Recapitulation Reappraised
A conversation from the Sustained Action Mailing List - Part I
(featuring thoughts, suggestions and personal experiences from Gina Celiko, Daniel Lawton, Jeremy Donovan, Bern, Joan Grout, Theonna, Melissa Ward and Pio Barone)

Gina Celiko:

You can't generalize and say that recapitulation didn't work for everyone. (BTW I hate the term recapitulation.)

It certainly works for me. Maybe not exactly as they told us to do. I learned to do a version of recapitulation even before Carlos which probably is the only thing which enables me to go through life since I seem to be an extremely emotional being.

Around here [Northern California Bay Area], it is called "rewriting the past, reliving the event, releasing the charge, discharging the energy, cleansing oneself, coming clean, emotional discharge, emotional release, cleansing breathe etc." Most everyone who lives around here knows about these terms.

Recapitulation is nothing more than remembering the scene that you seem to carry a charge on. What do you think happens when a psychotherapist asks you to remember something and you remember and tell it and you burst into tears for example?

Or you tell an event that affected you deeply over and over to all your friends?

It is a very well known therapy method for example when kids go through some kind of trauma, to have them tell what they saw over and over, with as much detail as they can remember, no matter how painful it seems for the child, until all the emotional charge disappears. When that happens, the trauma becomes only a story with words and finally child becomes clean of emotional charge. One can tell from the voice and the way child relates the story.

I myself had a lot of experience with children who faced major trauma and was a part of a voluntary team in applying this rehab technique for these children. It was so easy to see where they started, how they started and at the end, the remarkable difference after the release of the emotions when finally they shared their story.(maybe 20 times)

Recapitulation is nothing more than releasing the charge you have over an event. It is as simple as that.

One can do that by breathing through it, by talking about it, by writing about it, by singing or playing music, dancing or running while feeling the energy of the event.

It works beautifully when one masters it and understands the essence of what needs to happen.. I don't know about true believers, but in Marin County where I live, I know tons of people who practice and live by it.

Recapitulation is just a Castaneda term and I don't like to use it.

Dan Lawton:

Remember what recapitulation did in the books? Now look at what it does, it's just a psychological release. I was hoping to end up in the second attention on a windy mountaintop with my twin, or to die and be sent back by the eagle. Bait and switch.

I put an obsessive amount of effort into recapitulation. No bragging intended. To summarize, I had a list 30 to 50 computer pages long, spent about 3 years at ?to 6 hours per day. I stayed with each topic until I absolutely couldn't remember anything else. I was careful to keep a smooth head movement, tried to fan the events with a sweeping motion, etc. I paid attention to every detail I knew, carefully.

When I was done with my list I retraced my life, everywhere I'd been I visited, looking for things I forgot. After that I started visiting stores and looking at the items on the shelf to find new memories. As I drove in my car I scanned every object on the road, no matter how small, to find more to recapitulate. Even bubble gum stains and loose bolts from engines.

After that I got a small dictionary and proceeded to use each word to find more memories. I must admit I had to stop that, the dictionary was just too big. So I did a second recapitulation with a random order.

I doubt anyone else did it more completely. Here's what I predict people will discover. Any emotional release you got will fade away with time. The effect is temporary. Check it out. You'll recapitulate something, and you'll definitely notice it doesn't bother you as much. But wait a couple of years. It'll come back to haunt you, maybe even more strongly.

So it's bait and switch again. For you Europeans, "bait and switch" means a store advertises one product, but when you get there they have a more expensive and less useful product and they sell you that instead.

Originally a complete recapitulation was supposed to set you free. True, there was some hint you couldn't do a complete one the first time around. But it was supposed to produce a transformation, and bring out the second attention.

Then, since it really doesn't work, the witches and Carlos changed the rules. You have to keep it up forever. Naturally, because the effect is only temporary. And probably psychological. You feel better for the same reason people in a cult feel better. Because you are following rules, making an effort, and telling yourself this is improving you. Probably learning to hop on one leg all the time would have just as good of an effect, if you really believed it was releasing things.

I'm exaggerating about it not working, but only a little.

Look, having hang ups and things that bother you could also be considered "experience." Something makes you feel bad, so you don't do that again. It's part of the mindset of being a seeker (which I have) to believe we ought to go around in a peaceful state all the time, like someone who's been tranqualized. What if it turns out that it's better to go around sometimes mad, sometimes scared, sometimes anxious, etc. Why is it better to feel nothing? The only egoless people I know are dead ones.

Gina Celiko:

Of course you can't go and recapitulate your whole life. That's nonsense. That will never work. That's where they bullshitted and didn't even understand the basic workings of a human psychology.

You are right. If we become totally empty, theoretically speaking, we wouldn't need to be in this earth. Of course, we wouldn't know where we would be or what we would want, because I don't know how it feels to become totally empty.

But, life doesn't work that way. That's where those idiots screwed up. Recapitulation of one's life is a stinking idea and one that tells me that these people didn't even understand anything about emotional energy.

