An Anarchist Critique of Re-Evaluation Counseling

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by Anonymous

Re-Evaluation Counseling (R.C.) is an organization created in the United States by Harvey Jackins and others in the 1960's. The stated intention of R.C. is to spread the process of “co-counseling” in order to assist people in resolving past trauma and also as a tool for “social change.” RC, as an organization, has spread throughout the world, and exists in most major cities in the U.S. as well as a variety of places around the world. It is informally referred to as “co-counseling” by many adherents.

R.C. as an organization has faced significant criticism throughout the course of its existence, particularly for its cult-like aspects, its rigid, authoritarian structure, its homophobia, and widespread allegations of rape and silencing of those who speak out about it. These topics will be touched upon in this article.

Missing from this body of criticism is a specifically anarchist perspective, which has become necessary as a result of the direction that R.C. has taken in recent years. As R.C. presents itself more and more as a tool for social change, with R.C. groups like “United to End Racism,” it becomes more of a danger to anarchists who may by misled by talk of challenging “oppression.” R.C. is also often engaging to anarchists dealing with mental health issues because the tool of “co-counseling” seems to offer an egalitarian alternative to mainstream psychological approaches.

I recognize that this critique will be of no use to most anarchists though who, taking one look at R.C., would see nothing even vaguely intriguing and would, instead, quickly see a number of awful characteristics. Unfortunately, these things are not immediately obvious to everyone, and I have seen a number of potential comrades get caught up in R.C.’s complex web.

Throughout the U.S., R.C. exists at the fringes of anarchist communities, which may have both positive and negative impacts on the praxis of those communities. If anarchists are able, as a few are, to use the bare-bones tool of “co-counseling” in order to support one another, the presence of R.C. may have a positive effect. But the degree to which this tool is connected to an authoritarian bureaucratic structure (with its tangled, self-referential web of paid workshops, retreats, classes, leadership positions, etc.) and a muddled, reformist political platform is the determination of the degree of negative impact it will have on the circles it inhabits.

The following critique is directed toward an audience with some basic amount of knowledge about R.C. Therefore, basic ideas and practices of R.C. are critiqued without first being explained. Hopefully this contribution to the body of criticism of R.C. will help provide a little more clarity about what aspects of this organization desperately need to be avoided.

Off with Their Heads: Cultishness and Authoritarianism in RC

I don’t hear people talking much about the vast amount of criticism that RC has accumulated over the course of its existence. Just a quick internet search reveals article after article about how RC demonstrates characteristics of a cult, sexual abuse by RC leaders (especially Harvey Jackins), and critiques of the rigid authoritarianism of the organization. These criticisms aren't just drama or empty “scandal,” as R.C. proponents would like us to believe, but substantive critiques and collections of experiences written by people negatively impacted by a power structure.

The notable absence of critical dialogue about what R.C. is and how it effects us is potentially the scariest thing about having it in our lives. Were you told in your R.C. intro class that there was a bunch of weird stuff about RC on the internet but that you shouldn't read it? According to the website “CultWatch”: “If you are instructed by a group not to read information critical of the group, then that is a sign of a cult.”

From Wikipedia:

“Denis Tourish and Pauline Irving in a 1994 article considered the characteristics that RC shared with psycho-therapeutic cults, namely, a charismatic leader, idealization of the leader, followers regarding their belief system as superior to others, followers joining the group at times of stress, the therapist becoming central to the follower's life, the group absorbing increasing time, illusions of superiority to other groups and the group becoming suspicious of other groups. They concluded: 'Given its hostility to such pluralistic notions of participation and democracy, RC has the potential to become a fully fledged and harmful cult, despite its original humanistic aims.” [1]

If nothing else, we need to be thinking about and critically examining the information available about this organization so that we can make a clear decision about how to engage with it.

Much of the information available is about R.C. founder Harvey Jackins' patterns of sexual assault and abuse. It has been widely reported that he had sex with hundreds of his female clients, often during the course of counseling sessions and often under the guise of helping them “discharge” sexual trauma (note: many of these sexual escapades did not occur during the course of peer-to-peer co-counseling, which would be bad enough, but during the one-way counseling he offered at the time through his organization “Personal Counselors.” The power dynamic that exists between counselor and client make sexual interactions a totally inappropriate and make consent very questionable). Many women have written about being sexually and emotionally abused by Harvey and some report being raped[2] by him during sessions. The stories are horrifying and well-documented. [3]

When confronted with allegations of sexual abuse, Harvey did the thing men in power have always done: he denied that it was true, called into question the “rationality” of his accusers, ousted from the organization anyone who talked about it, and created policies which made him above criticism.

