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Overcoming Early Defeats and Discouragement

A talk by Tim Jackins1 at the Teachers’ and Leaders’ Workshop in The Netherlands in September 2010

I’m pleased to be back again. I’m pleased to see a lot of people I’ve seen before, and it’s nice that you’ve added more. The Community here looks good, and, as you know, that doesn’t come automatically. It means that you’ve done work both for yourself and for other people—enough work reaching out that people have been able to stay.

It is difficult for anyone who grows up in our society to feel that he or she is part of something. All of the pressures of society are to split us up into smaller and smaller groups. Often the largest collection of people you’re allowed to work for is your family. In this society you’re supposed to be working for yourself. So anytime you can get people to come back to an RC fundamentals class the second week, it’s a major triumph. If half of them get through the full fundamentals class, that’s good. And if a quarter of them take the next class, that’s quite good. You’ve seen the attrition happen around you for years. But you’ve managed to stay, and you’ve managed to reach for people effectively enough that some of them could stay with you. Often people feel like they should have done better. “I should’ve kept everyone in my fundamentals class. They are all good people, and they went away.” We’ve tended to blame ourselves instead of trying to understand what’s happening. What’s happening is that all of the forces in society are pushing these people to be alone. When they’re in class, they look at us and they know that things could be different. Then they go home, and they become doubtful. And if their Co-Counselor cancels a session, they may not be able to figure out what to do. A lot of people do nothing. And we feel so hurt about them that we do nothing, too.

One of the myths of our society is that people make their own decisions. If you don’t understand distresses, you believe that. But we know that as long as we carry all these distresses, we are almost never able to use our minds and make our own decisions, because the distresses interfere. We follow the feelings of our distresses a large part of the time.

Most people feel like nobody wants them. You feel that way, don’t you? Come on, be honest. Raise your hand if you feel that way. Look around. It’s not just you. Remember this. If it’s like this for everyone, it can’t be your fault, and it can’t be an accident. It has to be part of what happens to everyone. Once you understand this, you see why people can’t come back. You have offered them the best thing they’ll ever have to make their lives better, and they can’t come back. That’s a strange situation. They like you. They don’t argue with you. They think you’re right. They just can’t figure out how to go against their distresses. And we haven’t been able to give them enough resource, quickly enough, to keep them coming back.


Each of us who has taught fundamentals has hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who like us but who never came back. They like us, and they hope we’re successful, and they hope RC works. They’re just hopeless about themselves. You have that same distress material. You just know how to keep going. You are the people who don’t know how to give up; you have that set of patterns. You know how to lean into the wind, and you do it all the time—even if there’s no wind. It does work better than giving up, but it doesn’t mean that you’re not hurt. You’ve just been able to go further because of that particular pattern.

What you have to realize is that you may have gone about as far as you can. On the basis of the pattern, you’ve gone almost as far as you can. You’ve gone this far (gesture), and your pattern’s leash is this long (gesture), which means that you’re going to have to look at the distress and not just try hard all your life. You are going to have to look at where you are discouraged all the time and you just keep going. You try to look happy, but it’s not terribly convincing—although you look better than almost everyone, because you’ve been able to discharge a lot of your distress and more of you shows through. You’ve known some of us for ten, twenty, thirty years. You’ve seen us change in great, important ways. You also see some things about us that haven’t changed. Some of our patterns look just like they did twenty years ago.

We’ve given up on other people, and we’ve given up on ourselves. Back when we got those hurts, it was too much for us. The conditions didn’t allow us to triumph. No one understood children, or being in human contact. All of the adults were carrying the results of their own hurts and oppressions. All of them had been badly mistreated in their own childhoods. It wasn’t something we could have changed. We had to lose. Those were the conditions. We do sometimes lose. We get defeated by circumstances. Getting defeated wouldn’t have been so bad if we could have discharged on it, but we weren’t allowed to do that, so the feelings of defeat got heavier and heavier and heavier.

We’ve been unable to get rid of them. And, as with any distresses, if we can’t get rid of them, we get confused about them, and so the feelings go on forever. We not only feel we were defeated, we feel we are defeated, and we act like we are. Very successful people, including you, feel defeated.

The feelings of defeat keep us from trying many things and stop our efforts quickly. They’re like our feelings of discouragement. We have lots of recorded feelings of discouragement. Most of us are chronically discouraged. We wake up feeling discouraged. Somehow we get started on the day, but not happily. We may know how to keep moving, but the feelings of discouragement are holding us back all the time. You are the ones who have not been stopped by discouragement. You know people who have. They show it all the time. You don’t like being with them; they’re simply too restimulating. If you’re here, you’ve learned how to go against feeling discouraged. You know how to keep trying and to look positive for other people. But you probably still have all that discouragement.

We have that distress in common, and it keeps us from doing many things in our lives. It especially gets in our way here, in Co-Counseling. It keeps us from being a counselor as fully as we could be, and from trusting our counselors and using them fully.


I want us to challenge it. I want us to look at this “unbearable” distress, because I think it will make a large difference. What would it be like if you weren’t worried and separate all the time, if you could look at your counselor and actually tell2 that he or she was thinking about you? Who would you go after3 in your life that you’re too timid to go after now?

What stops you from challenging this material?4 Think for a minute about challenging it. Take the idea out of your notes and put it in your mind. What will it feel like? It is possible to discharge on what happened to you, and to also challenge it in the present. In a session you can try to let someone else in—not just think about it theoretically but actually try to do it. What will it be like? Think a minute about turning and facing that struggle. Maybe somebody really wants to come in. Maybe you could let that happen. At this point “maybe” is as hopeful as most of us can be. When we try to challenge this material, we start to feel how hard conditions were when we closed the door to other people. That’s what we need to discharge on. In a way we need to be standing there pulling on that door, crying. We need to be making the effort.


