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Knowing Our

October 7 or
October 8

September 17-23


From a talk by Tim Jackins, at a workshop in The Netherlands, June 2006

Outside of RC, who are leaders? Well, they’re people who tell you what to do. And most of the time they’re not thinking about what’s best for you. They’re telling you what to do to make their policy work—policy that is usually for their own benefit, not yours.


How did these people come to be leaders? They may have been elected. You know how well elections work. The idea of asking many minds, “What’s the best thing to do?” is a good one, but in all of the current systems that use elections, elections are a contest to see who can restimulate the most people. If I can restimulate you by saying that too much money is being taken from you in taxes, and being wasted, and that I will stop this and save your money, I can restimulate you, and many other people, and get a lot of votes—even if I have no idea of what needs to be done. Most elections are run on the basis of restimulation, not thinking. In my country it’s very important who has the most money to spend on this restimulation. It may not be that way here, I don’t know—but if it isn’t, it will be. More and more, money is determining these things.


Because leaders outside of RC are usually distant and not connected to us, we’re used to simply being critical of them. Sometimes that’s all we do. That’s what most people do—complain about their leaders. In societies like ours, it’s hard to do anything else. It’s hard to figure out how to be powerful and begin to change things.

One of our problems is that all of our feelings about leaders, including our critical feelings, come into RC with us. Unless we work on them, we will be easily restimulated by people who try to lead in RC, and we’ll treat them in the same way we treat leaders outside.

Now, leaders within RC try to be a very different thing. To begin with, in RC we think that everybody can lead, not just a small collection of “special,” wealthy people. We think that everyone can lead, and we want everyone to lead. Leadership is important, and there is always a shortage of thoughtful leaders.


In RC we think that the job of a leader is to recognize the best thinking around him or her and say it out loud to everybody. The leader is a collector of good ideas, not the creator of all good ideas. Hopefully he or she has some good ideas. But leaders don’t have to. They have to see the good ideas around them, and then think about these ideas and present them back to the Community. That’s what I do. I go many places, and everywhere I go I get to listen and watch. I see what’s working. I see the ideas that lead people forward. I think about all of this and then I tell you what I’ve seen that is working. I’ve thought about it, but it didn’t all start in my mind. My job is to think about it and find a good way to communicate it.

A lot of people have a lot of good ideas. The leader’s job is to make sure that everyone gets to look at these ideas. Some of them that seem good aren’t, and it turns out1 they don’t work well. But the way we determine if they are good or not is not by election. We don’t vote on ideas. We test them. I talk to you about the ideas, and part of the time you remember to go and try them out in your sessions. And if they work, you remember them. If they don’t, you forget them. Everybody gets to test the ideas. The ideas that work for enough people are the ones that stay alive, that are developed, and that become part of our ongoing thinking. The ideas that are not quite right enough, that don’t work reliably enough, remain as historical and interesting things. Some people still find them useful, but they don’t become part of the ongoing thinking of RC.

That’s how we make decisions about ideas. Everyone has a chance to test them in practice. It’s not abstract or far away—it’s part of the work we do all the time. And it makes leadership in RC a different process from what we’ve seen in the wide world.

No one needs a title to be a leader. That’s another mistake from outside. Some people want a title to reassure themselves, and many people think they can’t do anything until they have a title. You have my permission to lead, period. You’ve all been around enough to know a lot of RC, and you can use that to lead people. You can teach people Co-Counseling. Everyone in RC, no matter who he or she is, can teach another person. You don’t have to ask someone’s permission to teach RC to your next-door-neighbor. We want you to do that. That’s leadership. That’s taking the best ideas you have and bringing them out to other people. It’s important that you take that initiative and become leaders. Otherwise you sit and wait for change. It’s also important for other people that you become leaders—there aren’t enough leaders, ever.

The people who agree to assume various particular leadership roles in RC are assigned particular responsibilities. These people are called Reference People. They’re not bosses. They’re not the center of all good thinking. They are people to check your thinking with. They have agreed to be people whom others in RC can talk to. We all need people with whom we can talk through our thinking. It’s their job to be those people. They have a few other small things to do, but that’s the important one. Sometimes a Reference Person does everything in a Community. Reference People can do anything they want, but if they’re doing everything, they’re probably confused. They’re confused about how to help other people become leaders—how to have more and more people in their Communities taking initiative to move things forward.


