Leveraging Our Projects; Fighting for Z—

As I have gained more experience in RC, I have become increasingly aware of the limits of our resource at this moment in history.

It has always been easy for me to notice the goodness of people, and our very hopeful potential. What has been more difficult is to take a hard look at distresses and evaluate them in terms of how they operate in the present, for now, until they are discharged. I am learning how to judge the amount of resource we have at a particular moment in relation to the size of the distresses with which we are contending. As an RC leader, I am attempting to be more strategic in the use of our resource.

Last year a dear leader in our small local RC Community got overwhelmed by her distresses and was admitted to a “mental hospital.” I will call her Z—. Very quickly, it became clear to Z— and to the RCers close to her that she had become entangled in a part of the “mental health” system that was oppressive and dangerous to her. Her family members reached a similar conclusion not long after we did.

Our small Community needed to figure out to what extent we would attempt to intervene, and how. As Area Reference Person, I was far enough along in my own work on developing judgment and being strategic that I had the presence of mind to not put on a superhero cape and fly in to save her but rather to discharge and think.

What I decided was that Z— was important enough to enough of us, and that we had enough resource, to take this on [undertake this]. I knew it would be a challenge, because in addition to Z—’s and our own distresses, we were dealing with “mental health” oppression and the actual “mental health” system. Nonetheless, the project needed to do double duty: it had to both fight for Z— and build our Community.

In my experience, taking on the project of providing resource to someone in a big crisis has often resulted in the Co-Counselors involved getting burned out and hitting a tipping point at which they begin to dread contact with the person and eventually pull back on the relationship. They are unable to keep up with the demands of the situation and to discharge on all the restimulations that come up, whether they be from the content of the crisis (hospitals, illness, family members who are not Co-Counselors, death, and so on) or from the giving of one-way time. I was determined that if we were going to take this project on, that would not be the result. Rather, we would come out of it stronger, more in contact with each other, and with cleaner relationships and more experience. To that end, I set out these goals:

  • To give Z— a hand (some help) by becoming more strategic counselors of her
  • To build our knowledge about the “mental health” system and “mental health” oppression and liberation
  • To build slack in the area of “mental health” liberation
  • To learn how to work as a team
  • To become closer to each other

We would need to commit to discharging, so there would be no residual sludge from our work. I reminded us that Z— would have to fight for herself, that we did not have control over that part of the fight, that our efforts might not reap the outcome we wanted, and that we would have to discharge on the possibility that she might not make it [succeed]. The definition of success would have to be that we gave her the opportunity to use the resource we could offer, that we learned a lot, and that we became a stronger team.

I asked Z— for permission to form a team to think together about her, and she gave us that permission.

Then I led a class in which people could consider the project, discharge about it, and decide on whether they wanted to be on the team. I was transparent about my thinking, including the goals and what I saw as potential pitfalls. I emphasized that it was a choice to participate, not a requirement, and encouraged each person to take into account the distresses and resources she or he had at the time.

Four of us chose to participate, which was enough to form a strong team and to move forward. We figured out what kind of time and attention we each could contribute, and two more Co-Counselors, who had long-standing relationships with Z— but lived three time zones away, also joined the team.

I checked my thinking with my Regional Reference Person and set some policies for the team:

No one would go in alone. As much as possible, two of us would go together into the “mental hospital” and into the sessions with Z—. We would have mini-sessions with each other before and after each contact with her.

We would make a commitment to discharge any residual feelings, so that our relationships with each other and with Z— would become closer than ever.

We would meet as a whole team to think about Z—. I would lead the team. We would do mini-sessions, share “news and goods,” and each give an update on the current situation from our perspective: how we saw Z— as client, how she was doing as counselor, what seemed to be working in her sessions, what was happening in terms of the “mental hospital” and the family. Then we would take a turn to discharge.

We would establish a lead counselor of Z—, who would lead the contact with her and her family. We would coordinate our efforts with that person and keep him or her updated on each contact.

We would require two-way sessions. It looked to me like Z—’s early distress included a large dose of helplessness. Because of how the “mental health” system often colludes with that distress, we would only do two-way time with Z—, no matter how much it felt like she could not get her attention out and be counselor. The tone would be one of high expectations of her ability to do it.

With those policies in place, we dove in. A particular challenge was that our team had to interact with Z—, her family and friends, and the “mental health” system much more directly than we typically do in an RC relationship. This meant that we had to be exceptionally thoughtful about RC’s no-socializing policy. We also did not have the resource to provide all of the sessions and real-life support Z— needed to win her battle. We strategized with her and her family about how to pull in other resource—staying mindful of our role as Co-Counselors, giving people the space to discharge and think, and not taking over (assuming control) or making the decisions.

In the most acute phases of the project, we met as a team about once a week, sometimes by phone and sometimes in person. We were able to keep discharging, thinking, and handling the challenges, and the project went well.

Z— was able to use the resource we offered, as well as other resource, and make the essential decision to fight for herself. Then she fought hard, with everything she had. She got herself out of the hospital and then into and through a more humane treatment program. She then strategized with her therapist to find and gain the support of a new psychiatrist who would help her get off of all psychiatric medications, which she then did. What a victory! What an honor to have been part of her journey!

When Z— came back to our Area, we met as a team with her. She shared her goals and plans, both for her re-emergence and for building her life. She talked about the distresses she was tackling and what directions were working for her, and I counseled her in the group. Then we on the team discharged and shared our thinking with each other. Despite Z— really struggling sometimes to be counselor (she would fall asleep in sessions), we maintained our expectation that she would be an excellent counselor in each and every session.

After Z— was back in the Community, the team met every few months, because, in my judgment, neither the early chronic distresses that had pulled Z— into the “mental health” system nor our own restimulations had been thoroughly discharged.

At this point, it looks to me like we are all in good contact with each other. A next step for us as a team would be to consolidate everything we have learned in this project and perhaps make a written record of it, as a vehicle for capturing our knowledge. This article is one step in that direction.

Z— is doing well. She has been participating fully in our Community for over a year and is continuing to fight for her re-emergence. She is steadily chipping away at her early distresses and is increasingly able to hold on to an accurate perspective about reality. Outside of counseling, she has had a host of victories and continues to create an even fuller, stronger life for herself than she had before the crisis. As we have witnessed her decision to fight, her determination, and her repeated effort to decide, act, and discharge, she has become an inspiration for all of us.

As for the project, I think the bigger picture here is not specific to the “mental health” system or a particular crisis. At this point in history when, in relation to the size of the project of ending oppression and sustaining all life, our numbers and resources are still small, it makes sense to leverage everything we do toward building our capacity—our capacity to work as a team, to take on a project, to discharge fully, to gain slack in tricky areas, to think about each other, to build relationships, and to build knowledge together.



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