The “Background Noise” We Grew Up With

The following four articles are from a discussion on the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of wide world change.

In RC we focus most of our counseling on memories of the individual hurts we received from accidents, from the distress recordings of other people, or as targets or members of an oppressor group. But we have also absorbed ideas, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors from our families, the culture around us, our religion, our country’s history, and the oppressive society. We may not be aware of these as coming from distinct experiences or realize how much distress they installed on us. We may not have questioned them. We may not be able to easily identify them or know how to discharge on them to regain our full intelligence. Here are two ways of thinking about these attitudes and beliefs: 

• They were the “background noise” that was playing so much of the time that we were not aware of it. 

• They were the paint or the wallpaper on the walls that we were so used to that we stopped noticing it. 

This “background noise” influences everything we do: the way we think, our body language, our facial expressions, our habits, what we are willing to question and not question. It affects our relationships and our language. It affects what restimulates us and what doesn’t, how we discharge and our resistance to certain forms of discharge. 

I have begun to make a list of some of the “background noises” that I grew up with. Some of them are uncomfortable for me to counsel on or to write about. I encourage you to make your own list. Discharging on the “background noise” will help us re-evaluate ancient thought patterns and distress recordings, as well as our individual ones, and recover our full intelligence.  

Doing this work has clarified for me both how I have been oppressed and how I was manipulated into the oppressor role. I have introduced the idea of “background noise” at workshops, and others have also found it helpful. My guess is that it will take considerable discharge to fully re-evaluate the ideas, beliefs, and attitudes that we absorbed unconsciously from our surroundings.

Here are some of the items on my list: 

Economic exploitation. Making money from the labor of other people is permissible and even encouraged. This has been true in some cultures for a long time. It is the foundation for the owning-class/working-class society that we live in. 

Some people are superior to others. White people, men, able-bodied people, middle- and owning-class people, straight people, Christians, Western Europeans are “smarter, more worthy, more human, more favored by God,” and so on, than other people. We can be pleased that we have begun to address this assumption in regard to certain groups, but we have much work to do in regard to other groups. 

Original sin. Original sin appears in Christian theology in the second century. In the Christian scriptures it is based on the teachings of Paul the Apostle. (I use the term Christian scriptures because the term New Testament implies superiority to the Hebrew scriptures, at least to me as a Jew raised in a Gentile society.) Different Christian sects interpret original sin differently, and it is rejected by some Christian theologies. The doctrine is not found in mainstream Judaism or in Islam. Re-evaluation Counseling assumes that all people are good. Do we fully believe it? 

Exploitation of the natural world. The King James Bible (Cambridge Edition) says, “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’” Rie Shiraishi,1 in a post to several RC e-mail discussion lists, wrote, “This recording has been used to justify exploitation of the environment and has served the interest of certain Judeo-Christian groups who defined the extent of ‘dominion’ that they saw themselves to be entitled to. I think this recording became institutionalised and has been acted out in Western versions of colonialism, genocide, racism, adultism, and other oppressor patterns. I notice this recording leak into the relationships white people have with me.” 

The Messiah. This is a complicated and perhaps controversial subject. The idea of a Messiah began in Judaism—the religion of the ancient Hebrews. The Greek translation of Messiah is khristos (χριστος), anglicized as Christ, and Christians commonly refer to Jesus as either the “Christ” or the “Messiah.” For many people, the Messiah came to signify a person who would establish a heavenly kingdom (or kingdom of God) on earth. I imagine that originally the idea was an attempt to give the Hebrews hope in a time when they were living in very difficult conditions with much suffering. Providing hope to oppressed people has value, but it can lead to passivity when it is accompanied by a message that change will come from a supernatural being. 

Male domination. Men have dominated and continue to dominate women on an individual and a societal level. As a young person, I never thought about the fact that all the political leaders in the United States that I heard of, with the exception of Eleanor Roosevelt,2 were men and that men wrote almost everything I read. 

“Children should be seen and not heard.” “Who do you think you are?” These are two of many messages that have installed patterns of silence, lack of confidence, being satisfied with a small life, not speaking out against injustice. They are different for different class, gender, and ethnic identities, but they are present for most young people. We may be more aware of them than some of the other “background noises.”

Chemical intervention for distressed behavior is necessary. This bit of “background noise” has been introduced more recently by the immensely profitable pharmaceutical industry. It has been used to convince people that distress is caused by biochemical imbalance rather than hurtful experiences. Even some RCers have been influenced by this “background noise.” Some Co-Counselors have told me, “I can discharge my distress, but my uncle (or aunt or brother) needs his tranquilizers.” 

My country is the best one in the world (nationalism). This “background noise” is used by the class society to manipulate people to fight in and support wars and thus give the owning class the opportunity to make immense profits—even more than in peacetime. It is often accompanied by other messages about the superiority of the people living in a particular country, or by lies about that country’s policies. In the United States, for example, we grow up with the message that “the United States is and has always been on the side of the oppressed peoples of the world and against imperialism.” In fact, the United States has oppressed people, engaged in genocide, and been imperialistic since before it was a country. 

This is some of the “background noise” that I grew up with. Please write about the “background noise” that you grew up with. 

Julian Weissglass
International Commonality Reference

Person for Wide World Change
Santa Barbara, California, USA


1 Rie Shiraishi is an RC leader in Annandale, New South Wales, Australia.
2 Eleanor Roosevelt, who was married to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was an outspoken advocate for the rights of African Americans, Asian Americans, women, and others, from the 1920s through the 1950s.


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