Dealing with Difficult People: IDL and Personality Disorders

Internal Conflict

This is  a chapter from an unpublished text, Integral Deep Listening and Healing. It deals with using IDL for the treatment of personality disorders, including borderline, dependent, narcissistic, paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, antisocial, histrionic, obsessive-compulsive, dissociation, and possession.

Chapter 6

The Formation of a Sense of Self

How Do We Develop a Sense of Self?

As infants we learn to tell the difference between our bodies and our environment. At this fulcrum, our “self” is first and most fundamentally our body. We know it is ours because it has feelings and sensations that we can change. Things that do not change are not us; they are “not self.” Our identity switches at that point from fusion with the material world to an identity with an emotional-feeling body, called fulcrum two. Wilber describes the second fulcrum level of development as ‘phantasmic-emotional.” Basically, your self-sense resides in sensations of hot and cold, bitter and sweet, loud and soft, hard and smooth, and feelings of good and bad. Thought and awareness is concrete. As the conceptual mind begins to emerge and develop around three to six years, we eventually differentiate a more clearly delineated emotional sense of self and a mind that can begin to put ideas together. This is called the third fulcrum. At each of these stages our sense of self changes. Our identity has gone from matter to body to emotion to early mind. What it means to be a self and have a self changes fundamentally and profoundly.

Early Psychopathologies

If our mind fails to differentiate from bodily feelings, it can be overwhelmed with painfully strong emotions, histrionic mood swings, and have great difficulty with impulse control. The result is developmental arrest. Our mental-emotional development becomes fixated, stuck at this level, even as our bodies continue to mature. If mind and body differentiate but are not then integrated, differentiation goes too far into dissociation. The result is a repression of the body or some lower level, by the mind or some higher level.

If your emotional bodyself has difficulty differentiating itself from others, the result can be a number of different personality disorders. Personality disorders are pervasive and profound disturbances in self-image that arise in the first two years of life. They are commonly defined as “an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment.”[1]

Because these distortions arise preverbally or at an early verbal yet clearly preconceptual age, they are not rational, nor do they respond to talking therapy. Personality disorders are confusing and deceptive to most people. This is because people with personality disorders can be charming and very capable in many ways. They can be successful business people or professionals. It is common for those around them to not grasp the fundamental, profound, and relatively intractable nature of behaviors that are often initially passed off as superficial personality “quirks.”

People with personality disorders have problems maintaining successful interpersonal relationships. The way that they perceive themselves is distorted. Emotional expression can often be inappropriate to circumstances, sometimes creating a sense of dramatic exaggeration. In narcissistic personality disorder others are treated as extensions of ourselves.   In borderline personality disorder others are constantly invading and disrupting the self’s boundaries, which are rigid and fragile, yet thin when not completely non-existent. It is only when these patterns lead to distress or impairment of functioning and the ability to carry out one’s life in a fulfilling way that consideration of personality disorders begins to make sense. All of this tends to create conflicts with others.

For people with personality disorders feelings define the self. The experience of this is held over in common language. We say “I am mad,” or “I am happy,” or “I am bored,” or I am jealous.” This language defines the self as emotion. This should give us pause, because our potential is largely determined, defined, and limited by the words and concepts we use to define ourselves. The more limited they are, the more limited we make our potential; the more expansive our self-definition can be, the broader our potential becomes. Individuals with personality disorders often present with depression and/or anxiety as the primary and obvious issue at hand. Recurrent depression or anxiety may indicate an underlying personality disorder. When an underlying personality disorder exists, if it is not addressed, there is an excellent chance that reduced depression and anxiety will simply sprout again and contaminate the landscape of consciousness.

People who are fixated at higher levels of the second fulcrum may have learned to pretend to take on those life roles necessary for survival. However, they have not learned how to empathize. Consequently, these people assume that what is good for them is good for you. They assume that their needs are not only most important; theirs are the only important needs. It is completely and unconsciously assumed that their agenda is God’s agenda, that others exist to fulfill their needs, and that their agenda is life’s agenda. They cannot conceive of it being any other way, because their needs are what is important. Therefore others, God, and life exist to fulfill those needs. Their waking agenda is the only set of needs that exists. Everyone else, everything else, either exists to support the attainment of those needs or else they are useless, purposeless, and meaningless intrusions.

If personality disorders are beginning to look devastatingly self-centered to you, you are correct. There is not just one form of narcissism or self-centeredness. Actually, self-centeredness is a type of disease that exists on every level of development. It simply has a different flavor or expression at each level, meme, or structure of consciousness. People with personality disorders have trouble differentiating themselves from others. That is why they need the security of a polarized and split sense of self and sense of others. Without such an ability to clearly and severely differentiate, there is no sense of protection against being overwhelmed or engulfed by others. Because healthy distinctions have not formed, disorders in one’s sense of boundaries create artificial distance on the one hand, and create inappropriate and uncomfortable closeness, on the other. Here is an example:

Ron dreamed that Hannibal Lecter, the psychopathic killer from Silence of the Lambs, had a knife. He was standing behind Ron, cutting his throat from the back, clear down to the windpipe. There was no blood. When we talked to the blood that wasn’t there, it said that it did not come out of Ron’s body because it didn’t want anyone to know that he was wounded. Hannibal Lecter said he was the part of Ron that was uncontrolled, self-abusive rage. It was recommended that the dream be changed so that Lecter was operating on Ron’s heart. However, Blood did not trust Lecter to do that. “He should be in rehabilitation in some sort of controlled setting and Ron can be getting heart surgery from some qualified surgeon.” Blood said that if it were in charge of Ron’s life it would have him in therapy where he can let people know about his wounds who can help him. They would also be able to help him deal with the angry part of himself.

In the above example we can see a split between one aspect of Ron that wants to hide his wounding and another that is incapable of hiding its abuse. Personality disorders, then, are characterized by splitting, concreteness, a failure of empathy, identification with feelings as definers of the self, and boundary disorders. There are a number of different types of personality disorders. By reviewing them you can begin to understand why some clients do not respond to IDL interviewing as you might have expected them to.   Remember that these clinical definitions arise out of a tradition of diagnosis and treatment. While such tools can be used concurrently, they are not necessary to Integral Deep Listening. From the perspective of the evolution of the self, diagnostic labels are basically names for different types of fear and resistance. The types of personality disorders include paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, histrionic, dependent, antisocial, narcissistic, avoidant, borderline, and obsessive compulsive disorders.   Other disturbances that arise at the second fulcrum include dissociative disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder, passive aggressive, conduct, oppositional defiant and identity disorders, conversion, somatoform, somatoform pain, and fictitious disorders. In addition, psychogenic amnesia and fugue as well as hypochondriasis all involve second-fulcrum disturbances in one’s basic self-sense.

Contrary to common opinion, there is nothing inherently fragmenting about role playing or character identification. For example, psychodrama has been used with schizophrenics for years without precipitating regressive episodes. On the contrary, emerging potential identification gets people unstuck and in touch with stabilizing and transformative self aspects.

Empathy is an emotional identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of others. It basically requires a sense of self that is strong enough that it does not feel overwhelmed by experiencing the world from another perspective. All that empathy requires is that a client pretends that they are six again and imagine that they are a particular dream character, life issue personification, physical symptom, like Blood in the above example. The more a client lets themselves play at taking the role of their emerging potentials, the easier and more natural it will seem.

While true empathy, the ability to see your world as others see it, does not generally arise until a child is at least seven or eight, pretending is almost innate. Almost every child can imagine that they are a mommy or daddy, a teacher, doctor, or soldier. Consequently, most people, excepting the most concretely character-disordered or actively schizophrenic, can learn Integral Deep Listening. The inability to take the role of another is diagnostic. It may indicate an inability to be empathetic, a disability that is associated with borderline, narcissistic, and other personality disorders. Concomitantly, practice in imagining that you are this or that emerging potential cultivates the ability to empathize. As such, Integral Deep Listening promotes an expansion of self-identity without undermining whatever degree of ego strength a person already has.

Borderline Personality Disorder

In borderline disorder, personality is split, on the one hand, into a helpless, dependent, compliant part-self with a clinging defense. The other part-self is “totally worthless,” “rotten,” and “evil-to-the-core.” It has a distancing or withdrawing defense. The dependent and compliant part-self sees the people and objects of the world very differently from the rotten part-self. Associated with the compliant and clinging part-self is an all-good, rewarding, and protecting part-object. Associated with the “rotten-withdrawing” part-self is an all-bad, angry, attacking, and vengeful part-object. This is called “splitting,” because not only is one’s sense of self divided, but one’s perception of others is split into extremes as well.

Getting into the role of a emerging potential means the surrender of one or another of these part-selves. It also creates the possibility that part-objects, such as parents or helping professionals may no longer be seen as simply all-good or all-bad. This is threatening to people with borderline disorder, because these distinctions create structure that provide security. Fear of the collapse of this structure keeps these people from easily getting into role. Conversely, inability to get into role can be a mark of a person with a personality disorder. This is an example of how IDL interviewing can be used diagnostically.

