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Real Power Lies in the Ability to Discharge

X—, an RC teacher in our Area,1 has gotten sick during RC workshops ever since her first workshop thirteen years ago. Lately this has happened after her Co-Counseling sessions as well.

I have noticed that people are uneasy around her deep discharge. There have been several unaware attempts to interrupt my counseling of her, and I have noticed that when others counsel her, their directions often limit, instead of encourage, deeper discharge.

I think that the “oppression of discharge” makes all of us struggle with using sessions as fully as possible. Every culture has its own variation of this.

It has been useful for me to travel to workshops in other places to open myself up to deeper discharge. For many years, when I returned to my own country, it was like a thick blanket dropped over me as soon as I crossed the border. Over the years the blanket became thinner; then it became a sheet. I got more and more space to fight for myself and my ability to discharge within my own culture and with my own people.

We discussed this in our leaders’ group and came up with2 a plan for our upcoming Area workshop. When X— got sick as expected, around 4:00 PM on Saturday, we started a three-hour session for her, with me as her main counselor (I got some time off to eat). We managed to increasingly move her attention from (fear of) sickness to the discharge of heavy fear. We also got her more in control of the session by encouraging discharge and reassuring her that she was doing the right thing by allowing deeper discharge. There were obvious changes: less nausea, less throwing up,3 more sweating, and more and more rapid changes between warm and cold. After that, her session continued as a demonstration in front of the whole workshop, and during the mini-sessions the whole group discharged heavily.

I explained what I thought we’d discovered: that almost all distracting thoughts are literal early distress recordings, and that these recordings interrupt discharge and our ability to get full results from our sessions.

The next morning we did counsel-the-leader. I got to cry from beginning to end because there was so much good attention. The level of discharge stayed high during that day, and several people kept having big sessions in the weeks following the workshop. Several now have a bigger awareness of fighting for their re-emergence. It looks like we made some important progress.

Counseling with attention away from distress is very different from counseling with attention away from discharge. I have found the following article useful and relevant: “‘Away from Distress’ Doesn’t Mean Repressing Discharge,” by Sue Lemon and Harvey Jackins, on page 27 of Present Time No. 62.

We limit our heavy discharge for a number of reasons. We confuse discharge with being hurt. We long for the comfort of a life without pain. We are afraid to fully feel and show love, friendship, grief, anger, and fear. We are afraid of being “mad.”4 We are afraid of and avoid our feelings about war, conflict, and violence. We are afraid to look at the horrors our ancestors committed and endured.

In summary, we are afraid to notice, feel, and discharge how bad we feel and how bad we feel about ourselves. But we need to do this to fully understand how oppression works, to understand the role of institutions and how society needs to change. Otherwise we can stay stuck with a limited picture of reality and repeat the mistakes our ancestors made.

Twenty years ago I started with a simple direction, “I am afraid of showing my feelings!” I slowly began to scrape off the first layers of fear.

I have since made many attempts to show and explain to people the difference between attention off of distress and attention off of discharge and the difference between being good and feeling bad. I have tried to show that real power lies in the ability to discharge.

Frank van den Heuvel
Nieuwegein, The Netherlands
Translated by Frank van den Heuvel
Reprinted from the e-mail
discussion list for RC teachers


1 An Area is a local RC Community.
2 “Came up with” means thought of.
3 “Throwing up” means vomiting.


Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00