Knowing Each Other More Fully

From the 2014 Australian Leadership Workshop

Workshop participant: It looks like you’ve made a conscious decision to have your workshops less “packed.” There’s time for things to start whenever they start and relaxed time for chatting or playing or whatever. It’s not like other workshops I’ve been to. So I want to know, is this a conscious thing?

: Yes, it’s conscious, and it depends on the group, and what needs to happen for that group at a particular time.

A lot of experienced RCers use only Co-Counseling to build their relationships. Their knowledge of each other is based only on their sessions. There’s no additional information and no need to face most of their difficulties with relationships. So I try to provide the time and the context for people to face them. A fair number of people hate my workshops. “This is an absolute waste of time.” But I don’t think so. I’m trying to set up conditions so that people can’t hide behind counseling, so they can’t avoid committing themselves more broadly to a person than just having sessions. I’m trying to set up the time and opportunity for people to challenge the material1 that keeps them staying separate from each other. I’d like us to build deeper, broader relationships, rather than staying too close to the strict little model we have to start out with in order to interrupt a lot of distresses.

A Co-Counseling relationship can be as full and meaningful as any other relationship we ever have. However, we don’t know how to get close. We need to figure out ways to jiggle the material that keeps us standing stiff and separate. If we can hang out2 around each other, look at and learn from each other, and enjoy each other’s presence—sing songs, play, and other things—then sessions go better. There is a sense of really knowing the person we are counseling with and not having to build that in each session. We actually come to know each other.

We have been somewhat slow to figure out that each person’s struggle is really everyone’s struggle, that nobody gets through her or his material alone. There is some idea of moving forward as a people that we don’t have, because the oppression we’ve grown up under has separated us so completely. I think we have to begin figuring out how to rebuild that idea.

At some workshop sites, people sleep or eat far away from the meeting room, so I want people in the meeting room at a certain time so they will be there together. Not that I’ll start the meeting, but so they can be there together and begin the battle of actually getting to know and rely on each other more fully.

Workshop participant: I assume this is for experienced groups of RCers. You wouldn’t do this with a fundamentals group.

Tim: I wouldn’t do it with a fundamentals group, because they’re not ready to face all of these things. We’re not that ready either! (laughter) We walk into a room full of people and feel awkward and separate and alone, and don’t know who to go stand next to or what to say. Some of that material is still there, and we don’t easily remember to create opportunities to challenge it. We don’t do that in our lives. Every day we are around a thousand people we don’t know, people we would like to get to know, and we don’t do a thing about it. We don’t stop and say, “Hi, you look interesting. Can we talk for a minute?” Not to try to build a relationship out of it or make it something significant, just to have contact with someone we like the look of. So I try to start some of that here.

Another participant: I think it’s easier for me to make contact with people I don’t know. It’s harder once I know people, because then, you know, the small talk . . .

Tim: . . . runs out?

Participant: Yes, it runs out.

Tim: Well, it depends on our material. A number of us can’t go up to new people. We just won’t do that. We have no idea that it’s safe, that they would want us to have contact with them. I also think there’s someplace it gets uncomfortable for just about all of us even with people we’ve already had some contact with. We can’t really open up and be enthusiastically with each other. We guardedly share small bits of data and try to make it socially acceptable, instead of trying to share more fully.

So it depends on where the material sits on us. Maybe you’re good at the initial opening, but many of us aren’t. And I don’t know anybody who is good at the whole thing.

Every person here knows thousands of things the rest of us don’t know and will never know if we don’t hear it from her or him. That’s just how varied our lives are. It’s a tremendous opportunity. Every person has a different perspective from ours on every issue, and we need to hear it. We need to understand and have a picture of the great variety out there. But we haven’t known how to get that out of each other. It’s all about our struggle with relationships. We never got to practice as we grew up. But here we are, and we have to do something.

Tim Jackins

(Present Time 182, January 2016)

1 “Material” means distress.
2 “Hang out” means spend relaxed, unstructured time.

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