A person who suffers from this disorder has a long-standing pattern of unstable and highly changeable interpersonal relationships and emotions. This instability and variability is seen in most, if not all, areas of life. Relationships and emotions appear to be shallow. A person with this disorder may also exhibit impulsive behaviors and exhibit a majority of the following symptoms:

  • frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
  • a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships, characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
  • identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
  • impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
  • recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior
  • affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
  • chronic feelings of emptiness
  • inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
  • transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms

These people tend to careen through life from crisis to crisis. Feelings are so strong that they overwhelm normal reality testing. Emotionally-charged perceptions become reality, creating many conflicts with others. These individuals will tend to see you as either the blessed rescuer or the cursed persecutor, with very little room for any grey in between. Experience is polarized into good or bad, right or wrong, friend or foe, with one becoming the other in unpredictable ways. In their own minds these clients are innocents and well-intentioned victims who are misunderstood, taken advantage of, and constantly abused.   Because they push those they care about away from them, their fundamental and intense fear of abandonment is often validated by life events and expressed by extremes of avoidance or clinging possessiveness.

Individuality is emerging but fear of engulfment or abandonment paralyzes the individual. Others are viewed as extremes of good or bad; there is an inability to tolerate

– good/bad dichotomization of others

– compliance/withdrawal

– a flooding of experiences

– anxiety, depression, severe thought disturbance

Because these individuals are hyper-sensitive to abandonment, they may attempt to provoke you to abandon them, thus fulfilling their expectations. The solution to this is not to make up your mind that you will stick with these people no matter what, because such a decision will expose you to abuse. It also fails to create boundaries that are essential to security within the teaching environment. Integral Deep Listening deals with these issues by redirecting attention away from one’s role as teacher and spiritual guide and toward the client’s relationship with their own intrasocial support community. You have little actual control over how your client perceives you. Even if you did, the relationship that matters is your client’s relationship with themselves, with their own self-perceptions.   You can redirect their attention toward those emerging potentials that value them and that provide unconditional acceptance in a form that is understood by them. If you view yourself as one just more emerging potential who is misperceived by them, you will drain away some of your need to take a stance in relation to the distorted perceptions of these clients. The result is a reduction in both transference and counter-transference.

This is also the preferred response to expressions of self-abuse and self-hatred. How are these expressions perceived by emerging potentials of the dreamer themselves?   It is important to have these clients agree not to hurt themselves and to call you or 911 if such urges arise.

The problem here is not that a strong self represses the body, but that there isn’t enough of a strong self to begin with. There is not yet a repressed unconscious. There is little repressed material to “uncover,” because the self has not been strong enough to repress much of anything.   The self is not yet strong enough or structured enough to “push” contents into the unconscious, and so instead simply rearranges the surface furniture. The boundaries between self and other are either blurred (narcissism) or very tenuous (borderline), and the self shuffles its feelings and thoughts indiscriminately between self and other, or groups all its good feelings on one subject (the “all-good part-object”) and all its bad feelings on another (the “all-bad part-object”). All the various thoughts and emotions are present and largely conscious, but there is considerable confusion as to whom these belong to–there is a fusion, confusion, or splitting of self and object representations.

The psychotherapeutic techniques common used in these instances are therefore called “structure building;” they attempt to build up the self’s boundaries and fortify “ego strength.” The aim of therapy here is not so much to uncover “unconscious” drives or impulses, but to build a structured sense of self. to help complete the separation-individuation stage (F-2), so that the person emerges with a strong self and clearly differentiated-integrated emotional boundaries. These F-2 approaches are called “structure building techniques” as opposed to “uncovering techniques” and include aspects of object relations therapy, psychoanalytic ego psychology, and self psychology.

The aim of therapy in these less-than-neurotically structured clients is to enable them to reach the level of neurosis, repression, and resistance (F-3).   It is to help the individual re-engage and complete the separation-individuation process. This requires understanding and neutralizing the two central defenses that the individual uses to prevent separation-individuation from occurring: projective identification (or fusion of self and object representations) and splitting.

In projective identification, the self fuses its own thoughts and feelings (and particularly self-representations) with those of the other.   This inability to differentiate self and other leads to the self engulfing the world (narcissistic disorders) or the world invading and threatening to engulf the self (borderline disorders).

“Optimal disillusionment” is a structure-building technique for the narcissistic disorders, and involves benign ways of letting the narcissistic self realize that it is not as grandiose or omnipotent as it thought or feared.

In splitting, the particular thoughts and feelings also remain largely conscious, but they are divided up or compartmentalized in a rather primitive fashion. Splitting apparently begins in this way, at least according to those in the “nurture” school of developmental pathologies: During the first 6 months or so of life, if the mothering one soothes the infant, it forms an image of the “good mother”; if she upsets it, an image of the “bad mother” forms.   At this early stage, however, the self does not have the cognitive capacity to realize that the “good images” and the “bad images” are simply two different aspects of the same person (or “whole object”), namely, the real mother. As development continues, the infant must learn to integrate the “all-good part-object” and the all-bad part-object” into a whole image of the object, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad. This is thought to be a crucially important task, because if there is excessive rage at the “all–bad part-object,” the infant will not integrate it with the loving “all-good part-object” for fear it will harm the latter. In less technical language, the infant doesn’t want to realize that the person it hates is also the person it loves, because the murderous rage at the former might destroy the latter. The infant therefore continues to hold apart, or split, its object world into all-good pieces and all-bad pieces (and thus over-react to situations as if they were a dramatic life and death concern, “all-good” or “all-bad”).

There is no reason why these people cannot continue to develop a healthy personality structure as a result of deep listening. This is a realistic goal in the context of Integral Deep Listening, one that is much more to the core of the issue than is merely moving the individual toward independent functioning or more stable relationships, regardless of how important these relatively superficial changes may be. They become much more feasible, with a reduced likelihood of relapse, if the underlying personality structure becomes healthy.

A good example of what can happen when a person has serious boundary issues involved the fascinating case of a gifted psychic. From childhood he had been able to accurately predict accidents and deaths, an ability that scared people and made him something of a social outcast. He had worked hard in his life to keep his sense of self from being flooded with these impressions, because they could be overwhelming and produce unpredictable consequences for him. As an adult, he was still psychic, but much better able to shut out a constant barrage of impressions. The price that he paid for setting up rigid internal boundaries to protect his sense of self from being overwhelmed by these impressions was a complete and total inability to take the role of any emerging potential. He had lost his ability to empathize or to take the perspective of others because to do so would be to expose himself to a sense of self-loss. This was the price he had paid for developing his chosen defenses as a child. If this fellow had been shown how to take the role of alternate authentic perspectives when he was a child he would have been able to maintain boundaries as needed, yet not have to expend the energy required to stay in a defensive mode all the time.

Poor impulse control is typical among clients with borderline personality disorder. Karla is a 38 year-old, aging “wild child” with a history of abusive relationships, alcohol and drug addiction. She kicked out the abusers and stopped using but she is still addicted to impulsive anger outbursts. She was rewarded as a child for impulsivity. “I threw a toy through a living room window and all the adults in the room laughed.” Karen, an alter-ego who drives the car of Karla’s daily reality, is a surrogate for her wild child self. She is still an active alcoholic. When Karla chooses to “go for a ride” with Karen she gives herself over to her impulses. We interviewed the Car, as it was Karla’s metaphor for her Karla alter-ego: “Car: I am a convertible Mustang. I am good looking, really fast, and I sound really souped up. I am very changeable. I can be different things, like a car and a bed. I have more uses. I don’t care that Karen is driving me but it scared me that she was driving so fast. I thought she wouldn’t be able to handle me and I would crash.”

If this (sensation/feeling/event) were a color, what would it be?

“Hum, I fluctuate between red and black. It cannot ever be red and black at the same time. It’s a Borderline thing cause it’s polarized opposites, either this or that.”

Imagine that color filling the space in front of you so that it has depth, height, and width.


Now imagine that expanse of color congealing into a shape. What shape does it take? An animal? Human? Entity? Plant? What?

“Um, kind of looks human. I can’t really see anything but sometimes it looks like a heart, but sometimes it looks like a person. It fluctuates between this and that.  It’s not very big, well a heart shape is about this big and the person is about this size. You know what I’m talking about. I have to get this woman out of my brain. It feels like an evil red and black worm, sucking my brain cells out of my brain. Red person and the heart, black worm kind of ugh… kind of ugly, awful, kind of like well, reminds me of a sneaky snake like in the Garden Of Eden that fucks things up, kind of worms into my brain without me really knowing that it’s beginning there and then starts fucking with shit in there like the will make a connection between, like two synapses and just when you think that you feel good and it’s going well, it moves and gets all fucked up and you can’t figure out where or why it went, but then you feel it again when it tries to make this connection again and it disrupts everything and leaves behind little bits of black ugliness..I don’t know what that means…”

“Black shit maggots. Red image is the heart and the person fluctuates and sometimes the red is mean and angry, but sometimes the red mean angry means love and when the heart is big with love, than the red person appears and the heart disappears, then I think it’s angry. There is no heart there. It’s not love. Like the person makes it go away, but the heart really wants to be there. It really wants to be it’s natural self, which is love…”

“Disappearing heart and eating maggots.”

Borderline disordered people are so invested in drama and their delusional inner reality that maintaining the focus and structure necessary for growth is the essential priority for any intervention. Consequently, err on the side of too much structure, not too little. Require too much focus, not too little. These people think they know what they need; if you let them dictate the terms and conditions of treatment they will defeat treatment and themselves.

