Free Nightmare E-Book


Ending Nightmares for Good

Joseph Dillard LCSW, Ph.D.

To have this text emailed to you, email Joseph.Dillard@Gmail.Com

© Joseph Dillard, 2009

Deep Listening Press, Berlin, Germany

Dear Dr. Dillard,

I read through your free ebook, Ending Nightmares for Good, and I think overall it is fantastic, and it’s a wonderful gift if you plan to offer this e-book to others who need it at no charge. I was easily drawn into the information and found it helpful. When you are a parent (as you know), it’s so easy to focus so intensely on the problem or issue at hand, that you can’t look beyond the obvious for possible solutions, and I think this will really give parents something beyond the obvious, something they have not tried, which is what so many parents desperately need when they are at a loss for how to help their children through something like this. You laid it out very well and gave all the tools needed.    Nancy Puffer, Phoenix




What Are Nightmares and Why Do They Happen?

II. What Are Sleep Terrors?

III. What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

IV. Ending Nightmares for Good

V.  Ending night terrors for good

VI. Ending PTSD for good

VII Ending Family Nightmares



IDL Interviewing Instructions for Children

Dream Protocol

Life Issue Protocol

Sleep Terror Resources

PCDS Resoources

About the Author



The name of this book has a double meaning.  By following the steps laid out here you will end nightmares for good.   You will also learn how to use your children’s nightmares for good.  You will teach your children that within every fear and adversity is an opportunity for growth.  Can there be a more important life skill than to learn to face one’s fears with confidence?

Most approaches to working with nightmares involve confronting them.  Children are told to imagine that they are in the dream and to face down their adversary with courage and confidence.  They either vanquish it or turn it into a friend.  While such an approach may get rid of your child’s nightmare while teaching them to have confidence in the face of adversity, it teaches them nothing about why they had the nightmare in the first place.  They do not learn how and why they are scaring themselves.  Without such knowledge the stage is set for a reoccurrence, but perhaps in a form less easy to face down.  Your child learns to act with courage and confidence, but not necessarily with wisdom.  Courage and confidence without wisdom can cause children to overreach, to take risks that can hurt them.  The approach you will learn here, called Integral Deep Listening, builds courage, confidence, and wisdom in children. In addition to confronting nightmares, you learn to listen to why they are there and what they have to teach you and those you love.

Other approaches encourage those with chronic nightmares to rewrite them until they find a narrative that feels right. They then rehearse the narrative in their imagination before they go to sleep.  As in confronting nightmares, the person who is stuck is choosing a solution; they are not consulting the unstuck parts of themselves to see what they recommend.  While writing and rehearsing nightmares can help and is another tool to use in dealing with nightmares, in this text you will focus on establishing a dialogue with those parts of yourself that are scaring you awake.  The assumption is, if you listen to yourself you are more likely defuse the inner conflict that caused the nightmares in the first place.  This is a theory, and one that you can easily put to the test in your own life.

First you will learn the difference between dreams, nightmares, night terrors, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  You will then learn simple strategies for eliminating nightmares, night terrors, and post traumatic stress disorder by listening to what each of them has to teach you.

You will learn how easy and fun it is to use these procedures with your children so that they sleep better and are less troubled by anxiety and fear.  Beyond that, you will learn how to use this process in your family to transform a family culture based on sterotypical parent-child roles into authentic soul-to-soul relationships.

Chapter 1

What is a Nightmare and Why do They Happen?

Nightmares scare children and worry parents.  Imagine you are awakened from a sound sleep by a crying or screaming child.  Tired but concerned, you drag yourself into your child’s bedroom or open your eyes to see your scared child standing next to your bed.  Not knowing what to do, you probably say what you were told as a child: “Don’t worry.  It’s only a dream.  Go back to sleep.”   This approach doesn’t work any better on your child than it did on you when you were their age.  The nightmare was real and it was very scary.  Pretending it is unhelpful at best and at worst a lie.  Basically you are teaching your child to trust you instead of their feelings, when you don’t know what you’re talking about.  You don’t know how they felt; you didn’t experience the reality of the dream.  You need a better strategy to deal with your child, and that is what this book is about.  For the time being, let them climb into bed with you so that both of you will get a good night’s sleep.  Tell them that you will find out what’s going on tomorrow, and go to sleep.

Don’t worry that bringing them into bed with you is going to warp their little psyche forever.  Remember that not until the last century was it common for children not to sleep with their parents and that still today, most children around the world still do.  Having them climb into bed with you may not be possible or desirable, for a number of reasons.  In that case, let them know you love them, do what you can to comfort them, and make a commitment to them that you will help them with their bad dream at a certain time the next day. While your immediate goal is to comfort them in the moment, your long-term goal is to create a child that is confident and wise, who knows how to take care of herself, awake and asleep, and who exercises good common sense.

Nightmares are frightening dreams that occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, generally in the later part of the night.  They have vivid imagery, usually involving themes of persecution or victimization.  Nightmares are experienced as real events by children and create real emotional and physiological changes whether or not they wake the child up and whether or not they are remembered.

Your child does not have to be scared awake to be having nightmares.  While only about three percent of all children have chronic nightmares, almost all children report at least one.  This means that all children are often having dreams that are nightmarish, in that they create feelings of fear and experiences of persecution and victimization.  This is important to recognize, because the common attitude is that if it is not remembered it is not a nightmare and that if a nightmare is not remembered then it is not having a negative impact on your child’s health and mental state.  This isn’t true.

