From Early Workshops:

Harvey Talking and Answering Questions About Basic RC Theory


Harvey: The theory of Re-evaluation Counseling grew out of successful practice. This is quite unusual in the field. It wasn't someone speculating on how things might be and then trying to get experiments to conform. We're one of the few groups, outside of physics and mathematics, that has faced the fact that it has no monopoly on truth, that any theory is a conjecture. It's a guess as to what goes on in the real world, and if it fits the observable facts, then it's a good guess. If it leads to discovering new facts because of its implications, then it's a better guess. But it's always a conjecture and always subject to revision in the light of later data. We know this.

The theory of Re-evaluation Counseling is a series of conjectures we've put together to explain what we've seen happen, and they've been useful in guiding us to discover further facts. We've been successful enough that we can relax and face this. We don't have to defend our theory as true. It's the best we know about, by far, but that doesn't say it's any more than conjecture. No one has direct contact with the real world; we all have to contrive a mental model of what the real world might be like out of the little blips of electricity that come down our nerves from our sense organs.

This doesn't mean a theory isn't useful, and it doesn't mean you can't approximate the actual picture of reality just as closely as you want to make the effort to do so. We continually strive for closer approximation.

There are no unassailable experts in Re-evaluation Counseling. There aren't in anything else, either. If you have a notion that what I say is full of beans,1 whether that notion comes out of a pattern or out of a clearer view of reality, you are quite free to do battle with me. Don't think you won't get a battle back, if I think I have a clearer picture or think it's one of your distress patterns talking. But doing battle like this won't spoil our relationship. We'll be good loving friends after we get done arguing. The open struggle of ideas is one of the ways of getting a better picture of reality.

We do require that people who use the name of Re-evaluation Counseling in teaching classes or offering one-way counseling to the public do so only on the basis of the logically consistent structure of ideas that goes by that name. If they get a better idea, they are quite free to use it, but they must call it by another name.

This doesn't mean there isn't room for creativity. We have frontiers of our theory and practice stretching all around us. We're just beginning to understand a few things in many areas. . . .

What do you do when you're counselor for your client? You have the client do everything he or she can to achieve discharge. Any notion of reproach, or "You're not trying," or "You're being stubborn," is completely unfitting. Always, the client is doing everything he or she can in order to discharge. Even though your client's thinking may seem all cluttered up with patterns and all rigid, her or his vast intelligence as a human has remained intact and has only retreated. You may see very little but irrational behavior on the surface, but down somewhere in that stone vault, three hundred feet below the surface of the earth, the little girl or boy is sitting, sharp as ever, watching all the monitors at the surface at the big console in front of her or him, taking account of everything: how the counselor acts, the theory, the way his or her memories are stacked up -- the entire situation. When the balance is right, he or she pulls the switch and the discharge comes.

* * * * *

(One of the men introduced says he can only cry about the beautiful things of the earth.)

Harvey, speaking to him: No one can bail out the ocean while they're floating in it. You have to have something to stand on before you can cry, and the beauty of the world is your platform. Cherish it and keep cherishing it. The minute you try to cry about something negative, you'll quit crying. You have to firmly renew your contact with the beauty of reality all the time in order to have enough ground under your feet to shed the tears. You're like the mythical creature that Hercules finally overcame. This creature had to touch his mother earth every so often or he lost his strength. (Hercules finally overcame him by holding him up in the air.) The point is, your mother earth is your strength. Just talk about her beauty and the tears will come. You have to balance this tremendous load of grief you've carried. You have to get the sandstone and the clouds to balance it.


Question: What does re-evaluate mean?

Harvey: It means evaluating the information that couldn't be thought through, either when you received it or during restimulation, because your mind was shut down by distress. We use the term "evaluation" as a synonym for thinking flexibly and intelligently, comparing and contrasting new information with previous information and understanding it in relation to what we already know. This is the way humans think. We use the term "re-evaluation" to indicate that an experience couldn't be evaluated during the distress experience because the evaluator was turned off but that with discharge the person's intelligence is freed to think it through, to understand it, or to "re-evaluate."

