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Reviewing the Basics of Co-Counseling

From a talk by Tim Jackins at an RC workshop in Warsaw, Poland, November 2003

Some of you are new to RC and probably a bit scared. That’s okay. Some of us who are not new are still scared. Fears don’t always go away quickly. But we don’t ever have to believe our fears.

In RC we know some important things. We know that you are good. Even if you don’t feel good about yourself, we know you are good. We know you are smart. We know you like other people, even if you are too embarrassed to let anyone know—and even if it seems like you are the only person who likes other people. I can assure you that everybody here likes other people here, even if they don’t look like it.

When we have been hurt and are scared, we often don’t show how we truly feel. We can’t show other people how much we care. It becomes our secret. But you can be sure that everyone here would like to care openly about other people. When we get hurt, we become confused about ourselves. And all of us get hurt a lot. We get hurt by our families. We get hurt by our schools. We get hurt by our friends. Mostly we get hurt by our societies.

Our societies push to make us into something that will fit them. It doesn’t matter what we want for ourselves. For example, there are pressures in school to study things we’re not interested in, to pass tests we don’t care about. But our societies say our life depends on us passing that test, and you know how desperate that can feel. Something we really don’t care about becomes the most important thing, and our lives get twisted. You know the ways you are supposed to be in this society!

Oppressions are acted out—sexism, racism, oppression around money, and many others. Sexism is damaging to everyone but in different ways. Women are treated badly and are not allowed to have the lives they want. Men are trained and conditioned to oppress women, but the training is hard on men, too. Boys are trained to fight and kill; they are supposed to be ready to go to war. It becomes hard for men to feel safe with other people or trust them to like us.

In RC we get to talk about all the things that have been hard on us. This is not always easy to do because we’ve been hurt and conditioned to not trust each other and to keep lots of secrets. This is probably truer of most men than most women. Men have been trained even more harshly to not show how we feel. So it takes a little longer for men to show ourselves. There is nothing wrong in this; it’s just a different battle. Men slowly dare to show ourselves, too.

If someone will listen well, we human beings will talk about things that matter to us and will begin to feel what we are talking about. We might start by telling a story as if it’s about someone else. We don’t dare show how we feel about that story, but the more we talk and the more someone listens well, the more we can feel and show. Gradually we show how we were hurt. We may laugh about something if it was embarrassing. (We have all been made to feel embarrassed about many things.) Or we may cry. If someone is patient and listens, we will find our way to feelings. If it’s hard for you to talk in a session (and it is for all of us sometimes), you need to look at your counselor and notice that he or she wants to listen to you. Most of us are not used to having someone listen to us, be interested in our story, and want to understand who we are. Once we can see that someone is willing to do that, it gets safer and safer to talk.

As we learn to Co-Counsel, we talk about more and more things. We learn not to believe the feelings that come from the ways we were hurt. In particular, it’s important to not believe how bad we feel about ourselves. We feel like we’re not smart enough. We don’t like the way we look. (Few of us like how we look—isn’t that strange?) It can feel like there is always something wrong. And society wants to sell us things to fix it. Advertising restimulates how we feel bad about ourselves: our noses, our hair, our eyebrows, not to mention our clothes. We are supposed to spend great amounts of money on new clothes—tomorrow! And the promise is that if we buy enough we won’t feel bad about ourselves. But we still do, because it’s a distress pattern that won’t go away until it is discharged.

The feelings and perspectives from distress patterns are always wrong. Look at these other people, just look at them. They are lovely. Look at their faces, their eyes—they are all lovely, aren’t they? But not you? Something is funny about our perspective here. We all look the way we should. We shouldn’t look like anyone else. It doesn’t help to try to look like someone else; it just confuses us about ourselves. We are perfectly fine the way we are. It’s difficult to remember that only because of the ways we’ve been hurt.

We can contradict distress recordings. If you feel bad about the way you look (and you likely do), try saying something that goes against that feeling. For some people it’s, “I’m lovely,” or “I’m handsome.” For some it has to be a smaller step: “I may not be the worst.” Or maybe it’s saying, “Somebody might like how I look.” I can promise you at least ten people in this room like how you look. When we really look at someone, we like that person’s face. We could look at that face for a long time if we weren’t embarrassed. (And other people are too embarrassed to let us look at them.) But each of our faces is wonderful. We each look exactly the way we should look and not like anybody else. We all look different in interesting ways.

Tonight in the three-way session, if you don’t know what to talk about, you can tell the story of your life. You will have twenty minutes to do it. Just start with your earliest memory.

Some of us have close relationships with people here. All of us will have closer relationships by Monday. We will feel safe with each other and not want to go home. We will get to know each other well and learn to care about each other. People just naturally care about each other once they get the chance. We will get the chance this weekend. 

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