Dr. Hans Selye’s classical work on the nature of stress demonstrated conclusively that the perception of threat causes the sympathetic nervous system of all mammals to prepare to fight or run.  Powerful hormones such as adrenalin and norepinephrine cause pupils to dilate, blood to leave the central organs and move into the muscles to prepare for quick reaction, and speed up the heart rate.  It makes no difference whether the experience is a fantasy or reality, as we all know from going to a horror movie or seeing a dark shadow in the hallway at night.  Dream perceptions of threat are as real as waking experiences of threat and create similar physical and emotional reactions whether or not we remember the dream.


For every nightmare that your child reports he or she is experiencing many more nightmares and disturbing dreams that do not get remembered or reported.  We know that exposure to chronic distress increases impulsivity and reactivity, reduces problem solving ability and listening skills, heightens anxiety and fear, and increases defensiveness.  We also know that it increases personalization: the tendency to take the remarks and behaviors of others personally.  When other children are laughing they are laughing about us; when other children are angry or sad, it must be because of something we did or didn’t do.  None of these stress-based behaviors improve communication skills, school performance, or social skills in children.  Instead, they increase both anxiety and depression.  You can be the best parent in the world, but if your child is scaring himself every night in their dreams, how is that likely to affect their waking anxiety level?  If she is experiencing herself as a victim in her dreams, how is that likely to affect her self-confidence?  If she is unable to deal with threats in her dreams will she be more or less likely to deal with perceived threats in her waking world?  You may send her to the best schools and to the best therapists, but if she is undoing her waking successes every night with dreams of failure and victimization, what is the likely outcome for your child?  While your waking efforts are bound to help, your child certainly would be happier and more successful if she were not undoing her waking efforts every night in her sleep.  Of course, the same holds true for you, as well.

The good news is that there exist easy and effective ways to stop nightmares, whether or not they are remembered.  By using them you will not only improve your child’s health but your relationship as well.  Current treatment modalities include offering reassurance and support and behavioral strategies such as imagery rehearsal therapy, which is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy.   The nightmare is rewritten by the dreamer in a form that they like and then they rehearse the changed dream.  Integral Deep Listening interviews dream characters to gain information about the why and how of the nightmare as well as to gain recommendations about what to do about them. Recommendations may include the approaches mentioned above.

Before learning these simple dream interviewing strategies it’s important to know the difference between nightmares and night terrors and between nightmares and post traumatic stress disorder.   Once you know the difference, you can select the right strategies for getting rid of them for good.

Chapter II

What are Sleep Terrors?

It is easy for parents to feel helpless when their child is confronted with sleep terrors.  Consider the following examples:

“My son who is two and a half years suddenly wakes and screams blue murder. He seems to be in a dream state with a glazed look in his eyes, but seems to be awake. He asks for things like tea and milk or sometimes he needs to use the toilet. As a mother I am most concerned about this and hope that it will settle down. What can I do to minimize this? He has one or two episodes every night and they seem to last longer and longer each time. Sometimes he falls asleep and sometimes it lasts for hours. It occurs at more or less the same time, between one and two AM every night. Is he watching too much TV and can scary movies make this worse? He insists on watching movies that contain a few violent episodes. Please help me, I’m desperate!”

“My son is 8 years old. He was sick with chickenpox. During the chickenpox he had a high fever and would come downstairs (after being in bed asleep for one hour), in a panic but not fully awake. He would say his tongue hurt from pins and needles and he was sweating but cold and his heart is racing. He would calm down after about 5 minutes then go back to bed and sleep though the night. The chickenpox are gone and now and he still comes downstairs in a panic (still not really awake) and is scared, you can see the fear and his heart racing and then he calms down in about 5 minutes and then we put him back to bed and he sleeps though the rest of the night. This happens about every two days. He wakes in the morning and does not remember getting out of his bed the night before or what scared him. He never had this before the chickenpox and I was wondering if the chickenpox might have triggered the sleep terrors and will they disappear or need to be treated? I am worried.”

“My husband and I are confused about whether or not our daughter is having night- terrors. Our daughter seems to follow some of the symptoms such as, waking hysterically and doing so usually about 1/2 hour to an hour or later after falling asleep. All my kids were like this from infancy through their toddler years, but I sometimes think its stomach cramps from gas or something. It is very hard to decipher because all three of my children have had colic symptoms (gas and constipation as infants). My daughter is 2 1/2 years old with two older brothers 7 and 6. Her 6 yr. old brother has had night- terrors to the degree of running through our house at night screaming. My husband and I also have a family history of sleep disorders including night-terrors and sleepwalking, so I know my daughter is predisposed. When my daughter wakes up at night she is inconsolable and screaming hysterically. It sounds like she is screaming “help me” and “hold me,” but when I try to comfort her she pulls my hair, kicks me, and seems stuck in a state of hysteria. My husband and I are conflicted on how to handle her like this. I just endure her screaming as I try to figure out how to calm her down. My husband treats it more as a behavior and demands her to stop screaming and removes her from our bed. Once removed and out of our room, my husband sternly demands that she calm down if she is to return to our bed. As harsh as this sounds it is the only thing that seems to snap her out of it. My tactics to sing to her and hold her only seem to get her more aggressive, more upset, and more stuck. We’re very confused especially because sometimes our daughters actions during these episodes seem deliberate and conscious. However, my instincts tell me they are nigh-terrors and driven by something out of her control. To complicate matters her older brothers both have special needs (ADHD with OCD tendencies), so she may have some of their traits.

We are loving parents and want to do what is best for our daughter. Please give us any feedback to help us better understand what is happing to our daughter, so we can handle it the right way. Is she having night-terrors?”