In a 1974 article entitled "Is Homosexuality a Distress Pattern?" Jackins said that homosexuality, "as distinct from the desire to touch or be close, is irrational, is the result of distress patterns (often very early in origin and chronic), and will disappear by the free choice of the individual with sufficient discharge and re-evaluation."[4] And again in 1995, twenty-five years after queers were battling cops in the streets in defiance of the policing of their sexual desires, Harvey published an article maintaining his position that “homosexuality” is an irrational desire that needs to be “discharged”.[5]

It's chilling to read Harvey's totally backward, conservative and painfully hetero-normative thoughts on sexuality spelled out with the same arrogance that he states everything.[6] In response to queer people's arguments that they didn't think their sexuality was a pathology, Harvey writes that he has “worked successfully with too many clients who 'identified' themselves as Gay or Lesbian or be confused about that. I could not compromise my intelligence to accept that position.”

But R.C.’s habit of pathologizing marginalized sexualities doesn’t stop there. Transgender people who seek sexual reassignment surgery are also, according to R.C., failing to take enough pride in their “femaleness.” “It is great to be female, in every way,” they write.[7] In R.C.’s “Draft Liberation Policy Statement” on Women, published in 2005, the authors explain that “experimenting with sexual identities—Lesbian, Bisexual, and heterosexual—has become fashionable in some circles and can be a substitute for taking on the real struggles related to women’s prescribed roles in society. Increasing experimentation with gender identities (for example, surgeries to change gender) is an indication of women feeling bad about ourselves as females.”

This is a great example of how R.C. theory buries its bigotry amidst complex doublespeak about “liberation,” “oppression,” and other language hijacked from feminist movements and other liberation movements. It would be easy to read this pamphlet and not notice that this is R.C.’s way of saying that transgender people in R.C. should be discouraged from seeking sexual reassignment surgery.

The R.C. leadership is quick to point out that they have come a long way since Harvey’s original statements on “homosexuality,” craftily avoiding any admission of homophobia in the past while simultaneously presenting themselves as a welcoming home for those experiencing “gay oppression” in the present. But in reality, materials supporting the idea that homosexuality is “irrational” and the result of a “distress pattern” continue to be distributed in R.C. classes to this day.

Critiques of the organization’s past or present homophobia are also still totally unwelcomed today. In a July 2015 article entitled “Tackling the RC Gay Policy in Our Counseling,” the author lists a number of guidelines for consideration of “gay policy” within R.C. The first guideline on the list states, “This challenge is not to be an excuse to generate a series of attacks on or criticisms of either Harvey Jackins or RC.”

The roots of this cultish unwillingness to handle criticism go deep, having their roots in the emergence of the first allegations of sexual abuse against Harvey in the 1980’s. A culture of denial and blame-shifting erupted in 1981 at the height of the criticisms of Harvey's sexual abuse coming to light. Just like in any abusive family, the problem was ignored and talking about it was punished.

But how does R.C. handle that now? A healthy organization would present the truth of the organization’s dysfunctional past and encourage critical dialogue. A healthy organization would never tell new members to ignore information critical to the group. If this work has not been done, then the R.C. community continues to perpetuate these dysfunctional dynamics.

The R.C. community still fails to address the allegations against its founder, and continue to promote a cult of personality around Harvey. Even Harvey's teachings on sex continue to be republished by the R.C. community with no discussion or recognition whatsoever of the impacts those theories and Harvey's practices around them had on so many.[8]

In response to the allegations against him, Harvey created two “teachings” which had the result of making him above criticism: “distress around leadership” and “attack theory.” These teachings state that due to our “distress” around leaders in our past, we have a tendency to “irrationally” attack those in positions of power. Therefore, those criticizing authority figures are clearly acting out past trauma, and their thoughts and criticisms are not to be taken seriously.

