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The Importance of Discharging Fear

Being active in the environmental and climate justice movements has made me more aware of the importance of discharging consistently on fear and discouragement. Tim1 has talked a lot about discouragement, so I’ll focus on fear.


I’m sure I am scared—I think we are all scared—but I’m one of those people who don’t easily feel or discharge fear. So I’ve had to decide to go after fear2 in my Co-Counseling sessions. I also assume that fear is one of those unbearable feelings that Tim has been urging us to go back and discharge. So I do this work parallel to the general work of going back to the early incidents that are so hard to return to and clean up.

I started out by scanning all the scary things I could remember in my life and going over them in sessions. That was useful. It led to lots of laughter and helped me remember that I must be scared. Scary things happened to me! Next I decided to go after my birth. I had clues that it had been frightening (in wrestling sessions3 I had felt like I couldn’t breathe, and I knew I’d had some anesthesia), so I worked a lot on that for a few years. That, and Tim’s persistence in pointing us to the earliest memories, led me to discharging on the first three weeks of my life, which had scared me more than my birth did.

When I started I didn’t have memories of my birth or my early life. I just had a sense of what they were like and worked from that. As I discharged, I got a clearer and clearer sense of them, and, more important, I could discharge more easily on the early experiences.


While doing this work in my sessions, I became aware that environmental degradation and climate change were much bigger problems than I had realized. (The 2001 goal on the environment4 worked. And maybe I could only face and understand the present danger because of my work on fear.)

I decided I had to get involved, both inside and outside of RC, in working on the environment. Doing that, along with building RC, has become a central focus of my life. I belong to three different environmental/climate justice groups and participate as much as I can, given my RC commitments. I didn’t think I had time to do this much, but I’ve found many ways to make more time and to be a valuable part of the environmental movement.

Being fully immersed in environmental work has put me up against my fears on a regular basis and has led to some interesting thoughts.


I think we are a very scared species. It’s understandable. Human beings have lived on the Earth for 200,000 years, and for about 198,000 of those years we struggled to survive on a daily basis. We didn’t have reliable food sources, many other species posed a danger to us, we hadn’t figured out how to fight disease or heal from serious harm to our bodies, and climate events could be devastating. With our vulnerability to getting hurt, we acquired distress recordings of terror, which then became institutionalized in our societies. Class societies are the unthinking response to humans’ recorded fears for survival.

Harvey,5 Tim, and others have written a lot of important articles about class societies. Understanding class oppression is central to understanding both our societies and our own distresses. The point about class societies that comes to my mind here is that no individual has a good life in class societies but that a larger number of people survive from generation to generation. With our undischarged distresses, we have compromised so much for the survival of our species.

All the other oppressions evolved to maintain classism. They set us against one another so that we can’t unite against it. They restimulate our fears of not having enough for our group so that we can’t easily open ourselves to being with other groups. Then the internalized oppression isolates us within our own group.

And we lost access to the discharge process, which would have let us discharge and think our way out of the fears. Without it, there was no way to build a world without oppression and institutionalized fear.

Discharge is thoroughly suppressed. Every one of us, even after years in RC, struggles to reclaim it and use it fully to heal from our heavy early material.6 This is not because we don’t understand the discharge process or haven’t worked hard at it. It’s because it has been that thoroughly suppressed. It’s also because we need deep human connection to fully access it, and our human history has left us fearful of and isolated from each other.

Now we have a global situation in which capitalism—in its drive for profit, in its solidifying into policy the distress recordings of wanting more and more—is exploiting the majority of the people on the planet and much of the planet’s physical resource. And the waste products from this exploitation continue to accumulate and threaten our survival. It’s ironic that the economic system we created in an effort to ensure our survival now poses one of the biggest threats to survival that we as a species have ever faced. And most people are scared to look squarely at this situation, and its implications for the future.

Nearly all of our feelings about the present are rooted in early material, so working on what is restimulated by climate change makes a big difference. We will have to consistently discharge our early fears (and discouragement, but that’s Tim’s article) to get our minds back and to face the present situation with climate change and environmental degradation. And we’ll have to do this to be able to engage with people about these issues, listen to their fears, and be relaxed and hopeful enough to bring them together in effective action to reverse the damage.

So many hurts happen to us in utero, at birth, and in infancy—all before we have accurate information about the world and an understanding that there is much in the world that is good and solid. These early hurts (including from physical struggles, medical interventions, oppression, harsh conditions, and loss of connection) can scar us deeply. Then they intertwine with society’s institutionalized recordings of fear, and the two compound each other.

So I have worked a lot on my birth and the first three weeks of my life. I’ve spent many years discharging about the lack of connection, how devastating it was to not be allowed to discharge, and some scary events that happened. I, like many of us, decided very early that people couldn’t be counted on to think about me and that I would have to handle hard things by myself. And much of my life has been shaped by that decision. Only recently did it occur to me that it was really scary to be so little and feel like I was all alone. Really scary. And I had a relatively good situation. My parents just lived in an oppressive society, without discharge, and so struggled to connect with anyone and were unable to see and understand me and my needs.

In addition to individual recordings of fear and recordings from living in this oppressive society, I think we must all carry a fear for survival that comes from human history. I’ve known that I carry distress recordings of past generations. I’ve seen how my family history impacts me. But I hadn’t thought of how the history of my human family had installed on me fears for my survival, and how those fears would be constantly restimulated in a society dominated by oppression, war, poverty, exploitation, and now climate change. Perhaps that kind of restimulation is part of why almost everyone struggles to face and think about all the ongoing atrocities in our world.

Although the situation in the world has been very bad for a long time, people have mostly remained passive. Tim says this may be partly because it would feel worse to fight back, be visible, speak out, and take leadership than it feels to be passive and tolerate oppression and exploitation. But when things get extremely bad, as hard as it may feel to rise up and be active against injustice, it feels worse to just go along. And so people rise up in revolution for a while, until it feels worse to keep going than to stop. And then they stop. Being able to act on our thinking instead of our feelings has never been more important than now.

So I am working on fear, and where it keeps me quiet and passive, and coupling that with being out in the world, visible and active. I don’t have to be controlled by the ancient fears. I don’t want them to keep me from facing the dangerous situation we are in. I want to be able to move effectively in response to every situation. I want to organize together with huge groups of people from every sector of society to change everything. And I want to be effective in loosening the grip that fear and discouragement have on the population at large, so that we have a better chance at stopping the practices that are putting us all at risk. It’s a good way to live my life.

Diane Shisk

Alternate International Reference Person for the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities

Seattle, Washington, USA

1 Tim Jackins
2 "Go after" means actively pursue.
3 "Wrestling sessions" means counseling sessions in which a counselor, who has been trained to do it, provides aware and thoughtful physical resistance to push and fight against.
4 A goal adopted by the 2013 World Conference of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities.
That members of the RC Community work to become fully aware of the rapid and unceasing destruction of the living environment of the Earth. That we discharge on any distress that inhibits our becoming fully aware of this situation and taking all necessary actions to restore and preserve our environment.
Distresses have driven people to use oppression against each other and carry out destructive policies against all of the world. A full solution will require the ending of divisions between people and therefore the ending of all oppressions.
The restoration and preservation of the environment must take precedence over any group of humans having material advantage over others. We can and must recover from any distress that drives us to destroy the environment in our attempts to escape from never-ending feelings of needing more resource.
5 Harvey Jackins
6 "Material" means distress.

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