Origins of IDL


Origins of IDL

It is natural whenever we come across some body of knowledge to classify it in terms of those systems with which we are already familiar. This allows us to make assumptions about the new work that save time in both assessment and application. The danger is that we will draw incorrect or partial conclusions about it and then either close our minds or pass incorrect information on to others. We have seen this happen with Integral Deep Listening Dream Yoga, particularly among highly experienced and knowledgeable therapists. There is a tendency to observe its superficial resemblance to other methodologies and conflate it with them. Many people observe an interview and say, “that’s gestalt,” because it involves role playing, and then look no further, failing to recognize that gestalt is not transpersonal, a yoga, concerned with one’s inner compass, the six core qualities or the importance of meditation. They may look at it and think, “that’s Voice Dialogue” or the “Big Mind” process, focusing on the interviewing protocol with imaginary personalities and roles while overlooking its roots in Moreno rather than Jung, or its emphasis on stage development rather than state realization. They may look at it and think, “Oh, that’s Wilber’s integral,” without recognizing its de-emphasizing of the evolution of the self and its non-categorization of interviewed elements as “shadow,” “self-aspects,” or “sub-personalities.” They may observe its therapeutic elements and conclude it is a form of therapy; They may observe its inclusion of dreams, mysticism, and psychic phenomena and conclude it is new age, without recognizing that it does not deal with symbols, common approaches to interpretation, energy fields, a higher self, or the divine within. They may observe its categorization as a yoga and conclude it is a religious or spiritual process without stopping to consider that it does not involve God, soul, Atman, or the doctrinal aspects of Buddhism.

Without some familiarity with the contexts out of which the interviewing process evolved or, even better, experiencing the methodology directly, associations to other approaches is not particularly helpful. IDL is primarily a yoga that discloses more adequate world views and then adopts them, which in turn opens significant opportunities for healing, balancing, transformation, heightened wakefulness, and enlightenment. The less psychologically geocentric and the more selfless and polycentric that world view becomes the more adequate it is for its basic purpose: the transparent reflection of life back upon itself to further its own wakefulness. Notice that this purpose does not center around any sense of self, but rather on life. IDL views the self as a useful and necessary fiction by which life wakes up to itself. It involves a specific understanding of what it means to awaken and how to go about it; a particular understanding of the relationship between microcosm and macrocosm built around a deep understanding of breath and a particular approach to meditation; and a view of community that has major implications for personal and social decision making. The world view of IDL is transpersonal, which means it is designed to transcend and include both prepersonal and personal world views.

Various versions of the IDL interviewing protocol are in the public domain, promoted by different people under different names, and it is not uncommon for people to think that IDL was derived from one of them. It was not. The roots of Integral Deep Listening are in the sociometric methodology of psychiatrist J.L. Moreno, who also developed psychodrama and was a source for many of the concepts and methods later appropriated by Fritz Perls, creator of Gestalt therapy. Dillard learned sociometry in 1978 in graduate school and applied the methodology to hundreds of dreams beginning in 1980. Several Dream Sociometric “commentaries,” the forerunner to the IDL interviewing protocol, were created in the early ’80’s based on a series of questions developed by the author. The IDL interviewing protocol evolved organically out of the sociometric methodology. The particular questions in the various question protocols used by IDL and their order were worked out in the early 1990’s, in an effort to simplify the questions that are associated with the various commentaries of the Dream Sociometric method. You can find an example of the early commentary questions here: 

There are slightly different versions of the questionnaire based on whether one is interviewing a dream or a life issue:

There is also a version for children:


While Dillard was also trained in psychodrama, gestalt, transactional analysis, hypnotherapy, psychodynamics, rational-emotive therapy, reality therapy, cognitive emotional therapy, and was familiar with a number of other schools, such as Jungian analysis and psychosynthesis, none of these were major sources for IDL. Dillard did not hear about Voice Dialogue until about 2006, as a response of exposure to Genpo Roshi’s “Big Mind” process.

Every approach is built upon borrowed and adapted knowledge from other schools and approaches. IDL is no different. If something in the work rings true to you or is effective for you it is generally because it resonates with something that is innate and universal, and therefore can be found in many places. Therefore, IDL does not claim to offer anything new in that sense.  Because of this, IDL has no problem with people borrowing or taking parts of the work and adapting them for their own uses, with or without attribution. The purpose of IDL is to get good tools out to as many people as possible, as effectively as possible, not to receive credit for doing so.

