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The Encouragement to Have Big Lives

From an open-questions evening with Tim Jackins at the Connecticut, USA, Teachers’ and Leaders’ Workshop

Question: I have people in my fundamentals class who don’t seem to use the discharge process very much; who don’t want to set up sessions or come to Co-Counseling activities. What should I do?

Tim: Everybody who teaches for very long tries to figure this out. Maybe a tenth of the people who have taken fundamentals classes are still active, so don’t think it’s an individual problem. We get people into fundamentals classes; we want to give them a chance to see what’s there and experiment with it—get a glimmer of what it’s about. We’re hoping this will interrupt their discouragement and isolation enough that they will move themselves forward and get active enough to know a collection of people and become part of the Community in some way. We try to construct Communities and have activities so that’s easy to do.

The Communities that fade are the ones that don’t have activities people can come to steadily enough to keep contact and be reassured and have their distresses interrupted. But in every Community, no matter what the Community has done, some people can’t quite figure it out. In their minds it seems like “it’s not for them,” or “it’s too difficult.” They get confused in different ways. If they’re in a class, the teacher has to fight this battle: “What about them? What do I do?”

You are not a public utility. You commit yourself to giving people the best opportunity you can. You need to follow through on that. However, this doesn’t mean you have to stay with them forever while they mill around* and can’t figure it out.

For whatever reasons a fair number of people mill around and can’t figure it out. Part of that is us. We’re not sharp enough at presenting a good contradiction to what confuses them, at presenting a good enough view of reality. But more than that it’s a statement of how hard this society is on people, how isolated people feel, and how easy it is for them to drift off into that lonely isolation and try to keep life moving by the usual methods.

It’s hard for people to think about making large changes in the ways they view and run their lives. We’re all conditioned to fit in, in whatever way our particular little group was told it had to fit in. Doing things very different from that tends to restimulate a lot of distresses people haven’t been quite aware of, distresses that have been attached to them all of their lives. As with all chronic distresses, it isn’t as if they have a clear picture of them.

This is the situation we find ourselves in. And the question is, “How can you best spread RC ideas so that they’ll get out to lots of people, people who can hang on to them and spread them themselves?” The answer isn’t always staying with the people who are not willing and able to fight the battle on their own.

We have to figure it out each time, with each person. We don’t want to shut the door on anybody. We want to challenge people. We want to give them our best picture of who they are, what they’re capable of, and what’s in their way and say, “I’m quite sure you can make this move. I don’t know when you’re going to do it, and I’m not going to be able to play the central role in it. I will remember what it is, and you can check back with me, but you’re going to have to do it, and that means you don’t just get to come to class and be a consumer.” That’s what we’re all trained to do: pay our fees and consume.

But people have to actually be part of something. They have to decide that they are going to play an active role, that they want this to work. They have to decide that they’re going to think and push themselves to try to make it work for themselves and everyone else, that they’re actually going to become part of the Community. This is not comfortable, and it means doing things differently than they may have ever done them before. But that’s what we’re asking—and requiring.

What we can promise is that if they take this step, they’ll get a better life than they ever thought they would. They’ll also probably be miserable part of the time along the way, because they’re going to have to fight something that’s gotten them very confused or we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We can tell them, “I’m sure you can do it, but to do it you have to commit yourself to battle. I’m sorry it’s that hard.”

We want to leave the door open for everybody and try to give them the best picture we can of what they have to take on and do. There’s a certain part that we can do for other people, and we try to do that in fundamentals classes and workshops and sessions. We pull for people as hard as we can figure out how to, yet nobody can really undo their distresses but them. All the outside contradiction helps, and lets them discharge, but at some point the people who actually move, and go forward, and get their own lives, take over that role for themselves. They don’t wait for someone else to figure everything out. They put themselves in situations that challenge their distresses, situations in which they have to notice and feel. They get over being afraid to feel the distress recordings that are in there.

This is a goal I have in my mind for all of us—not to be free of all distresses (that will take longer) but to not be confused about them more than momentarily. It isn’t that we won’t feel them (we’re going to feel them ’til they’re all discharged), but we don’t have to believe them; we don’t have to sit and let them fully inhabit our minds. They can be just a little echo in the back that we think and battle against, and go get sessions about. We don’t have to let the distresses run our lives. That’s what people do who can’t make this step. They let their distresses run their lives. They can’t remember to battle against them when things feel hopeless and lonely, or whatever.

I think a lot of us are too gentle, too sympathetic. We sympathize with people’s struggles, and we talk sweetly to them, instead of saying, “You can do this, and you’re going to have to do this to get the life you want. I know you don’t feel like it, but to get what you want you’re going to have to.” There’s a session or two we ought to give people who are teetering on this, not able to make up their minds. We can be supportive in everything else but not sympathize with this struggle, and instead say, “This is what you have to do, and I think you can. Try it.”

As well as setting things up for them and giving them the best picture and directions we can, we have to require this of them, if they’re going to be using the resources of the Community, if they’re going to be in classes, if they’re going to come to workshops, if they’re going to be in support groups. They have to be making an effort. They can’t just consume the product other people are building for them.

Some of us find that harsh. We want to allow them to mill around at the edge of the Community, sipping occasionally. But people in that situation are confused about their long-term self-interest. They’re opting for their short-term apparent self-interest; it seems the best they can hope for. They’re selling out their long-term interest, which is being larger and better all the time. We can’t cater to that and have to say, “You can always have sessions with anybody who wants to, but if you’re not making progress, people you want to have sessions with aren’t going to want to have sessions with you. You’re going to need to take this on to keep moving forward.”

We get to have lots of sessions about throwing people away, kicking the helpless when they’re down—all of those things. There comes a time when we have to let people fight for themselves, and a lot of people, until they’re required to, can’t quite figure out how to do that.

To be part of the Community they have to battle the distresses that keep them on the edge, keep them from being able to play a large role in the Community and from having large lives. That doesn’t necessarily mean doing “big, important leadership.” It means being in the middle and thinking about things; making every little thing within their reach go well. If people can commit themselves to that, however low a profile they keep for a while is fine. But the ones who can’t think about what’s happening and try to make it go better have a struggle they have to face. Lots of Communities have blossomed big with “sympathetic” people leading and have then disappeared entirely, so I know that approach doesn’t work well long-range.

Tim Jackins
Reprinted from the
October 2000 Present Time 

* Mill around means spend time aimlessly.

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