By Tim Jackins [posted 6/21/2021 to RC Community email discussion lists]
We have all experienced someone getting restimulated in a way that caused them to treat us badly. [See FAQ “What is restimulation?” for an explanation of RC’s use of this word.] Because we’ve seldom had the opportunity to discharge the distress from these incidents, the recordings can be restimulated and we can feel again that we are being badly treated, whether or not we actually are. This can interfere enough with our thinking that we can have trouble seeing the reality of the current situation and can act out at others a version of the harshness that originally came at us.
When a restimulated person is actively targeting and blaming someone for the restimulation they feel and at the same time is trying to persuade others to join them in that behavior, we call it an attack. An attack is more than criticizing or showing upset at a person; it involves organizing against them. Attacks are restimulating to all of us and are a challenge to handle in ways that do not confuse people or disrupt our work.
Our experience has been that attacks are consistently based on restimulation rather than a thoughtful decision, even when there’s a pretext of revealing a problem. They have not led to improved thinking or to workable solutions.
Our policy for handling attacks
We have developed a policy in RC for handling attacks and correcting mistakes. It includes interrupting and stopping an attack quickly—because attacks are based on restimulation, not the present situation, and the restimulation confuses and restimulates others and does not encourage the thinking that’s needed to solve any real problem.
We have found that the following allow people to stay connected as restimulations are handled and any mistakes are understood and corrected: (1) quickly interrupting an attack, (2) using counseling to face the restimulations on all sides and any mistakes that have been made, (3) discharging on the distresses involved, and (4) apologizing for and correcting the effects of any mistakes.
This policy is based in part on our belief that there are no human enemies; that mistakes are made, and damaging policies followed, because distresses from past hurts can distort and confuse our thinking; and that we can recover from the past hurts and no longer be misguided by them. We have found that this policy works well. It requires everyone involved to commit themselves to facing and discharging the related distresses, no matter how heavily restimulated they are. A resolution can then be reached, as the discharge allows each person to see the situation more clearly.
There is the issue of attacks and the issue of mistakes. Because of restimulations, these things can get confused in people’s minds. In the midst of restimulation, people often can’t easily tell [perceive] if mistakes have been made.
Attacks and mistakes are separate things, and we need to keep them separate in our minds. There can be attacks that involve something wrong; and attacks that involve no mistake, just restimulation.
We will make mistakes; we will always make mistakes. As things get harder in society, we will need to go ahead and try things that we haven’t tried before—and that means we will make mistakes. Making a mistake doesn’t mean that we are evil, are incompetent, should be disposed of. It simply means that we made a mistake. As we try new things and acquire new information, we need to recognize the mistakes we make, discharge enough that we aren’t pulled to make similar mistakes again, and then use the new information and go on.
The way forward is to continue trying things, even if we make mistakes. This helps us learn, helps us communicate, helps us reach more people. The way forward is not to play it so safe that we never make a mistake. Many of us have gotten scared to the point where we tend not to try something unless we can do it perfectly; we’ve become afraid of the noises coming at us from the restimulations of other people. Mistakes are part of learning, and we get to do that learning even though the mistakes we make may provide pretexts for attacks.
If we’re not discharging on the places where we’ve made mistakes, we won’t be able to handle attacks well. The attacks will be restimulating to us, and we won’t be able think well in responding to them. We may find ourselves either wanting to apologize for things we didn’t do, in order to quiet people’s restimulations; or getting defensive; or just wanting to leave the field entirely. None of these responses are thoughtful. We want to be able to think when attacks happen.
The effects of an attack
An attack affects not just the initiator and the target. It also usually restimulates anyone who has any contact with it. Each of us has undischarged recordings from childhood of being the target. We also have recordings from being mistreated in other ways and from being misled. The resulting restimulations can bring up confusing feelings, such as that someone is being mistreated, that something wrong is being hidden, that someone is being mean, that something is wrong and we don’t know what’s going on [happening]. These feelings can cause us to not be able to think well about the situation and instead react based on the feelings—to try to get away from the situation as fast as we can, to pretend that nothing is happening, to not have contact with anyone involved in the situation, to support the attack, to be wary of and distance ourselves from the person being attacked, to be wary of and distance ourselves from the person pushing the attack, and so on.
Following any of our restimulated feelings doesn’t help us or the situation; it just adds to confusion. We each need to counsel on our restimulated feelings, as feelings, and look back at and discharge on the incidents in our past that installed them. Then we can proceed to think about how we want to help solve the situation.
Supporting the target of an attack
When someone is the target of an attack, if they are left alone, it is very difficult for them to discharge and think about how to handle the situation. Common restimulated feelings include feeling alone, misunderstood, mistreated, and abandoned. Each of us can discharge our own confusing feelings and support resolving the situation by openly supporting the individual attacked, and everyone involved, to discharge rather than act on restimulated feelings.
It is important to support someone who is under attack, whether or not they have made mistakes. Once the attack has been interrupted and the people involved are discharging on the situation, the issue of mistakes can be taken up [looked at] and any needed corrections and apologies made. Within the RC Community, we have the understanding, the theory, the practice of our theory, and the growing commitment to and trust in each other to make this work, even when very heavy distresses have been restimulated.
The situation in society
The situation in society is much more difficult and destructive. In the current period, the growing instability of our societies is ever more plainly visible. The societies are also unable to hide their widespread mistreatment and exploitation of people and less and less able to silence people’s increasing opposition to things continuing as they are.
