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The following five articles are from a discussion, on the e-mail discussion list for RC teachers, about discharging fear.

Discharging Heavy Early Fear

I am looking for some stories of success in discharging heavy early fear. In twenty-three years of Co-Counseling, I have only had a few sessions in which I’ve experienced more than a few moments of spontaneous shaking or teeth chattering.

Like many RCers, I have repeatedly tried to discharge fear by shaking on purpose. This seems to have some good effect. It has sometimes allowed me to get back to sleep in the middle of the night. However, it has not been enough to make much difference in my early terror—which still wakes me up at 4:00 in the morning, among its other effects.

I know of at least two longtime Co-Counselors who have run into problems related to early terror. I don’t think either person has been able to fully discharge it. One of them is experiencing insomnia; another needs to work less in order to improve her health. Both have functioned well on top of the terror but only as long as they’ve kept extremely busy.

It would be useful to hear about others’ successes in discharging early terror.

Michael Levy
Santa Cruz, California, USA

Fear and Yawning

I have been doing RC for twenty years, and I, too, have had difficulty discharging fear. I will share what has worked for me.

I am an Ashkenazi Jew,1 and my childhood in the United States was one of poverty and extreme violence. It was clear I had a lot of fear, and my counselors all agreed that shaking was what I needed to do. They would encourage me to shake on purpose, and I often spent most of my sessions “fake” shaking.

I wasn’t convinced that the “fake” shaking was encouraging real discharge. After my sessions I would feel more on edge2 and scared, not less. My counselors thought that perhaps that was a good thing, that my fear was coming more to the surface and that I would discharge it more easily in later sessions as a result. That did not happen. I continued to feel more stressed out after sessions and less able to think. We tried getting me in close, having me stand across the room, and so on, but with the same results.

After several years I decided to try another approach. I instructed my counselors to insist that I yawn, not shake. That helped tremendously. I felt more connected with my counselors and friends. I could think more relaxedly and flexibly after my sessions. I got sick less often and felt less tired. My body began to heal from old physical hurts, and my chronic pain shifted.

I still talk about scary early events, but slowly and with lots of yawning. Now I sometimes cry as well. I have been able to look at hard things and feel loved at the same time—a perfect mixture for real discharge and re-evaluation. I still rarely shake outright.3

It’s interesting that I do shiver, and my teeth chatter, at the end of every yawn. As counselors we might be expecting fear discharge to look a certain way, when actually there is more variety.

Even though yawning has worked well, my counselors still have to insist that I do it. It feels to me like an absolute waste of time. I was more comfortable “acting out” the terror as client. Perhaps that was a dramatization of my fear, stirring it up in a not-useful way. I also suspect that I couldn’t tell4 I was safe, which may be why others often have a hard time shaking.

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

1 An Ashkenazi Jew is a Jew of Central and Eastern European descent.
2 “On edge” means anxious, nervous.
3 “Shake outright” means simply shake.
4 “Tell” means perceive, notice.

I Need to Know Someone Is Really There

I have been trying to work on disconnection. It seems to have been installed before I learned language, before I even knew I could be separate from another person, before there were any barriers between me and another person.

In working on it, I need no words—just real attention, physical closeness, and my and another’s mind seeming almost merged. Then I cry and sometimes shake, or my teeth chatter. I need to know someone is really there and can “hold” me with their mind. It usually starts with noticing that my counselor has a mind, has focused it on me, and can tell1 that I have a mind, too. Then I am less on guard and the terror can show spontaneously.

Tim2 has invited Co-Counselors to be cheek-to-cheek, as a way to interrupt separation. I’m moving toward doing that with several Co-Counselors.

Erin Mansell
London, England

1 “Tell” means notice.
2 Tim Jackins

Fear and Physical Counseling

I am wondering if physical counseling1 would help here. Fear can feel so scary and often be internally still, silent, and passive—even if the outer picture is busy and frantic. Fully fighting for oneself can be powerful. When we’ve done physical counseling at women’s workshops in our Region,2 I have seen people work deeply on terror.