While nightmares generally occur in the late part of the night, night terrors occur early in the night.  While nightmares are generally vividly recalled, night terrors are generally not accompanied by images or thoughts.  While nightmares often scare children, night terrors are always extremely frightening.  While nightmares are often helped by waking and comforting a child, night terrors can actually be prolonged by doing so.  While nightmares can occur with plenty of sleep, night terrors may be caused by not getting enough sleep. While nightmares generally involve little physical movement, sleep terrors do.  While those experiencing nightmares often have trouble going back to sleep, those experiencing sleep terrors generally fall back to sleep without having ever fully awakened.  Those experiencing nightmares generally remember that they were dreaming and can report some of the events in the dream while those with sleep terrors remember little other than a sense of profound fear.  With nightmares children often wake up just as they are about to experience the most frightening part of the dream; in sleep terror one stays partially asleep.   Other factors that can contribute to night terrors include stress, an irregular sleep schedule, sleeping in a new environment, and developmental delays in the child’s nervous system.

Sleep terrors are more common in boys than girls and generally begin between the ages of four and twelve, with symptoms disappearing during adolescence.  This seems to be in part because the incidence of slow wave sleep, the period in which sleep terrors occur, declines with age.  Sleep terrors are not indicators of any psychological disorders.  Between one and six percent of children in the United States experience sleep terror at some point in their childhood.  In a typical episode of sleep terror lasts less than fifteen minutes with only one occurrence per week or less. The child sweats and hyperventilates.  Their heart rate can increase from two to four times normal.  They will sometimes cry or scream and be jolted upright in bed and have a fearful expression on their face.  Sometimes a child may get out of bed and act as if they are fleeing from or fighting something.  It is very difficult to wake up a child who is having a night terror and he or she may respond violently to attempts to restrain or control them.   Often a child will return to sleep without ever waking fully and will awaken in the morning without any recollection of the episode.

Less that one percent of adults experience sleep terror disorder and, unlike with children, it is generally associated with psychological disorders such as anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, or personality disorders.  Those with a family history of sleep terrors of sleepwalking disorder are about ten times more likely to develop sleep terror disorder.

Current treatment for sleep terror disorder is to calm, comfort, and hold the child until he or she falls back to sleep.  If you know when the episodes are likely to occur, you can awaken the child about fifteen minutes prior to that time and keep them fully awake for about five minutes before letting them go back to sleep.  Doctors will tell you to make sure the child gets enough sleep and to lessen the stress in his or her life.


Chapter III

What Is Post-Traumatic Sleep Disorder (PTSD)?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a long-term, intense form of anxiety that is very difficult to shake.  At its root, a person never recovers from a trauma or repeated trauma that destabilizes and disorganizes their coping mechanisms to the point that they remain in a constant state of hyperactive over-reaction to a perceived but non-existent threat.  Examples of such traumas include child abuse, rape, domestic violence, torture, military combat, stalking, genocide, cult membership, natural disasters, hostage situations and transportation or workplace disasters.  The most common PTSD-like experience most people have had is a car accident, in which they remain in a state of physiological, psychological, and emotional shock for some time afterward.  Intensify that experience and allow it to maintain its intensity over time and you can begin to imagine how disabilitating this disorder can be.

Nightmares, flashbacks, and daydreams in which the traumatic events are experienced again and again are common for those with PTSD.  Because these people have learned to be hyper-vigilant with abnormally intense startle responses, they are unable to let their guard down in the face of overwhelming anxiety.   This hyper-vigilance interferes with the ability to sleep as well as concentrate, since to relax would mean to reduce vigilance, while concentration on something else creates the experience of increased vulnerability.

In the U.S., women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with PTSD at some point in their lives.  Those with PTSD living in depressed urban areas or on Native American reservations are estimated at 23%, over twice the national average.   Victims of violent crimes more than double that rate, reporting a 58% likelihood of PTSD.

Research shows that trauma damages associative pathways in the brain. PTSD causes physical damage to the nervous system, including abnormal secretions of stress hormones, changes in the amygdala and the hippocampus.

While nightmares and sleep terrors are more of an issue for children and their parents, PTSD is more of an issue for adults, who have had a longer life span in which to accrue traumatic experiences.    Adults can also develop what is known as secondary PTSD, also known as burnout or compassion fatigue.  Secondary PTSD is related to the intensity and amount of exposure to the suffering of trauma victims, the worker’s degree of sensitivity and emotional sympathy, and unresolved issues from their own personal history.

Shy and introverted people are known to be at greater risk for PTSD than confident extroverts, and a personal history of trauma predisposes a person to vulnerability to successive traumas.

While the anxiety and fear of nightmares and sleep terrors is internally generated, that of PTSD is not.  The memory of the trauma acts as a recurring nightmare from which a person cannot “awaken.”  Indeed, the experience of the nightmare is much the same, whether the person is awake or asleep.  What bridges all three of these experiences is a pervasive sense of victimization, with no viable rescuer to be found.  In PTSD, this sense of victimization is greater with stressors caused intentionally by human beings, such as abuse, rape, torture, and genocide, than natural disasters and accidents.

While nightmares and sleep terrors are intrusive in that they disturb sleep, PTSD intrudes much more into waking life, not only with the disturbing residue of recalled nightmares, but with traumatic daydreams and flashbacks.  While children might postpone sleep or demand to sleep with their parents to avoid the fear of nightmares, the symptoms of PTSD are much more severe, with avoidance of things, persons, or places associated with the trauma, emotional deadening, self-medication with addictive substances and behaviors, and disconnection from others.  Between sixty and eighty percent of those who develop PTSD develop an addiction to alcohol or narcotics.

Perhaps the central characteristic that separates PTSD from nightmares and sleep terrors is the generalization of hyper-arousal and hyper-vigilance into everyday life.  This is characterized by general irritability, an extreme startle response, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating.