Because people have been hurt and not been able to discharge and recover, some parts of the opposition they express come out of restimulation. And sometimes people who are trying to throw off oppression aim their restimulations at others who are trying to do the same work. This can happen over small differences in perspectives or a lack of understanding. When it happens, part of the effort to challenge oppression gets misdirected. People get restimulated and reactive and may take sides and campaign to demonize and vilify other people and groups that are working in similar directions to end the oppression of all groups and people.
The attacks made against what have been, or could be, allied groups are often picked up and amplified by society’s mass media, especially newspapers, and more recently by Internet-based social media. In these media (which often have their own agenda), people and groups are misrepresented, vilified, and demonized, with little or no effort being made or opportunity being given to examine the actual issues involved. This divides people and groups that could be working together to move society forward.
The attacks serve to preserve existing oppression, and their amplification by newspapers and other media benefits only those who have the power in society.
Attacks on RC
Re-evaluation Counseling has been attacked many times in the seventy years it has existed. And at times people inside the RC Community have been so restimulated with another Co-Counselor that they have acted out an attack, which has restimulated many other Co-Counselors. As a Community, we have gradually faced these problems, discharged on them, developed our understanding of them, and set out ways in our Guidelines to handle them. Still, many of us are restimulated by attacks and have sometimes avoided helping others in the Community look the issue. Thus, attacks have remained a restimulating topic avoided by many of us.
A current attack
Re-evaluation Counseling is the target of an attack currently. Articles have been written in newspapers and published on newspaper sites on the Internet. Social media campaigns have echoed, amplified, and attempted to prolong the restimulations generated. Very little information has been presented about what RC actually is and what people who use it are trying to do.
This current attack originated in an organization of young people, largely People of the Global Majority, that has worked for decades to give young people a larger voice in the policies of a local school board. The organization’s leadership has used some RC ideas and techniques to help the group function more effectively.
Some members of the organization publicly voiced that there had been difficulties in the organization and mistakes made. Part of their announcement was that they had been pressured into participating in activities that were based on RC ideas. (The ideas had been called “RC” in the organization.) They also called RC a “cult.” Their complaints were picked up by the local newspapers and led to several articles, and the situation continues to develop.
The situation and the resulting publicity have restimulated a wide variety of people, including some in public office and some leading social change organizations. Although RC has had websites easily available for many years, people are restimulated enough to feel that we, and what we are trying to do, have been hidden or that we have ulterior motives. This is not the case. Rather, we firmly believe that RC ideas are important and widely useful, and we are offering them to any person or group that finds them useful in their work.
The restimulations that have groups and people pulling back are part of how attacks separate groups that are working toward common goals.
To attack and dismiss without trying to fully understand a situation is mistaken. Any mistakes do need to be recognized, corrected, and apologized for. That is useful to everyone. But condemning and throwing away individuals or groups—and their years of good, important work—because of a mistake, the possibility of a mistake, or a mistake they made long ago is destructive to all of our efforts to end oppression.
Mistakes, after being faced and corrected, are best left in the past where they occurred. What matters is the way things are in the present and where we are trying to go. People’s thinking and groups’ policies can evolve and improve over time as people do more work and learn more.
I think the basic idea in handling attacks is to stay human, to keep our minds, to not hunt for enemies, and to keep discharging so that we can think and treat everyone exactly as a human, as they deserve. This is even when a large number of people are showing how bad their lives have been and what has been targeted at them all their lives by aiming the restimulated distress at us. Their doing this is an opportunity for them to not have to hide, to show fully, what they have been forced to endure.
Coming out of this in better shape
It’s important that in Co-Counseling sessions our restimulations about attacks are out in the open where they can be worked on and that we don’t just continue to try to function on top of them. We need to have sessions with enough support that we can look at what we’re having to hold stiffly in place as we function. We can discharge on those things, so that the battle to hold the restimulation down doesn’t occupy so much of our minds.
We want to use the opportunity of this attack (though we would never have chosen to create it) to push ourselves forward, learning and growing together, so we come out of this period in better shape [condition] than we were before.
We can use and build on the work that we in RC have already done in this area. We can read and discuss our already-developed policies on supporting and correcting leadership. This includes our policy of taking a difficulty directly to the person involved, instead of complaining to others about the difficulty, and the availability of a reference person to assist in that process when needed. We can discharge on anything restimulated by attacks so that we can think afresh about handling them. We can remind ourselves that our mistakes come from our distresses, that they are not grounds for being attacked or mistreated, and that we can face and apologize for our mistakes and take responsibility for their consequences. We can, with support, discharge on the distresses that underlie our mistakes, so that we don’t make the same mistakes again. We can support each other through the correcting of our mistakes and go forward together.
Talking with people outside of RC
We can help the people outside of the RC Community with whom we have contact understand what RC actually is, as opposed to the picture of it being put forward by the misinformation and restimulation generated during attacks. We need to give people the best picture of reality we can, rather than thinking we have to defend RC. Re-evaluation Counseling needs to be made known clearly enough that people have a chance to use their own judgment about it.
People need help with restimulations, but they also need real information. Each of us has a picture of RC and the RC Community that we have developed through our own experiences. This is real information that we can provide to others.
People can hear information best when it comes from a person with whom they have direct contact. One-on-one communication is what cuts through restimulation best. People can see another human thinking, trying to reach for them. That’s much better than reading an article or a webpage. Such things can be useful, but all our experience has been that people listen if they can see someone, hear someone, and see the humanness of the person in the communication.
In addition, we can share with people the new website we have created, <www.listeningwell.info>, which provides accurate information about RC. It can give people wider access to information about RC.