Dependent Personality Disorder

All of us possess dependent characteristics, precisely because we not only passed through prepersonal stages of development, but because we need healthy dependency to exist and grow. We are dependent upon the environment, the government, our families, our employers, and the actions of other drivers on highways. The misguided attempt to replace dependency with independence and interdependency discounts the legitimate and therapeutic place of healthy dependency in our lives. Dependent personality disorder, however, represents an extreme case of what can go wrong with dependency. No personality disorder more clearly expresses a prepersonal fixation than does dependent personality disorder. A fear of separation and abandonment leads to “clinging behavior” and a chronic need to be taken care of. It includes a majority of the following indicators

  • has difficulty making everyday decisions without an excessive amount of advice and reassurance from others.
  • needs others to assume responsibility for most major areas of his or her life.
  • has difficulty expressing disagreement with others because of fear of loss of support or approval.
  • has difficulty initiating projects or doing things on his or her own because of a lack of self-confidence in judgment or abilities rather than a lack of motivation or energy.
  • goes to excessive lengths to obtain nurturance and support from others, to the point of volunteering to do things that are unpleasant
  • feels uncomfortable or helpless when alone because of exaggerated fears of being unable to care for himself or herself.
  • urgently seeks another relationship as a source of care and support when a close relationship ends.
  • is unrealistically preoccupied with fears of being left to take care of himself or herself.

Dealing With Dependent Personality Disorder

Because individuals with dependent personality disorder are usually quite needy and crave attention, validation, and social contact, they will attempt to please you in order to gain your approval. This may make you feel confident and valuable, but these feelings have very little to do with you as a person or with the quality of work that you are providing. They are attempting to please you so that you will recognize them as a nice, compliant victim and treat them as a nice, kind rescuer. These clients will want you to listen to their complaints as a way for them to feel validated. They equate your receptivity to their ventilation with your acceptance of them. If you attempt to redirect their attention to problem solving or to character identification they may feel ignored, slighted, or invalidated.   Their desire for acceptance, nurturance, and security lead them to passively accept almost any approach to help, which means that while they are more compliant than many clients, it is a superficial compliance based on a fear of rejection. This fear blocks any authentic investment in getting better and makes real change difficult. Many therapists get hooked into this because their natural tendency is toward validation as effective rescuers. In addition, listening to endless ventilation lengthens therapy, which means they make more money. The trade-off is that you, the service provider, stay stuck in the Drama Triangle, are not helping your client/student, and have to deal with abysmal, suffocating, creativity-destroying boredom.

Attempts at gaining validation by those with dependent personality disorders often involve a subtle but genuine amplification of emotional, interpersonal, and physical symptoms. Depression, anxiety, perceived slights, and physical health problems all become amplified in consciousness and exaggerated in their retelling. Issues seem more and more overwhelming and incapable of solution. Do not minimize these complaints; simply redirect attention to the input and feedback provided by various interviewed emerging potentials. The role of health care provider is generally too compromised and encumbered with unrealistic expectations and non-attainable needs to provide the rescuing so desired by these clients. Consequently, they either drop out, are referred for being “non-compliant,” or simply stay stuck. These people need to develop the structure of an intrasocial support community comprised of nurturing parent-surrogates in the form of interviewed emerging potentials that can contain and direct feelings of neediness. The other advantage is that drama is redirected to awareness of conflicts among perspectives rather than between the client and others, such as yourself. If you attempt to do too much or overextend yourself, you may find yourself experiencing impatience, anger, or avoidance of these clients. This is a tip-off that you have fallen into the rescuer role of the Drama Triangle.

To avoid burnout with these people, set clear boundaries and avoid overextending yourself. Integral Deep Listening deals with this issue by avoiding engagement in the client’s life issues. Attempts to seek validation, support, and constant reassurance are redirected to the more central matter of accepting internal validation from one’s own inner compass, validation that has always existed and is clearly at hand in the elaborations of various emerging potentials. As these clients experience authentic, undeniable internal acceptance, their need for external validation is reduced. With that reduction comes a reduced investment in passivity. The client can begin to risk honest recognition of their feelings and work on the positive expression of them to others. They can begin to understand how drama manifests in the three domains of relationships, cognition, and dreams and to understand and change their emotional, formal, and perceptual cognitive distortions. Of course these strategies are fundamental to the teaching agenda of any Practitioner of Integral Deep Listening

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissism, which is an unhealthy identification with self at the expense of some broader definition of identity, can exist at all levels of consciousness. Clients with narcissistic personality disorder present with a pervasive pattern of grandiosity. This may be demonstrated overtly in behavior or merely exist in their own inner self-portrayal. These individuals have an excessive need for admiration and lack empathy. They demonstrate five or more of the following:

  • have a grandiose sense of self-importance. They exaggerate achievements and talents and expect to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements.
  • are preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • believe that they are “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions.
  • require excessive admiration.
  • have a sense of entitlement. They make unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with their expectations.
  • are interpersonally exploitative. They take advantage of others to achieve their own ends.
  • lack empathy. They are unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • are often envious of others or believes that others are envious of them.
  • lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others

Everyone has some degree of narcissism and grandiosity. For example, many people think that God has given them special work to do. This is grandiosity. Almost everyone views life from the perspective of their waking identity rather than from the perspective of life. This is narcissistic, but does not constitute the same type or degree of pathology found in narcissistic personality disorder.

Dealing with Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Individuals who present with this constellation of characteristics have a fragile and unstable sense of self for which they attempt to compensate with feelings of self-importance, personal invincibility, and an image of perfection. They attempt to convince others that these qualities present a true and accurate statement of who they are. They carry an air of importance and an expectation of entitlement. These clients will fight the loss of the feeling of safety inherent in a cohesive sense of self when their sense of personal invincibility is threatened by illness. They may experience a sense of personal fragmentation. Others are experienced as self-extensions and as aspects of a grandiose and exhibitionistic self. Their purpose is to gratify self’s needs. The purpose of the world is to mirror self’s perfection.

These individuals tend to be charismatic and exude a sense of confidence and competence that invites a respect that the other sex finds attractive but abusive. Consequently, you are much more likely to be working with the partners of these individuals than working with the clients themselves. They are often paired with partners who are passive, dependent, and unsure of themselves. Because the client with narcissistic personality disorder tends to be viewed as an idealized projection of their partner’s disowned inner strength, partners often have a very difficult time coming to grips with the reality of the situation. They tend to believe that the weaknesses and insensitivities of their partner are superficial and that if they are just given the right type of love their partner’s true, wonderful nature will assert itself. This delusion dies very, very hard.

These clients tend to be tightly wrapped and are also likely to view you with disdain and even contemptuous disregard, often hidden behind a façade of confidence and assurance. As for other borderline profiles, you will be seen in terms of black and white, as a superhuman savior or devalued demon. This is a defensive attempt to maintain a sense of mastery and superiority over a sense of internal imbalance.   Control over others is a statement of control over fears of inadequacy and shame associated with dysfunction, which is viewed as an expression of imperfection and weakness.

They also will tend to respect power and misinterpret your receptivity as weakness. Attempt to demonstrate the transformative inner power of interviewing emerging potentials, preferably indirectly through watching you work with others. If impressed, they are likely to view you as a magician or wizard of some sort who they do not understand but still respect. They may at that point be willing to suspend disbelief enough to work with you. As mentioned before, this will generally only be until symptom relief is attained. At that point they are likely to withdraw from the relationship, because it will be perceived as a threat to their autonomy and independence.

These people rarely self-refer for therapy. They are most likely to present themselves for the treatment of some somatic problem they cannot escape, such as chronic pain. Keep your focus on addressing the pain. Respect their boundaries. Court-ordered or those pressured by family or teachers into therapy need good reasons to take the process seriously. You need to find what’s in it for them and show them how IDL can help them resolve their life issues and reach their goals.

Because the majority of dream content is too threatening to their sense of control over their lives, these clients generally do better interviewing life issues than dreams. For these people, to identify with an emerging potential means to surrender control, and to do so in a very spontaneous and unguarded way. All of this arouses intense fear of loss of identity in these clients. However, everyone has life issues, and if you discover one or two that they have a deep emotional involvement in, they may be willing to work with role identification. Discuss the client’s discomfort so that they will amplify their experience of it. Next have them give it a color and a shape. Do not emphasize character elaborations that may threaten their self-image. They may do well observing the process of other family members with Integral Deep Listening. This does not threaten their fragile sense of control and yet they are able to vicariously benefit from the growth process that others go through.

Paranoid Personality Disorder

Paranoid personality disorder is different from paranoid schizophrenia.[2] These individuals display a pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others and interpret the motivations of others as malicious. They display four or more of the following characteristics:

  • They suspect, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting, harming, or deceiving them.
  • They are preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or trustworthiness of friends or associates.
  • They are reluctant to confide in others because of groundless fears that the information will be used maliciously against them.
  • They read hidden threatening or demeaning meanings into benign remarks or events
  • They persistently bear grudges. They are unforgiving of insults, injuries, or perceived slights.
  • They perceive attacks on their character or reputation that are not apparent to others and are quick to react angrily or to counterattack.
  • They have recurrent unjustified suspicions regarding the fidelity of their spouse or sexual partner.

Dealing with Paranoid Personality Disorder

Individuals with paranoid personality disorder rarely present themselves for treatment, for fairly obvious reasons.   Attempts to establish rapport are generally met with distrust, increased distance, and early termination. Instead, focus on helping these clients build rapport with their emerging potentials, of whom they have little reason to be suspicious. It is difficult to find reasons to distrust and be suspicious of imaginary figures, especially if what they say sounds and feels both authentic and true. Consequently, IDL is best presented to these people as a harmless, superficial game of pretend. Emphasize silliness, absurdity, stupidity, and irrationality as a way to defuse issues of power, control, threat, and overwhelm. The combination here is to be childish but interesting while offering something desirable. You can also build trust in the process by having them first interview someone else, like yourself, or by having them watch you interview someone else.