The one time I experienced spontaneous shaking in a counseling environment was at a family workshop during the wrestling portion.3 I was kneeling at the outer edge of the group, getting ready to leap in. An experienced counselor with lots of attention veered in my direction and looked right at me. That’s all it took.4

Jeanie Lindquist
Ashby, Massachusetts, USA

1 “Physical counseling” is counseling in which a counselor, who has been trained to do it, provides aware and thoughtful physical resistance for a client to push and fight against.
2 A Region is a subdivision of the International RC Community, usually consisting of several Areas (local RC Communities).
3 At RC family workshops, young people and adults (both parents and allies) interact in ways that allow the young people to show and be themselves and not be dominated by the adults. Physical counseling, or “wrestling,” is usually a part of these workshops.
4 “That’s all it took” means that’s all that was needed.

How I've Dealt with Early Terror

Early terror is a big part of my chronic material.1 Work is tied to the terror. I work a lot, although I prefer not to. I try to do things perfectly and completely, which is why work pulls at me.

These are some things that have worked in Co-Counseling sessions:

* Being held tightly—even squeezed

* Getting physically closer to my counselor

* Being told by my regular counselor, “Anytime you work on fear and terror, it’s a good thing,” but not being urgent about it

* Stopping my own temptation to counsel myself (the terror is linked to isolation)

* Deciding not to worry. For maybe a year in almost all my sessions I took that direction. The results were remarkable; something moved. It’s easier now to stop myself outside of sessions when I start going down the worry path.

It doesn’t work for me to have someone lie on top of me, although I can see why it does for some people. The sense of being overpowered is too oppressive and shuts me down.2 I also don’t necessarily find it easier to discharge terror at workshops. I find it more useful to do it with my regular Co-Counselors. I have one Co-Counselor I’ve been meeting with for fifteen years and another for eight. A couple of others I do regular phone time with. They all seem to have a good handle on3 how to counsel me generally, including on this material. At workshops I sometimes don’t get long enough sessions and I often counsel with people who aren’t really tracking me like my regulars.4 Of course, some workshops give me better leeway on this material than others: workshops on war, genocide, and colonization—things linked to my early terror. Not too surprising.

I do find Intensives5 useful for getting down to the early terror.

Recently, I’ll wake up at 4:00 AM (almost on the dot6) and simply be unable to go back to sleep. I’ll usually be obsessing about something work related. I have people in a different time zone I could call at that hour, but usually I’m just trying to wind down instead of winding up (by waking up more to get time7). Usually I work on it in a session the next day. It’s become clear that where my mind goes at 4:00 AM is not that important. It’s just my mind doing its “crazy,” obsessive anxiety thing. Sometimes I’m thinking about something ridiculous, like how to shop for groceries. I’ve come to realize this, after discharging a bunch on the insomnia. Now it’s easier for me to tell8 that whatever I’m obsessing about, no matter what it is, is not important.

I’ve decided and re-decided to go to sleep by 11:00 PM. (My pull is to stay up later and later to get work completed and tie up other loose ends.) This usually takes some strategic thinking earlier in the day, like what it would take9 to truly stop doing other things and be ready for bed by 10:30 PM.

During the daytime I have sessions on my anxiety about not getting enough sleep. That way, even when I can’t figure out how to go back to sleep again, it’s not as big a deal. (“Oh well.10 I guess I’ll just be tired later.”)

I see the work on early terror as a long-term project. I’m just trying to keep making headway,11 and being gentle with myself about the process.

Thanks, Michael, for getting so many of us thinking about this.

San Francisco, California, USA

1 “Material” means distress.
2 “Shuts me down” means makes me go numb.
3 “A good handle on” means a good grasp of, a good understanding of.
4 “Regulars” means regular counselors.
5 An Intensive is twenty hours of one-way Re-evaluation Counseling, for a fee, at Re-evaluation Counseling Community Resources, in Seattle, Washington, USA.
6 “On the dot” means exactly.
7 “Get time” means get counseling attention.
8 “Tell” means notice, see.
9 “Take” means require.
10 “Oh well” is an expression that indicates acceptance of an undesirable situation.
11 “Headway” means progress.

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