May 3, 2021

Critique of Re-evaluation Counseling

Original essay: 1995
This blog version: 2011

"There are days when I think that RC taught me everything I know. A taxi driver thanks me for a great conversation, a person looking left out at a wedding is happy that I drew her into the company, a rather formal colleague suddenly sits down and wants to talk something over with me, a friend with cancer is relieved to find someone who isn’t afraid to talk about death, children fall in love with me because I look them in the eye and interact with them in their own way… I get complimented on things like this and I think, that’s just basic RC.

And then there are all the leadership and organisational tips I picked up – all the sterling and practical advice in the RC journal ‘Wide World Changing’ that I do my best to remember and implement and that I’ve adapted now to many different contexts.

At my strongest, I remember to use what I learnt about managing myself too – hanging in there through a depression and reminding myself that all I need is a little love and/or discharge and my perspective will change rapidly; making the choice not to sink into catastrophic thinking about someone else’s ‘unloving’ behaviour but to read it as them handing me their distress to be worked on, and an invitation to me to stand outside my ‘frozen needs’.

I was active in Re-evaluation Counseling in England for ten formative years between 25 and 35 and was deeply immersed in both the theory and the practice. I met some people I came to love dearly and I treasured their intelligent support. I might well have ended up in the mental health system if it were not for them. Several of the more prominent RC leaders struck me as monumental examples of human intelligence at work – inspiring and admirable people.

But gradually I became concerned about certain aspects of RC and found that it was not easy to air them within the organisation. I asked questions at workshops – always politely. I looked at my own prejudices and feelings in my co-counseling sessions, as I was supposed to do. I wrote a couple of letters to Harvey Jackins, then the leader of RC (and got warmly encouraging but brief replies.) Eventually, when I was studying for an MA in politics, I realised that the topic I most needed to think through thoroughly was RC. So I wrote the attached essay, completing it in 1995." [ ... ]

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