Do not attempt to build trust with this type of client because it will generally only create suspicion and distance. Instead, encourage them not to trust you. By bringing up the issue of trust from the beginning and attempting to defuse it you build credibility while defusing issues of threat, power, and control. This also creates a double bind by presenting the question: “Is it safe to distrust someone who tells me not to trust them?” In fact, you are asking them to trust you when you say that you will teach them tools that do not depend upon their trust of you or anyone else. They will be hesitant to take you up on this proposition, but this is an honest proposal, and one on which you can reasonably expect to deliver if your client is willing to even pretend to get into role.

Gaining trust, of course, your first and largest challenge with all clients with personality disorders. If you merely accomplish this small step with this population you have accomplished a great deal. Therefore, direct their trust toward tools that help them achieve their life goals rather than trusting you. Any role identification is a big step for these clients. Find out who they admire. Interview that personality to find out what they value and fear, how well they can get into role, and familiarize them with the interviewing protocol. If they become fluent in taking on the role of various other emerging potentials, they are on their way to identifying with a self-sense that includes and transcends their fractured, fragile split self. If they do not, then they are basically stating that they are unwilling to trust themselves. Take baby steps in role identification, helping them to become used to the slightest shift in identity.

As learning progresses your client may show signs that they are beginning to trust you. Be careful to neither assume this trust or to rely upon it, because these clients tend to extend trust, feel it has been betrayed, and then withdraw. To avoid this, continuously redirect their trust toward the tools you teach by encouraging them to put them to the test in their lives in areas that matter to them. Shift their trust to their interviewed emerging potentials and away from you. Paradoxically, as they learn to respect and trust their own emerging potentials, they will find themselves more able to tolerate the necessary ambiguity and vulnerability that accompanies trust of others.

Integral Deep Listening provides an opportunity for bizarre paranoid ideation to surface earlier than it typically does. This is because the process grants permission for irrational and unacceptable images, thoughts, and feelings to be expressed. When a client is acting on paranoid beliefs the issue is not whether you agree, disagree, believe or disbelieve. Your opinion not only is irrelevant; with these clients it can be positively detrimental. It is not your role or position to challenge your client’s belief system. Even if you are directly asked what you think or believe, your best tack is to redirect the enquiry to the perspective of this or that emerging potential.   Your task is to put your client in touch with relevant interviewed perspectives and have them give the client feedback on the client’s beliefs and actions. This constant redirection will build your credibility by maintaining your neutrality. Paranoid delusions are not that different from other delusions, just as at foundation dream delusions are not that different from the self-delusion of normal waking experience.

As always, focusing on issues that are of concern to the client increases the likelihood that your time will be relevant and produce assistance that directly relates to matters of concern to your client. For example, if their issues revolve around paranoid delusions of being under surveillance by the CIA (not such a paranoid delusion in our day and age), simply follow the structure of the interviewing process and allow various emerging potentials to make whatever comments they so desire. This will provide you with much more understanding than your questions of these withdrawn and suspicious clients ever would. In fact, the fewer questions that you ask, other than those directed toward emerging potentials, the better. Review the process and list of questions before you begin, making sure that your client understands what you are going to do and why. This will reduce suspicion.

Schizoid Personality Disorder

These clients demonstrate a pervasive pattern of detachment from social relationships and a restricted range of expression of emotions in interpersonal settings, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:

  • neither desires nor enjoys close relationships, including being part of a family
  • almost always chooses solitary activities
  • has little, if any, interest in having sexual experiences with another person
  • takes pleasure in few, if any, activities
  • lacks close friends or confidants other than first-degree relatives
  • appears indifferent to the praise or criticism of others
  • shows emotional coldness, detachment, or flattened emotions

These clients may be in enough pain due to their social isolation to risk coming to see you, but they generally will not self-refer. More likely, they will be brought by someone else or these personality traits will surface incidentally and secondary to their primary life issues, which may involve health, finances, or the absence of meaningful relationships.

As a relatively non-threatening first step, ask them if they ever pretended that they were a teacher or soldier or parent when they were a child. Ask them if they ever imagine that they are someone else or have different abilities or powers. If there is a tree outside the window, you might have them imagine what it would be like to be it. If they still have trouble, ask them what their favorite possession was when they were a child. See if they are willing to imagine that they are that object. If they are able to do so, attempt to have them become a favorite living thing – a plant or cat or dog, for instance. All of these steps are preparatory to a more thorough and more typical approach. If it takes several sessions to arrive at your normal starting place, take the time. Respect the resistance. A solid foundation will pay off later. This advice applies to all clients, but particularly to those with personality disorders.

All of this is relatively non-threatening testing of their capacity to take the role of another. If these tentative steps meet with acceptance, proceed with a dream character or the personification of a life issue of concern to them, steering away initially from humans and human dream characters. This is because these clients tend to have restricted and disinterested relationships with people.

If these clients are able to develop empathetic, trustful, and intimate relationships with their emerging potentials they will more than likely generalize these perspectives into their social relationships. Consequently, Integral Deep Listening holds the potential for non-threatening social rehearsal through the elaboration of intrasocial relationships. If these are primarily with non-human imaginary objects that is much less important. As in all cases, the content and statements of particular emerging potentials will explain the nature and solution to the inner fixation in development.

Your focus is to put the client in contact with those emerging potentials that understand how and why they are stuck and what they need to do next in their development. This is a potent form of intrasocial “group therapy” that provides powerful support in socialization. Fears of dependency are met head on by practicing interdependency through identification with non-threatening emerging potentials. As the client experiences such dependency on a self-chosen basis, exploring their ability to withdraw from the dependency at a time and in a manner that is self-chosen, confidence in interaction without engulfment grows.

Feelings of isolation and fears of closeness are common for these clients. The reduction in isolation that comes from experiencing an internal support system is a major improvement in the quality of life for these individuals. Repeated identifications dissolve fears of closeness. Rejection by an emerging potential is extremely rare; if it does occur for these individuals, they may see that it is they who are rejecting themselves. The perception of rejection then becomes a choice, subject to control by the client.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder

These clients display a broad pattern of social and interpersonal deficits. They have a reduced capacity for close relationships, which cause them acute discomfort. In addition, they experience cognitive or perceptual distortions and eccentricities of behavior, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  • ideas of reference (excluding delusions of reference)
  • odd beliefs or magical thinking that influence behavior. In children and adolescents, bizarre fantasies or preoccupations.
  • unusual perceptual experiences, including bodily illusions
  • odd thinking and speech such as vague, circumstantial, metaphorical, overelaborate, or stereotyped speech.
  • suspiciousness or paranoid thinking.
  • inappropriate or constricted affect.
  • behavior or appearance that is odd, eccentric, or peculiar.
  • lack of close friends or confidants other than first-degree relatives.
  • excessive social anxiety that does not diminish with familiarity and tends to be associated with paranoid fears rather than negative judgments about self.

Dealing With Schizotypal Personality Disorder

While these individuals display the same extreme social anxiety and discomfort with interpersonal relationships common among those with schizoid personality disorders, they also exhibit distortions of perception not seen in the former.   These individuals report feeling “different” and not “fitting in.” Integral Deep Listening addresses this issue by providing the client with experiences of “fitting in” with intrasocial groups that are in fact very familiar despite their superficial differences. This tends to reduce the client’s sense of alienation and isolation from others because they slowly come to feel less different from others. Interviewing dream characters will probably be less threatening to these people than interviewing waking life events.   However, they may do well interviewing physical symptoms, because they are unlikely to have as much of a built-in resistance to doing so.

If these individuals become delusional to a point that it interferes with their reality testing or their ability to function adequately in their normal realm of life, referral for medication may be the best course.   Once they are stabilized, you can then proceed.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

Adults carrying this diagnosis have a history of ignoring, minimizing, discounting and abusing the rights of others.   Merely failing to treat others as they wish to be treated is a “normal” psychopathology that is hardly limited to those with this disorder. They go beyond, chronically and actively treating others in ways that they would not want to be treated themselves. Problem behaviors common for people with this disorder include:

  • failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.
  • deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure.
  • impulsivity, or failure to plan ahead.
  • irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults
  • reckless disregard for safety of self or others.
  • consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations.
  • lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

All people have antisocial traits that surface in behaviors that express conformity to the norms of social subgroups that are not accepted by society as a whole. Proselytizing Christians in Russia or some Moslem countries might fall into this category, in that these people believe, like those with antisocial personality disorder, that they are in the right and that there is nothing wrong with their behavior. The larger society that has problems with the behavior are in the wrong and need to change. Other examples are abusive, unlawful, or discriminatory fraternity rites, corporate and governmental dishonesty, avoidance, and stealing, and commercial misrepresentation in advertising.

Dealing With Antisocial Personality Disorder

While it is unlikely that you will run into one of these individuals as a self-motivated client of Integral Deep Listening, you will find some of the characteristics associated with ASPD cropping up in many clients. Therefore, it is important to have a general sense of what this syndrome looks like. Because those carrying these diagnoses usually lack remorse for their disrespect for the rights of others, they are easily assumed to be callous and not possessing any real feelings. A cursory interview with just about any emerging potential will quickly dispel this common myth. At this time there is no research that supports the use of medication for direct treatment of antisocial personality disorder, although related problems such as anxiety or depression are routinely treated with psychotropic medications. The juvenile version of this syndrome is called oppositional defiant disorder.