The things that I have released successfully break a pattern. They don't reoccur in my life. They don't come back. I become free of it.

And of course in no way I am perfect. It doesn't mean that. As a matter of fact, I have very strong likes and dislikes. But, I am very comfortable with being that way. But, what happens with emotional release that it doesn't matter that you aren't perfect. You just don't carry a charge over it. You don't care anymore that you aren't perfect or it happens again, you are perfectly comfortable with it and your buttons don't get pushed.

So, it has been my experience that, no, it doesn't come back. And I have been doing this kind of work for the last 10 years now. (Not talking about recapitulating one's life, I haven't done that even with Castaneda, never even believed that when he told us.)

Daniel Lawton:

you just don't carry a charge over it. You don't care anymore that you aren't perfect or it happens again, you are perfectly comfortable with it and your buttons don't get pushed.

That part totally worked. It's still working to this day. I'd add that if you recapitulate like mad, your whole life is before you at any time, like a matrix you can palpably feel. That's almost magical, and I can see how that might produce dreaming experiences. But that part is really hard to keep up. The matrix fades away as soon as you stop recapitulating.

What I'm wondering is whether worrying about things like this is really better? It takes away time from other things you could do which would be just as fulfilling, and it also exposes some questionable things on which the social world is based. But seeing those holes might not be better. Like eating a drug and realizing all humans are involved in folly. It doesn't make you live a better life, maybe it worsens it. People who smoke marijuana get to see the folly of social behavior over and over again, but look at how their lives usually sink into stagnation.

One of the reasons people get married and raise a family is because of images in their heads that have been put there by socialization. If you left it up to men, they'd probably fuck and leave pretty soon to find another. But they often stick around. Now as a man, would you lose that socially charged feeling that you have obligations? I did. As a result, I don't get involved with women anymore because I'm not willing to do the things that go along with the mating.

I see what it leads to, and I'm no longer willing to accept responsibility for all that's required. The result is I won't end up with grandchildren, which seems to be the bliss of all the old people I know. Old people are sometimes the wisest and happiest people you could imagine, contrary to what Carlos said. I recently attended my mother's 70th birthday. She was surrounded by 4 very successful (financially and artistically) sons, a daughter with a doctor's degree in biology who heads the California wine industry defenses, and 4 incredibly beautiful grandchildren. The grandchildren are like beautiful dolls you'd buy in an instant if they were for sale, but she doesn't have to deal with the hard work of raising them. She was showered with gifts, pictures from the 1900s of her ancestors were displayed, stories were told about her father (who's now gone), and she seemed to have a deep connection to a successful and stable family line. Later on she commented it was the happiest day of her life, and I could see why.

Better off to break those bonds? Maybe not. When you're young and either don't realize where you're really headed, or someone's convinced you you're going somewhere else, you don't think about the consequences. Just as younger people think they're invulnerable. Cleargreen has a superstitious belief that if anyone mentions trouble, no matter how inevitable, they're intending it, and that by not mentioning it or considering it you can escape it. A very juvenile point of view.

I'm not putting down doing anything at all when it comes to self-improvement. We have no choice anyway. We were born to be seekers.

My latest idea is that maybe we're programmed genetically to do that. It's been shown that in a given society some people will only eat the same foods, and some are programmed to seek out new foods. The theory is that it's safer for a culture to stick to the same thing, but it's also good to have some which will try new things, at their own risk. Maybe they try mushrooms and die, maybe they discover a new food source. So when a famine comes around for the old foods, the experimental person comes to the rescue, if he's still alive. It's good for the tribe to have a tiny portion of dissatisfied people, but not good to have too many.

Replica Watches  Replica Watches

Maybe likewise some are programmed to leave the tribe, to seek out new leaders, in order to mix genes. Maybe we're the unhappy one's programmed to fall for the first new leader that comes along with a teaching that tickles our fancy. In that case we'd certainly feel it was a superior way of behaving, just as we sometimes feel during sex that we're doing something deep and fulfilling. But it's just chemicals programmed in our brain to motivate us. We're the ones designed to seek out and find new things, or be destroyed doing it.

Just a theory. My idea is that part of being a seeker is feeling it's better to be that way, but in reality it isn't. All the seekers I know reek of the belief that they're superior for being a seeker, and pity people they consider "blind" to self-improvement. And they pretend they're not that way, but you only have to hang around with them and watch them continuously judging everyone to see the truth.

So, it has been my experience that, no, it doesn't come back.

My experience is that the little stuff, for instance remembering something stupid you did that used to make you feel remorse, does come back. For instance, I'll suddenly remember saying something really stupid at 5 years old, and it will bother me again. After I recapitulated that event it didn't bother me. But now it bothers me even more because the memory is very vivid in my mind.

But the big stuff, like being willing to get into a long term situation that you now see clearly, doesn't come back because you have a clear realization of all the events surrounding the other times you did that, instead of the muddled and narrow view most people hold. Maybe ignorance is bliss.

