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Another Look at Relationships

From an open-question evening at the Young Adult Leaders’ Workshop, near Boston, Massachusetts, USA, November 2013

Question: What is rational to expect from our relationships?

Tim Jackins1: Well, it depends on the relationship. We have great confusions about relationships. Every child arrives expecting that somebody will be there to learn to build a relationship with. Maybe in four or five generations, when we get ourselves cleaned up enough to figure this out, a young one will have somebody he or she can build a relationship with, will get to practice building a relationship. It will get better and better in the meantime.

The words “expect from our relationships” are a little loaded. Almost all of us have heard from someone else, “I expected more.” (laughter) Relationships make sense when they improve the lives of both people. That’s the underlying foundation. Then you figure out the details. Other guidelines include not expecting everything from one relationship and not expecting an oppressive society to do anything except mislead you about relationships.

Almost all of us grew up in societies dominated entirely by capitalism. That has a tremendous effect on our relationships and on how we see them. We are trying to exist in an oppressive situation, with oppression going on2 all around us, and coming at us and from us. This confuses us all the time about many things, including relationships.

I think it would be useful to try to have close, caring relationships that don’t do very much, instead of hunting in a relationship for solutions to our problems. No relationship is going to get rid of your distresses. Sorry.3 Come on4—you’ve tried, you know. You can’t solve a hurt in the past with somebody in the future covering it up. You’ve tried and tried. “There must be somebody.” No, there isn’t. You will be alone and miserable forever (pause), unless you work on and discharge the distress.

Crowd: Ohhhh . . . . Why didn’t you say so?

Tim: ‘Cause5 you weren’t listening.

What you need is about fifty relationships in which you and another person get to be human with each other. That’s the expectation—not that it will grow into a gigantic relationship but that you’ll get to see each other maybe once a week for two minutes in passing, and in that two minutes you’ll get to really see each other, enjoy each other, and show how much you appreciate each other’s existence. Wouldn’t you like to have fifty of those come by every week? That would be your practice in learning how to have relationships without big expectations.


There are things to learn about having closer relationships. One of them is daring to let someone know more about you, and trusting them with that information—not expecting them to be your counselor, but expecting them to be aware of your struggles. You can make agreements about how much you want to be a resource in each other’s counseling, but this other relationship shouldn’t be based on that.

The relationship is about “I like you,” “My world is better when I get to be around you,” “I remember more clearly what it’s like to be alive when I’m around you.” And you just have to be you. There isn’t some other job involved. If we can work at figuring that out with each other, I think we have a chance to learn what it means to get closer and closer together.

You have another set of relationships in which some project is involved. We will be comrades in this project, figuring out how to work together. Here, too, it is useful to have an explicit understanding that we are not taking care of each other. We are not each other’s counselor unless we both agree to that.

You are trying to figure out why you want a particular relationship, get it sorted out in your own mind, discharge fully on it, and get the other person to do the same. It’s a lot easier if they know Co-Counseling, but you can make a very good start without that. You can begin building the relationship, and build it as far as you can with as much commitment to each other as is possible, in spite of the difficulties.

You know there’s a way out of the difficulties, and they don’t, so in some ways you’re giving unequal support for a period. When the commitment is solid and you run into difficulties, then you can get them RC tools so that they can move under their own power. You may have to do a lot on one side initially, because the frozen longings and expectations have little to restrain themselves on their side. But eventually you have to expect them to handle them—to not give in6 to them or run away.

Sometimes we’re so lonely that somebody attaching a frozen need7 to us looks good. (laughter) It’s like we can’t expect anyone to really think about us so we’re glad that at least we have the frozen attention. But more often we’re scared by that frozen gleam coming at us, and we run fast. We have no idea if it is something we can handle or not; we just don’t want to. It’s just like ours! We have been fascinated by people, too.

Crowd: No.

Tim: No, no. There’s nobody in this room you’ve been fascinated by. (laughter) You are pure as the driven snow.8

Their material9 is just like ours. That’s part of why it’s so restimulating. So we get to counsel on our fears about it. We get to make choices. We can choose things to try, and sometimes they won’t work. But we have the tools to try to move them in the right direction, and we don’t have to give up in restimulation. We may decide that it’s more work to go where we hoped to than we’re willing to put in. Then we can change our idea of what the relationship can be.

We have to stop hoping that a relationship will appear, ready-made. None of us are in shape10 to offer anybody a great relationship (laughter), unless we are willing to work on it all the way through. Relationships are simply work, partly because we didn’t get the chance as children to learn how to build relationships. We have the confusing noise of restimulation in our heads. But we can make relationships work. I have some excellent relationships. I have also failed in many good attempts.


We can learn and discharge a great deal in building our Co-Counseling relationships. These are more carefully defined relationships, thankfully. Still, we haven’t dared to pursue them and develop them fully because of our distresses about relationships.

When you leave this workshop, how soon will you forget your connections here? You will need to fight to remember these people and the relationships you got to build here. It’s a fight against undischarged distress about relationships. Nobody can fight that battle except you.

Look around the room and find a face you want to remember. Find a couple of them. Look at them, whether or not they are looking back at you. Don’t slip over into “only if they like me, too.” This is about you liking that they exist. It’s about your having contact with them, whether or not anything ever comes back in your direction. It’s about caring about someone else and deciding to do it even if it is unrequited.11 Look around, find that face, find a couple of them. Okay? Now memorize them. And tomorrow get your smart phone out and take their pictures. (laughter) Take pictures of the one, two, three, or five (not more than five). Then look at those pictures every week for the next six months. (laughter)

I know you think it should come easily, effortlessly, and “naturally,” but it doesn’t. You have to work at relationships. If you can remember those faces, it will make a difference. It will give you one more handhold in this struggle to build deeper and deeper relationships with each other.

Let’s do a mini-session on whose pictures you would like to have. Whose pictures do you want to take, without anybody knowing about it? Six minutes each way.

1 Tim Jackins is the International Reference Person for the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities.
2 “Going on” means happening.
3 “Sorry” means I’m sorry.
4 “Come on” means be honest.
5 “’Cause” means because.
6 “Give in” means surrender.
7 “Frozen need” is a term used in RC for a hurt that results when a rational need is not met in    childhood. The hurt compels the person to keep trying to fill the need in the present,but the frozen need cannot be filled; it can only be discharged.
8 “Driven snow” means snow that has been blown into drifts and is untrodden and clean.
9 “Material” means distress.
10 “Shape” means condition.
11 “Unrequited” means not reciprocated.

Last modified: 2020-07-02 14:27:35+00