Some individuals do not develop symptoms of PTSD for months or even years after the traumatic event.  This implies that the anxiety disorder was being maintained at a subcritical level that did not intrude into waking life.  Current treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy in which you change how you think about how your trauma and your PTSD dreams, exposure therapy or desensitization, in which you return to the threatening memories in your mind but in a secure, supportive environment until the anxiety associated with the images goes away.   Other forms of talking therapy that are used include group therapy, brief psychodynamic psychotherapy, and family therapy. Children may also be offered play therapy and psychological first aid, which involves school based approaches to the treatment of community violence.

Work with the traumatic nightmares of such individuals using the procedures described below can reduce the likelihood that traumatic memories will evolve into a full-blown disruptive case of PTSD.

Chapter IV

Ending Nightmares for Good


The key to eliminating nightmares in a way that is not only effective but wise is to treat them as wake-up calls.  Something is talking to you and your child. Are you listening?

You want to first use practical and easy approaches to dealing with nightmares.  Tell your child that they have the ability to not be scared in their dreams.  This teaches them that they get to choose how they feel, that feelings aren’t caused by the words and actions of others, but by how they choose to interpret the words and actions of others.  Tell them that instead of getting scared to be curious. Ask questions in dreams.  This teaches your child to develop a life-long habit of asking questions and suspending judgment instead of jumping to conclusions and reacting to people, information, and situations.  If he is old enough, ask him who created the monster in his dream.  If he is old enough to grasp the concept that he created both the dream and the monster, then he can understand that he is scaring himself.  This is a very important concept, because it gives your child the ability to choose not to scare herself.  These are life skills that have wide and varied application at play, in school, with friends, and at work.  You are using dreams to teach your child priceless life skills that many people never learn.

It is only common sense to think that if a child has nightmares after watching scary movies that cutting out the movies would be a good idea.  If a child is having nightmares on the nights when his parents fight, then it might make sense for them to fight somewhere else if they can’t bring themselves to stop fighting altogether.  It is not always possible to cut out all disturbing waking events, nor does their presence explain why one child has nightmares in response to an event while others do not.  Many people will go beyond such common-sense changes in waking experience to look for what Freud called “day residue” and think that they have understood the message of the nightmare.  Such explanations merely cause us to avoid the proximate cause of the experience: the movie, the arguments, the pepperoni pizza.  If we want to find out what is going on within a particular child that is creating a particular fear response we have to care enough to ask questions. We need to practice deep listening of an integral sort.

“Integral” refers to that which considers and attempts to integrate the interests of body, mind, and spirit.  An integral approach seeks to consider multiple legitimate perspectives in an attempt to create a more inclusive understanding that will stand the test of time.  An integral approach to deep listening considers the perspectives of other aspects of oneself that have a vested interest in the experience.  For example, in the nightmare below of an adolescent boy, titled, “The Hallway of Death,” the perspective of the Grim Reaper, who is the antagonist or perceived persecutor in the nightmare, is interviewed.  What we learn through deep listening is that the perspective of the dreamer is often very different from that of other parts of ourselves in the dream.

Interviewing the Grim Reaper

Tell me a dream you remember. It can be an old one, a repetitive dream, a nightmare, or one that you sure you understand.


I had a dream when I was seven about being pushed down a hallway.  It was just a black hallway and I didn’t want to get to the end.  But something was pushing me down the hallway and I felt like everything in the world was there and I just couldn’t handle it and I was just being pushed down the hallway.  I was trying to grab onto the pillars along the sides but I couldn’t.  Someone was whispering the whole time but I didn’t know what they were saying.  I woke up before I got to the end of the hallway.  Maybe it was a dark dream but maybe it wasn’t a dark dream.  Maybe it was God pushing me to do something new.

Why do you think that you had this dream?


Because I was stressed out.  I was scared at the time.  I slept walked during the dream.  It’s the scariest thing in the world to me.  It’s the worst for me.

If it were playing at a theater, what name would be on the marquee?


The Hallway of Death.

These are the characters in the dream…


Just me and the thing that was pushing me but I couldn’t see what it was.   It was like the black things in the Harry Potter movies that fly and try to steal your soul.  Let’s call it the Grim Reaper.

If one character had something especially important to tell you, which would it be?


The Grim Reaper.

Now remember how as a child you liked to pretend you were a teacher or a doctor?  It’s easy and fun for you to imagine that you are the _____ and answer some questions I ask, saying the first thing that comes to your mind.  If you wait too long to answer, that’s not the character answering – that’s YOU trying to figure out the right thing to say!


(Character,) would you please tell me what you look like and what you are doing?


I’m wearing a robe and I’m helping someone move on.

What do you like most about yourself in this experience? What are your strengths?


I can help people by helping them move on and to continue to wherever they’re going.

What do you dislike most about yourself?


What I have to do my job.

Do you have weaknesses?  What are they?

Not that I know of, no.

If you could change this experience in any way you wanted, would you? If so, how would you change it?


I would change it to make it for the better – to make it not dark and scary.

(Character,) if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change?  If so, how?


No, I wouldn’t change.

(Continue, answering as the transformed object, if it chose to change.)

(Character), you are in this person’s dream or life experience, correct?  They created you, right?


Yes and yes.

(Character), what aspect of this person do you represent or most closely personify?


Sadness and guilt.  Everything bad that’s happened in his life and that’s going to happen to him.  I’m just helping him to pursue something.

(Character), how would you score yourself 0-10, in confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, peace of mind, and witnessing?  (And why?)


Confidence – 5

Compassion  – 6

Wisdom – 10

Acceptance – 0

Peace of Mind – 8

Witnessing – 10

(Character,) if you scored tens in all six of these qualities, would you be different?  If so, how?


Yes, I’d be a better person.  I’m not good because I don’t help people and I give them grief and make them suffer, but I try to help.

How would this person’s life be different if he naturally scored high in all six of these qualities all the time?