You can put your mind right at that point long ago where you gave up. When you gave up, there was not a choice. Conditions were that bad. It was not your mistake. You didn’t give up before you had to. You were small and alone and dependent. It’s understandable why you gave up, but it is different now. You’re not alone, you are not small and dependent, and you understand what happened. Back then you didn’t understand; it just happened. It was wrong that it happened, and it happened. Now you understand. Now the conditions are different than when you got hurt. So now you can make a different decision. It feels like you can’t change your mind. That’s what distresses do. But you can change your mind, even with the distress still there. You can decide to change your mind. That’s what I want you to try to do. I want you to go back to that closed door, grab the handle, and say, “I’ve changed my mind. I can change my mind now, and I have,” and start pulling.

Find someone for a six-minute-each-way mini-session.

It’s important to discharge the feelings of discouragement and defeat, and they are heavy enough that it’s hard to discharge them with only your own motivation. One way it works is with other people who are trying to work on the same things. It works best if there are this many people together, if I can talk about it clearly enough, and if you can then immediately have a session. The longer you wait until your session, the harder it is to get back and work well on this material. So I want to keep you right there, as long as I can. Near that edge is where you can feel alive in this important way. It’s working right where you gave up that lets you take heart5 again.

How do we dare to take heart? How do we dare to face battles we have lost, with all the feelings of having lost still there? One of the wonderful things about a human mind is that distresses do not stop its ability to make decisions. Distresses confuse us, but they don’t take away our ability to decide. We can decide to take on6 these struggles. We can decide to try again where we gave up. We can decide to win back our minds this time. To do that, we have to understand that things are different now than they were before.

Look at the people around you. Look at someone’s eyes. There are people here you will know for the rest of your life. You’ve already known them quite a while—ten, twenty, thirty years. Something has changed. You are not alone anymore. Objectively, you are not alone, even though you still feel alone. Your world is different, even though your distresses don’t let you feel it. You are not small, and you understand things much better than you did. You know about distress patterns. You understand where the feelings come from and why they feel so believable. And you know that you can change them.

All of these things that we didn’t have long ago when we gave up, we have now. And we understand this well enough that I think we can win these battles now. I don’t think this was true five years ago. I think that all of the work we’ve done in Co-Counseling has led us to this ability. We couldn’t do it before. It was too confusing, and we were too alone. Now it really is different, though it’s hard for us to realize it. Our world has changed, and now we have to catch up.7


We can win this battle, I’m sure. The question is, “How long will it take?” The more we can do this work together, the faster it will go. Hearing someone else challenge this distress makes our sessions go better. Seeing other people dare to fight for themselves gives us immense power. It’s much easier to fight if we have all the support and awareness around us that we can gather. So I want you to fight for yourself. There are many places to do that. This is just one.

One thing that oppressive societies take away from us is our ability to fight for ourselves. This is not just about you. It’s about us, and about our being able to fight hard enough to change society. It must start with you being able to fight for yourself. There’s nothing selfish about that. You want every child to keep fighting for herself or himself. It is exactly the same with you.

You have to dare to do this for you not because of what you will do for other people, not because of what you have done, but simply because you are worth fighting for because you are human. That’s all the reason you need. When you see babies, you know that they’re worth fighting for. They’ve done nothing, and they’re “useless” for a while, but you know that simply because they’re human, they’re worth every effort. It is exactly the same with you. You are worth every effort. You are worth every challenge. You are worth all of us being behind you. The whole universe can be behind you. You are worth that. Understanding this allows you to take on where you’ve been defeated.

You have to change your mind now. You had no choice back then. Now you have a choice. Now you know what you are, and you know that these people around you are on your side.

It’s time to begin taking our minds back from the defeats we’ve suffered. One early defeat is where we gave up and went alone. It’s time to start pulling on that door as hard as we can. Not carefully, not quietly, but with every bit of energy we have.


Question: Two years ago you talked about the same theory, but you said that we should go back to the little boy or girl and take our Co-Counselor with us. It looks like now you’re saying to go back but take the little boy or girl away from there. Is that a more effective way of handling the situation, or is it just a variation on the same theme?

Tim: I think of it more as a variation. I try to describe different possibilities. No one approach will work in every situation. Two things come to my mind: One is that as we develop closer connections with each other, we are better counselors for each other. We are better reminders of reality for each other, which makes it possible for us to work on heavy early distresses and not get lost in the same ways. When I talk about taking your counselor with you, it’s to keep with you a reminder of present-day reality. Your counselor can be the best contradiction to many of the distresses back there—of being alone, of being helpless, of being trapped there forever.

But I also want you, the client, to be powerful. I want you thinking about fighting on both sides of the struggle. You’re not going back to get your little girl or boy out of that situation. You’re going back to finish the struggle in a way that it couldn’t be finished then. You cannot change what happened, but you can change the effect of what happened. I imagine it as going back and making it the way it should’ve been. You leave it not because you have to get away, but because it’s done, because you went back and discharged and completed it. It’s a little different perspective. All of these things are useful.

1 Tim Jackins is the International Reference Person for the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities.
2 Tell means notice.
3 Go after means pursue.
4 Material means distress.
5 Take heart means feel hopeful.
6 Take on means face and engage in.
7 Catch up means get to where it is.


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