Really Thinking about RC

Re-evaluation Counselling has come to many important conclusions about human beings and the world—for example, that all human beings are “good,” and that when they don’t act good, it’s only because their minds are confused by the residue of unresolved painful experiences.

These conclusions guide us RCers in our daily lives, in our interactions with other people, and in our Co-Counselling sessions as client and as counselor. They also guide us as we try to shape the future. They often prove very useful—much more useful than the conclusions offered by sources embedded within the irrational society.

It has been good for us to use these RC conclusions as a guide. However, no matter how helpful they have been, or how much better they are than the conclusions drawn from irrational sources, they are not enough for our ongoing work, for dealing accurately with the new, unique situations we find ourselves in as reality evolves over time.


Whenever I need to plan a workshop or a class, I almost always start by asking myself some basic questions like “Why are we doing RC?” and “What is the current situation (or context) we are trying to do RC within?” Then having considered my latest answers to those questions, I try to plan the class or workshop so that it takes account of reality as it is here and now. This has worked well.

As one way of increasing our ability to think freshly, I’ve been suggesting to Co-Counsellors in my Region1 that we learn to thoughtfully question everything we think and do, including what we think and do in RC. This is not to undermine RC, but to promote wider understanding of how we have come to know what we know in RC—so that we understand RC, rather than just rely on its conclusions. (In the process, we may occasionally find things in RC theory or practise that don’t make sense, and it will be useful to correct these.) The phrase “thoughtfully question” sets this up in the way it needs to be, given how questions can also be used to criticise or disrupt.


To be able to thoughtfully question everything in RC theory, we need first to know what that the theory is, what it says. To know this well enough, I think we need to read (and reread) a lot of RC literature—especially, I would say, the “collected works” of Harvey Jackins, since they are where the basic theory has been most consistently laid out.

Studying the basic RC literature isn’t about substituting our own thoughts with those of Harvey Jackins. It’s about putting our minds in contact with the mind of the person who contributed most to the development of basic RC theory, and seeing what we gain by that interaction. It’s important not to simply accept the ideas but to question them, to wrestle with them in our minds.

For example, for a recent Community class, we read through the Postulates of Re-evaluation Counseling2 the week before the class and then discussed them in class. I encouraged people to question everything in them, to ask themselves, “What do these words actually mean?” and “Does this fit with my experience?”

We managed to discuss only the first three postulates (out of twenty-eight), because everyone had so much to talk about, and people disagreed about some details, and each other’s view of those details.

I think this kind of questioning is important in moving RC and our Community forward. Again, the purpose is not to undermine RC but to make sure that we really understand, connect with, and eventually agree on what it is we are doing in RC.


A theory is a model that we build with our minds, a model of a part of reality that we want to understand better. It’s not useful to think of a theory as “true”; it’s just our best attempt so far at guessing what reality might be like. A useful theory is one that we are confident describes reality accurately enough that we can rely on it—that is, base our actions on it. We gain confidence in a theory if it repeatedly describes reality accurately, under many different conditions.

If we want to increase our confidence in the accuracy of a theory, we have to conduct our own experiments. (An important part of every Co-Counselling session, class, or workshop is the opportunity it provides to test RC theory experimentally.) But given that we can’t do experiments on every bit of knowledge we will ever use, we also have to become good at figuring out whose conclusions we can trust without checking them by direct observation; we have to figure out the most useful attitude we can take toward indirect knowledge. I think this means:

1. Becoming and staying aware of where we are using our own thinking or direct observation and where we are relying on someone else’s

2. Understanding the structural importance of every bit of knowledge we are relying on and asking ourselves, “Which bits of our knowledge are fundamental, in that if they turn out to be3 incorrect, a lot of what we thought we understood becomes unreliable?”

3. Checking the trustworthiness of all the sources we use—by checking on their past record of accuracy and integrity, the areas in which they have been reliable, any areas in which they have not been reliable (since most people are reliable in some areas but not in others), and their attitude toward correcting their mistakes.