He’d be a different person and not himself.  He’d be someone else.  He’d be a nicer person – a more careful person – careful about making decisions in general.

If you could live this person’s waking life for him, how would you live it differently?


Do more things – try to do get out and do things instead of just sitting at home – try to live life more.

Why do you think that you are in this person’s life experience (or dream)?


To change how he lives his life.

How is this person most likely to ignore what you are saying to them?


Something that’s not that critical or small or something that doesn’t seem big – just by not listening and trying not to listen because he doesn’t believe it’s the right decision at the time.

(Dreamer,) what have you heard yourself say?


I was talking about my dream and – that he has tried to change me.


(Dreamer,) if this experience were a wake-up call from your core, what do you think it would be saying to you?


To live your life and change how you live for the better – how I live, like go out and do things that I probably wouldn’t do like sky diving – like accept people for who they are – don’t worry about what they look like – like how they dress – accept them for them.

(Character,) do you think it would be helpful for _____ to meet to learn and practice Integral Deep Listening? How often do you suggest that we meet?


Maybe once in a while – once every couple of months so he learn what his dreams are and what they’re telling him so he can do what his dreams are telling him or not do what his dreams are telling him.

What can you do differently between now and our next visit to act on the recommendations of your inner wisdom?


Can we call it inner wisdom instead because grim reaper sounds like he’s trying to kill me or like he’s not trying to help or maybe trying to help but not succeeding and making me feel worse?  I can try to remember to live more – get out and do things with my friends instead of watching so much TV.

From this interview you can see that this process even works with adolescent males, perhaps the most aloof and disengaged age group one could possibly do dreamwork with.  The key is to peak their interest, either in an old dream, as in this case, or through appealing to some issue they are interested in, such as getting rid of a fear or a problem by looking at a dream.

Notice that this young man didn’t learn anything that he didn’t already know from this interview.  He already knew that he had the option to get out more with his friends and spend less time in front of the TV.  What the dream did was make him consider that he might be better served by changing his priorities.

How important is that?  We may have the best of intentions, but if our waking priorities are in conflict with important inner priorities, we will sabotage ourselves.   How often are our waking priorities in conflict with important inner priorities?  Based on years of professional and personal interviews, a lot more often than we think.

It is also important to note that the interview deals with this young man’s present issues, not those when he was seven, when he had the dream.  Interviews deal with the reality of the present time; they may or may not throw light on what motivated the dream when it occurred.  That moment is gone; what exists is our present perceptions and our decisions about what to do now.  Therefore, when you work on a nightmare, remember that the feedback you get will first and foremost relate to where you are stuck now in your life and only secondarily with when you actually had the dream.

Notice also that the Grim Reaper sees its function as to help this person “move on.”  That might mean to help him get unstuck or to wake up.  This is a radically different point of view than the one we take in the nightmare, when we feel victimized. Which perspective is the correct one?  Could it be that both are correct?  If so, what would that mean?  It would imply that a wise understanding of the nightmare would take both perspectives into account. We also discover that our inner self is not beyond scaring us to get our attention.  Unfortunately, we usually misperceive the message, since we look at the situation, both during the dream and after we awaken, only from our waking perspective and not from the perspectives of other characters in the nightmare.

Notice also that the young man understands that he created the Grim Reaper and that therefore he must be scaring himself.  This is an important step in taking responsibility for one’s own experience, something any child is fortunate to learn.  The alternative is to give our power away by always assuming the source of our fortune and misfortune is outside of ourselves.  Other people make us happy or sad; we are therefore powerless to choose how we are going to feel when other people don’t treat us the way we want to be treated.  The result is that we have little power to change the “other,” whether in a dream or in waking life.  As soon as we recognize that the “other” is a part of ourselves, just as this young man did with the Grim Reaper, we gain the ability to change how we feel toward it and to reclaim that part of our own power which we have previously disowned.

What does it imply that the Grim Reaper scored itself, on a scale of zero to ten, a ten in wisdom and witnessing and an eight in peace of mind?  Such scores are generally higher than waking identity scores itself.  This implies that this young man can learn things about wisdom, witnessing, and peace of mind from a part of himself that he has feared.  He can best assimilate those qualities into himself by imagining that he is the Grim Reaper.  The implication is that he would make better decisions, take more risks, and be more accepting of others.  These are predictions that this young man does not have to take on faith.  All he has to do is follow the simple recommendations of the Grim Reaper and see what happens in his life.  Are his decisions better?  Is he taking more exciting and fun risks?  Is he more accepting of others?

The experience taught the young man that his dreams can help him, and he is willing to look at them again from time to time for guidance.  So a door has been opened to a new source of ongoing inner support for this young man.  If you had such an awarenesse as a teenager would it have changed your life?  What would the world look like if most children and adolescents, whether Jewish, Islamic, Christian, Buddhist, or secular humanist, had the opportunity to be exposed to such inner truths?

Notice that this young man is no longer comfortable referring to the dream antagonist as “the Grim Reaper,” which is what he thought that it was before.  This implies that this his perception of the source of his fear has changed radically.  It is now seen as a source of wisdom and inner support.

I have my students answer a series of questions about each interview they conduct and send their answers to me.  Here are the answers this boy’s stepmother, who conducted the interview, sent to me:

What do you think that your subject most got out of the interview?


I think that he was no longer afraid of his dream and realized that there is a part of him that is trying to help him to live life more.

How can you follow up to see how he/she is applying her experience?


He’s my step son and I see him often so we’ll be talking about it the next time I see him, which will be in two days.

What went well?


I think the whole thing went really well.  It was amazing to watch Mason get into character and it was easy for him.  He didn’t really go back and forth from Mason to the Grim Reaper.  His face changed even – it was transformational to witness it.  His honesty in answering the questions was impressive also.  After all, I’m his step mom and an adult – he’s only 15.  The process was fun and easy and you were absolutely correct, this doesn’t seem like work.


