Article: Some Important Ideas in Co-Counseling

Human nature—Every human being is by nature completely good, very intelligent, powerful, loving, cooperative, and has a great ability to enjoy life.

In general, any human behavior that is different from this basic human nature is caused by 1) painful emotions that result from experiences of hurt, 2) the lack of an opportunity to heal, and 3) the resulting confusion.

This is the basic explanation for irrational human behavior.

Distress—When we are hurt, we may have feelings of sadness, fear, embarrassment, tension, anger, boredom, and physical pain or discomfort. In Re-evaluation Counseling these painful feelings are called “distress.”

Distress comes from four main sources: 1) accidents (for example, physical injuries or diseases), 2) abuse and other mistreatment, 3) contagion (from the distress and confusion of other people), and 4) hurts caused by oppression.

Oppression—Most of our distress is directly or indirectly related to the systematic mistreatment and hurts by society because of the groups that we belong to. This is called “oppression” in Re-evaluation Counseling.

Some examples of oppression are racism, sexism, classism, national oppression, anti-Jewish oppression, oppression based on sexuality, oppression based on gender identity, young people’s oppression, parents’ oppression, ageism, men’s oppression, disabled people’s oppression, and “mental health” oppression.

Distress recording—If we do not receive help to recover from the hurt, the distress feelings from the bad experience continue like a recording. We continue to experience the same painful feelings and “thoughts” from the past over and over, even though the situation has changed.

Restimulation—When something in the present reminds us of the past hurtful experience, we are pulled to feel the old distress. When old hurts replay, they influence our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Even though it may feel difficult to resist the pull of the old distress, with increasing awareness we can choose not to be restimulated.

Distress pattern—If we do not heal the hurtful experience, we tend to repeat the same behavior, feelings, and “thoughts” that we experienced in the past. These become rigid habits that we sometimes call our “personality.”

In Co-Counseling they are called “distress patterns.” Patterns can confuse us and make intelligent people appear irrational, but the distress patterns are not part of the essence of who we are.

“Distress recording,” “restimulation,” and “distress pattern” are different ways of describing the effects of distress and confusion that accumulate in our minds as a result of hurtful experiences that have not been healed by sufficient emotional discharge.

The distress recording includes all the details, emotional feelings, and physical feelings of the past experience. When we encounter a situation in the present that is similar enough in some way to the past distress experience, the distress recording from the past may, without our awareness replay in our minds and make it seem as though the past experience is happening again in the present.

When this happens, we can feel the same emotional and physical feelings contained in the recording from the past. For example, we can imagine a boy who has an experience of fear during a visit to the dentist and does not discharge sufficiently. Later in his life he might be a father accompanying his own son on a visit to the dentist. Upon entering the dentist’s office, the father might feel fear, although the appointment is for the son, not for the father. The feeling of fear is part of the distress recording of the father, not from the present situation.

Restimulation is the phenomenon of feeling distress feelings from the past in the present. This may occur when something in the present reminds us of an unhealed hurt from the past.

In the previous example, the dentist’s office restimulated the father. The fear was only restimulation, and not the reality of the present situation. With sufficient discharge in his Co-Counseling sessions, the father, instead of feeling restimulated, may feel relaxed concern for his son but not the terror or the anxiety of his past experience. In this way, the father will not pass his distresses and upsets on to the next generation.

A distress pattern may result when a person has a number of similar distress experiences over time without enough discharge. 

In the previous example, if the father had some experiences of fear as a boy in which the adults were dominating the situation, as an adult the father may have a pattern of compulsively trying to control or dominate situations. Or perhaps he may have a pattern of feeling powerless in these situations. It depends on the person and their experiences.

Contradiction—A contradiction is anything (a phrase, a thought, an action, etc.) that is different from the distress pattern and allows us to see that the pattern is not present reality. For example, noticing the beauty of nature in the present can be a contradiction to a pattern of feeling depressed.

Receiving caring attention from another person can contradict a pattern of feeling alone.

Awarely feeling painful emotions that have accumulated from the past can be a contradiction to a pattern of holding in one’s emotions in the present.

Thinking about the big picture of the world situation can be a contradiction to complacency or feeling small and insignificant.

Taking action to solve a problem can be a contradiction to a pattern of powerlessness and passivity.

Discharge—If we contradict a pattern enough, a natural mental healing process happens, the outward indication of which can include crying, laughing, shaking, sweating, angry sounds and movements, talking, yawning, and stretching. In Co-Counseling, this healing process is called “discharge.”

