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Video excerpt from SAL/UER workshop on racism at the Global Climate Action Summit

Draft Program on Climate Change, for your comments (updated March 5, 2019) (short version now available)

 

Bringing In Our Closest People 

WORKING ON RACISM

When I decided to bring more people of color into my Area I spent years doing work on my own racism and trying anything I could think of to find strong people of color who could trust the theory enough to be part of a predominantly white group. After five years of effort I had a small group of strong people of color ready to try more than their majority-people-of-color class could offer. In order for their participation in the larger Community to go well, the white Co-Counselors that the new people came in contact with had to have done considerable work on racism beforehand. The white RCers also needed to be clear on RC theory and practice. I also made sure to have some strong white working-class leaders so that the new people of color would have fewer class confusions to deal with, along with the inevitable racism, when they joined the larger group. All of this took a great deal of time and effort.

During those five years I helped the experienced people in my Area become clear on a variety of key issues. In particular, I wanted them to be models of clear counseling and clienting—to be able to work early and, in particular, understand that restimulations in the present came from past hurts. I didn’t want the new people of color to see lots of dramatizations, in or outside of session.

My Area eventually had white RC leaders and Community members who were clear about the theory and practice of RC. There were also strong working-class African heritage leaders. In order to do this I worked hard not to put extra attention on or “take care of” those members who could not model clarity in and outside of session. I assumed that if I put my resource into the strongest Co-Counselors in the Area, they would in turn help the people who were committed to learning RC well but struggling. This took a lot of discharge and will power on my part because my working-class Catholic female background made it difficult for me to leave people who are struggling “behind.”

THE GROWTH GOAL

After all of that work (it took about fifteen years but would take less time at this stage of RC) the new goal took us to a whole new level of Community building and clarity. I don’t think it would have been as effective if I hadn’t first done the work mentioned above.

When I first heard of the goal I was excited. I led an eight-week Community class for my entire Area in the summer, focusing on understanding and discharging on the new goal. (We usually do Community classes in the summer as people’s schedules vary with vacation plans.)

We continued our work on racism and diversifying our Community as we had done for many years and made it a central point in each class. That work, as always, was very good, giving us a big picture of what was possible and cutting through any discouragement or rigidities we encountered in our classes.

I soon learned that discharging on the final paragraph, “making a thoughtful and sustained effort to reach those with whom we already have caring and committed relationships,” was an impressive way of working on our heaviest chronic patterns. I was astounded by how quickly people in the class could access excellent discharge on heavy early hurts and discouragements and found myself able to counsel people on distresses I had not been able to approach before.

We also soon learned the obvious—that working on the new goal was not just about great sessions. It meant people who “took up the challenge of the goal” had to take steps toward their loved ones and report back to class with thoughts and feelings that invariably led to an even more hopeful session, often on discouragement and resignation. When people felt successful in their goal of explaining RC to a loved one it was a huge contradiction, a gift that never stopped giving great sessions.

By the end of the eight-week class I realized that the people in my Area who were able to work on the goal consistently were the strongest and clearest RCers. These were people who were willing and able to battle toward and through their feelings to get rid of the large and common early hurts of most of our childhoods—discouragement, lack of closeness, and the hopelessness that surfaces in intimate relationships over time (just like in our families when we were very young). It took much courage to do so, but the rewards were great.

INTRODUCING OUR CLOSE PEOPLE

At the end of the summer class I announced that I was going to lead a new class where the members would bring the person they were closest to into RC. This meant that experienced teachers and leaders would approach loved ones who knew about and had resisted RC for many years.

We met for four or five months every week to work on the wide range of feelings surfacing as we consistently reached for our children, partners, roommates, and closest long-term friends, sharing our hopes and discouragements along the way. Common feelings that surfaced were: how disappointing our loved ones were, how someone we had lived with for years would never finally join RC, how swayed we were by their slightest reaction to our commitment to RC, and an inability to effectively answer even the simplest question about Re-evaluation Counseling.

Of course the ongoing discharge and support worked to achieve what felt like the impossible, and most people moved their loved one closer to the idea of attending an RC class. At that point I did several introductions. In each case the experienced RCer came with a loved one. I also met with some of the new people individually—people who came from heavily targeted groups, in this instance African heritage men and Gay men of color.

After the individual meetings and the introductions were complete I screened people for the class with the experienced RCer present. Having the experienced counselor present at each event resulted in the RCer continuing to work on his or her early distresses, cut through the tendency to “hand off” the person to someone else, and made the communication of the theory much more effective. New people trust their loved ones more than anyone else with their questions and fears.