Was there any place where you or the dreamer was confused?



Did the dreamer commit to a plan of action involving identification with his new Sangha member in specific waking situations?


He said he’d like to do this every month or two and that he’d keep the interview nearby so that he could refer to it and be reminded to be like his dream character in occasions where he might need to.

Did you schedule a follow-up time to see how their application is going and/or to do the next interview?


No because he’s around a lot and we’ll likely do another before this class is finished.


What have you learned about yourself through interviewing the aspects of yourself personified by this dreamer and by those self-aspects that you interviewed?


Definitely mirrored something in me to interview him.   I could relate to wanting to live more and enjoy life more – for different reasons than Mason but still can relate.  Wonderful second interview and experience.

You can see that anyone can conduct a successful interview with a child that reports a nightmare.   This was only the second interview that this student had done and it was done on a “tough customer” – a male adolescent, yet it went well.The key for a successful interview is the willingness of the subject to get into role and stay in role.  They don’t have to close their eyes or enter an altered state.  In fact, it is better if they keep their eyes open while they are in role.  They don’t have to change chairs or their physical position in a chair, as is often done with Gestalt role playing.  We normally and unconsciously shift among the roles of student, worker, driver, eater, talker, listener, buyer, and seller throughout the day without any problem.  It is no different becoming a Grim Reaper or a purple octopus or a fire hydrant, once we suspend our waking assumptions about who we are and who we are not.

Notice also what has happened to the relationship between Mason and his stepmother.  He shared with her a vulnerability, a source of serious fear.  In return he was not judged, nor did she interpret his experience.  She did not get into the role of Wise Parent or Knowledgeable Adult, which tends to force children into the opposite roles of Stupid Child and “Ignorant Dependent.”  This young man found that at least some adults have the ability to simply listen and respect who he is without making judgments or interpreting his experience.  He took a great step forward in learning not only to trust others, but also himself.  What a gift for a parent to give a child!

If your child is having nightmares, follow one of the two interviewing protocols for nightmares in the appendix of this book.  The one for children should be used with children between the ages of five and twelve.  The other one, which was used in the above example, is longer and more thorough.  It is for older children and adults.

If you want to build your own confidence before you interview your child, use the interviewing protocol with a disturbing dream or nightmare of your own, from any time in your life.  You will find a copy of the format at IntegralDeepListening.Com that you can cut and paste into your word processing program to make it easy for you to fill out.

You can blog with others about their experience using IDL interviewing with nightmares at IntegralDeepListening.Com.


Chapter V

Ending Sleep Terrors for Good

We have seen how different sleep terrors are from nightmares.  Never try an intervention right after a sleep terror.  Your child will not be awake and will be unresponsive.  You want them to be at their best, as alert as possible, at a time during the day when the night terror is the farthest thing from their minds.  If they are young, tell them that you are going to play a game.  If they can recall how scared they were during their sleep terror you will have them give that feeling a color, allow the color to fill the room, then have them watch it condense into an animal.  Then interview the animal.  We use animals because they are more specific and concrete for children and easy for even young ones to associate with the color of their fear.  An example of the process is below.

Your next job will be to help the child to stay in the role of the animal as you ask questions.  The best way to do this is to start each question by addressing the animal itself: “Saber-toothed tiger, what do you like most about yourself?” If you think the child is answering instead of the animal, ask, “Saber-toothed tiger, are you answering or is Tommy not letting you speak?”

Write down the answers they give to your questions.  This is important, because we all forget what we have said to ourselves during interviews, because we snap back into the world view or perspective of our normal waking identity.  By reading their answers back or, if they are old enough, having them read them over, particularly before going to sleep at night, you are working to broaden their perspective to include that of the personification of their fear.  While this may not make the sleep terrors go away, it is likely to help the child to no longer be afraid of them or to be afraid of being afraid.  The answers that you hear in the interview will also go a long way toward helping you in your concern for your child’s well-being and safety.  This is important so that you can remain calm and objective instead of reacting in ways that may simply amplify the upset of the child you want to help.

Here is an example of the questioning process to use with them.

Let’s play a game!




Do you remember how scared you were last night?


Uh Huh!

(Perhaps your child doesn’t remember being scared.  Some do not.  If so, say…)

Tell me about a time you felt really, really scared!


(Child tells you his/her experience…)


If that feeling of being scared had a color, what color would it be?


Green!  With sharp TEETH!!

OK!  Let’s play pretend!  I want you to pretend you are those sharp teeth!  I’m going to ask them some questions, OK?


Alternately, if there is no visual image, say,

If that color belonged to an animal, what type of animal would it be?


A Monster Tiger!

Proceed to interview the animal…

Tiger, what do you like most about yourself in this experience? What are your



I’m very big, and scary with BIG SHARP TEETH!


Tiger, what do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses?  What

are they?

I don’t have any weaknesses.  I’m strong and mean!  I like scaring Max!

Tiger, you are in this person’s dream or life experience, correct?  He created you, right?


(If the child answers, No, I’m REAL!!!, just continue…)

Tiger, what part of Max are you most like?

His power!


Tiger, if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change?  If so, how?

A blanket

Blanket would you please tell me what you look like and what you are doing?

I’m here to cover and comfort Max

What do you like most about yourself in this experience? What are your strengths?

I am Max’s protection. I am his strength.

Blanket, how would you score yourself  0-10, in

Blanket, Do you ever get scared?  If you’re scared all the time, give yourself a zero.  Give yourself a “10” if you’re never afraid!


How come?

I’m not alive.  Nothing can hurt me.  I’m not afraid of dirt or fire.