Harvey writes in his pamphlet “The Enjoyment of Leadership,” that “leadership is necessary for a group to function well. Where conditions permit, clear designation of who is the responsible leader for particular activities, including leadership titles and 'holding office,' is advantageous and desirable...” [9]

The concept of leadership and authority is a challenging one for those seeking a world beyond confines of the one we live within. Obviously, there are and always will be those with more experience, a stronger voice, more confidence, more knowledge. And it just makes sense to look to those from whom we can learn.

But these situations of guidance and relying on one another's strength in a given area are contextual and must never be concretized. While I may rely on a friend's knowledge when building a house, they may rely on mine when writing a book or raising a child. Leadership and authority result when power is granted to a person in general, rather than in a specific context.

The tendency to grant power in this way occurs within hierarchically-structured organizations such as RC (and is a clear argument as to why such organizations should be avoided). Organized much like a franchise corporation, The International Re-evaluation Counseling Communities is structured like a pyramid, with Tim Jackins, son of founder Harvey Jackins, at the top as the “International Reference Person.” Below him are a series of regional reference people also organized hierarchically, down to the teachers, who must be certified by the group and approved by Tim Jackins himself, who holds ultimate veto power over approval of any teacher.

The International Re-evaluation Counseling Communities, therefore, has an organizational structure that is more despotic than that of the United States government. Power within RC flows patrilineally, from Harvey to Tim, much like it does within monarchies. Also similarly to monarchies, ultimate veto power lies within the hands of one man, who has built-in impunity for all his actions (one cannot critique or challenge him without being disregarded as “irrational”).

Just a glance at the book list put out by Rational Island Publishers paints a pretty clear picture of the variety of perspectives contributing to the body of theory that RC is founded upon. Every single book is authored by Harvey Jackins, except, of course, those authored by “Harvey Jackins and others.”

Although it may seem unimportant that the R.C. community organizes itself hierarchically, it has a very real effect on the theory and practice of R.C. Since everything one reads in an R.C. book or learns in a class has been approved by the leadership of the organization, this has the potential effect of producing a monoculture of ideas and norms. Only those ideas that are approved by the leadership are published and taught. In an organization such as R.C. that has proven in the past its desire to protect its own power, this has the potential to mean that only those ideas that contribute to the continuation of the organization will be propagated.

Ideas that truly hold the capacity for human liberation will never be structured in this way. Liberation is a chaotic process that is the result of the synthesis of thousands of voices and ideas moving forward, often in conflict with each other. Rigid positions of authority within rigidly-structured organizations can only organize to save their own skins.

As long as they remain just one voice moving us forward, it matters little what miserable internal structure the group forces upon itself. But R.C. doesn't want to be just one voice; it considers itself the voice—the “rational island” speaking truth in an irrational world, as the tool for human liberation. It creates within itself a maze of classes, support groups, retreats, gatherings, leadership positions, stances, policies and teachings, books, audio tapes and DVD's all intended to create one voice, all approved by the charismatic leader, that can solve every problem we face in the modern world. The solutions, as nuanced as they may seem, all lead back to using R.C. to “discharge distress.” All solutions, therefore, are entirely self-referential, and continue to spin us deeper and deeper into the maze of this organization.

We may ask ourselves why this body of knowledge we call “reevaluation counseling” needs to be structured this way. What is it about R.C. that demands that it maintain such a power structure, such a bureaucratic internal organization? In places all over the world, all throughout time, for all sorts of different reasons, people have organized themselves autonomously for the purpose of meeting their needs. Ideas and movements can and do develop and spread without the efforts of hierarchically-structured organizations, and when they do they tend to develop a character that is more heterogeneous and, therefore, more capable of meeting the variety of desires of their participants.

The Catholic Worker Movement is one example of this form of organization. While there are many commonalities between Catholic Worker houses around the world, there is no unifying organization creating a “party line” of what is and is not the “official stance” of the Catholic Worker. Nor is anyone able to oust those with a different opinion from the movement. And the result is a network of people, autonomously organizing themselves to meet their own needs. There are still gatherings, there are still publications sharing insights and analysis. There is also flexibility, relative egalitarianism between the different houses (although not necessarily within them), healthy debate, the autonomy to move in one's own direction, and a diversity of perspectives (unfortunately, the same cannot be said for R.C.). R.C. doesn't have to be structured this way.[10] Who is benefiting from things being as they are?

