I hope all is well with you in these perilous times. I am sending this letter to people I know personally, and relying on our webs of solidarity to hold this conversation.
I’m writing because I’m concerned about a developing situation around very negative portrayals of Re-Evaluation Counseling (co-counseling) and the potential for a “cancel culture” phenomenon in which people who are associated with RC are regarded with suspicion, and disinvited from taking part in movement organizations and alliances. Given the large number of us spread throughout the left, this could do deep, long term harm to our movements.
RC has been an important source of liberation theory and both collective and individual healing practices for tens of thousands of activists worldwide, including myself, and has contributed to the thinking of many important leaders doing the work of social justice. My concern is not with anyone’s story itself, but with the reckless way that such accusations tend to spread and be acted on without any kind of due process, and the tremendous damage this can do. The unprecedented challenges we’re facing require so much of us, and we are all stressed. This means we need to exercise even more care in tending our alliances, require of ourselves even more integrity in how we handle disagreements. We can’t afford to lose each other.
I respect everyone’s right to their own story, so I’m not going to argue with their version of what RC is. Instead I’ll share my own.
I’ve been a part of Re-Evaluation Counseling since 1984. I was thirty years old, already a published writer, teaching creative writing from a liberation perspective, assuming that what most people needed in order to write well was to be freed from what censored their authentic voices. Several of my writing students told me about RC, saying it had the theory for my practice. It had that and a whole lot more.
RC’s theory and practice, its profound and detailed understanding of how the traumas of oppression are internalized, and its sophisticated practices for healing that trauma, have had a major impact on my own thinking and writing. What I bring to the table has been deeply shaped by 38 years of collectively crafting tools to take on all the real life ways in which the political is personal, the personal political. That includes learning to separate the painful emotions of past hurts from what’s actually needed in the present moment. I’m only one of thousands of people you’ve worked with in some way who use these tools, these theories, to be better at what we do.
While we do have a leadership structure, our practices are egalitarian and collective—all co- counselors have access to a vast array of peers with whom to exchange active listening, which often leads to emotional release and fresh insights. We have the option of grouping ourselves with people we share identities or concerns with, in ongoing support groups or classes or workshops and through journals and online lists. I have found life changing solidarity within a huge range of specific RC groupings—BIPOC and queer parents for whom sharing parenting difficulties is high risk; artists grappling with climate justice work, Jews of Color, Latin American women from half a dozen countries, children of blacklisted parents, LGBTQ Jews, the chronically ill. RC has not only given me tools I use every day to keep my head clear and my courage strong, but also an international community of co-thinkers with whom to continually sharpen my thinking.
Like any human endeavor, like all my most cherished movement organizations, we make mistakes and strive to learn from them. As with any large and diverse organization, oppressive behaviors show up and must be addressed. As with any group working with the effects of trauma, strong feelings arise, and we strive to hold safe containers for them without acting on them. We are continually making course corrections and figuring out how best to share what we’ve figured out, do the practical work of coordinating a large international organization and bring our best selves to the work of tikkun olam.
For all of these reasons, I care passionately about protecting what RC has to offer, and the people who are offering it.
My request is that whatever you may hear about RC, you take the time to also hear from the many people in our movements who have found it invaluable. I am happy to answer any questions you may have. The best way to reach me is by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aurora Levins Morales
Maricao, Puerto Rico