It’s important to get people discharging on their distresses about being a leader. There are two general categories of distress about leadership. A few people have patterns of really wanting to be a leader. Often they are patterns of wanting to have power over other people, or have a title, or be seen as important. The other set of patterns is “No, I don’t ever want to be a leader. I know what they’re like; I don’t want to be one of them. And everybody around me always criticizes the leader. I don’t want that to happen to me.” Both of these are understandable distresses, but they stop you, and the RC Community, from being effective.

You not only have to work on the distresses that make you critical of leaders, you also have to work on the distresses that make you afraid of other people’s patterns of being critical. You’ll notice that most criticism is aimed at leaders. If you stay small enough, few people criticize you. They ignore you instead, and that seems safer to a lot of people. We need to face our fears of criticism.

Criticism comes out of patterns, almost always. No one should be upset with you. If someone is, it’s because of his or her distresses. You may have made a mistake—everyone does. Everyone who leads makes mistakes. Part of being a leader is that your mistakes show more. They’re more obvious. More people see them, and there’s a better chance that someone will get restimulated by them and criticize you. The more visible you become in leadership, the more likely you are to be criticized—not because you’re worse, but because that’s the way our societies operate. That’s the way our oppressive societies destroy leadership and keep everyone afraid of taking on2 leadership that might change the society.

We’ve had whole groups of people try to do things without any leadership. They’ve thought that leadership in itself is dangerous because they’ve seen what it’s like out in the oppressive society. If you’ve ever been in a group that tries to do things without any leadership, you know how difficult that can be. Often there are big fights, and people usually have trouble agreeing to do much of anything. (It’s like the Protestant Church. If you can’t agree, you break into two churches. Then each of those two breaks into two—and two, and two, and two—and no two agree with each other. It’s like that with many things, in addition to religion.)

It’s understandable why we are scared and confused about leadership, but we have to work on these feelings if we are going to go forward effectively. We have to work on our feelings of wanting to criticize, and we have to work on our fears that people will criticize us.

When we’re criticized, most of us either get mad or feel crushed. It seems so unfair. We have worked so hard to do good things for everybody. Then this person comes along and accuses us of this horrible thing and some early childhood incident of ours gets restimulated. Maybe we had a great idea, and our mother or father couldn’t stand3 it and turned around and was mean to us. We never want to hear that tone of voice again. We will hide in closets the rest of our lives to avoid it. We’re certainly not going to stand up in front of a group, because then it’s very likely that someone will be critical. We have to face this material.4 We have to work on it until it doesn’t affect us anymore, even if it takes a while.


I get the chance to work on this material fairly regularly. Though it gets easier, I haven’t finished the work. However, I can tell you that it changes, and that you don’t stay so scared and worried. Then you start to get the idea that you could be powerful, that you could really have an effect on the way the world is going, and that you don’t need to worry so much about making a mistake. I promise that you will make mistakes. I’m sure of it. And I want you to go ahead and do that. I want you to go ahead and try things that you’re not absolutely sure of. Otherwise you will be too scared and will try only small things. If you make mistakes, it will be all right. I promise that I will make mistakes, too. There’s nothing wrong with that. Mistakes are part of learning and figuring out what to do next. As we learn more and discharge more, we’ll make fewer mistakes.

A lot of us are so scared that we don’t try anything unless we’re absolutely sure we can do it perfectly. And because only a few things feel safe enough, we don’t try very much. You are capable of doing many, many things right now—many more than you’ve tried so far. When I come back here next time, I would like to hear stories of your big failures. I would like you to have gone out and tried things and maybe not been able to make them work. In doing that you will face your fears, and discharge and learn enough to figure out how to do well the things you failed at before.

Children want to try everything. I know a three-year-old who wants to try almost everything she sees me do. Drive the car? It doesn’t matter if she knows how; she wants to try it. She doesn’t care if it works. How else is she going to learn anything? She’s very clear about it. She tries it, and she can’t make it work, and then she goes on to other things. It doesn’t upset her. She did what she wanted, and she found out she couldn’t do it yet. But she needed to try it to find that out. Parents often tell their children what they can and can’t do. They are just talking out of what was told to them as children. They often can’t stop and think about this child and what she or he can actually do. They say what society says: “No, three-year-olds can’t do that.” So the children stop being able to listen to them.

