Leveraging Our Likes and Dislikes in the RC Community

“People say we really like each other in RC!” That’s the way Tim Jackins began one of his opening talks at the Pre-World Conference I attended this spring. Then he said something that will remain one of my permanent takeaways [resulting impressions]. Below is a paraphrase based on what I remember. I share it with you because it’s already transforming how I respond to the relationship issues that arise for all of us in Co-Counseling Communities and I hope it can be transformative for you, too.

People say we really like each other in RC. But that’s not exactly what’s going on [happening]. What we’re really doing is trying our best not to “run” [act out] our distresses at each other. We’re carrying out [putting into effect] a Co-Counseling decision to resist acting on or acting out our distresses, no matter what the pull of restimulation may be.

It looks like we actually like each other (which, of course, we do some of the time), because we’re successfully avoiding some of the usual disagreements and conflicts people expect to see in any group or community. But, similar to people everywhere, we have distresses that prevent us from enjoying warm, close relationships all the time.

A thriving Community is one in which we get better and better at not letting those distresses rob us of what we’re committed to. And remarkably often we can “show up” [be present] and cherish each other and assist each other to re-emerge from the distress patterns that keep us from having the full and flourishing lives we want.

Again, that’s not an exact quotation; I’ve already begun to describe what Tim said in my own terms. My following comments are a further extension of that process—the process that each of us Co-Counselors goes through to make RC theory our own.

Here, by the way, I’m following what Harvey Jackins repeatedly emphasized on page 56 of the Fundamentals of Co-Counseling Manual, in the last paragraphs of “The Key Concepts and Insights of Re-evaluation Counseling to Date”: “Trust your own thinking . . . Trust your own thinking . . . Trust your own thinking . . . .”

Now guess what! As each of us does that—trusts our own thinking—we inevitably find ourselves in situations in which our best thinking challenges and even conflicts with the best thinking of others. Then another one of those “key concepts” applies: “There is no rational conflict of interest between human beings” (Fundamentals Manual, page 44). But there may be conflicts based on factors such as

  • differences of perspective or position based on experiences or background (such as gender),
  • differences of perspective or position based on convictions or principles (such as morality),
  • differences of perspective or position based on irrational distresses (such as anger or grief) that impair our perception of reality or our ability to make rational judgments.

With the first two differences, RC theory maintains that we can still arrive at shared interests, if we focus on the rational concerns that all human beings have in common. With the third, there can be no rational bridging between the parties as long as one or more of them makes distress the basis of decision-making. That’s because distress is by definition irrational and cannot be reasoned with. It can only be discharged and healed.

Realizing the essentially irrational nature of distress is a breakthrough of RC. And deciding not to act on distress is a groundbreaking practice. We abandon this key insight and best practice to our peril. Our present reality and the future of our children and our species depend on protecting this insight and maintaining this practice—and even extending them to a critical mass of all humans.

May I share a couple more reflections based on Tim’s talk? They are a fusion of his comments with two other perspectives I have treasured in my RC experience. One of these perspectives comes from my Area Reference Person in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, Cornelia Cho. The other comes from my International Liberation Reference Person for African Heritage People, Barbara Love.

In our Community’s teachers’ and leaders’ classes, Cornelia often observes that longevity in RC brings no real advantage if it is not accompanied by ending the chronic distresses that run our lives and ruin our relationships. We need to dissolve our chronic patterns if breakthroughs in our behavior, relationships, and experiences are to occur. And chronic patterns are deeper than “latent” or intermittent patterns. They are habitual behaviors and attitudes that operate so often, in ways we are unaware of, that we believe they are the truth about ourselves and about reality.

Many years ago I heard Barbara Love give a powerful elaboration of RC theory. It has remained my touchstone for how to gauge whether I am in “present-time” relationships with other people. Again I paraphrase from memory:

When we can tell [notice] that we are perceiving someone through the lens of our distress, we can ask ourselves why we are not already in love with the real human being, separate from their patterns. What distresses are preventing us from seeing them apart from their patterns?

Asking those questions will reveal what distress we need to discharge in the relationship. And it will let us begin to affirm, embrace, and cherish the inherent human being, instead of remaining fixed on their patterned behavior and appearances.

Well, I hope you can appreciate how Cornelia’s and Barbara’s perspectives complement and extend Tim’s more recent comment at this year’s Pre-World Conference. The implication is that the longer I participate and lead in my RC Community, the more opportunities I’ll have to discharge my chronic patterns that prevent me from seeing the inherent human being in everyone around me.

(I wish I could take the time and make the effort here to apply these reflections to oppression theory and liberation issues, but maybe you will do that yourself.)

In theory, we are more likely to resolve or transform every sort of relationship conflict with people within our RC Community. That’s because there’s a greater possibility that they are equally committed to hanging in there [persisting] with the relationship, despite the inevitable challenges, until the chronic distresses on both sides can be discharged enough for both people to be able to see and appreciate each other.

Indeed, looking back over more than thirty years in RC (longevity again!), I can enjoy a remarkable shift in perspective. My own likes and dislikes of particular Co-Counselors have deepened or transformed, in tandem with my own chronic distresses being more thoroughly discharged. It’s like that old saying, “The older I get, the smarter my parents get.”

What can we leverage now that some of us have experienced the repeated cycles of people we formerly disliked becoming cherished Co-Counselors, according to how substantially we have discharged our chronic patterns? What if every dislike of a person inside (or outside) the RC Community becomes an opportunity to discharge the distresses we need to in order to not only embrace the real person but also become the distress-free, fully present human beings we want to be?

Please leverage your dislikes of me (I mean of my patterns, of course), and I’ll do my best to do the same with you, to the greater re-emergence of us all!

Theophus “Thee” Smith

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

(Present Time 189, October 2017)

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