One explanation of the origins of the group's hierarchical structure, put forth by Steve Carr, a former R.C. member, is that before founding R.C., Harvey was a communist organizer with the Communist Party of America, an authoritarian communist group advocating Lenin's “democratic centralism.”[11] One look at Soviet Russia, Communist China, Castro's Cuba, etc, etc, is enough to demonstrate the trouble with the idea of leaders wielding ultimate control. These could be said to be the same troubles R.C. faces, writ large.

A group like R.C., with such a powerful and entirely self-referential internal structure, has the unfortunate result of causing us to ignore all the other bodies of knowledge actively working to challenge the reality of trauma, or confront the psychological impacts of a sick culture. There are so many tools available to us; we must resist the temptation to buy into an all-in-one solution to our problems.

“Rationality” vs “Emotion” T

he dismissive way in which dissent is managed within R.C. has its roots in the very bedrock of the group's theory on emotions.

R.C. theory creates a rigid distinction between emotion and “rationality” in which only after one's emotions are “discharged” can one's thoughts truly be trusted.[12] The simplistic picture painted by R.C. theory is that humans are born in a pure, “rational” state unhindered by “distresses” from their environment, which manifest themselves as feelings and cloud our thinking. Throughout life, the build-up of “distress” causes us to become “irrational,” at which point those distresses must be “discharged” through effective use of R.C. When proper “discharge” has taken place, one can make an effectively “rational” decision that is divorced from one's feelings.

The implication of this harsh divide between “rationality” and feeling is a culture in which feelings and intuition are questioned rather than trusted.

Certainly, this is not always the case, and in the best of situations—where co-counseling is being used as a tool that is divorced from the institution of R.C.—the exact opposite can be true: groups of friends can recognize and act on the importance of feelings, making space for talking about how we feel and for crying, laughing, and moving our bodies in order to feel better.

But the potential implication of this rigid distinction, and the one has often manifested within R.C. with disastrous implications, is the questioning and ultimate silencing of voices of dissent. This behavior is apparent in many writings within R.C., an example of which is the following statement by Harvey about “homosexuality”:

“Supporters of [the position that homosexuality is rational] will be told in the future that we will operate on the principle which they have used in China, 'without investigation, no right to speak.' That is, unless people have actually discharged on their memories connected with sex thoroughly and intensively, they should realize that they have no business having or expressing opinions in this controversy and the workshops and newsletters of R.C. will not be open to more of this." [13]

To state it again, I propose that gay persons be welcomed into R.C. on the basis that they are expected to not propagandize for nor advocate within the R.C. Community or any of its groups the position that homosexuality is rational.”

Here, Harvey uses the same trick he used when accused of sexual abuse, he charges that only those who have effectively discharged (which, apparently, is up to the discretion of the leadership of R.C., not an individual) have the right to express or even have an opinion about things. We also see here the apparent threat that, as the ultimate leader, Harvey (or his son Tim today) will silence those voices he disagrees with by preventing their inclusion in R.C. publications and workshops.

The level of domination reached here when Harvey suggests that certain people should not even have an opinion about things is worth a moment of attention. Most situations of domination involve silencing voices of disagreement, but R.C.'s role as a group focused on psychology and emotional health has the potential to allow it to reach levels of domination other situations cannot, as evidenced here. Not only does Harvey threaten to silence those voices of dissent, he goes a step further, using R.C. theory to step within the minds and emotional lives of those he disagrees with to say that they should not even have an opinion about something.

The implications of calling into question another's “rationality” is that it undermines the voices of individuals and questions their capacity to make healthy decisions for themselves. Those in power, then, replace the individual as the primary agent in their own life, and the one most capable of making decisions. This is the formula for domination and authoritarianism.

It makes sense for an individual to notice when they are acting on feelings that are fleeting (like when we take a break to deescalate during a challenging conversation with a friend rather than allowing ourselves to hurl insults we only half mean) and choose instead to let those feelings pass and make a decision later. But it's another thing entirely when we make distinctions between whether the thoughts and opinions of another person are “rational” or not.

If we consider the struggle against domination and authoritarianism to be key in creating a world we want to live in, we must struggle against any belief system that includes groups or authority figures putting themselves in charge or naming what's best for another person. This behavior is not something that just occasionally happens within R.C., nor is it the case of “a few bad apples.” It is built-in to the bedrock of the theory of R.C.