Comparisons and contrasts with various modalities, including Voice Dialogue, Gestalt, Jungian, and NLP can be found at:

A forthcoming book will explain these relationships in more depth.

Below is a summary of some of the major sources of influence and differences from each of them.


Assumptions about dreaming and meditation from the Edgar Cayce Readings

The Cayce readings had a profound formative influence from age thirteen until twenty. This holistic world view was a fundamental paradigm shift from a Protestant Christian childhood.

Similarities: “All important life events are first previewed in dreams;” keeping a dream journal, the importance of meditation; the healer is within; holistic medicine, emphasizes intention and goal setting: “mind is the builder.”

Differences: Does not see dreams as symbolic, nor does it advocate dream dictionaries or interpretations by others until and unless they have first been interpreted by interviewed emerging potentials, not Christ centered; not theistic Vedanta, does not use karma, reincarnation, spirit communication, devotional prayer, affirmations

New Age

While most “New Age” elements can be found in the Edgar Cayce readings, it has an identity apart from them, in that it is not Christ-centered.

Similarities: Agrees that humans need to define their identity in ways that are increasingly inclusive and interconnected; recognizes and respects both the energic and psychic dimensions of life and experience.

Differences: IDL is not primarily about self, development, accessing a higher self, souls, karma,  reincarnation, spirit communication, spirituality, mystical experiences, psychic attainments, lucid dreaming, energy fields, quantum anything, or divinity. Does not believe that everything is in divine order nor that we are responsible for everything we experience. IDL views New Age belief in miracles, positive thinking, and prayer as prepersonal and largely detrimental to growth.

Moreno’s sociometry

The core realization that led to the development of the methodology of IDL came from Moreno’s sociometry. The question was, “What if the characters in a dream are assumed to be members of a group and their preferences collected, as Moreno does for students and other human groups?”

Similarities: Collects preferences from multiple perspectives

Differences: Does not use access to multiple perspectives primarily for group integration, but for aligning waking priorities with emerging priorities; collects both preferences and interpretations from self-generated “subjective” dream, waking, and “mystical” perspectives.

Moreno’s psychodrama

Similarities: role play, experiential emphasis, playful.

Differences: IDL is not primarily therapy and is not primarily focused on the resolution of waking life issues.

Carl Jung’s Analytic Psychology

Similarities: Both respect dreams, recognize culture as externalized or group dreaming, and focus on phenomenological rather than the “reality” of things and events, such as UFOs.

Differences: Jung’s work is elevationistic and emphasizes professional interpretation, symbols,  and archetypes. Jung’s “active imagination” emphasizes visualization and imagery; IDL emphasizes internalization, becoming, and expression as a different perspective in a particular form.

Psychodynamic approaches to therapy

Similarities: Both agree that waking identity is a sick puppy

Differences: While both agree that emotional, cognitive, interpersonal, intentional, or behavioral problems of waking identity are the problem, psychodynamic therapies consider competent functioning as a well-adapted ego, in line with the desires of most clients, is the goal. However, IDL views the goals of waking identity as part of the psychopathology. Psychodynamic approaches also emphasize “ego strength” and “normalcy”  while IDL views normalcy as delusional and pathological. In contrast to psychodynamic approaches, IDL does no history taking or professional diagnosis. Problems of transference or counter-transference are re-directed to the perspectives and recommendations of interviewed emerging potentials. IDL does not focus on psychic archaeology. It does not emphasize either therapist or client-entered treatment, but rather direction by interviewed emerging potentials.


Similarities: Both use role playing, emphasize context and ground as well as the here and now. Both are experiential.

Differences: IDL does not emphasize catharsis. It is a yoga and is much more structured.

Transactional Analysis

Similarities: Both are awareness and choice-based approaches to development. Both emphasize the importance of scripting, the drama triangle, and strategies for the avoidance of intimacy.

Differences: Not relationship centered, but emphasizes cognition and dreams as being equally important as sources of scripting and drama, within the circle of interventions (intention, affective, cognitive, behavioral, interpersonal.)


Similarities: Both explore and encourage access to altered and expanded states of consciousness.

Differences: IDL suspends assumptions regarding concrete and “real” other dimensions, spirits, guides, and experiences. It is not about fusion with the natural order.


Similarities: IDL shares Hinduism’s appreciation of maya, or life as dream and illusion). Both recognize and appreciate multiperspectival personifications of expanded consciousness, both emphasize yoga, or experiential disciplines for the expansion of consciousness.