Attentive listening from someone who is non-judgmental, doesn’t interrupt, give advice, or tell you how they feel, greatly enhances the use of this discharge process.

Re-evaluation—After discharge, we are able to better understand the past experience of hurt, be free of our distress patterns, and recover our flexible, intelligent, powerful thinking, close relationships, and enjoyment of life in the present.

Policy on drugs—Our experience is that drugs that affect the central nervous system (nicotine, alcohol, recreational drugs, psychiatric drugs, and so on) interfere with the process of discharge and re-evaluation, and add new distress. Sometimes a person may be able to discharge under the influence of these drugs, but the re-evaluation part of the process does not seem to work well as. Co-Counselors are asked to refrain from such drugs twenty-four hours before RC activities.

Internalized oppression—Many of the ways we are hurt when we are small have to do with how we are mistreated by society because of our age, size, skin color, sex, gender identity, social class, grades in school, culture, language, physical appearance or abilities, and so on. If we don’t discharge enough on the ways we have been hurt by the oppressive society, we develop distress patterns that we call internalized oppression. We may feel that the negative messages about us are true. We may agree with our own oppression and accept a powerless, “inferior” role.

We may also feel the same way about other people like us and mistreat them the same way that we ourselves were mistreated.

Oppressor patterns—If we do not discharge our internalized oppression, we may feel a pull to take the other role in the distress recording of oppression. We may take the role of oppressor and behave oppressively towards other groups. This is the basic reason for oppressive behavior by human beings.

Co-Counseling (also called Re-evaluation Counseling or RC)—In RC people take turns listening to each other for equal amounts of time and help each other talk, discharge, and reevaluate. The person giving attention is called the “counselor.” The person receiving attention is called the “client.” Each person learns to give and receive attention effectively in both roles.

Safety—in order to discharge well, a person needs to feel safe. Safety can be created by the following:

-Treating everything said in a session as confidential.

-Trusting the client’s intelligent ability to find their own solutions to problems.

-Not analyzing or interpreting for a client.

-Not interrupting the client when she or he is discharging.

-Showing caring and respect.

-Thoughtful physical contact with the agreement of the client (holding a hand, an arm around the shoulders, a hug, and so on).

-Acting as a client only when others have agreed to be counselors.

-Not setting up any additional relationships except that of Co-Counselors with people whom we first meet in Co-Counseling.

-Where the client and counselor are members of different oppressed groups, the client securing explicit agreement of the counselor in advance of working in session on oppressor patterns.

Community—Co-Counselors cooperate together in a Co-Counseling Community. Being a member of a Co-Counseling Community has great benefits for each Co-Counselor. Building the Community is the job of every Community member. Local Communities are called Areas. There may be several Areas in a Co-Counseling Region. The International Re-evaluation Counseling Communities is a network of local Communities that exist in over eighty countries at this time (2021). Our work together is guided by agreements called “Guidelines.”

RC Teachers—All Co-Counselors are encouraged to recover their natural leadership abilities. When and if they choose to teach, are able to adhere to the guidelines for teachers, and have permission from their Reference Persons they can become Re-evaluation Counseling teachers and leaders, building their own local Communities in cooperation with the larger International Community.

Reference Persons—Some experienced and competent Co-Counselors take the role of leaders called “reference persons” whose job is to provide guidance to others.

Re-emergence—Co-Counselors who persist with the discharge and re-evaluation process notice many important changes in their lives, outlook, and way of feeling. This ongoing process of freeing oneself from hurts and patterns is called “re-emergence.” Our lives tend to continually improve as we use these ideas and tools with each other.

Liberation—The term “liberation” in Co-Counseling means the freeing of our intelligence from the effects of societal oppression, both at an individual level through the discharge and re-evaluation process and at the institutional and systemic level through social action. Co-Counseling is not a political organization but we do encourage Co-Counselors to think clearly about all issues facing humanity. We also use RC to support each other to take intelligent action to eliminate irrational patterns in the institutions of society. We do this primarily as individuals and not as a group of Co-Counselors.

We also engage together in organized projects of the RC communities such as “Sustaining All Life” to publicly offer the Co-Counseling tools and perspectives to support the ending of divisions based on oppression between individuals and groups of people working to halt the climate crisis.

For more information about Re-evaluation Counseling visit the web site <http://www.reevaluationcounseling.org>.

Victor Nicassio

Los Angeles, California, USA