Going Forward Together

From a talk by Tim Jackins at the World Conference of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities, August 2017

We have accomplished admirable things. We have fought our way out of distress a long, long way. We have a good picture of reality, and we could function successfully on it for the rest of our lives. Our abilities to be aware of each other and the world are unparalleled. And yet we know there’s much more to do.

Things have been slow in some ways. There are places that we haven’t known how to handle. We have worked our way through gigantic confusions, but in isolation.


In the last couple of years I have been urging us to look at our early lives. As near as I can tell [perceive], we all got pushed into a kind of isolation. We have learned how to function from that position and, with counseling, have learned how to improve our functioning from it. But we have spent so much of our lives in that position that our picture of making our lives better never quite includes leaving it: “I know I can do better, and I will do it the way I’ve always done it. I will counsel and try harder. I have sessions with you, and I can cry about my difficulties because you’ve agreed to sit in the room with me.” That’s often been as much of each other as we can use, and we’ve gone a long way on that basis.

We struggle to leave the isolated position we got pushed into as children. Everyone I can get to consider leaving it feels not quite ready. They don’t think they can leave it and they don’t want to try. They don’t want to try because it’s the place where they had to give up, and challenging it brings up some of the hardest feelings they have to face.

It is important that we leave that place. It is important for us as leaders of RC. The collapse of society is accelerating. It will be useful to accelerate our work. I understand that this is not easy. It may not even be within our reach today. What is important is that we try for it.

We were forced to give up on our abilities. And that early defeat has been restimulated by our families and society ever since. If we want to play a role in changing the world, we have to be able to change ourselves. We have to begin challenging the early defeat. The confusion left by it influences everything we do—in particular, how separate each of us is.

When we are hugged, do we actually notice that somebody wants to be aware of us, that someone wants to be more a part of our life than they already are? I suspect not many of us do. We use the contact as salve to cover up the hurt. We don’t use it as a tool to work against where we can’t realize that a person is in our arms. They wanted to be here. They wanted to be with me. There are so many pieces of that we can use: They wanted to be with me. They wanted to be with me. They wanted to be with me! We don’t use any of the pieces, and we probably feel doubt about every one of them. Who are we going to challenge the distress recording with? Who do we dare show the hurt to? Who do we dare open up our heart to?


Challenging the early distress means that we have to look at the reality of what happened to us; we don’t have to relive it. For many of us, looking at it can pull us into it entirely and we lose perspective about the present.

We have to go back and look at what happened in order to discharge it, but we get to do that using our minds. All of the feelings are from the past. They are part of past reality; they are not about the present. That’s an important distinction that we make in other places but we haven’t made well here. We are not going back to experience and believe the feelings again; we are going back to resolve the hurt.

We don’t have to relive what happened, but we do have to go back and look at it and discharge on what it really was. It was bad. We tried and we tried and nothing worked. So when we go back and look at it, we run into the layer of feelings from when we gave up, when it became unbearable, when we felt that we had nothing but ourselves and that to preserve a little piece of ourselves we had to slam a door on everything else.


It’s like we are on a glacier and we have lost control and are sliding down into a crevasse. There is a gradual slope and it steadily gets steeper, and we accelerate, faster and faster, down into nothingness. You know the feeling?

Because you are here now, I know that at some point you took your ice ax and just rammed it into the wall and stopped yourself. If you hadn’t done that, you wouldn’t be here. Some people don’t do it, and they can’t stop the accumulation of hurt and confusion, and life continues getting worse and more isolated. They are not here. But we are. So at some point we stopped the degradation of ourselves—solely by the effort of our minds. That is a triumph—we stopped that accumulation of irrationality on us—but it’s clear that doing it was costly to all of us, because we never let go of [stopped holding on to] that ice ax.

