I also use attention off of distress to look at certain problems I am solving or projects I am organizing. I come up with great ideas and make decisions very effectively this way.


I have been breaking my sessions up into smaller chunks of time. If I have an hour as client, I may do five minutes, then ten minutes, then twenty minutes, then twenty-five minutes. In one session in which we had two hours total, my counselor and I alternated five-minute sessions the whole time. It was fun.

I try to always include some time for just the understatement, as this keeps my ability to be outside of my distress honed. I tell people who are trying to get started working with attention off of their distress to set aside time in every session (if not the whole session) for working with the understatement until they can have their attention off distress more easily.


I now take all directions from a place outside of my distress. Recently I was in a fundamentals class in which the teacher presented women's and men's oppression/liberation theory. After a demonstration or two, the class divided up into a men's support group and a women's support group. The teacher had each group use the three questions: What's been great about being a woman/man? What's been hard about being a woman/man? What's something you never want to hear said about or seen done to a woman/man again? I have worked with these questions many times before, and as I started my turn as client in the group, I felt a sense of familiarity as I thought about the first question (and anticipated the next two).

I was clearly feeling a specific distress associated with men's oppression/liberation. Then I suddenly remembered working with attention off of distress and decided to think about the direction, "What's been great about being a man?" from a place outside of my distress. What followed was a completely different kind of session. Working in this way I felt powerful and not like a victim.


This letter has been difficult to write because my thinking has been so fast. It is hard to stop and write about all that has happened since I started clienting with attention off of distress. But when I read over what I have written, it is a good reminder of things I have learned.

While I still encourage my counselors to occasionally ask‚ "What's that thought?", I often don't want to stop thinking to tell them. The process of putting one or two thoughts into words seems to interrupt me sometimes. I often don't respond to my counselors' queries, and keep on discharging and thinking.


What I am finding out is that everything Co-Counselors have been doing up until now still applies. Taking directions, working with commitments, setting goals, etc., all still work and assist with discharge and re-emergence. The difference is that the client says a direction or a commitment from a different place. That place is outside of the distress. It is a small shift. It is a huge shift. I think that it will be evolutionary for the human race when we effectively get our attention off of distress once and for all. I have never before thought more clearly, acted more decisively, or had more fun, in or out of session.

Thank you, Harvey, for recognizing the importance and potential of this simple approach and for holding it out to all of us.

Mark Wilsey
Tucson, Arizona, USA

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