Question: At what age do patterns stop falling in and after that are restimulated?

Harvey: Patterns fall in early, and after that they are restimulated. It would take a terrible incident to initiate the development of a chronic pattern after a certain point. This does occur, or seems to occur, but only rarely.

In general, a hurt goes in, a pattern is left, and it's an intermittent pattern. Then it's restimulated and gathers another layer; it's restimulated again and gathers another layer, and another layer, and another layer. If you think of it as sitting on the pan of a scale, at some point it goes "chonk," it hits the top of the scale and it's chronic. This can happen at any point in life. The usual progression from middle age on is for more and more patterns to become chronic until there's no free attention outside of them and we're "senile." It's just the patterns taking over completely. There's no point at which we're safe from patterns becoming chronic.

An adult is practically invulnerable to new patterns. If a child could grow into adulthood unhurt, there's hardly anything that could bother him or her. The areas in which we are not subject to restimulation are the areas in which we've stayed pretty invulnerable. Most of us have some clear areas. If we could reach the age of twelve without being hurt, we'd have the universe in our hands; nothing would bother us.

A pattern can become chronic at any time, and you're only safe from patterns becoming chronic when you have them discharging so that you're gaining on them.

Sometimes a pattern is on the verge of becoming chronic and the person comes in for one big session and "all their problems are solved." The world changes completely. They go dancing through the office telling everyone, and the people who have been working on their chronic distresses for twelve years stand looking at them like this (!). This person's hurts just happened to be close to the balance point. It used to be that people quit counseling then, but we've come to realize that when you get it out of the chronic category, that's the time to really zero in on it and get it way down to where it can never "grow" back up. People who quit at this point do pick up more restimulation, and the pattern becomes chronic again. Alcoholics are particularly prone in this area.

Comment: It's the whole social situation that the alcoholic has to battle. People think of him as "that way."

Harvey: Did you ever try going to a cocktail party and not drinking? Do you know why there's so much pressure to drink? Because for those drinking, seeing someone who isn't drinking throws their patterns into such sharp relief that they have to look at them, and that's exceedingly uncomfortable. A non-drinker in a drinking crowd throws the drinking patterns into relief; discharge is imminent but impossible, and it feels like a life and death question for them. So they've got to get some of that glug down your gullet, and they dim the lights so their own behavior doesn't show up.


Harvey: No. You may have patterns that are pseudo-survival or are parallel to rational, and they can be difficult to shed because they seem so important.

If you give up any chronic pattern, it feels like you're giving up part of yourself. When you're finally moving out of it, you may find it helpful to say, "Goodbye pattern." Then you'll cry for hours because the dear rigidity was what seemed to keep you alive. Of course, if you hadn't had it, you would have stayed alive a lot better. Nevertheless, the chronic pattern was the best thing you could figure out to do under the circumstances, and it got you through, resulting in a pseudo-survival feeling.

Anything you can do while in pattern (and people do amazing things within the framework of patterns), you would do much better without the pattern. Sometimes we've had people with skills, for example artists, who have been quite successful, who have created within the framework of a set of fears, and when they feel the pattern leaving they have become apprehensive that they won't be able to produce, that they will lose their gift. But we reassure them as much as we can, and they keep discharging, and it always turns out that they do much better and are more creative without the distress.

Question: Do I have some good patterns?

Harvey: That's not the way we use the word pattern. We use the word pattern to mean a rigid manner of behaving and feeling that's the residue of a distress experience. Sometimes it's hard to tell what's a pattern and what's a person because some of the patterns are so habitual that they feel good. Rigidity is the key. If you're flexibly flitting from tree to tree, you're not in a pattern.

It's important not to slip into looking for patterns in yourself and the other person. This is a fault-finding, critical pattern. It's important that we never lose sight of the warm, wonderful, genius-sized person, even though he or she is encrusted with patterns like barnacles on a hull. Everything we do depends on making the distincition between the pattern and the person and not confusing them. The pattern is as much you as the "dog doo"2 that got stuck on the bottom of your shoe is you. It follows you around, it gives the wrong impression to your associates, but it's by no means you. If you get the scraper and make the right motions, it leaves you.