Because of a fundamental tendency to misperceive the inappropriateness of their behavior and to minimize its impact on others, people with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) rarely seek treatment on their own. They are generally forced to seek counseling by an irate spouse, a concerned family member, or by the courts. More than most, this diagnosis carries social stigma, with these individuals commonly mislabled sociopaths or psychopathic. All people who have antisocial behavior do not have ASPD and criminal behavior does not automatically qualify a person for this diagnosis.

Integral Deep Listening can be particularly effective with these individuals because they are typically resistive to more traditional forms of therapy. Because they often see no need for therapy these individuals tend to be unmotivated and to view forced therapy as a game or as a system to manipulate to their own ends. Of course, it is very difficult to do this with Integral Deep Listening; all one can really do is refuse to get into role. In that case, if the client is willing to interview their resistance to getting into role, the process may be salvaged. Because it invites the client to identify three life issues, Integral Deep Listening begins where the client finds themselves invested. Consequently, there is no need to get the client to “buy into” a diagnosis or your agenda for healing. All they have to do is identify three life issues, which they will most likely do, and to take the role of this or that emerging potential. The issues they choose may be very concrete and superficial, such as, “How not to come here anymore,” or “To get the judge to dismiss these charges.” It is irrelevant what the issues are. If such issues motivate your client, you have a basis for interviewing emerging potentials.

Integral Deep Listening also deals with the issue of lack of motivation more effectively than does most psychotherapy, which is generally limited with this population to addressing relatively superficial issues, such as learning new coping skills or how to improve relationships, which these clients may simply tolerate because it is non-threatening and does not deal with their problem behavior. Integral Deep Listening deals with the basic issue of undervaluing the needs of others by taking alternative perspectives and identifying with those needs. This avoids the issue of teaching ethics and morality while functionally accomplishing exactly that. Because how we treat ourselves is projected outwardly onto the world, as these clients come to appreciate and respect the legitimate needs of other legitimate perspectives that they own, they naturally develop what is commonly called a “conscience.” Such perceptions naturally expand the self-sense to incorporate a natural empathy for the concerns of others. In addition, Integral Deep Listening supports a movement toward a more realistic self-appraisal through identification with those perspectives that fill in the perceptual gaps.

These clients tend to experience a disconnect between their behaviors and at least some of their emotions. The absence of this ability is one indicator that the sense of self of these clients is fixated at a prepersonal developmental level. This connection between emotions and behavior is best taught not by you, but through identification with emerging potentials that have such a connection, as most personal and transpersonal emerging potentials do. Any discussion of antisocial behavior is likely to be met with resistance unless it is brought up by the client or by an emerging potential during the interviewing process.

These clients are used to coercion and threat and may expect the same from you. You will know that you have become personally over-invested in the relationship if you find yourself polarizing into the role of critical parent playing opposite a devious, manipulative, and narcissistic child. Some therapists deal with this issue by attempting to align themselves with the client in their desire to avoid incarceration, the court system, or additional treatment. In Integral Deep Listening you do not need to do this, since it does not matter whether you align with the client or not. You do not have to create a therapeutic liaison for this process to work. It is better, in fact, if you stay neutral and neither align yourself nor refuse to do so. This is because an alignment followed by a failure to produce the desired result in the eyes of your client may justify their avoidance of any form of work while a refusal to align will be seen as an antagonistic position. As with all personality disorders, there will be a tendency to see you as a rescuer or a persecutor. By all means, discuss the Drama Triangle and invite them to explore when and how they get into it. The more you focus discussion on their relationship with their emerging potentials rather than about your relationship with them and your opinions about them, the more likely you are to avoid the dead ends that result from polarization, transference, and countertransference.

There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to help these people if they are with you because they want to. The key is to find roles that they want to identify with initially until they learn the process and become comfortable with taking the role of the other.   These can be social roles that they aspire to: millionaire, lover, jock.   Have them get into these roles just like you would have them become any other emerging potential and then interview the role just as you would any emerging potential. If, in the course of the interview, some strong emotion comes up, try interviewing the emotion following the typical life issue interviewing protocol: First, have them describe it to help them fully experience the feeling. Then have them choose a color that best represents the feeling. Then have them experience the color as filling the space between the two of you. Finally, suggest that the color condense or distill into some object, animal, or person. Interview it.

Because people with ASPD often have had few if any significant emotionally-rewarding relationships in their lives, developing emotional relationships with emerging potentials is very important to their healing. Again, this is much more likely to be successful than attempting to develop a healthy emotional relationship with these clients. These clients generally trust neither themselves or others.   Before they can trust you they need to discover authentic perspectives that they can trust. If you depend upon such a relationship to provide a structure for healing, as can often occur with other conditions, such as depression and anxiety, you will probably find yourself disappointed due to the low tolerance these clients have for stable and intimate relationships of any sort. For this reason, go slow with the role playing and focus first on superficial roles to reduce the likelihood of reaction to the threat of an intimate relationship with some aspect of themselves. Because Integral Deep Listening, and in particular Dream Sociometry, emphasizes identification with emotional states in the statement of degrees of preference, it is a natural and powerful tool for helping these clients first identify their feelings and then connect with them. It also supports the accurate labeling of feelings within self and within others, since emerging potentials self-identify their feelings, thereby teaching the client how to appropriately identify their feelings.

While Integral Deep Listening naturally encourages Practitioners to take an unusually neutral stance with clients, this point needs to be emphasized when working with ASPD. This is because these clients have strong oppositional relationships with authority figures. Attempts to play some other, more neutral role, such as friend or spiritual teacher, is most likely to be perceived as an attempt at control by an authority figure. Avoid the temptation to instill fear as a way to get the respect, attention, and motivation of these clients. Such a strategy generally reflects a lack of creativity on the part of society and its representatives. Instead, remember that as your client confronts and listens to fearful or threatening emerging potentials they will outgrow this fundamental psychological stance.   They will also be able to meet what they fear internally rather than having to externalize it as a karmic date with the judicial system.

Generally, a playful approach is excellent with these clients and with personality disorder profiles in general. It implies that you do not take yourself or their “rehabitation” too seriously. This defuses drama and makes you more approachable. It also reduces opportunities for both transference and counter-transference.

One young man who had a history of lying and stealing had no trouble getting into role. A sword that was interviewed from a dream, said, “The only thing I dislike is that there are never enough battles. I never had the chance to show my abilities of being born to kill. I represent the part of this dreamer that has the ability to cut through people’s emotions in a split second without feeling any pain or remorse. I like to cause deep pain from my jagged edges. I am in control. I like to be handled in a way that I can work to my full potential to destroy as many enemies as possible. I like myself for making a living hell for those around me.”

How do you work with someone like this? First of all, this fellow was excellent at getting into role.   These clients generally do not have that degree or type of impairment. This client, (we’ll call him “John,”) was able to acknowledge weaknesses in role that he was unable to make in waking life. Various emerging potentials made the following statements: “My peace of mind is at a 4 because I have to stay edgy and ready for war. I can’t be laid back.” “I’m weary from handling so many people. We get what we want but we are empty inside because the fights are over.” “For peace of mind stop anticipating everything. Chill out and wait for it. If John had the choice to fight or have peace of mind he would have a lot less enemies and have a better chance of getting a better job and have more fun.” Sword said, “I would like to tell him to take me out only when it is necessary and not when you are in a bad mood and flip out. Think about it first.”

These comments tell us that John contains a level of rationality which sees that his behavior hurts him and that he would benefit by changing it. Such an approach appeals to John’s self-interest but is totally self-directed, avoiding all the control issues and power struggles that these clients tend to provoke with authority.

Histrionic Personality Disorder

These individuals present a pervasive pattern of excessive emotionality and attention seeking, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  • is uncomfortable in situations in which he or she is not the center of attention.
  • interaction with others is often characterized by inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior.
  • displays rapidly shifting and shallow expression of emotions.
  • consistently uses physical appearance to draw attention to self.
  • has a style of speech that is excessively impressionistic and lacking in detail.
  • shows self-dramatization, theatricality, and exaggerated expression of emotion.
  • is suggestible, i.e., easily influenced by others or circumstances.
  • considers relationships to be more intimate than they actually are.

Dealing With Histrionic Personality Disorder

People with histrionic personality disorder tend to be overwhelmed by their life issues and therefore, in the eyes of others, exaggerate them. They are also more likely to ask for help than those with other types of personality disorders because they tend to be emotionally needy, chronically playing the victim in search of a rescuer. People with this disorder can come across as “fake” or shallow in their interactions, expressing all of their feelings with the same depth of emotion.

As with other types of personality disorders, there is no reason why these students of Integral Deep Listening should not make real gains in healing prepersonal wounds and moving solidly into a healthy personal level adaptation. This is contrary to most clinical approaches, which focus on short-term and immediate adjustment issues, primarily because most therapy is ineffective at altering the basic prepersonal fixation of these people, and also because these clients tend to be unrealistic in their long-term goals.

Be careful not to present Integral Deep Listening as some “magical cure.” It is not. However, it is appropriate to tell your client that they can expect immediate and ongoing improvement if they will follow your instructions and, more importantly, implement the recommendations of their emerging potentials on an ongoing basis. All clients, but particularly those with personality disorders, need to understand that fundamental and deeply ingrained issues will not change overnight. Insight is not the same as ongoing healthy responses to life’s stressors.