Blanket, how loving are you?  Give yourself a “10” if there is no one you don’t think loving thoughts about!  Give yourself a “0” if you are mad at everyone, including yourself!


How come?

When I get peed on by Max’s cat I don’t like that!

Blanket, how wise are you?  Give yourself a “10” if you always know the right and loving thing to do and say.  Give yourself a “0” if you never do!


How come?

I don’t talk.  But I am always there for Max.

Blanket, how accepting are you?  Give yourself a “10” if you accept everyone, including yourself!  Give yourself a “0” if you reject everyone, including yourself!


How come?

I told you, I don’t like that cat…

Blanket, how at peace are you?  Give yourself a “10” if you’re always deeply at peace!  Give yourself a “0” if you’re never peaceful!


How come?

I just lie around and feel good!

Blanket, how objective are you?  Give yourself a “10” if you can always watch the drama of life and not get caught up in it!  Give yourself a “0” if you’re always caught up in life’s dramas!


How come?

I get to watch everything all the time!

Blanket, if you scored tens in all six of these qualities, would you be different?  If so, how?

I am exactly what I am supposed to be.

How would Max’s life be different if he scored

high in all six of these qualities all the time?

He would not doubt herself, he knows I am around.  He would feel strong and confident.

If you could live Max’s waking life for him, how would you live it differently?

He would go to sleep feeling me around him.

Why do you think that you are in Max’s life?

To support him at night when the power of what is going on his body is so overwhelming that he gets scared.

(Dreamer,) what have you heard yourself say?


If this experience were a wake-up call from your core, what do you

think it would be saying to you?

I have a source of protection and power in this blanket that will help me with my fear.

Do you have a special blanket you could sleep with?



Do you think that would be a good idea?



Blanket, do you think that would be a good idea?



You can blog with others about their experience using IDL interviewing with sleep terrors at IntegralDeepListening.Com.

Chapter VI

Ending PTSD for Good


While eliminating nightmares will not eliminate sleep terrors, it will reduce a major component of the symptomatology of PTSD.  We have seen that the symptoms of PTSD can simmer on a subclinical level for years before bearing disastrous fruit in waking life.  Eliminating nightmares is preventive medicine, in that it makes it less likely that PTSD will continue to germinate out of awareness as dreams of victimization and persecution.  It also has the added benefit of dealing with the roots of PTSD before it becomes a systemic dysfunction.

Once PTSD has been diagnosed, Integral Deep Listening can help in a number of ways.  It can reframe the fear in a believable way as a source of support instead of as a source of fear.  It can provide concrete images to identify with at specific times in order to boost immunity against symptoms of PTSD.  It can increase identification with qualities, such as confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, and witnessing that are natural protections against PTSD.

The most important factor to remember, however, is that the symptoms of PTSD are highly addictive and feed upon themselves. Fear begets fear; hyper-vigilance begets hyper-vigilence, self-medication begets more self-medication.  Disrupting this destructive downward and inward spiral requires an increased level of intervention. Instead of just doing an interview when a nightmare is recalled or in the day after a sleep terror occurs,  – as is recommended for the two previous categories of sleep disturbance, aborting PTSD requires a much more intense commitment.  Be prepared to do interviews every other day for at least several weeks, with a tapering off only as the symptoms subside.  Integral Deep Listening has been shown effective at disrupting PTSD when undertaken at that frequency.  A less frequent intervention will reduce symptoms, but they are likely to continue at a less intense level and then reassert themselves when the interviews and waking application of the recommendations of interviewed characters stops.  The good news is that all these interviews can be done by individuals with PTSD themselves, once they learn how.  While regular monitoring for support and accountability is very important, they do not have to follow every self-directed interview, and support sessions can also become less frequent as the symptoms of PTSD diminish.

One client, an eighteen year old male, was having recurring PTSD nightmares that relived a work attack by two guard dogs that got lose and pinned him down, with one biting his arm and the other his neck.  He thought he was going to die.  He developed hyper-vigilance, an exaggerated startle response, a fear of all dogs, although he grew up around them, flashbacks, and regular daydreams replaying the attack.  This was in addition to the replaying of the traumatic events regularly in his nightmares.

His flashbacks, daydreams, and hyper-vigilence essentially created a waking dream.  He would be driving or watching TV and there he was in his mind, back at work, opening up the shop.  Someone had not secured the pen where the guard dogs were kept during the day after freely roaming around the shop all night.  He once again experienced them attacking him, knocking him down, and with much ferocious growling and snarling, biting his arm and neck.

The body makes no differentiation between real threats and those experienced in flashbacks, daydreams, and nightmares.  If a threat is perceived to be real the body and the mind react as if it is real.  There is a famous old Hindu story that illustrates this concept.  Imagine that you are walking down a country road at dusk.  Dimly in the dirt ahead, you see a snake!  You jump back.  Your heart pounds.  You breathe more rapidly.  You watch it intensely.  It does not move.  You wait.  When it continues not to move you slowly, carefully approach until you are close enough to see that your snake is actually a piece of rope.

Most of the dramatic reactivity that creates misery in our lives boils down to this type of common misperception.  We scare ourselves by misinterpreting what we see and what others do.  We make things to be about us that are not and make things out to be personal threats when they are not.  If we could learn how to stop doing so we would experience a degree of inner freedom and peace that would be liberating.  If we could teach our children how to do so, how much needless suffering could they avoid in their lives?