Differences: IDL does not emphasize samadhi, or personal liberation, karma, reincarnation, Atman, Brahma, soul, or yoga as control and purification, for different reasons that are explained the in comparisons/contrast text.


Exposure to eastern religions in college caused Dillard to view the Cayce material as a combination of Christian Vedanta and theosophy, with innovative additions in the area of holistic medicine. His exposure to Buddhism, and particular Nagarjuna’s Madhyamika made him realize that it addressed issues and problems that were not explained by the Cayce readings, Hinduism, shamanism, or Chinese religion. This created a second major paradigm shift.

Similarities: The world view of Buddhism is closest to that disclosed by IDL. Both emphasize multiperspectival representations of expanded states of consciousness, neither are theistic, both are yogas that emphasize meditation centered on breath, both acknowledge the centrality of interdependent coexistence, the self as an ad hoc collection of skandas (sensations, images, feelings, thoughts, and states), and the importance of becoming potentials (in Tibetan deity yoga but not in Theravada or Zen.) IDL does not do so because it has a preference for Buddhism, but because the world view of the majority of interviewed emerging potentials imply congruence with those concepts.

Differences: IDL does not emphasize universal law or dharma, karma, or current life circumstances as explained by past-life deeds and circumstances in future lives as explained by current actions. It also does not emphasize the importance of reincarnation in the evolution of a self, although it does recognize that reincarnation occurs. While Buddhism is atheistic, IDL is neither theistic, atheistic, or agnostic. It views suffering as multi-conditioned rather than fundamentally due to ignorance. Unlike Buddhism, it is not fundamentally monastic, nor is it centered on meditation. Instead, it emphasizes the generalization of meditative consciousness.

Lucid Dreaming

Similarities: Both lucid dreaming and IDL emphasize becoming more conscious, or waking up.

Differences: The pursuit of lucid dreaming does not need to be approached as a yoga. While IDL does not require it either, that approach is recommended and emphasized. Indeed, lucid dreaming is often approached as a mark of spiritual attainment with emphasis on control, adventure, and pursuit of personal desires, when it is actually a line of development or skill set which is independent of one’s age, intelligence, morality, or level of development.  IDL emphasizes various levels of lucidity both awake and dreaming, rather than viewing it as an off-on switch. Emphasis is also placed on what is done with one’s level of awareness rather than focusing on some higher state or stage of awareness. Therefore, IDL does not encourage the development of lucid dreaming for its own sake, as a mark of spirituality or personal development, but rather as a natural outgrowth of waking up out of one’s waking delusions.

Wilber’s integral (AQAL)

Similarities: IDL accepts, respects, and uses AQAL (all stages, states, lines, quadrants, styles).  It provides rational criteria by which prepersonal experience can be differentiated from transpersonal experience. IDL believes the implication of Wilber’s integral is that stage access to the transpersonal is new in human evolution, because until recently the distinctions have not existed to differentiate the prepersonal belief and experience from personal rationality, and this is a pre-requisite to transpersonal stage attainment. Like Wilber’s integral, IDL also suspends ontological assumptions about the reality of entities of all sorts.

Differences: IDL emphasizes balanced stabilization at vision-logic, the intermediate developmental stage between the pluralism and egalitarianism of late personal and the oneness with nature typical of the energic or psychic. IDL is skeptical about claims of transpersonal attainment beyond vision-logic. Understanding the nature of such states is not the same as their attainment, and nature, saintly, causal, or non-dual mystical openings or experiences hardly equate to stabilized development to that stage. Normally what happens is that a person has a mystical experience, believes they understand the nature of reality, and starts to share their enlightened status with others. Because neither they nor their audience understand the difference between prepersonal or personal experiences of higher states, on the one hand, and the pre-requisites for stabilized, balanced occupancy of a transpersonal stage, they delude both themselves and others. IDL also does not emphasize the ontological status of interviewed elements because this does not reflect their nature. In practice, Wilber makes ontological assumptions that imply the existence of God and soul.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


Similarities: Both agree that emotional states are largely determined by self-talk. IDL views much human suffering as due to cognitive delusions.

Differences: IDL recognizes three different types of cognitive distortions, not just one; it recognizes the importance of physical/sensory, rule-based, and broad perceptual delusions to the maintenance of identity.


Leave a Comment

For more information, contact While IDL does not accept advertising or sponsored postings, we gratefully accept donations of your time, expertise, or financial support.