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An Emergency, and New Opportunities

From a talk by Tim Jackins* at the West Coast
Regional Reference Persons’ Workshop, June 2019

People have figured out how to live together in many different ways. And it has turned out [happened]—probably due to the division of labor and some other things—that more people have survived when larger groups have lived together. So we have tended to clump up and form societies.

Once we clump up, distress patterns and their contagious nature get played out [acted out] more fully. We run into [encounter] the same people and the same patterns over and over again. At some point, oppressive societies develop; the distresses become part of the way we are together.

There have always been oppressive societies ever since some critical mass of people got together. We will never know exactly how it happened, but it’s clear that it did, because it happened over and over again in different places (with different versions in different places). And even with the oppression, more people survived in the
societies than they did when they were out on their own [alone].

So societies bumble on, because they work to let more people live. They are not intelligent. They have many rigidities in them, which cause them to develop in the direction of exploitation.

The distressed irrationality in societies drives changes, and at some point things change so irrationally that a society’s structures are not workable. Then people form a new society amid the collapse of the old one. But the distresses, the rigidities, are still there, and the society ends up with a different form of oppression and exploitation. We’ve gone through this a number of times in a number of places around the world.

In the history of each society, people have tried to reform it—make it not so hard, not so oppressive, not so likely to collapse. Social Security came into existence in an effort to prolong the U.S. system. It’s been a godsend [blessing] for a lot of people, but it’s not a real solution to the problems of the system. We here grew up under the U.S. system, and our minds have been used to hunting for solutions that don’t challenge it.

It looks like we are now at the place where, to use the old phrase, the “internal contradictions” of the society have pushed us to a crisis. The rigid patterns have pushed us into a corner, and things are so destructive that we may not survive. Not only will the societal structures not survive; we ourselves and many other life forms may not be able to survive. Because of the rigidities, we haven’t paid attention to how our actions have affected the world.


A new thing about the current situation is that it affects everybody in the world simultaneously. We have never had that before. People have attempted to guide big changes in different places at different times, but the attempts have all been separate, and each place has had separate and distinct problems. Now, though there are still separate and distinct problems, there is one big problem. We have made the earth more and more difficult for complex life to survive on.

In a way this is a new opportunity—because, for the first time, in a very visible way, everybody’s interests are aligned. This doesn’t mean that the problem is universally recognized. Every time something big has to change, a good percentage of people can’t think about it. It’s too scary, it’s too restimulating, so they try not to let it change. This doesn’t affect the objective conditions; there just isn’t quick, universal recognition of the conditions. So there is a lot of contention about the climate emergency. We no longer hear many people saying that it doesn’t exist, but people are not looking back and saying, “I was wrong.” The battle with distress is still there.

Something is going to happen. Can we get enough rationality involved in it that something useful and less exploitive and destructive can develop? It seems to me that the changes required to stop the destruction of the environment will have to happen faster than society can change. (I am, of course, guessing this at the beginning of chaos. Things can change so rapidly when they have to change that we will have to think afresh very quickly.)


As RCers we are one of the best sources of flexible thinking and new, good solutions. We have a process that allows our minds to function better, anytime we remember to use it. Day by day, we can figure out new things. We also know how to help other people use this process and find new things. There is a really interesting role for us to play.

With the climate emergency, everyone’s interest is aligned. One of our jobs is to make people aware of their common interest when they are confused by distress—when they have the illusion that there is a way for “me” or “my” family to survive; that “we” have built up enough resource for “us.” The illusion is based partly on hopelessness—on a feeling that there isn’t a solution, that there isn’t a way to unite and fight against the current conditions. The survivalist position is based on it being “the best I can do.” It isn’t inherently “anti” other people. It is just desperate and hopeless and alone.

We know very useful things. And we’ve done enough work to know them in practice. They’re not just theoretical for us. But we are still shy, so a lot of us try to communicate what we know on a theoretical basis. Of course, the best proof of RC is us. We have done the work. We have used the ideas. The more we can let people see us, the more they will get a glimpse of what they could do and what they could have. They will get to see RC in practice. They will get to see a mind that has used the process—that can engage with them, look right at them, clearly like communicating with them—and that wants them to know something. I think that’s what communicates RC better than anything else.


We can also use the opportunity of this crisis to play a role with people who are already committed to moving the world, who are already trying. They need what we know now. They are trying to function now, and they need some perspective and an understanding of why it is difficult. They need the example of someone who can move against the confusion, against the powerlessness and aloneness they always have to go against. They have taken a big step in trying to change something. But after enough hard things, or simply enough time, they can’t stay out there. The restimulation wears them down. Having people with you all trying to be hopeful, all trying to lean forward, is a good contradiction [to distress]. But contradiction without discharge lasts only a certain length of time. We understand this. We can communicate about it. And we can set things up so that people can start to use the discharge process.

Some climate organizations include RC principles and perspectives, because some people who knew some RC were involved in them early on. Perspectives were established, and people could follow them enough to see the difference in the functioning of the group. That is useful and important. However, if the battle goes on too long, it won’t be enough. There have been big, hopeful, friendly efforts before, and they have gotten worn down and corroded. People can’t stand against their distresses forever if they don’t get to discharge. Our job is to create the conditions in which discharge can happen. For example, people often get to talk about things, they get debriefings, and there will be openings when we can allow and encourage discharge.

for ourselves

Playing a role in making the necessary changes will also be good for us as individuals. We’ll be going against our distresses of feeling alone and small and helpless and be proving to ourselves in practice that there is something we can do. There are so many opportunities here for us to challenge ourselves where things have made our lives small.

We have battled against our distresses and built good lives, but it’s been a big struggle, and there are things that we haven’t quite been able to get over [recover from] and things that we still can’t do (which we often mistakenly blame ourselves for). Now there are ways to challenge the distress recordings—ways that didn’t exist when the recordings were installed. We have new possibilities that are to our benefit.

possibilities for
the RC Community

Also, the RC Community needs to grow differently than it has so far. We have struggled a bit to grow. We have generally offered RC as a way for people to have better individual lives, and we’ve done that without realizing the depth of everyone’s early isolation and defeats. The climate emergency lets us present what we know in a much larger context and with a perspective that challenges people’s recordings of isolation and defeat from the beginning

* Tim Jackins is the International Reference Person for the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities.

Last modified: 2023-04-15 09:24:12+00