All of us have spent hours pleading with a pattern to change. It can't. It either stays that way or dies. We also mistakenly treat the person like the pattern. Out comes the foul stench, and we invalidate the person.

Question: What about regularity in life? I like to eat three meals a day, for example.

Harvey: It's a pattern. A great many people would be better off if they didn't eat three meals a day. A great many of our patterns are enforced on us by the patterns of the culture. The child doesn't want to go to bed, and the mother says, "You have to go to bed; it's time to sleep," and you have a compulsive sleeping pattern or insomnia pattern developing. If I do something unthinkingly, I'm caught in a pattern. Remember Emerson? "Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

Here at the workshop we set up schedules and are tough about them. We enter into agreements to live with each other because we need each other. To live separately is just too bleak. If we're going to live together, it requires thoughtfulness and cooperation. Schedules that are agreed upon are a means to this end. When they go on being thoughtlessly perpetuated, that's different.

Society tries to enforce patterns that leave at least part of the population alive to keep society going. The society doesn't give a damn about the individual member; it can only care about itself. Society itself is a pre-rational organism and can only become rational when we cope with it rationally and release human intelligence to guide it. The fact that society says that it (society) is good, doesn't make it good. Almost all enforcement is harmful.

Question: Do you ever acquire another pattern in getting rid of one?

Harvey: No, although sometimes you'll operate in a different part of the pattern temporarily. Most distress patterns have several characters or roles in them. In the original recording, the young person may be the spectator who is scared to death while daddy threatens and yells and mama whines and pleads. There are three roles in that pattern. It's more common than not for us to try to endure restimulation by walling off the most uncomfortable portion of the pattern, which is usually our own original role in it, and taking somebody else's role. If our dad beat us when we were little, instead of going around feeling beaten we tend to flip over and become a beater. This is the mechanism for the transmission of patterns down the generations. Anybody who mistreats his or her child was himself or herself mistreated that way as a child, only worse. In general, the parents in each generation do better with their children than those of the previous generation.

We tend to climb out of the most uncomfortable role and take another one. We wall off some parts of the restimulation and take what seems a more pro-survival role. Instead of being the beaten one, we become the beater -- if we can get away with it.

Sometimes a person who has been going around cringing will get enough fear off that for a short period there is great pressure on him or her to be a chronic bully. In fact, as a counselor you will often encourage this, just to get discharge started. I will encourage someone who is cringing to yell at me. They can't bring themselves to do it until I start cringing, but when I do, that pushes them out of their usual role and they become very triumphant. They order me around and threaten me and start laughing and shaking as they do it, which is what I'm after. The controls and the tightness of the familiar role are jiggled when the client tries to get into the unfamiliar role, and the discharge starts. This isn't a new pattern; the client has just slipped over into the less familiar role within the pattern.

You don't create new patterns by getting out of old ones. The client has gained through the discharge, but there are lots of suppressed levels within each pattern.

Question: What about someone who gives up smoking and takes up eating?

Harvey: I don't think that is replacing one pattern with another. The overall pattern may be one of self-destruction. The cigarettes were one manifestation of it, and unhealthy eating is another.

That kind of substitution is officially blessed now -- getting off heroin by getting on methadone. That's no solution, but the advocates don't know what else to do because they don't understand discharge yet.

An apparent replacement of patterns may occur when you're not really giving up the pattern, such as when you take a stance against the pattern, take a direction against it, but don't discharge. If you quit smoking and discharge, you're not going to eat yourself to death as a substitute.


Question: How do you use invalidation in counseling?

Harvey: You don't, but it is easy to confuse "contradicting a pattern" with invalidation. For example, a particular client might be asking, over and over, "Please tell me I'm a nice guy." If you tell him, "You're a nice guy," he may not discharge but instead demand that you be more "sincere." The ante goes up. In this case the counselor may need to say, with a twinkle in her eye, "I don't think you're a nice guy." If the client then moves farther out of the pattern, insists on his own worth, and begins discharging, the pattern has been successfully contradicted. Discharge is what we're after as Co-Counselors. Demanding reassurance, getting it, not discharging, and demanding more, is all part of a pattern. Loving reassurance of the worth of the client is usually most usefully expressed after much discharge and at the end of the session.

