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Staying Counselor

Someone asks Harvey1 how to be a counselor to an oppressed person who is directing their restimulated feelings of anger at him. Harvey asks him to come up and play the role of the oppressed person while Harvey plays the oppressor role.

Oppressed: I don’t want hypocrisy. Don’t cry if you are going to oppress. Where do you stand?2

Oppressor: I’m shedding tears to get over being oppressive. I’m not there yet, and I don’t expect you to be satisfied until I am.

Oppressed: Are you my enemy?

Oppressor: No, I’m not. But society is, and I’m a passive member of society giving it permission to oppress you, and as such I have responsibility, and I’ll accept that. I’m not going to be an active oppressor, but that’s not good enough. I have to actively intervene to end oppression, and I’m working to get there, but I’m not there yet. I’m not your enemy; I’m on the way to being your ally.

Oppressed: Do you really feel for me?3

Oppressor: I’m trying to fight my way through fog that has been dumped on me and led me to feel and react as if you weren’t quite a human being. That’s very wrong. You’re a human being at least as good as I am, and I’m on my way to realizing it, and acting on it, and being close to you and with you.

I’m going to be your ally, and if you need to complain because I’m not a good enough ally yet, or if you feel safer complaining at me than going out and complaining at those who are really grinding you down, then practice complaining at me, and get your weapons sharp, and we’ll tackle your active oppressors together.

Harvey (to the group): There’s no hoping to get across4 unless you can stand up to some abuse. This is a test. “Can you be a good enough ally to handle my distress?”

Harvey Jackins
At a workshop in 1973


1 Harvey Jackins
2 “Where do you stand” means what is your position.
3 “Feel for me” means care about me.
4 “Get across” means be convincing.


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00