The other implication of this position is that it has the potential to cause us to question and fail to listen to the one thing that is truly ours: our feelings and desires. In a world of domination, where we're trained by morality, religious dogma, patriotism, gender roles, schooling, parental expectations, etc. that there are a long list of “shoulds” we must adhere to, it can be really hard to get connected with our own desires. But without them we can't make decisions that work for our own lives and we can't ever really be happy.

Although R.C. theory teaches that “there are no 'shoulds' in the universe,” the focus on rationality nonetheless has the effect of creating a culture within RC in which one's feelings and desires are subjected to a lot of second-guessing rather than being affirmed as the key to our personal liberation.

Identity Politics

One of the problematic implications of using RC as a political praxis is that the part of R.C. that is most outwardly-focused on changing the world is founded on identity politics.

Identity politics is a way of interpreting the modern social terrain that has been widely discredited as carrying a host of negative implications when put into practice and ultimately is more of a straight-jacket than a tool for liberation.

We are all born into a society that forces us into certain social categories whether we want to be a part of them or not. We are taught throughout our lives that certain aspects of ourselves (our genitalia, who we are attracted to, etc.) implies certain essential things about us rather than being just one descriptor or one desire among many. After being categorized, our identities are then located within a social hierarchy—man is above woman, homosexual is below heterosexual, but above transsexual, and on and on. At which point a certain set of assumptions about our behavior are put upon us which we must live up to or face serious penalty.

“Identity politics” is a strategy of demanding equality amongst identities rather than seeking to dismantle, undermine, and destabilize those identities. The strategy of identity politics is essentially reformist, choosing to maintain societally-imposed categories and even to police the borders of those identities and force identities upon others (thus replicating within social movements society's repressive function of identification).

Although R.C. theory recognizes that identities are the product of society, therefore at least theoretically avoiding the trap of essentialism [14], it nonetheless teaches that each person must first “proudly claim the identification...and have sessions on being proud of the group, on every way in which we associate ourselves with it, and on the feelings brought up by claiming the identity.”

As always, arguing against the theory of R.C. is one thing, while arguing against the practice and the culture created by that theory is another entirely. While the theory around R.C. suggests that identities can be transcended, the practice of R.C. reveals the same rigid imposition of identity seen in groups proclaiming the most simplistic essentialism. When attending a R.C. workshop or retreat, one will be separated into a “People of Color” class and a “White Allies” class. “Men” are encouraged to read the “Men's Liberation Draft Policy” and proudly proclaim that they are “oppressed as men” and encouraged to remember that they “are good men.” Oppressions abound, including “Veterans' oppression” and “Parents' oppression.” What dominant group is responsible for “oppressing” men, veterans and parents is not explained.

Institutionally imposing identities in this way can serve only to strengthen these repressive roles that society involuntarily thrusts upon us. Just because someone is considered to be Black or was always told that they were a “man” by society doesn't mean that they need to strongly claim that identity in order to find a healthy way of relating to it, and in many cases being expected to do so will have the result of replicating the very imposition of identity acted out on our bodies by teachers, parents and police.

While some may find a way to liberation in joining together with others who have a similar experience as them—be it other Latin@ folks, other people who were always told they were women, other queers—and their decision to do so must be affirmed, it's an entirely different thing to impose an identity upon another person, or to force everyone to pass through a filter where we separate ourselves out between the simplistic categories of “white” and “people of color,” “men” and “women.” And it is extremely problematic to base our entire world-view and political praxis upon seeing the world as separated out into these categories.[15]

We Can't Discharge Our Way Out of This Mess: RC as a Political Praxis

For those of us who are actively working to make the world really different, the road is long and hard and often traumatic. We need support and we have very few models for how to give it to each other. Using co-counseling as a tool for supporting each other can allow us to continue to struggle and to move forward in the realization of our dreams.

But R.C. doesn't seem to want to be just one tool in our toolbox, or to be relegated simply to the “emotional support” part of our lives. Built into both the theory of R.C. and the culture and structure of the organization is the idea that R.C. is the plan for where we're going, the road map for how to get there, and the vehicle to move us forward.

