Hi! I’m Caroline. My surname is New, and I’m a new Green.
Not in my beliefs, but as an activist. In the past I’ve been active as a leftie, and though I was once in a Red-Green group, the relationship between the left and the greens has always been uneasy.
My name is New, but I’m old.
I’ll be seventy in May. This is how I’ve come late to environmental activism: I was in CND as a kid, picketing the US consulate in Cardiff during the Cuban missile crisis, looking up at the sky to see if the bombs had dropped yet. I was a Marxist-Leninist (Maoist) in the seventies. I’ve written a novel about that, ‘China’s Daughter’, as yet unpublished.
I was also a socialist feminist and regular Greenham visitor. I remember the double, sometimes triple, barbed wire fences, the men and vehicles moving purposefully inside the fence, the weapon silos looming out of the asphalt and mud desert like dead hills, the women doing ‘womanly’ things (building benders, cooking over fires, chanting protests) outside the fence.
In the early 80s I was a childcare activist, and wrote a book called ‘For the Children’s Sake’ with my friend Miriam David. Its subtitle was ‘Making Childcare more than Women’s Business’. During the anti-Poll Tax campaign I was a weekly helper down the courts, a ‘McKenzie friend’ (helper) to the people called up for non payment. The idea was to spin proceedings out to make it too expensive to collect this unfair tax. I collected a lot of anti-poll tax objects and tapes from the courts, which you can find in the People’s History museum in Manchester. Then for fifteen years I was chair of my Trade Union branch (NATFHE, which was a union for lecturers in UK colleges and universities). That was a lesson and a half in varieties of sexism.
I’ve jumped around a bit, but it’s given me a particular perspective that may be useful.
Age is like a disguise welded onto your face and body against your will. People look at the mask and often they don’t see you. I wave, and that sometimes works. I am planning for ten years of active life, then I’ll review the situation. I may not get it, but I’m planning for it.
During the next ten years, I want to do something towards us humans having a future at all, and one that’s fairer and better in human terms. I think that means opposing inequality and oppression, and thinking up and putting in place other ways of organising human life. Obviously I need to join with others. But who? At the moment I am active in two areas, apart from my family. One is the Green Party, the other is co-counselling. There are many useful forms of activism, but only twenty four hours in the day.
Co-counselling (Re-evaluation Counseling, https://www.rc.org/) works through listening to each other for agreed lengths of time (five minutes each, or an hour each, etc) in ‘co-counselling sessions’. Although we pay (usually on a sliding scale) to learn co-counselling, the actual sessions are free.
In sessions you are first in one role (client, counsellor), then you swap to the other. You may need to look around the room, tell a joke, or answer a neutral question to get your attention off whatever you were talking about in the client role. Your counsellor listens to you with non-judgemental attention. S/he communicates that s/he’s on your side. Even if you’re talking about something you did that was a mistake, your counsellor will not let go of the fact of your basic goodness. S/he will encourage you to talk about whatever’s on your mind, or (you may not always want to talk) to feel whatever you need to feel, and always to notice you are not alone. As you can imagine, confidentiality is one of the basic agreements between co-counsellors.
Physical release of emotions (discharge). When you feel safe, you often find yourself expressing emotions that have been stored up from painful events in the past. As well as talking animatedly, you may cry or tremble, laugh, rage or yawn. These natural physical processes allow us to recover from old hurts, and regain our flexible thinking.
Co-counselling isn’t just for ‘people with problems’. Who hasn’t got problems? We’ve all been hurt. Some of our old hurts came from personal mistreatment. The accidents of our lives. Perhaps we were ill as a child, and had to submit to painful procedures and separation from our families. The intentions were good but we were left with inaccurate ideas about ourselves, other people and the world. ‘I must have done something bad. There’s something wrong with me. I’d better be very careful from now on.’ Some hurts are acquired through contagion; passed on from our parents’ experiences, or those of our ancestors. Current mistreatment and oppression are themselves hurtful, and they also strengthen the effects of early hurtful experiences.
As a result of all this, we become rigid and blinkered in some areas. When reminded of old hurts, we tend to relive the old feelings and to repeat the old behaviours we came up with back then. This does not serve us well in the new situations we encounter. But our natural goodness, lovingness, flexible intelligence, creativity and enthusiasm for life are intact under our rigidities. Co-counselling uses a natural healing process to free up our intelligence and to expand the areas in which we think well and act powerfully.
Re-evaluation Counselling is not a political organisation in itself. All its policies, except the basic commitment to use the process and assist others to do so, are ‘draft’ policies, put forward to work on in sessions and to aid our thinking. Co-counsellors oppose oppression because it harms human beings. We agree that the world must be changed, but we have many different ideas about how to do it. We believe no method of world change is sustainable unless it pays attention to healing emotional hurts. Co-counselling can be an invaluable support to activists, wherever they are coming from.
Nothing I say on this blog represents the views of Re-evaluation Counselling. It simply reflects the daily way I am using it, as an individual co-counsellor.
Join my adventures. Tell us about yours.