Are Interviewed Characters “Self-Aspects” or “Emerging Potentials?”


“Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself.”- Richard Bach

I saw this quote on line the other day and I found myself thinking,”Which one of my multi-faceted selves am I to be true to?”

An interesting question!

In IDL you interview many different perspectives, all of whom are at least partially self-aspects which are offering you alternative solutions for how to look at your life, your life issues, and what to do to heal, balance, and transform your life.

One of my students commented that these were all “false selves,” and self-created illusions.

This reminded me of an important distinction that IDL makes that is rare in both psychology and “New Age” thinking.

While the perspectives of dream characters and personifications of your life issues that you interview are clearly not God or gods or your “ultimate identity,” and in that sense are “false selves,” they are, on the whole, more aware, objective, and wise than we are. By “we,” I am referring to the waking identity of the person who is being interviewed.

This greater wisdom and higher level of development is based on the fact that most interviewed elements score higher than we do on some of the six core qualities. Therefore, it is true and correct to say that in many ways they are more “real” than we ourselves are. They are generally less invested in drama, cognitive distortions, life scripts, and delusion than we are.

Therefore, my answer to Richard Bach’s statement would be that you have no obligation to be true to anyone or anything, but you would be very wise to practice integral deep listening to multiple perspectives and to apply in your daily life those recommendations that make sense to you.

That’s the first point.

The second point is that for IDL these interviewed dream characters and personifications of your life issues are much more that “selves” or “self-aspects.” While almost all of them will tell you that they personify this or that quality or characteristic that you possess, they also clearly personify potentials that you do not possess.

Think of it this way: What is the “self” of a seed that possesses the potential of the fully grown tree? What is the “self” of the fetal mammal that possesses the potential of a fully grown dog, giraffe, or human?

We can say that the potential exists, and we can predict that if life unfolds as it usually does, that a canine fetus will become a full grown dog someday, but in any specific instance the particular life course and outcome of the growth process for that dog, giraffe, or human is overflowing with multiple alternatives and possibilities. Things are indefinite; where, how, and when a being takes form is a creative response to an interplay of internal and external, individual and collective decisions. This randomness and multiplicity of possibilities is vital and essential to the evolution of life and consciousness. If everything were predetermined there would be no evolutionary purpose for adaptability; it wouldn’t be necessary. The fact that adaptation is everywhere, in everything, makes a very strong case that you have multiple possibilities for your future and multiple potentials that you may grow into. None of it is pre-determined and none of it is “in divine order.” You get to choose. There is no higher self or God limiting your choices like some puppeteer pulling your strings, nor is there some divine Rescuer or savior that is going to rescue us from global warming, terrorists, ebola, or our addictions. Fortunately and unfortunately, that’s up to us.

We cannot say that any interviewed character represents your “real self” but only serves as a vector that points toward healing, balancing, transformation, and your inner compass.

This is why IDL has not, for several years now, referred to interviewed dream characters or personifications of life issues as “self-aspects.” It is because they are clearly and significantly more than aspects of yourself, just as the future reality for a seed or fetus is clearly and significantly more than an aspect of that seed or fetus.

Why did IDL change this wording and this concept from “self-aspects?” Because with enough interviews it finally sunk through into my thick skull and psychologically-indoctrinated groupthink, that they were much more than self-aspects.

This is why IDL calls these interviewed elements “emerging potentials” rather than self-aspects. It is not that they are not aspects of self; it is that they are that and more. To say they are self-aspects limits and distorts their fundamental nature, which is to function as a “non-self” that is a possibility for you to grow into if you so desire.

For example, let’s say you are confronted by Godzilla in a dream. You’re scared. You wake up and think, “That was a dream!” If you’re smart, you also think, “I was scaring myself! Why did I want to do that?” If you are wise in addition to being smart, you will recognize that this question is important and that you don’t have a sure answer to it, but perhaps you can shed light on it by interviewing Godzilla.

When you do so, what do you find? You probably discover that he is indeed an aspect of you in that he personifies some part of yourself that you are scared of or that threatens you. However, what you will generally also discover is that Godzilla is not you at all in important ways. For instance, he doesn’t mind scaring you in order to wake you up, and he probably scores higher in some core qualities than you do. Therefore, it is equally correct to say that Godzilla is not an aspect of yourself, even though he clearly personifies aspects of your personality and says as much. But if he is not, what is he then?

