RE-EVALUATION COUNSELING (RC)
Sustaining All Life facilitates "mini-sessions" at the Youth Caucus in Paris, 2015 (COP21), where participants take turns listening and being listened to.
The Basic Theory of Re-evaluation Counseling (RC)
upon which the Work of Sustaining All Life is Based
Re-evaluation Counseling (also known as Co-Counseling or RC) is a process for freeing humans and society as a whole from the effects of early hurtful experiences so that we may resume fully-intelligent functioning. Re-evaluation Counseling is practiced in pairs, by people listening to each other and assisting each other to release painful emotions. Because no money is exchanged between people who counsel one another in these pairs, Re-evaluation Counseling can be used by any individual, regardless of economic circumstances.
Members of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities have paid attention to damage to the environment and its intersection with oppression since the 1990’s. Within the RC Communities, people attend groups and workshops in which we take turns listening to each other and encouraging emotional release, so that we can heal old hurts and become better able to think, to speak out, and to organize and lead others in building a world in which all life forms are valued and the environment is restored and preserved.
Sustaining All Life (SAL), a project of Re-evaluation Counseling, uses mutual support and engaged listening to free people from the effects of hurts and oppression. We also use these tools to remove many of the difficulties of working together. This personal work heals internal damage and, as a result, enables people to think more clearly about the environmental crisis, build and strengthen alliances, and fully enjoy working together to set the world right. This healing work also builds courage and stamina, and the confidence that we can create a just, sustainable future for everyone.
Re-evaluation Counseling views all human beings as inherently intelligent, cooperative, and good. We assume it is natural for a human to have good relations with all other humans, to think well, to act wisely and successfully, and to enjoy life.
In this view, every human being acts and cooperates well except where patterns of emotional distress interfere. Then negative feelings and irrational behavior, such as failure to cooperate or communicate, replace the inherent human behavior. These “distress patterns” are the residue of physical or emotional hurts, many of them dating back to childhood, from which we have never fully recovered. We re-enact them when something in the current environment reminds us of the earlier times of hurtful experiences.
The residual effects of past distress experiences could have been thrown off quickly and permanently, at the time we were hurt, through natural channels of emotional release, or "discharge" (for example, crying, laughing, and trembling). After emotional discharge, a person’s mind is able to think more clearly and re-evaluate what happened in the distressing incident.
Instead, some of the social conditioning against emotional discharge carried by our cultures and rigidly inflicted upon us when we were children (for example, “Don’t cry,” or “Be a big boy”) has interfered with, and prevented, recovery from our hurts, leading to an increasing accumulation of distresses and tensions. By the time we are adults, this has severely limited our original abilities to achieve good relationships with others, to succeed, and to enjoy life. The inability to recover from our hurts also interferes with our collective progress towards a society that supports all humans to thrive in cooperative, respectful relationships.
In Re-evaluation Counseling we regain the natural ability to heal from hurt. The prime requirement for this is a listener (we refer to this person as the counselor) who is sincerely interested, who will remain relaxed in the face of our tensions, and who understands and encourages the process of emotional discharge. We can use mutual support and engaged listening to free ourselves from the accumulated fears, disconnection and feelings of powerlessness and discouragement that interfere with our ability to effectively address and resolve the climate crisis.
Many of our accumulated distresses result from societally-imposed hurts that we call oppression—racism is one example. Every adult in every present society has been conditioned, through the imposition of distress patterns, into functioning in both oppressed and oppressor roles. (For example, the same person can both be oppressed by racism and be in the oppressor role with regard to sexism.)
Oppression is neither inevitable nor inherent in human beings. It arises and operates only on the basis of distress patterns. No human being would agree to submit to oppression unless a distress pattern of such submission had been previously installed while the human being was hurting. No human being would ever agree to, or participate in, oppressing another human being unless a distress pattern had been previously installed. Once these patterns are in place, we are susceptible to acting irrationally and oppressively toward others, including people in our own group, and even toward ourselves. (For example, when racism has hurt people to the point where they unknowingly internalize it, they may demean and mistreat themselves and their own people.)
Individuals can be freed from the damage caused by racism, and other oppressions, through the process of emotional discharge. This healing empowers individuals to engage in the organizing and struggle necessary for the elimination of racism from institutions and society.
We formed SAL in 2014 and have since published many materials addressing the intersection of climate change and oppression. A SAL delegation attended COP21 to COP25, as well as numerous Climate Summits to present our tools of mutual support and engaged listening and our perspectives on climate change and oppression. We are active in numerous climate justice projects around the world.
Re-evaluation Counseling is currently practiced in more than ninety countries.
More information about Re-evaluation Counseling may be found here: reevaluationcounseling.org.