Avoid being caught up in the drama of these client’s daily lives, remembering that to do so is to make their waking identity and its issues the center of the learning process. These people will attempt to take control of therapy by telling long self-serving stories of victimization in which they have no choices. When you attempt to problem-solve when problems are framed by the client you will arrive at no-win validation of the client’s stuckness. This will only emulate the way that your client has been attempting to live their life. Their continued attempts to do so largely explains why they remain stuck. If you validate and support the perceptual framework of their waking identity you will simply reinforce maladaptive perceptions. The challenge, of course, is to withhold support for dysfunctional patterns without thereby causing the client to feel discounted or to feel that you do not take their concerns seriously. The truth is that you take them so seriously that you are unwilling to trivialize them by supporting the same old approaches that have not worked for them in the past: endless ventilation, seeking temporary and superficial emotional support and sympathy, and looking for a rescuer to make the problem go away. Fortunately, the solution to this dilemma is simple and straight-forward. Redirect questions and concerns to interviewed emerging potentials. Let them respond to the needs of the client. Give them reasons to allow interviewed emerging potentials to set the agenda as well as priorities.

Body image is a central concern for people with histrionic personalities, and self-esteem is strongly associated with attractiveness and physical abilities. This is because their self-sense is still strongly identified with first and second fulcrum consciousness. They may seek reassurance from you in these areas and interpret any positive responses as sexual. You may find yourself perceived as sexually attractive by histrionic clients. This should be treated as a projection of idealized and unrealistic expectations. If you allow yourself to feel flattered or attractive you will simply drop the phenomenologically-based objectivity that is fundamental to IDL. Such externalized fantasies must be discarded at some point along their journey of healing. If they see you affirming its reality, you will at some point be discarded as well, and rightfully so.

Histrionic clients should be carefully screened for any history of suicidal gestures. As with all clients, establish a no-suicide contract early in the relationship. If the issue arises, attempt to provide the client with helpful, stabilizing feedback from various interviewed emerging potentials. However, if they are unwilling to make a no-suicide contract, or if they show no progress, refer them to more appropriate levels of treatment.

The tendency toward superficiality, style, and appearances often emphasized by histrionic clients can be counteracted by putting them in touch with authentic perspectives that are sincere, honest, and responsible. While these clients are often incapable of examining their own assumptions and motivations, their dramatic flair enables them to assume roles. This will help them to consider alternative explanations for behavior and to examine both relationships and life issues from various relatively objective points of view.

Histrionic clients may display a tendency to alternate between numbing, apparent disregard, and a minimization of concerns, on the one hand, and on the other a flood of feelings regarding a potential loss of both capabilities and self-image. Patients of both sexes may attempt to draw you into a rescuing, admiring role in order to ward off anxiety associated with the threat to self-esteem that is posed by their illness. If the issues of these clients appear at times to be hypochondriacal, malingering, or overly absorbed with the physical, focus on what their emerging potentials have to offer regarding these conditions. Their remarks will place those conditions in proper perspective, and do so in a way that the client is much more likely to accept.

While psychodynamic approaches tend to emphasize helping these clients develop insight into the reasons for repeated failure in sustaining love relationships and promote healthy independent decision making, Integral Deep Listening does not recommend that the agenda be set by the Practitioner, beyond setting, time, payment, and getting a no-suicide contract. The issues addressed are themselves produced either by the client or by various emerging potentials in response to the stated life issues of the client.   Notice that the emphasis is not placed on resolving the life issues of the client; they are the pertinent and relevant jumping off point from which to access the priorities of the inner compass through deep listening. Part of the beauty of such an approach is that the client builds their own cognitive bridge from the drama of their waking life issues to the more fundamental, substantial, and meaningful perspective of life.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

These individuals experience a pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:

  • are preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost.
  • show perfectionism that interferes with task completion. These clients are unable to complete a project because their own overly strict standards are not met.
  • are excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships.
  • re overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values.
  • are unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value.
  • are reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly their way of doing things.
  • adopt a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes.
  • shows rigidity and stubbornness.

OCD responds to medication better than other personality disorders, implying that it is probably a first rather than a second fulcrum disorder in that it is less characterological and more biological in its etiology. I follow the DSM-IV by classifying it with the other personality disorders, however, on the strength of its peculiar behavioral presentation.

Intervention with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

It is advisable to let these individuals know at the beginning of their exploration of Integral Deep Listening that in order to become unstuck they are going to be asked to give up control to aspects of themselves that are relatively unstuck. Such choices may present a direct threat to their comfort level, since their dysfunction centers around control issues. Let them also know that they may be uncomfortable with things they will be asked to do, such as getting into roles and following reasonable recommendations. The response will be to interview their discomfort and their fear of loss of control, so it is important that they disclose it. Make a direct appeal to their willingness to trust their emerging potentials and have confidence in those perspectives, whether they make sense to them or not, whether they are rational or not. Because loss of control is such a threatening and uncomfortable experience for these clients, they may attempt to block or fight the perceptual openness and flexibility that the interviewing of emerging potentials entails. As always, where resistance arises, do your best to interview it. If resistance arises to interviewing the resistance, attempt to interview THAT resistance!

Character identification is to a large extent a way to get in touch with feelings. This creates a natural flexibility and versatility of affect that was previously lacking in clients with obsessive compulsive disorder. Instead of describing events, Integral Deep Listening encourages clients to directly experience them in an emotionally immediate way. These clients will like clear homework assignments. If they successfully get into role and provide circumstances in which daily character identifications will be helpful, these they are likely to follow through in a meticulous way.

Because the crux of learning with Integral Deep Listening is not cognitive but rather experiential, you may find yourself able to avoid one of the major roadblocks of working with OCD: difficulty incorporating new information into these client’s lives. They tend to see the world in terms of black and white, like most other personality disorders, but in this case their judgment is divided into their way of doing things and the wrong way of doing things. Consequently, you will be wise to gain your client’s consent based not on a rational explanation but on their trust in their emerging potentials. This is because you will not be able to provide a rational explanation that will overcome their discomfort. If at any point these clients attack your credibility, appeal directly to their willingness to trust you. If they are willing to suspend their doubts, there is a foundation for a teaching relationship. If they are not, then referral is in order.

My experience with these clients is that they generally can get into role well and typically access perspectives that are not at all invested in control issues as they are. They also can be good at following recommendations, because they are compulsive! In these ways they make excellent candidates for IDL. However, change is often slow, because of the physiological grounding of the compulsive actions and the obsessive thoughts. These people can understand what they are doing and why, and do it all the same, in the best tradition of the chronically addicted.

Multiple Personality Disorder

In itself, dissociation, the underlying problem of multiple personality disorder, is not that unusual. We dissociate when we do not remember the last several miles that we have driven, or become very angry and say or do things that later embarrass us. Trance, including hypnosis, is a state of dissociation. A case can be made that waking experience is itself a dissociative trance state. There is also a certain dissociation that can be observed among conflicting waking roles. For example, you might be perfectly competent in your work until a boss or a romantic interest comes around, in which case you find yourself flustered or confused. Walking on hot coals as well as Pentecostal rituals in which worshippers caught up in praise for the Lord carry poisonous snakes are also examples of dissociative states. In pathological dissociation aspects split off and have a life of their own. It is as if waking identity went to sleep or were completely replaced by an intact subpersonality. We are normally different people in our various waking roles as consumers, drivers, lovers, workers, students, or friends. In those distinct roles there is a continuity of underlying identity, whereas in MPD that consistent underlying identity that creates a continuity of self awareness is missing.

MPD is one type of personality disorder which has, in at least some instances, a clearly environmental, rather than biological, etiology. It can sometimes be traced to childhood trauma, such as sexual abuse, from which the child attempts to escape through dissociation. This type of MPD is a learned adaptive reaction to environmental stressors that have never been addressed. Joan had MPD of this type. She stated, “I have noticed lately that whenever I am alone, on a weekend, usually if I don’t have interaction with people, I start getting very lonely and when I get lonely, I start thinking of Dora (a dissociated personality) and how she can make that go away.” 

Why do you think that you have this situation?

“Well, I already said, I’m lonely because I’m finally, after thirteen years, ready to be connected, to have a relationship, to love and be loved.”

Which character would you like to interview?

“The person that ain’t said shit yet.”

Would you please tell me what you look like and what you are doing?

“I’m not very tall, I kind of look like Dora, but not really, more like Joan’s description: red square head almost invisible, hidden, but unseen, shifty. I have a lot of influence but no one knows that. You can’t see my influence. I don’t have to do anything to make a heart disappear. I can do things with my mind; my presence commands the worms, with my mind. It’s like I think they should go and eat their way into her brain, so they connect synapses and move on. They also do my will, but when I do these things, I fade in and out, I’m there, but I’m not there.”

What do you like most about yourself?  What are your strengths?

“Well, I’m telepathic.  That’s cool. People listen, well the Worms and the Heart, I mean. With my telepathic command, everything is a whim.  I am omnipotent. Lacerations. Telepathic commands to the Worm and the Heart. And I can become invisible and I can appear whenever I want to.”

What do you dislike most about yourself?

“That I’m not consistent, like fading in and out.  This is kind of irritating. I don’t like that I hurt the Heart and I make it go away. I don’t like Maggots running in the brain. It’s not too nice. EWWWWWWH! I don’t seem to be very nice or caring, considerate. I’m just downright mean and I don’t like that about myself.”