This is where New Age thinking can go off the rails. Shamanistically-inclined people will postulate parallel universes in which your Godzilla is a real being; you took a trip into his universe in your dream. So they say, “If he is not a self-aspect, he must be real.” You will also see this in the accounts of near death experiencers. Their mystical visions are so real, powerful, loving, and transcendent, that the characters in them couldn’t be self-creations; therefore, they must be real.

Where the first conclusion, that of psychologists, that reduces Godzilla to a self-aspect, is reductionistic, in that it limits Godzilla to a personal fantasy, the second conclusion, by shamanistic and some New Age approaches, tends to be elevationistic, in that it raises Godzilla to a status of independent reality, like near death experiencers do with Jesus, white lights, and deceased relatives.

IDL attempts to take a middle path between these two extremes. It does this by pointing out that Godzilla is a self-aspect in that he is a dream image or a fantasy from a life issue, that knows your thoughts and feelings better than anyone could, because he is a part of you, but, at the same time that Godzilla includes you, he also transcends you, in that he represents potentials that you do not possess. However, this does not make him “real” or external. What it does is make him an emerging potential. He is a potential, because you can potentially internalize Godzilla’s qualities and become more or less like him; he is emerging, because his presence gives metaphorical and experiential life and reality to new possibilities that are moving both into consciousness and therefore moving more into incarnation or reality in your life.

There is another problem with the New Age assumption that even our potentials are part of who we “really” are – the point of view Richard Bach’s quote represents.

If you so expand your definition of “self” to include everything and therefore to mean whatever you want it to mean, it ends up empty. By empty, I mean it doesn’t signify anything except some gauzy idea of perfection that you have. That idea of perfection is static and unreal but very comforting, like a security blanket or a pacifier. The reality presented by the experience of your interviewed Godzilla is neither.

IDL is not impressed with the idea of being true to who you “really” are, because who you “really” are is not the same as you will be in five minutes or five years, and to say that it is the same requires a belief in predestination and omniscience, both of which are not part of the experience of interviewed characters, nor of anyone that I know.

While perfection is a noble ideal, functionally, it plays the roles of both rescuer and persecutor in the Drama Triangle, throwing us into the role of victim. This is because we attempt to rescue ourselves from the stuckness of our human existence by clinging to some perfectionistic fantasy, but because perfection is by definition unattainable, it is unrealistic. Consequently, our rescuer becomes our persecutor and we beat ourselves up because we are not perfect.

While “self-aspect” is a “practical” and “realistic” way of looking at interviewed characters, it throws us into the role of persecutor of our potentials, in that we rob ourselves of the challenges that come from accepting their reality: that we are not yet them and that in many ways they are more than us.

This is why for IDL interviewed dream characters and personifications of life issues are neither merely aspects of self, but neither are they ideal, real, and true others, like gods or God. They are potentials that are in the process of being born, through us, into our consciousness, and through that into existence.

But that birth and flowering is by no means assured. How many interviews have you done? How many of those characters do you remember? How many of their recommendations have you actually acted upon? The truth is that most of these emerging potentials are stillborn, like a seed or fetus that never gets a chance to grow into its potential.

Whether it will or not depends entirely on whether we choose to listen to them and apply those recommendations that they make that make sense and feel useful to us.

It is not necessary to remember all of them, or to act on all their recommendations. What is important is that you remember some of them and seriously and methodically act on some of their recommendations. It is quality you are looking for, not the quantity of some massive number of interviews.

Why am I explaining all this? Because this distinction is central to IDL. Its students and teachers need to understand it so that they neither, on the one hand, reduce the potentials and possibilities within themselves and their students, or, on the other, so glorify either their consciousness or some identity that it becomes perfect and unattainable. Both choices will land you and your student in the Drama Triangle. Both choices are cognitive distortions. Both choices are not IDL.

By all means, I invite you to think and believe whatever you desire about those characters that you interview. If you call yourself a student of IDL or a teacher of IDL then you need to understand and be able to communicate to others why dream characters and the personifications of life issues are for IDL emerging potentials. 

I invite your questions, comments, and disagreements. This is an evolving community and IDL is an evolving work. Just know that when you interview others you change lives in ways that are so fundamental the results may not be seen for months or years. Seeds are planted in only one interview that can plant someone’s feet securely on a path to a better life.

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