It’s fine for you to try things that you can’t be sure you can do yet. You learn a lot by the attempt, and it gets you over being afraid of trying to be large in the world. The world needs you to be big; it needs your thoughts and your attempts. It needs you figuring out how to move things forward. The RC Communities need you doing that, too, so we can get RC tools out to everybody. That is the goal of the RC Communities. We are not here to simply make you better. That’s a side-effect, and important, but it’s not our goal. We want to spread these tools. That’s our goal. You can play a large, important role in this if you face your fears and dare to become a leader.


When we don’t work on distresses about criticism, criticism can grow and end up restimulating others. There are two problems with this. One, sometimes no one can think well enough to be able to figure out whether there is a real problem or only restimulation, and if there is a real problem, no one does anything to solve it, since criticism doesn’t solve problems.

Two,more and more people can get lost in the upset, and it can become what we in RC call an attack. Somebody being upset with you is not an attack. It feels like it, but someone just putting his or her distress on you is not what we mean by an attack. What we mean by an attack is when somebody, in restimulation, tries to restimulate others to join him or her—tries to restimulate everyone he or she can into being restimulated together about you.

You’ve seen this happening—maybe in RC, but for sure outside of RC. Gossip is part of it—telling stories about other people, trying to get everybody to agree to be upset with someone.

The effect of an attack is to interrupt Co-Counseling. The people caught up in the attack often aren’t Co-Counseling and discharging; they’re complaining at each other. They want to talk about it, not discharge about it. They want to convince others. A reliable indication of an attack is when the attackers can’t think well enough to remember that their own distresses might be involved. They might use RC vocabulary and talk about the target of the attack as having distress, but their tone is that the person is evil, did something wrong, knows it was wrong, and won’t stop doing it.

The people lost in the attack often aren’t discharging. And the person who is targeted by the attack often can’t discharge either. There’s too much restimulation. He or she can’t see any support, because others in the Community are hunting for a place to hide. Everyone has a harder and harder time getting sessions and discharging. That’s the effect of attacks; they never help a Community.

Because of this, we have a policy that says you don’t get to attack. Attacking doesn’t work. You may be right that a real problem exists, but even then you have to discharge enough on your restimulation that you can offer resource to help solve the problem, not just be upset and critical. People’s distresses about leaders can make it hard for them to help a leader, because in those restimulated feelings they don’t want to help. They want everyone to know that the leader is wrong. They want to punish the leader and make him or her apologize, as if that would solve the problem. None of that solves anything. In the restimulation, it can feel very important to be proven right and for the leader to be proven wrong. That is another reliable sign that an attack is going on.5 Often there are few people left who are trying to think and handle the attack. Sometimes it’s only the leader.

Every Community needs to have at least a handful of people who work on their fears about attacks so that no one is ever left to handle an attack alone—so that if someone is attacked, there are always people with whom that person can talk who are committed to helping stop the attack. Stopping the attack often means going and telling the people who are attacking that they have to stop, which sometimes feels like stepping in front of a pointed gun. The attack is aimed at someone, and you have to step in front of him or her, which makes it fairly likely that the attacker will be upset with you, too. You haven’t done anything wrong. The person attacking is lost in restimulation. But he or she will be more likely to discharge if you say no than if you agree with him or her, or run away. When people agree with the attacker’s upset, it just leaves the attacker in the middle of it. People who are scared and back away don’t provide any contradiction6 either.

Often what you need to do is simply go to the person and say, “No, you can’t do this here. Yes, I know you’re upset, and it’s possible that something is wrong, but you can’t do this.” Sometimes you can offer the person counseling resource, but our experience has been that counseling only works if you require that the person stop the attack. Otherwise he or she will continue talking about it, instead of discharging on it. What causes people to attack are just distresses. They’re all things that will discharge.

We may feel like getting rid of the people who have these distresses. It can be scary even to counsel with them. We may want them to just go away. It seems much simpler. However, that means that we’re afraid to face our distresses. We need to face them—and not just for our Communities; attacks happen outside of RC in every group we’re a part of. Every group’s functioning is severely hampered by attacks. This is one of the ways an oppressive society keeps good things from happening. If we can’t get organized enough to move forward together, the oppression won’t be challenged. And as long as we carry these distresses, it is difficult for us to move forward together.

Let’s do a mini-session on how much we hate being attacked, and where we think those feelings come from.

1 It turns out means it is eventually revealed that.
2 Taking on means assuming.
3 Stand means tolerate.
4 Material means distress.
5 Going on means happening.
6 Contradiction to the distress

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