If you could live Joan’s waking life for her, how would you live it differently

“Well, I would have to worm my way into Dora’s head.  Change her perception of me. Appear and disappear and appear. Manipulate her into wanting to be with me. Or if I were magic, POOF!!! She would like me without the worming and manipulating. Too much work, too time consuming. So I never work and look at me… the Red Brick Person I always wanted. I must have this Red Square Person. Just pretending would be OK that I would attract her to me.”

If you could live Joan’s waking life for her, would you handle her three life issues differently?  If so, how?

“I would be out there doing instead of sitting at home not talking to anybody, fantasying and dreaming my life away.  Doing things. I would write that book so that I could have, so I could be proud of myself rather than leaning on someone else. And the money would take care of itself. I would work it. Find myself in that process. I think I would learn that I have everything that I need inside to do whatever I want. I have all the wisdom, courage. Looking for it inside myself. Determined to find that within myself rather than looking for it in another person like Dora.”

In what life situations would it be most beneficial for Joan to imagine that she is you and act as you would?

“The Group (all the dissociated subpersonalities) need to stop looking at Dora as the person that is going to fulfill all the stuff they need. To look inside because everything that they want from Dora is actually what they want from themselves. They actually need to be connected to the inside so they need to function like you (Red).”

Why do you think that you are in this situation?

“Well, I seem to be hidden. I seem to come forward and go away. Seems like I’m afraid to be consistent. Afraid to look like a real person.”

Why do you think this particular group of emerging potentials got together in this situation?

“I think because they were hurt when they were little and all hurt about the same things.  They feel each other’s pain and all hurt with the lack of connection, lack of life, lack of nurturing, lack of being cared about. They almost died for the lack. Babies die when they are not touched.”

“Well, the mind is the Worm. Heart is spirit or the essence of the person.  Red Square is the physical person. Body, mind, and spirit. They make up the person. The person is whomever the Joan person is… rotten; eating Maggot brain making the Heart disappear so does the body parts, fades in and out. Maggot mind not heart, body fading in and out.”

Joan, what have you heard yourself say?

“Maggot eating brain and red square non-existant body. Maggots eating brain: pretty sad, red square person that seems pretty with it and the heart part is totally isolated. Which is not good, and everybody is looking outside of self and that’s not good. Connection yearns, yearn for connection. That was really a core trauma issue. They don’t think Dora is going to fulfill what they want her to be. They want her to be something she’s not. They want her to want us and that is not gonna happen. I say these little broken parts is me that are wanting something.  Confusion, indecisiveness, manipulation, anger controlling sadness.”

What have you learned from the experience? How can you use it in your waking life?

“This puts a whole new spin on things.  I learned that it’s all within me. Not to look outside myself for the answer. Cause no one can satisfy my needs but myself. I already used it when I went on a date with Mary. Something came up and I looked inward, rather than outward, to her, and I had this new insight and she didn’t have a clue. It was very exciting.”

Integral Deep Listening heals these dissociated emerging potentials by listening to them and their agenda, attempting to respect them as much as possible. It integrates these dissociated emerging potentials back into an expanded waking identity by identifying with them and their personifications in dreams and in identification with their emotions. It transforms consciousness by expanding it to incorporate emerging potentials that demonstrate core characteristics of life. For example, this character scored itself very highly in the six core qualities of awakening. You can see from the remarks that the self-sense of the dreamer has expanded as a result of the experience. She now views herself, her other personalities, and others in a broader, more accepting context than before. This will not last; because it is a state opening, it will be forgotten and the inertia of habitual perspectives will re-assert themselves. However now Joan has the interview. She also has a new degree of self-awareness combined with an experience that a higher order of life balance and integration is possible. The more such experiences are repeated the more likely they are to become the status quo reality for the client.


Everyone is fascinated by possession. It inevitably strikes a primal chord of raw fear involving hopeless, helpless subordination to an overwhelming and abusive force. It is created by the uncomfortable awareness that not only can we lose complete control of ourselves; we are also capable of doing horrendous things in such a state. This awareness is very threatening to most people.

Possession is not recognized by DSM-IV, the current Bible of mental health professionals. It is not deemed scientific or parsimonious.[3] It is generally taken to be a throwback to pre-scientific worldviews that assume naïve, animistic, and concrete preconventional realities. From the perspective of DSM-IV, anything that looks or sounds like possession is either a psychotic delusion or a form of dissociative personality disorder. There is some irony about all of this, since this is the stance that Integral Deep Listening tends to promote regarding most illness: the consideration of the possibility that to at least some extent all experience is self-created. The irony is that in this instance the professionals are finally getting around to insisting on such a stance, while Integral Deep Listening argues that it is overdone, in that it discounts the possibility that a literal or objective component exists.

Like other forms of dissociation, possession involves control by a distinct personality that can be evil or good, obvious or unconscious. Whether this personality is “real” and “external” or an internal emerging potential is fundamentally irrelevant from the perspective of Integral Deep Listening. This is because all “others” are viewed as aspects of self within the context of the dream of being. This having been said, there is no reason not to tolerate the inherent ambiguity of objective (external, autonomous) and subjective (internal, self-created) realities. An example of “good” possession by a emerging potential occurs when you identify with some role you do not normally take in order to accomplish a task, like a woman who lifts a burning car off a child. The Greek concept of “muse,” from which comes our word “museum” and the synonym for thinking, derived from the idea of spirits that would possess people, inspiring them to creative and artistic heights. Spiritual mediumship, and glossolalia (speaking in tongues) are other examples of possession that is commonly seen as positive. Unconscious possession occurs when subpersonalities maintain sexual, drug, or criminal addictive behaviors. Even habits can be viewed as a degree of entrainment that is low on the continuum of possession but on it nevertheless. Some controlling perspectives maintain abusive emotional states, such as chronic depression and uncharacteristic explosive anger. While we rarely associate such states with possession, Integral Deep Listening makes it obvious that distinct roles control both the expression and the experience of such behaviors. In this sense, we have to ask not only if possession is avoidable but if its absence is even desirable. Constructive possession by positive emerging potentials means growth. Total identification with role models or heroism and compassion means transcendence and transformation.

On the other hand, fear of possession results in the amplification of dissociation. Consequently, the basic and curative issue seems to be, “Is that which possesses me, whether it is a way of thinking, a world view, a perspective, a voice, a personality, a behavior, or a feeling state, in truth bigger than I am just because I experience it that way, or is it actually an aspect of some larger definition of myself?” The conclusion that we reach to this question makes all the difference. It is profound in its implications for both individuals and for the evolution of humanity itself.   For example, if terrorism is a reality that is outside my self-definition (“I am not a terrorist and there are no aspects of myself that are terroristic,”) I dissociate myself from an aspect of my larger identity and give it disowned power through my fear, denial, repression, and feelings of powerlessness. Whether in personal psychology or international relations, the solution to dissociation, whether we call it possession or some other name, is summed up by the famous quote by Walt Kelly: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Beware of taking a client’s claims of possession at face value. These people often interview well, and you can ask “possessing personalities” if in fact that is what they are as well as their intentions. They often will say what they want and sometimes they will disappear when they are acknowledged. Other times, there are relatively simple requests that can be followed which will result in their disappearance. In this sense, such roles are best viewed as interestingly expressed wake-up calls.

As you evolve, you will become more and more likely to bump into powerful externalized emerging potentials, whether they are nightmarish and demonic, apparitions of the dead, divine epiphanies, or powerful group visions. If you have not cultivated your internal support community you may lack the tools to integrate these experiences into your life. As a result, transformative heavenly visitations will fade into legends and fossilized religious symbols while frightening and overwhelming close encounters with alien monsters scar both your body and your mind. Both remain undigested, broken off pieces of your life which refuse to fit into your consensus reality.

Schizophrenics, who often provide dissociated roles, are unlikely to remember to identify with therapeutic emerging potentials even if they want to. A basic aspect of schizophrenia is that the normally unified waking identity, which is itself comprised of any number of subpersonalities, is not only fragmented, but often taken over by malignant roles or perspectives that refuse to negotiate a surrender of their power. While it does not particularly help to conceptualize these malignant personalities as a form of possession, they often present themselves as if they are. Let us suppose that is indeed what they are. Where does such a belief take us? Traditionally we will then pray to transcendent divine forces to save us, make offerings to malignant spirits to appease them, in a form of primitive negotiation, make loud noises to scare them off, or create environments full of charms and symbols that they are supposed to hate. If all of these strategies fail, we will call in the friendly neighborhood exorcist, who is a type of shaman.

Exorcism is basically a dialogue with malignant voices. At best it is a friendly negotiation; at worst it is a battle of wills.   In this process, transpersonal forces, in the form of Christ or deceased relatives of the possessing entity, are evoked in an effort to overwhelm the stranglehold of prepersonal destructive personalities. However, if life is a dream, are not possessing demons also to some extent emerging potentials? To the extent that this is the case, exorcism can be viewed as a traditional application of Integral Deep Listening. The model is basically the same. Integral Deep Listening simply approaches the exorcism from a non-sectarian and non-authoritarian perspective. It does not attempt to drive out the bad in the name of the good. Instead it attempts to listen to the bad in the belief that by so doing a larger consensus can be reached in which the needs of all can be heard and respected. While this is a noble and late personal approach to healing, there are times and conditions when sectarian and authoritarian approaches work better. Integral Deep Listening suggests that you first try a consensus building, deep listening approach because it is less polarizing. If that fails, consult various interviewed emerging potentials, both within the client and within yourself, regarding guidance for therapeutic direction. As a last resort, why not move on to a sectarian and authoritarian approach? Sometimes these access the power of centuries of prayerfully created thought forms that have no final reality, but remain very powerful on their own level of reality.[4]

Possession can show up as multiple personality disorder, self-reports by discarnates, channeled entities, or entities who are responsible for or amplify dysfunctional or exceptional personal behavior. Again, the urge is to know if the discrete and powerfully literal experience of a possessing consciousness really IS just that. Reductionistic approaches say that such reports are all prepersonal delusions. Elevationistic approaches hold that such reports are all transpersonal contacts with entities in other dimensions. From the perspective of Integral Deep Listening, what is actually being asked here is, “Is this experience of possession something that really exists outside my definition of myself and independently of me, or is it simply a disowned aspect of myself?” However, this is not a helpful question to ask, because it is being asked by waking identity. The experience is being assessed in relationship to waking identity, which is merely one more emerging potential. A much more helpful question to ask is, “If this real and possessing entity were to some extent be an aspect of myself, what aspect would it most closely personify?” This question does not eliminate the possibility that the possessing consciousness does not have some degree of independently existing reality. However, it calls on us to examine what it is about ourselves that causes it to arise in our experience. To use the basic and profound Buddhist approach, it is to ask, “How is this experience interdependently co-created?”

