Cultivating Objectivity with Integral Deep Listening

Moving Out of Plato’s Cave Toward the Light


  As humans, we are constantly immersed in our own subjectivity. 

  We are so close to our own feelings, thoughts, priorities, and relationships that we often don’t see when and how they are out of balance. Here are a few examples:

  Our bodies: When we get addicted to a lifestyle, like high sugar and a high fat diet, or a habit like drinking or smoking, we don’t readily experience the damage we are doing to our bodies or recognize readily that our physical selves are out of balance, because being out of balance becomes our new comfortable “normal.”

  Our relationships: We have all heard the stories of abused spouses going back for more abuse. Why? Many people have experienced being locked into an unethical or unrewarding job. It is not difficult to see how we become subjectively entrapped in destructive relationships and give ourselves reasons to stay: we need the money, we want to protect our kids, or view it as a necessary sacrifice to get where we want to get in life. We tend to underestimate the price we pay in balance and erosion of our contact with our own unique life compass.

 Our priorities: Most of us have experienced being confident that a relationship, job, or move was right that later turned out to be a disaster. Confused and bruised, we look back and wonder how we could have been so wrong. We become so subjectively committed to the rightness of our decision that we do not see warning signs and ignore dreams and other life feedback that tells us we are headed off a cliff.

  Our thoughts: Most of us are identified with our thoughts; if our thinking or world view gets challenged, we feel threatened. It is not difficult to recognize our thinking is partial and subjective, and therefore only sporadically reliable and on occasion seriously deficient, only when enough time has passed that we gain some objectivity toward ideas and views we previously held so passionately. 

  Our feelings: Most of us are also identified with our feelings. If we feel sad, we are sad; if we feel angry, we are angry. If we feel happy, we are happy. Feelings are extremely important and vital, but when we are subjectively immersed in them our lives become a roller coaster of drama. Our feelings control us, and that’s not good.

Can we escape from the prison of our subjectivity? 

Like prisoners in Plato’s cave we can move off the socio-cultural bench to which we are shacked and, with the appropriate tools and support, make our way up toward the freedom of daylight. 

One important tool is meditation. It provides important objectivity, but of a distant and abstract variety. It teaches us how to objectify everything – our physical pains, worries, thoughts, and even our sense of self.  

However, that objectivity often does not translate into seeing what is out of balance on a concrete level in our lives. For example, meditation doesn’t cure addictions, fix relationships, feed children, or stop wars. It would be nice if it did, as some claim, but the historical record does not support these claims. We need meditation as a source of objectivity, but it is clear that it alone is not enough.

Another important tool that moves us out of subjectivity is the feedback of others, such as input from teachers, mentors, bosses, therapists, and spiritual leaders. 

Another is our physical environment, which provides very objective, relatively unyielding and concrete objective boundaries. However, these sources provide varieties of objectivity that tend to reinforce the status quo and socio-cultural definitions of normalcy. They will support our growth to normalcy, but not so much our awakening to our own unique and authentic path forward.

Another important tool that builds objectivity is growth itself. As we get older we generally gain increasing objectivity. We learn from our mistakes. Unfortunately, many lives are merely a process of learning what not to do and who not to be; we may never learn who to be and what work in the world is profoundly fulfilling and satisfying until we are old and about to die. This is a tragedy; wouldn’t it make more sense to gain access to our own unique life compass when we are young so that we do not have to waste so much time and experience so much misery learning from avoidable mistakes?

All of these tools or strategies are important, but they are not enough. We all know people who have all these advantages and still misuse power, authority, money, and abuse others. What is missing?

There is a broad middle ground of subjectivity that remains even after we have cultivated the objectivity of meditation and make use of the objectivity provided by experts, our environment, and growth itself.

This middle ground includes interpersonal and life dramas in which we are immersed but are too subjectively entangled to see how to get unstuck, blocks to progress with meditation and inner development, addictions, and depression, worry, or anxiety, and life priorities that feel real and important but that are likely to be dead ends.

This is where Integral Deep Listening comes in. It is designed to generate objectivity in that broad middle ground between those two extremes. It does so by putting you in touch with “subjective sources of objectivity.”

While this term may sound contradictory and even irrational, like a lump of rock brought up out of a diamond mine, it bears close investigation.

When you interview the personifications of your life issues or characters from your dreams you access perspectives that know you at least as well as you know yourself and much better than others can know you, because these perspectives are aspects of yourself, while others are not. At the same time, they add their own perspectives to your own, meaning that their perspectives include your own and also transcend your own, because these interviewed perspectives add their unique take on your life issues and dreams.

The result is the reframing of those areas of your life in which you are subjectively enmeshed, in more objective ways that include recommendations that provide practical steps for moving beyond stuckness. They also provide a way to verify the method itself. 

IDL is therefore a form of lucidity training, and we experience that lucidity as a moving out of the subjectivity of both dream and waking dramas of all sorts and into greater life clarity, flow, and wakefulness. 

As such, it is a form of waking up that is much more powerful and fundamental than lucid dreaming, or waking up in a dream, because when we do so we remain stuck in the subjectivity of our waking perspective, out of which we perceive all our experience, including dreaming and mystical experiences. 

Authentic lucidity is a lasting and growing objectivity toward those areas of your life in which you are subjectively stuck, and the acquisition of a methodology that allows you to continue to do so regardless of the challenges that you meet on your journey out of Plato’s Cave toward the light. 

Interviewing instructions and formats are available at IntegralDeepListening.Com. An overview of the various modalities of IDL can be found in Dillard, J. Waking Up. Berlin: Deep Listening Press. 

Coaching services are also available at

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