Your life depended on not letting go. Now I am standing three feet away and saying, “Let go and jump. I promise it will be all right.” And you are looking at me with that particular look: “Where were you? Where were you when I needed you, when I could have jumped? You show up [appear] now and think that I can. What the hell do you know? I could try to put my life in your hands for this session, for this day, for this week, and then I would be off on my own again.” Sound familiar? (laughter)

That’s the position these isolating distresses have put us all in. How do we get out of it? We have to do two things: One, we have to dare. We have to decide that we are worth it, that it is possible, and that a bigger life is worth facing anything in the past. Then we have to decide to not do it alone. I don’t think we can get out of our isolated position by doing what we have done before. This is not just about a session or a workshop. We have a permanent decision to make.


We can decide to go forward together, fighting this battle as long as necessary, and we don’t have to allow any distress to confuse us out of that. I have to decide it is worth facing everything to reach you. And the decision has to be there in practice—not far away, with me remotely thinking about it. We have to fight to stay with each other from now on. Being here together is not a momentary phenomenon. We are here for the rest of our lives. Now we have to put that into practice in our sessions. How do we make the early piece of distress move?

I mentioned hanging on the wall of the crevasse and looking down and seeing nothing below us. We still see nothing below us, even though we’ve spent years building support. The support is almost up to our feet at this point, but we can’t tell. When we get to the point of letting go of our ice ax, it feels just as dangerous as ever. It feels like we risk the one thing we were able to hang on to.

The damage has already been done, to all of us. We can’t change the fact that it happened. We don’t need to change that. All we need to do is to change the effect on our minds. That’s the one thing we know how to do better than anyone else has before us. We get to face things we have avoided because we did not have the resource.

There are lots of ways to take on [engage in] these struggles. One is simply to open up our hearts to someone else—to try to have no barriers between ourselves and somebody else, to be willing to be there no matter what comes from them. We are not actually very vulnerable in the present, including to unawareness and mistakes. We are vulnerable to the restimulation of our own distress recordings, not so much to something real that is happening in the present. We have to decide that this is true and take steps in each other’s direction. We have to decide to trust each other’s minds.

Almost all of us have depended on the possibility of escape: “I’m with you forever—unless you do this stupid thing.” That’s the door we have to shut. We have to decide that we’re more important to each other than any “little stupid thing” either one of us does. Some of us remember making the decision not to count on [rely on] anyone else. We can think about going back and undoing it. Now there is the resource to discharge. Now we have the understanding to make things move.


A crucial place where each of us gave up was on trying, on making the effort again. I know that in my struggle that’s an important place. I was defeated by things, really defeated, and without the chance to discharge, my mind froze. I had done everything I could, everything I could think of, and I was beaten. When I go back to work on it, that’s what I face.

What’s important is trying—taking the initiative and not waiting. Whether or not I am successful isn’t the most important thing to me. I always have the ability to try, to not give up on my mind—even in defeat.

Most of our defeats we could have handled if we could have discharged. Now we have the chance to do that. So we need to go back to that unbearable point, to where we gave up and went our own way alone. It wasn’t always a big event, and one of the interesting things about it is that usually no one noticed. We went away, and it wasn’t taken note of. No one asked; no one even saw the difference. That’s part of what we get to look at, too. There was that little resource for and awareness of us.

Now we have enough resource, but we don’t know how to use it well. We’re often unwilling to even ask if our counselor really meant their offer of support. We have hurts from promises that were well meant but couldn’t be sustained.

So we’re going to do a mini-session. I want you to see as much as you can of each other, as client and counselor. As client, actually ask your counselor to show their commitment to you. They may have great trouble doing this. You’ll have to look past their difficulty for the mind that’s trying behind the hurts.

We get to work on two sides of the distresses. We get to look at what happened and how hard it was on us and discharge what we weren’t allowed to discharge. Then we get to challenge the effect of the distresses on us in the present. The work on the past stays clearer when we have a target in the present.

It’s probably useful to begin a session in the present and then go back after [go back and pursue] the past struggles. We have to build the present connection each time, not assume that we can remember it from the last session.

Tim Jackins

(Present Time 190, January 2018)

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

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