Jeremy Donovan:

I've definitely had the experience of major emotional release while utilizing techniques of reexperiencing life events. However, I have also come to feel that the method is not at all the panacea it has occasionally been made out to be. I'd say it has definite limits.

I know that techniques of reviewing the past are often quite beneficial regarding the experiences of childhood, for the simple reason that often there is some cognitive misunderstanding involved which causes major pain or suffering to a child. Simply reviewing the events in question from an adult perspective can bring obvious insights that immediately release a lot of suffering. I was reminded of this just yesterday, while reading--of all things--a jokes web page. I don't know what this was doing on a jokes page, for it was more a moving story than a humorous one. I will reproduce it approximately:

A little boy, after a terrible bout, survives a rare disease which is often fatal, developing the appropriate antibodies to defeat it. A few years later, his sister contracts the same disease, and the doctor asks the boy if he will give his blood to his sister, to save her life. The boy thinks for a minute, then says that he will do it. They set everything up for the transfusion, and a few minutes into the procedure, the boy looks up and fearfully asks the doctor if he will begin to die right away? After additional questioning, it comes out that the boy believed he was being asked to give his sister all of his blood.

Things turned out okay there, but this story illustrates how a childhood cognitive misunderstanding which is not properly explained (and often it isn't) can easily result in some heavy psychological suffering that may be cleared up by reviewing the events --- perhaps buried for years --- from an adult perspective.

Now for the reservations. My own experiences, if I am completely honest about it, lead me to believe that recovery from extended life experiences which are genuinely painful or traumatic ... is only partial. And what I've learned about the human brain makes this observation seem somewhat logical.

As we "learn" and/or experience life, our brains are literally "rewiring" themselves, all the time, making and breaking millions of neuronal connections. And what it seems like to me is that truly painful series of events practically burn themselves into the brain or something, due to the sheer intensity. The recap, while it may approach the intensity of the original experience, is never quite as intense, simply because you know ... it's a recap. And what I've noticed is that I can recap a painful series of events until much emotional release has been obtained, and yet ... if subsequently I am once again placed in a similar situation, I am still quite vulnerable and sensitive, almost as if it has been burned into my mind to expect the likelihood of an unfortunate result in such a situation. Thus I have begun to wonder if really intense experiences cause millions of neurons (or whatever) to be "set" in ways that simply are not completely reversible. In fact, intuitively I feel this scenario to be probable. It is like ... once certain things have happened in a life, a person just never really fully "gets over it" (hence the irritating nature of the phrase: "get over it" :-) ). I'd love to be convinced otherwise.

This train of thought leads me to consider the possibility that there might even be such a thing as a simple, natural, "brain-based morality": Thou shalt not brand the fuck out of thy neighbor's neuronal networks. Or perhaps, thou shalt not trash thy neighbor's limbic system. Something like that...

See, I am wondering, if major events in the brain are not fully reversible, does it not follow directly from that alone that our conduct in each moment has real and significant moral connotations?

The other major reservation I have about the process of recapitulating I have expressed here before, but will reiterate. Even under the best of circumstances, recapitulation seems to bring a person back psychologically to what might be called "ground zero", where one may no longer be suffering direct negative effects from past events and patterns which were crippling before. But ... ground zero is at best ... ground zero, and thus will not in and of itself change anything in one's life. Again, you may no longer be suffering from what happened before, and yet, you still know what happened before, and may because of that avoid similar situations. So perhaps even ground zero is really often more like ... "ground zero minus one." The point is that in order to truly change, it is not enough just to get back to ground zero. Because it is really "ground zero minus one", one has to go beyond that point and overcome the "minus one" by acting positively to get something good out of life where perhaps things were bad before.

In other words, you could sit around and recap forever and it might not really change your life for the better at all. You could keep saying to yourself: "until I feel like I'm done recapping and things get better, I won't go out and do x,y,z again" or something like that, and ... if you do, things might not ever get better. Unless you go beyond "ground zero minus one" by acting positively and actively creating some good life situations, you could very well sit stuck (perhaps in relative comfort) in "minus one" mode in many life areas ... until it's too damned late and the opportunities of life have passed you by. And in fact, to be honest, that's exactly what I find myself and others doing, a lot of the time. :-(

The final point I'd like to make concerns the possibility of what might be called "over-recapping". The best way to make this point may be just to point out the criticism that the cognitive school of psychology often levels at the psychoanalytic school. The cognitive school holds, basically, that by monitoring one's thoughts and utterly refusing to allow oneself to dwell on negative or self-defeating thought patterns, one can direct the experiences of one's life toward more positive outcomes. From that point of view, about the worst thing you could be doing to your cognitive state is to be continually immersing yourself in every difficult situation you can dredge up from your past. From the cognitive point of view, to recap events of loss or failure all the time is simply to risk continually reprogramming your cognitive state by over-emphasizing whatever self-defeating thoughts were common to those experiences, instead of doing what you should be doing: focusing on creating positive and fulfilling experiences in the present. A possibility to consider...

Recapitulation Reappraised - Part II