Beginning Co-Counselors often reassure and validate mechanically. The beginning client, starved for any reassurance, may discharge at first with this treatment, but as the sessions continue the counselor must find better ways to contradict the patterns left by invalidation. If Co-Counselors have enough trust and confidence between them, they can cooperate to find the most grievous distresses and, as one client put it, "place the knife in the wound and twist," and glory in the floods of discharge that result. Done with awareness, the contradiction of a pattern is never an invalidation of the person.

Question: Is it possible that the shivers and cold perspiration discharge of early-installed terror is the most profound discharge and deserves to be in the primary position of the basic order of discharge, before the discharge of grief?

Harvey: I wouldn't change the order, but fear discharge is profound. We put the discharges in the order shown in the Fundamentals Manual simply because when people can get to a very deep hurt, without the interference of inhibiting patterns, they tend to cry first for a long time and then move on to the discharge of fear, then laughter, then angry shouting, and so on. Because of the conditioning we've had, many of us can't get at the grief until we've done tremendous amounts of shivering and laughing, so these would be the most important in our particular cases right now. The sequence for an individual is often laughter, then shivering, and finally tears, and then up through the spectrum again.

But the order isn't a matter of importance. Whatever kind of discharge is ready to come is the most important. In terms of quantity to be discharged, laughter is the most important. I think about three quarters of everybody's case is embarrassment, which glues down and inhibits the discharge of everything else. If our hurts have been stacked in such a way that what we do is laugh, or what we do is shake, or what we do is talk even, then that is the most important discharge. The person who isn't crying is not stuck. On the way to crying he or she does a lot of laughing and shaking that does not have to be repeated later.

Because we stress tears so much (because the conditioning against crying is so great in most of our cultures) the impression is widespread among Co-Counselors that tears are the most important. Tears are no more important than any other form of discharge. There is no order of importance.


Question: Are Re-evaluation Counseling public lectures a good idea?

Harvey: Yes. People need introductory lectures in each large Community or sub-Community. They serve a very real purpose. It's good to have people take turns doing the public lecture; it helps them think about the theory and get over their stage fright.

Large sections of our Community need exposure to introductory theory, over and over. They'll have an excuse to hear it again themselves if at a certain time each month there's a lecture to which they can bring their friends, to introduce them to Re-evaluation Counseling.

Public lectures are useful, but they should be so well-done that people will want to come back and bring their friends for repeat performances.

(As an example of the kind of creativity that's possible with the lecture, Carol Willis, from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, puts on a kind of morality play illustrating the introduction to counseling. She has the entire audience get up and act out the parts. She wears purple tights, diapers, and overalls as props. The audience is in a circle around her, and as she grows from infant, to older child, and on up, they keep putting the pattern on her. She has a make-up man put frown lines on her face, and then when she starts discharging the metamorphosis takes place and the lines are wiped off. The audience is enraptured, and they all sign up for class!)


Question: What is the earliest experience a person could be able to recall? What's the earliest memory every recorded?

Harvey: Many people have spontaneously remembered their births. Freud did a paper on that. People also have clear impressions of prenatal experiences. You can believe them or not, but they certainly discharge on the "memories." In the sense of rationally recalling something, I don't think you can possibly go earlier than the development of the forebrain, because it is only after the development of this bunch of tissue that we perform the functions we describe as rational. Recordings, however, can be installed very early. There's no question that the zygote, once the sperm and the egg have fused, is capable of being traumatized, of a rigid pattern being imposed on it. Experiments have been done in which they condition an amoeba to turn right or left; even single-celled animals have been conditioned. The imposition of distress patterns can occur at any level of development, and undoubtedly many of our hurts occur very early in prenatal existence.

Clients on their own come to the firm conclusion that the fact that they were born terrified, and were terrified all their lives until they had a chance to discharge enough, arose out of an attempted abortion very early. They come to this conclusion themselves. They are the ones who have access to the data. Many people are very bothered babies and grow up to be very bothered adults and finally discharge a lot and then ascribe many of their difficulties to their parents' careless participation in sexual intercourse during pregnancy.