Using R.C. as a political praxis will always lead to problematic results for all the reasons articulated above, but particularly for the reason that the only potential for change that R.C. offers is the healing and psychological transformation of individuals.

For example, the model for dealing with the overwhelming reality of racism within society is for individuals to confront and discharge on either their racism or their internalized racism (depending on their identity). Through R.C. spreading as an organization all throughout the world, more and more people will learn to discharge their racism and it is in this way that racism will be abolished within some number of years.

This is the same logic that gives us energy efficient light bulbs and fair trade coffee. The logic at the root of this strategy is that the world will be slowly transformed through individual decisions. It says that the problems of the world (like racism or environmental collapse) are located equally within every individual. The state of society is the result of those micro-level individual actions or stances manifested collectively—creating the macro-level problems we face. Therefore, we are all equally responsible for the mess the world is in and the key to changing things is for individuals to be convinced to make different decisions. The key actor in doing the convincing is the activist (or the R.C.'er) and the activist organization (or the institution of RC). [16]

But the problem with this logic is that the mess we are in is not each of our faults equally. Although dealing with racism inside ourselves will make our lives better, we are not the ones that murder Black men in the streets, or jail Black people at alarming rates. Although eliminating the roots of a rape culture within us will improve our relationships and our lives, we are not all rapists and we are not all equally responsible for gendered tyranny.

There are structures in place that are being forced upon us every day that keep dynamics such as racism in place, and there are people who have power who will kill or jail us if we try to change that reality.

We can't discharge our way out of that.

Some of us have power in society (bosses, landlords, property owners, politicians, developers, rich people, etc) and some of us do not. And there is no historical precedent for those holding these positions of power abandoning them en masse in favor of collective liberation. Strategies that count on this as their eventual goal are leading us into the inevitable pit of reformism, or “speaking truth to power.”

Structural power dynamics have never been and never will be shifted through individual emotional transformation, the moral indignation of activism, or the self-abolition of the ruling elite. They are shifted through poor and disenfranchised people fighting in sudden and mostly unpredictable ways against those structures of power that are destroying their lives and continuing to push against them until they can no longer be realized. Our role then, as people who want to see a really different world, is to push at the fault-lines in the smooth functioning of society, exposing contradictions, and intervening and pushing the envelope in moments when normal people do take the streets, the picket line, the blockade.

In the meantime, we can keep working to realize our dreams in our own lives, and in collaboration with those around us. Doing so makes our lives worth living inside of this fucked up world. A big part of that work is finding tools to heal ourselves and each other from all the trauma of a life lived under capitalism, patriarchy, white-supremacy and the State.

The bare bones tools of co-counseling and discharge are extremely useful for this work when coupled with a variety of other strategies for emotional liberation.

[1] Dennis Tourish and Pauline Irving, "Group influence and the psychology of cultism within re-evaluation counseling: A critique of Co-Counseling”, Psychology Quarterly, Volume 8, Issue 1, 1995, pp.35–50 quoted in Wikipedia:

[2] “Sex, Lies and Co-Counseling” by Matthew Lyons

[3] “Attack Theory: Reevaluating RC,” by Steve Carr
“One Person's Understanding of his Experiences in RC” Rich Mesek
“The Roots of Authoritarianism” by Lundy Bancroft
All of the above articles are available from The Cult Awareness and Information Center website:
See also: “Sex and Reevaluation Counseling.”
Many of these allegations are also discussed and referenced on the Wikipedia page on RC:

[4] From the Wikipedia article on Harvey Jackins:

[5] Harvey Jackins on Homosexuality: An Entering-Wedge Discussion Toward Facing And Discussing The Wider Problem, July 28, August 2, 1995.

[6] A DVD of Harvey “Counseling on the Patterns of Homosexual Oppression” is still advertised as available through Rational Island Publishers. Apparently the RC community still considers his teachings on this subject to be valid.

[7] “Draft Women’s Policy Statement” Reprinted from Present Time
No. 139, January 2005, pp. 27-34

[8] See Present Times, January, 2011, in which a full-length transcript of Harvey's talk on sex is republished without critical commentary.

[9] Harvey Jackins, The Enjoyment of Leadership, p. 3.