One of the consequences of having our confidence in our thinking damaged, and not being allowed to practise thinking all the time, is that when we’re asked or required to think freshly about something, we can instead fall into the appearance of thinking. One way of doing this is to quickly offer a new idea that is new only by being different from what has gone before. This isn’t fresh thinking.

When we’re trying to think freshly about something we do in RC, it can be useful to ask questions like

  • What situation was it originally intended to address?

  • Has the situation changed?

  • Is the old solution addressing the new situation?

  • If not, then why not, and what might work better?

Converging on similar thoughts is not a failure. We have not failed to think freshly if after thinking thoroughly, we arrive at a conclusion we find already documented in the early RC literature. This is just an indication of the quality of the work done by the pioneers of RC.


For a recent Regional workshop, I created a list of questions that I thought might help us start coming to our own individual understanding or conclusions. Some of these questions address where it can seem like RC has failed in some way. We need to look at these “failures,” rather than cover them over or blame someone else for them. We’re at the point where we are in RC for good reasons: our current position is based on what we’ve been able to do at each point of our development. Also, in RC every Co-Counsellor is encouraged to take complete responsibility for the whole RC Community. Complete responsibility means that any “failure” in RC is one’s own responsibility, not someone else’s fault.

Questions about RC theory

  • What is RC?

  • What does RC say about you as a human? And what do the words in your answer actually mean (words like “good,” “intelligent,” “caring,” “powerful”)?

  • What bits of RC theory have you confirmed for yourself by observation, and what bits remain unconfirmed?

  • How confident can you be about the unconfirmed bits?

  • How do you move forward when you don’t know everything?

  • What is discharge?

  • What is a distress recording, a pattern, a contradiction?

  • What does re-emerge mean?

Questions about RC practice 

  • Why do we Co-Counsel? Why don’t we just counsel ourselves, since we know the theory?

  • Why do we have RC Communities (or workshops, classes, and so on)?

  • Is leadership necessary? What is leadership?

  • Why hasn’t RC changed the world?

  • What were you hoping RC would change in the wider world? Where has it done that, and where not? Why has it not?

  • Were you hoping the RC Communities would grow more rapidly? Why haven’t your hopes been realized?

  • Is it possible to completely re-emerge from distress? Has anyone done so? If not, why not?

  • Have you gotten rid of a chronic pattern, or greatly reduced its effect on you? Can we get rid of them all?

  • Why don’t we have “democracy” in RC?

  • How do we thoughtfully disagree with someone?

  • How many Co-Counselling sessions, of what duration, per week are “enough” for us to move forward (re-emerge)?

  • Can we re-emerge just by Co-Counselling? Is discharge enough?

Questions for the individual

  • Why do you do RC?

  • What do you want to use RC for?

  • Where has RC worked well for you, and where has it “failed to deliver”? What do you think happened?

  • What distress is most in your way?

  • For leaders: What distress is most in the way of the group? (We can all learn a lot by assuming the viewpoint of a leader.)

  • How do you decide what to prioritise in your sessions and your life?

Questions about the wider world

  • What do you think is possible for the human race?

  • What is the relationship between your individual re-emergence and the re-emergence of the human race?

  • What is the current situation for humanity?

  • What are all the factors in the current situation, how do they interact with each other, and how should you deal with them?

  • What in the current situation have you not seen clearly enough yet?

  • What is the most fundamental thing holding us humans back?

  • Do you live in a democracy? (What is “democracy”?)

  • What do you understand about the current financial crises?

  • What do you understand about the current environmental crises?

What other questions will help us all to think?

Karl Lam
Regional Reference Person for Cambridge,
Herts, Beds, Bucks, and Norfolk, in England

Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England

1 A Region is a subdivision of the International RC Community, usually consisting of several Areas (local RC Communities).
2 The Postulates of Re-evaluation Counseling are on pages one through six of The Human Situation, by Harvey Jackins.
3 “Turn out to be” means result in being.

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