Confidentiality, the Internet, and Our Pseudonym Policy

From a talk by Tim Jackins at the World Conference of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities, August 2013

Here at the 2013 World Conference, in addition to the work we do on our Guidelines1 and goals, we have the chance to talk about other issues. We need such chances. Last night we talked about the growth of our Community.

CONFIDENTIALITY

The issue of confidentiality has also come up. Every fundamentals teacher tells his or her students that confidentiality is important. We all tell our students that they don’t get to repeat what their clients say. That’s often all we say, and we hope it’s enough. We need to say it because everyone has habits of gossiping, of talking about things other people say.

Why do we need confidentiality? Why do we need our counselors not to talk about what we work on? We don’t mind their knowing. Why do we draw a line, and where is it drawn?

I think we need confidentiality because people couldn’t think about us when we were young. People talked about us in thoughtless and sometimes destructive ways. We were belittled, shamed, and attacked as children, and we vowed never to show anything to anyone again. So in order for us to take the step to use Co-Counseling, something has to be different. There has to be a chance to talk about ourselves without thoughtless things happening.

If we’re lucky, it doesn’t take too long before we trust one person and can begin to tell that person things that we have hidden. However, it often takes a long time before we trust one person, and it’s only because the person says that he or she won’t repeat the things we say. We need that confidentiality to enable us to begin Co-Counseling. It’s a practical matter. But past that, why don’t we want everyone to know everything?

Well, because not everyone can think about us. If someone can think about us in a particular place, in a particular part of our life, it’s not dangerous for that person to know something about us in that area. Anywhere people can think about us, we can invite them in closer. But where they can’t think about us, we’re not going to tell them anything, and there is some wisdom in that.

Our societies can’t think about us. They are not set up to even try. They think about other things—profit, market share, how to get more. We are essentially irrelevant, unless we are consuming, and then information about us is manipulated to those ends, not for our benefit. Keeping certain information confidential does make sense until people can think about us.

NEEDING TO KNOW ABOUT EACH OTHER

On the other hand, if I’m going to be your counselor, the more I know about you, the better chance I have of playing a good role in your liberation. And if you have three counselors, the more we know collectively about you, the more we can play a good role.

In an Intensive2 in Seattle, clients have a team of experienced counselors and get twenty hours of one-way counseling in a week. One of the great things about it is that in order to do it, each person is required to agree that his or her team gets to talk and think together about the struggles the person has come to work on.

In our Communities, it’s helpful when the leaders know about the members of their Community. And the more experienced the leaders become, the more they can thoughtfully use that information. It can be useful for each of us to have a couple of leaders who can think and talk about us and our struggles. How do they get that information, with the confidentiality policy in place? How do they not get confused and mess things up? How do they not get restimulated and end up being a little gossipy about us? Are we so afraid of that happening that we can’t let them try to think about us? Is it in our interests to allow certain leaders to talk together about our struggles? There are a lot of issues here. It’s possible that leaders can play a larger role in supporting each of our liberations.

LIST POSTINGS AND ARTICLES IN RC PUBLICATIONS

An issue related to the above has to do with articles in RC publications, and postings on the RC e-mail discussion lists. Much of this writing is about our individual struggles—but few of our struggles involve just us. For example, you are describing a (outside-of-RC) struggle in an article. Who else was there? Who played that lousy role? Do you name names? At the time, you felt hopeless about the person who played the lousy role and about your relationship with him or her. Then after two more years of RC you figure out how to improve that relationship, and three years later the person joins RC. And there’s an index to Present Time where he or she runs into the article. And look whose name or other identifying information is there! Now what?

Or you write about how you are using counseling with your children, or your parents, or anybody. How does confidentiality apply here? 

How do we share useful information gained through our experiences without doing something against the interests of someone else? How much restimulation can we handle? (It’s not that we’re trying to avoid restimulating everybody. That’s not the issue.) This is something to think about so we can be thoughtful about each other. We want everyone to get RC tools, and this means we have to think about everyone.

So I’d like us to do a mini-session and then a four-way think-and-listen about this issue. But first I’ll talk about some related things.

[The World Conference decided on a new Guideline K.5. to address these issues.]

THE INTERNET

One thing is our use of the Internet. We need to be thinking about the ease of communication the Internet offers versus the easy misuse of information it makes possible. It is obvious there is increasing misuse. 

Look at how much resource is being put into gathering information about everybody—and how that information is being used by governments and corporations. Any time large, powerful organizations that do not have our interests in mind have access to information about us, it is likely they will misuse it. I don’t imagine anyone has missed the recent stories about how thoroughly our phone calls are being monitored and recorded. Apparently every single phone call those of us in the United States have made in the last five years has been noted. That’s what has been admitted to. And the general rule is that far more is happening than is ever admitted to. 

Most of us have not lived under drastically repressive governments. However, every government has been repressive, and every oppressive society has those tendencies. The fact that overt repression is not present at any one moment means very little about the next moment. The fact that you personally have not been the target means even less.

So we have to think carefully about how we in RC use the information we have about each other. What is useful, for whom, to know about us? It’s an issue for us to think about, individually and collectively.

[The World Conference decided on a Guideline to address Internet issues: Guideline L.1.

OUR PSEUDONYM POLICY

Something that attaches here is our pseudonym policy. Many people around the world are in danger because they belong to a particular group, have certain goals, or have done certain things in their past. Our policy has been to require such people to use pseudonyms in our publications if, in our judgment, what they write reveals that they are in a group that could be targeted and they would not be identifiable but for the writing.

This policy relies on the judgment of the International Reference Person. It is a restimulating policy to some, but restimulation is not a convincing argument against it. In our oppressive societies, the policy itself can seem like repression, but it’s not. It is a position we take so that our Community’s resources cannot be misused as a tool of repression or oppression. The fact that few of us, or few people near to us, have experienced such repression may be a rare luxury of this moment. That’s part of what we have to think about and discharge on.


1 The Guidelines for the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities—the policies for the RC Communities
2 An Intensive is twenty hours of one-way Re-evaluation Counseling, for a fee, at Re-evaluation Counseling Community Resources, in Seattle, Washington, USA.

 


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