All the experienced RCers were becoming phenomenal teachers of RC. Having me at the meetings, introductions, and screenings helped to strengthen the experienced people as teachers as well. Some of the things that were clarified were the Gay policy, the policy on drugs, not having sex during pregnancy, among others. These topics felt difficult for the experienced people to bring up, but with my support they were explained clearly to eager and appreciative ears.

THE CLASS

After months of work we finally started our class in a large school space with smaller rooms for small group discharge if needed. Experienced and new people attended class together. At the beginning of each class I would ask the new people whom they wanted to mini-session with and usually, if not always, they would choose their close relationship. It was quite lovely to see the strength of each relationship. Both people invariably had good mini-sessions, a practice that was often continued sporadically at home.

After the first class or two we split the large class into two groups. The new people met with me teaching fundamentals, the experienced people with my Alternate Area Reference Person and assistant, Danett Bean, a working-class African heritage/Native American woman who had played a key role in keeping people of color and other underrepresented groups central to the Area.

The new people learned the process and the experienced people got to keep working on what it was like to put two things they deeply cared about together in one room (the people they cherished most in the world and the theory and practice of RC)—a meaningful contradiction, for sure. Experienced RCers continued to have excellent sessions on the humiliation, worry, and ongoing discouragement, that would come up for them around their loved ones. The contradictions to these heavy feelings were now literally staring them in their face.

While they were having good sessions, the new people were learning quickly and clearly as the experienced RCers took charge of their learning process and questions—sometimes in class, but always when they returned home.

The class also seemed to strengthen and clarify the non-RC aspects of the relationships. People had to explain the theory to their beloved non-RCer as they would other pieces of non-RC information and then offer discharge in session and not outside of it. It seemed to help the experienced RCers feel less compelled to counsel their loved ones outside of session. This seemed extremely helpful to both people and was especially useful to those people who had been raised in RC.

The class went on in this format for six months. At that time I could no longer teach a weekly class and in most cases the new people were ready to go into classes without their partner present. In some cases, especially if a new person was a member of a heavily targeted group, the new person benefited from continuing to be in class with their loved one.

This fundamentals class was without question the strongest class of new people I have ever taught. It strengthened my Area in deep and meaningful ways. It was full of a diverse and exceptionally clear and eager group of people. To state the obvious, it turns out that the people we love are smart, caring, and wonderful additions to our Communities in spite of how we might feel about them or our ability to include them.

I also had the privilege of seeing the beauty of the relationships that RCers have outside of counseling and meet the wonderful people they love. Sometimes a person would bring in someone who was unable to use RC. As someone who has done this as well, it is useful information to have. One person in my original class was not able to bring in a close friend and still struggles to work consistently on chronic material.

The person I chose was one of my sons, a wonderful working-class young adult who was connected to RC but holding back on attending classes regularly or having sessions with anyone but me. Somewhere mid-way through the “new goal” class with experienced RCers I had one of the many conversations I have had with him over the years about RC. I exchanged time with him, not that uncommon, but I often gave him one-way time, and suddenly I could say what I needed to say without hating myself or him. In those few minutes of conversation and discharge he was more fully in RC. I can’t remember what I said but I do know it made the difference.

My son never ended up coming to an introductory or our joint class (which turned out to be fine) but now he is a central part of my Area and Region and making a difference to me and many others. He models much about a deep understanding of RC. The other additions to the Community have done the same.

All of the new people can show how much they love and admire the RCers who brought them into our Area. It is lovely to see and really useful when the experienced people are believing and/or showing how bad they feel about themselves. The new people continue to be an extremely helpful resource as we build our Community and work on our heaviest chronic distresses with each other. They often offer perspectives that we cannot find on our own. It seems like an ideal way to be brought into RC.

NEW CLASSES

This fall my Area started our new classes and all of them focus on the new goal in some way. It took some discharge and thinking to come up with our current plan, but as I offered the teachers the opportunity to do whatever would work most effectively for their re-emergence, they chose the following. Danett Bean is teaching a class on the new goal and how it intersects with racism. Then they will bring in new people, much like we did in our original class. Aaliyah Barclift is doing a small class for women focusing on sexism with the idea of bringing men into RC in the near future. My son (the one I reached for as a result of the class), Stephen Bettridge, is about to start a new fundamentals class (his first), requiring the two experienced members and his assistant to bring someone they are close to into the class. He has to do the same.

My Area is excited about the new goal. I miss not having the opportunity to work with this amazing contradiction on a regular basis. I am now beginning to reach for my other son and want to set up a group for myself to do so more systematically.

Sharon Peters
Regional Reference Person for
Parts of Brooklyn, New York, USA
Brooklyn, New York, USA


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00