Pathological and regressive experiences of literal, external, and evil possession can be viewed as a reductionistic regression to early and mid-prepersonal developmental levels, in which good and bad internal voices are experienced as literal. They are externalized as beneficent or demonic gods, spirits, ancestors, or relatives. Transformative experiences of literal, external, but divine possession are often experienced as elevationistic hierophanies. A hierophany is an awe-inspiring manifestation of God, generally in human or angelic form. Elevationism takes prepersonal experiences, such as the worship of nature spirits among hunter-gatherers, and interprets them as transpersonal epiphanies. Hierophanies are generally experienced and depicted subtle-level mystical experiences, as angels with halos or visions of Christ in near death experiences, dreams, or visions, or meditation visitations of Bodhisattvas. Examples of such visitations are Jesus appearing to Saul on the road to Damascus or the channeling of Jesus to create the Course in Miracles.

There is a third type of possession that is worth noting. It is the category of external and “real” cultural visitations that run the spectrum from evil incarnate to divine. UFO’s fall into this category, with some teachers, others observers and scientists, while others are abductors. This type of possession not only grasps the minds of individuals as real, but possesses the consciousness of groups and entire cultures, for better or for worse. Marian apparitions are positive examples of this same sort of group possession or group dream.

Integral Deep Listening believes it is neither necessary nor appropriate to leave the decision as to the nature of possession up to waking identity. It is too limited, too much the subject of an overwhelming and literal experience to evaluate the reality of these phenomena clearly and objectively. To do so makes the same mistake as to allow waking identity to evaluate the meaning and significance of dreams, much less nightmares which, after all, are phenomenologically a form of possession. It is painfully obvious that waking identity simply is inadequate to the task. In addition, how is another person going to have the clarity and objectivity to know whether the experience is all self-created, a real possession, or some combination of the two? As a part of a larger experience, waking identity inherently and innately lacks the perspective and objectivity to accurately assess these issues by itself. The waking personas of clinicians, while typically more objective than clients, generally lack both sufficient objectivity and an approach to intervention that works. They tend to see possession in black or white terms. If they take a reductionistic approach and conclude that possession is self-created, they try to help the poor deluded victim to see the error of their ways. If they take an elevationistic approach, they make the experience more literal than it deserves and either perform an exorcism or start a religion around it.

John Nelson, author of Healing the Split, writes, “…therapists who successfully treat MPD (multiple personality disorder) reactivate the natural process of integrating imaginary playmates. First, the self extends its boundaries to include the alter; then the alter gradually loses its external identity to merge with and broaden its host’s personality.”[5] Integral Deep Listening prescribes the practice of deep listening, not only to the possessing entity or entities, but to other internal voices that are either affected by this identity or have an opinion about it. It may turn out that previously held viewpoints are validated, for instance, that the possession is a emerging potential rather than a literal discarnate entity, or it may be that they are not. It does, however, seem reasonable to perform the phenomenological move of suspending judgment in the search for a more objective assessment before we arrive at a conclusion. This is something that both clients and healers routinely fail to do.

We may argue forever about the ontological status of hallucinated voices, apparitions, and imaginary playmates. Are they real or just figments of our imagination? We could do worse than to imagine a continuum from day dreaming and dream day residue to command hallucinations, visions, and consensual group phenomena such as occurred at Lourdes and today in some UFO accounts. In all such cases the broad approach to intervention remains the same: assume that the ontological status of all, from dream toilet bowls to epiphanies of Jesus, is the same as your own. Treat the “other” as an externalization of your larger identity. Listen to the perceptions and particularly the needs of the other with the same respect that you wish to receive. Do your best to address the needs of the other within the context of intrasocial consensus. Acceptance is based on deep listening. It is not based on agreement. If you succeed in accepting the other, you will have succeeded in its incorporation into an expanded definition of who you are.

Waking consensus in and of itself does not offer a peer group broad enough to accept and encompass hallucinations, discarnate entities, or group hallucinations, such as Marian apparitions and UFOs. Your emerging potentials are much more likely to constitute a group representative of a perspective that incorporates and expands upon that of your waking identity. The goal is a perspective that reflects the priorities of the inner compass and life itself. Such a perspective is also much more likely to be able to incorporate the entity, whether transcendent or demonic, as an aspect of an expanded sense of self. That broader identity has a vested interest in responding to possessing entities in ways that reflect the needs of a broad and expanding intrasocial community.


  • If you have ever remembered a dream with a spirit, discarnate entity, or extraterrestrial in it, interview them. Do they personify some aspect of you? If so, what?


  • Personality disorders involve preverbal distortions in one’s sense of self.
  • Consequently, the needs, purposes, and intentions of others are misperceived.
  • Because personality disorders arise preverbally, they are unlikely to respond to verbal therapy. The problem is not in the 10% of the brain that is socialized.
  • While the sense of self or of identity is damaged, this is not the same self as life. Consequently, by identifying with emerging potentials that personify facets of life, damaged parts of self can be marginalized.
  • Integral Deep Listening does not treat character disorders. It addresses the illusory identification of the preconventional and the social, conventional selves – not the life — with that constellation of symptoms that are together called a “character disorder.”
  • Some damaged emerging potentials will respond to deep listening; others will not.
  • It is important to remember that these clients may have considerable difficulty getting into role. Begin with very non-threatening and superficial exercises in objectification of consciousness.
  • Also remember that these clients are much more likely to be able to relate to and remember personal emerging potentials than transpersonal ones, simply because the distance between their routine prepersonal consciousness and personal emerging potentials is much less.
  • A goal of Integral Deep Listening is to reduce and eliminate identification with fixated and regressive symptoms, characteristics, qualities, and perceptions while amplifying identification with those attributes that are personifications of the agenda of the life. To the extent that these problematic behaviors and misperceptions continue, they no longer define identity.

[1] DSM-IV-TR, American Psychiatric Association, p. 685.

[2] This and most of the diagnostic information in this chapter come from the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV-TR), (1994). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

[3] Parsimony involves finding the simplest explanation that covers all known facts. For instance, while we can proclaim that the planet Pluto is made of Lindberger cheese, That is not the most parsimonious theory. Besides, everyone knows that it is actually made of Feta.

[4] The example that brought this home for me was an astonishing story I once read in a book called The Burden of Egypt, by White. I am not sure that citation is correct; it was a long while ago. But basically the book involved a recounting of early 20th century experiences of an English Egyptologist. In one fascinating recollection, the author recounts an attempt by the expedition to remove a pharonic curse through the reinactment of an ancient Egyptian ceremony for that purpose. As best as I remember, members of the expedition took the roles of the major players in the original drama: the pharaoh, involved deities, including Amon Ra, the Queen, and others. On the night before the reinactment was to take place the member who was to play the role of Pharaoh dreamed that Amon Ra, looking full of rage, struck him across the eyes with his royal flail. He woke up with burning eyes, unable to see. The play was called off. Undeterred, the next excavation season in the following year brought a second attempt to reinact the lifting of the curse. Again, the night before brought a repeat of the same dream/vision to the actor who was to take the role of Pharaoh. He once again came down with the same extremely rare eye condition after being struck by the flail of Amon Ra in his vision, and the reinactment had to be called off. The third season of excavations this group, either exceedingly bold or foolish, made one final attempt. This time they made it to the actual reinactment. As the ceremony was beginning, it began to hail. It hailed so hard that it was impossible to continue. This was the first, last, and only time that hail has been recorded as falling in Egypt in modern times.

What was going on? Our options are that Amon Ra is a real deity that still controls some realm or another; in that case, perhaps we should be worshipping him instead of God, science, or comfort. Another possibility is that the eye disease was psychosomatically induced and that the hail was a group hallucination shared by uninvolved Egyptians in that part of the country. Another possibility, and the one that makes most sense to me, is that millions of Egyptians for millennia sent up sincere prayers based on fear and hope to Amon Ra, therefore creating a powerful thought form. This consciousness did not dissipate, just because Egyptian religion died out, just as the scars of mental and emotional abuse do not go away just because we grow up. It remained as a latent potential that could be accessed, in all its power, given the appropriate intent and conditions. If this is the case, then we need to rethink what we as individuals and as a culture believe, for we are creating powerful thought forms that can and do take on a life of their own, given the proper conditions, and when this happens, it can look and feel a lot like possession.

[5] Nelson, John, Healing the Split, p. 229.

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