[10]An example of a non-hierarchically organized group promoting co-counseling is the organization Co-Counseling International, founded by former RC members fed up with the bureaucracy of RC. According to Wikipedia, “CCI is a peer network with no core structure, classes and activities are organized by individuals or groups acting self-directedly. The network consists of individuals and groups who agree to a set of ideas about what CCI is.”

[11] Steve Carr, "Attack Theory: Re-Evaluating RC", Polemicist, Volume 3, No. 5, April 1992

[12] Although RC theory contains teachings that are directly counter to the idea that one's thoughts cannot be trusted until adequate discharge has occurred (see Harvey Jackins, The Reclaiming of Power pp. 25-6), the criticism here is of what the actual implications of RC theory prove to be when put into practice.[1] Harvey Jackins, The Upward Trend, “Time to Halt Divisive Activity” p. 428

[14] “Essentialism” is the stance that identity categories represent something essential, “natural” or even genetic about a person, rather than being societally-imposed. Common examples of this are that men are emotionless or aggressive because of their hormones or the tendency to equate women with childbirth and menstruation.

[15] For a more thorough treatment of identity politics, see especially Dangerous Foundations: Against the 'Identity' in Identity Politics and also Lines in Sand by Peter Gelderloos. Both are available as PDF's on

[16] The implications of this logic can be seen in the modern environmental movement. Until the late 80's, the environmental movement focused on governments, the forestry department, industry, etc. The analysis was firmly rooted in power, in the understanding that the damage being done to the Earth was being done by those in power acting out a destructive plan on a massive scale. The role of those without power was to challenge that plan, not to police their own actions which, ultimately, were little more than a drop in the bucket. But the focus slowly began to shift toward individual consumer decisions. The individual became the primary focus and the primary agent for change. Rather than being attacked and challenged, those in power could shift their strategy to selling products that assuaged the guilt of those without power—giving birth to “green capitalism.” Rather than banning together to attack the ones responsible for destroying the spaces we love, we are offered the endless guilty navel-gazing of policing our every decision to drive or use resources.

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I had never heard of this organization until now; and frankly, I don't see why anybody would waste time critiquing it.  Just the most cursory examination of the group's own web site, let alone any of the negative press on it, makes it obvious that this is just another lunatic fringe, like Scientology or Lyndon Larouche's followers.

Very thoughtful. Thanks for writing it! I'm in a relationship with an RCer and it's been a strange experience. We share a commitment to social justice but her heavy involvement in RC- and her insistence that my concerns about RC dogma are rooted in my own personal problems and not at all justified- has led me to seek info on the web. I know there are many of us out here, seeing people we love and who share our values get sucked into RC. We need more resources and perspective like what you're offering here, to connect and frankly to seek fortitude as we fight against the crazy-making double talk that is RC. Here's another site:

    I enjoyed reading this piece, especially because I was very involved in RC at one point and loved the best aspects of it, while hating what a destructive organization it was in other ways. I disagree with the first (rude) commenter for a few reasons:
   First, a lot more people go through a period of involvement with RC (commonly referred to just as "co-counseling") at some point than the rest of the world realizes.I have had to deal in activist situations with individuals that I know were active in colluding with and covering up the massive sexual exploitation of women in RC. (I did a bunch of research and interviews on that subject, and wrote an article about it that got circulated a fair bit. I might still have it around to share it if anyone is interested. It's easily 20 years old know.) I have two people with very long histories of leadership in RC in my current affinity group. At some point I will need to raise with them my opinions about what they colluded with. I was not an important person in RC so there's no reason why they would recognize my name, but I'm well aware of theirs.
   Second, RC specifically appeals to left-leaning and radical folks, and tries to radicalize people who come through the organization. That would be terrific if the organization weren't so hypocritical in so many ways, but it's actual effect on the movement is often not good.
  Third, an RC front called United to End Racism sometimes shows up at major progressive events, presenting themselves as a group that works against racism. But actually they are not an activist group, and their only role is to recruit people of color (and other folks, I suppose) to join RC. They are being dishonest about what they are there to do and that's unhealthy for other activists.
   On the positive side, RC did a lot to spread the concept of "internalized oppression," and also helped to spread the understanding that children and young people are a severely oppressed group (the left still doesn't really get this one much, though, despite efforts by John Holt and others).
   I wish there were a way for organizers to learn some of the great skills that RC teaches, without getting sucked into its twisted dynamics. Oh, well.