Question: How big can such recordings be, compared to later distresses?

Harvey: They can be extremely large. Even though the hurts occurred to only a few cells, the distress recordings are imposed on a cellular level and the sentient cells carry the message.

Question: Does that mean that even though you start counseling your child at birth, she or he will still have a large backlog of distresses?

Harvey: Yes. There will probably be a large backlog of distresses, sometimes a huge backlog.

Question: Since they share most experiences, how can twins be so different? For example, one hits other people and the other doesn't.

Harvey: It usually isn't the general environment that sets up patterns; it's the specific incidents that happen at a particular time. Even when identical twins receive the same treatment, as far as you can tell, there are differences. Perhaps one has a fever and the other one doesn't, so that events happening at that time may go in as heavy hurts and become part of a distress recording for one twin, but not for the other.

I said something a while ago that was too simple. I said that you never learn to hit except by being hit, but that's not true. You also learn by being frightened by someone else being hit. The mistreatment done to another person is frequently far more terrifying than what is done to you. If you get the blow, it's just a blow, but what you never feel becomes terrifying because you imagine how awful it is. Similarly, shouting invalidations at someone can be bad in its effects, but calm disapproval can be even worse.


Harvey: Children never need punishment. Explain, and be sure you communicate in ways they can understand. Parents often get restimulated in their efforts to explain, and sound like a U.S. tourist yelling at the "ignorant foreigner." They think that just by hollering louder the child will understand. A mother tells her child to set the table; he asks how; she tells him he knows how; so he puts the stuff in a pile and she gets angry. If you've ever been a mechanic's helper, you know how it is. He asks for the "thingamajig," and when you ask what that is, he shouts it over and over and gets angry.

Just explain in terms that the child can understand. Remember that he or she has vast, as yet undamaged intelligence and is therefore much smarter than any adult.

Children are born understanding most of the language spoken around them. They can't speak it for a while (that takes muscle coordination), but they understand a good deal of it by the time they are born and learn the rest very fast.

They respond more to tones of voice. Think what it would be like for you to be surrounded by ten-foot high monsters that exploded into distinctive sounds every so often, and to live in a world where you can't see what's going on up above. (Lucy, in the Peanuts cartoon, is taken to the dime store when she is little and says, "Sure are some interesting boards.")

Question: How can babies understand a language when they are born?

Harvey: A baby has a lot of sleeping to do, even if she or he hasn't been anaesthetized at birth, because the baby, when he or she is awake, is taking in a vast amount of new information. The baby needs sleep time with no new input in order to evaluate all that information. A tremendous amount of calculation has to be done with these first few billion items of information. The baby is working out her or his axioms and first theorems. It takes a tremendous amount of calculation. But at birth the language is already filed and stored. There are many indications of this. The best one is that when people unload distresses thoroughly their recall of early incidents goes back and back and back. Of course you can say that they project all of this later, but I don't think you'd say that if you listened to a few hundred of them reach back there to a clear awareness of what was being said and what went on. I don't mean that newborn babies have complete command of the language, but they understand far more than the culture gives them credit for. The baby understands a great deal of what is said, and not just tones of voice.

The rational faculty has been operating for a few months before the child is born. At birth the infant has already stored a lot of information.


Question: How does one get to be witty, and what is considered wit?

Harvey: Wit is anything that helps bring discharge. A comedian is a master counselor. Great comedians will take you to tears to laughter to tears, back and forth. Chaplin used to wring out tears and laughter; he'd move from one to the other. What's witty is seeing the opportunities for discharge. It's holding up tensions to the light in a way that people can discharge them. I think it's having discharged that brings the wittiness. It's just the freedom to think fast and see the idiosyncracies and put them in juxtaposition.

Comment: Silently, people are witty as hell, but they are afraid to speak out.

Harvey: Yes, I think everyone has witty thoughts if they could emit them, and as they get rid of their inhibitions they come out.


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