This young man and I met several times a week, interviewing the various characters in his nightmare, the building, the dog pen, the dogs, the teeth of the dogs, the place in the store where he was attacked, and even the air in the building.  After about a week he started reporting dreams of being accompanied on neighborhood walks by his childhood dog, who was protecting him from other dogs.  We interviewed his childhood dog.  It said that he was not afraid and that if the young man would imagine that he was it – his childhood dog – that he wouldn’t be afraid either.  So this became part of this young man’s homework.  When he found himself in a daydream about the attack he would remember to become his childhood dog that was not afraid.  He would feel what it felt, which was a lack of fear, and it would interrupt his daydream.  As he worked along these lines his symptoms diminished.  His daydreams, flashbacks, and nightmares stopped and he was able to return to work.

This is an example of authentically, naturally, turning a source of fear into a support.    It also demonstrates how IDL uses subsequent dreams as a cybernetic guide to the ongoing interviewing process.  It is also becomes clear that what remains of the original trauma are only aspects of the victim’s own mind. The attacking dogs are long gone, but what remains are those qualities and characteristics that those dogs personify for the young man.  Once he could successfully change his relationship with those aspects of himself, so that they were no longer sources of fear, his anxiety could go away.  This he was able to do by summoning up and using the experience of being another dog that was not afraid.

Interviewed characters will also often recommend that the dreamer continue the dream and let what they fear transpire.  They experience themselves first dying, describing the process.  Then they imagine that they are dead and describe what that feels like.  If they continue to have thoughts, it is pointed out to them that they are not yet completely dead and then invited to die to their thoughts.  If they continue to have feelings, it is pointed out to them that they are not yet completely dead and are then invited to die to their feelings.  This is another way that those with PTSD learn what it is like to die to their fear, to enter a state of being that, like the young man’s childhood dog, not only had no PTSD, but experienced his existence with more inner peace and acceptance than did his owner.  Such abilities are about much more than the transcendence of the prison of PTSD and a return to “normalcy.”  They are about establishing a sense of being, a perspective on life, that is stronger and better than what is normal for most people.  In this way IDL takes a deep wound and uses it to not only heal, but to balance and transform how we view ourselves and our possibilities for our future lives.

On False Awakenings

“False Awakenings” are dreams in which you think that you have awakened from a dream when you have not. You continue to dream. False awakenings are different from lucid dreaming in that in lucid dreaming you know you are dreaming and stay dreaming. In false awakenings you know you are dreaming but then attempt to awaken out of the dream only to awaken into a dream that is the context, set, or ground, in which the previous dream was figure. You do not know that you are still dreaming, although it is possible to have either another false awakening, move into lucidity, or wake up. False awakenings are also called “inceptions,” “double dreams,” or a “dream within a dream.”

False awakenings are clearly attempts to wake up, and therefore on a scale of lucid dreaming would be more lucid than normal dreams but less lucid than lucid dreams. As such, they can be considered a type of pre-lucid dream.

Here is an example of false awakening as nightmare in a sufferer of post-traumatic stress disorder:

There is a different kind of nightmare which I don’t know how to deal with. It centers more around anxieties from the future. Ever since that terror attack, which happened at work, I got scared that a terrorist will break into my house while I am asleep and kill me (At the time there actually were some incidents like this). The nightmare goes like this:

I dream about something normal, then I am suddenly awake because I hear footsteps in the next room. Also the night-light is off. I am scared to death. I try to get up and can’t see anything because it’s so dark. Then I suddenly wake up with my heart racing and realize it was a dream. But then to my horror some man actually walks into my room, sits on me while I am in bed and pins me down so that I can’t get up. He wants to kill me. I scram and I try to fight, but he is stronger than me. Then I wake up for real.

The problem with this dream is that I “wake up” several times during the dream and then I don’t know what is a dream and what’s reality (at night). I feel Like a victim. I know the man wants to kill me. I don’t know how to deal with this kind of dream. And I suffer a lot from this dream.

Notice that this is a special subcategory of false awakening. It is not only a nightmare, but a PTSD nightmare. Also notice that the sufferer is deep within the drama triangle: he is a victim; he has manufactured at least three persecutors: the darkness, the attacker, and the inability to awaken-i.e., false awakening. He attempts to rescue himself by waking up but fails to escape his persecution.

Just as PTSD nightmares are excellent subjects for understanding the sources and effects of dreams in general, false awakening dreams associated with PTSD nightmares such as this one, shine light on some of the possible dynamics around false awakenings in general.  PTSD sufferers cannot escape from their anxiety. They cannot awaken out of the waking nightmare of their fear.  Whatever they try to do in order to “wake up” out of the anxiety, does not work. Their attempts at rehabilitation amount to “false awakenings.”

Secondly, waking anxieties and fears clearly fuel PTSD nightmares, just as PTSD nightmares fuel waking anxieties.  Consequently, in order to stop false awakenings, which are a depiction of the subject’s inability to wake up out of his or her waking fears, the waking anxiety has to be interrupted.  The IDL interviewing protocol is designed to do this. When the subject turns his fear into a color and allows that color to congeal into a shape he is mimicking the dream creation process.  Then, by interviewing the result, he is first respecting and then integrating his fear through the practice of deep listening.  When and if the fear transforms into a self-aspect that is high-scoring, the subject has generated an authentic, organic antidote to his internal conflict.  When he remembers to become that self, persona, role, or self-aspect, particularly at the onset of anxiety, he is waking up out of his waking nightmare.  He will slide back in again, but by repeating the interviewing process regularly with other personifications of his anxiety and other dream characters he discovers fresh, salient ways to perceive and incorporate his split off anxiety.  Such a process does not guarantee the elimination of PTSD, but if interviewing is performed daily and if the subject works diligently at becoming high-scoring self-aspects at recommended occasions, significant improvement can be expected.

Thirdly, this dream makes clear that PTSD sufferers are afraid of death.  High scoring self-aspects are not.  When you become them, for that time you transcend your fear of death. In addition, PTSD sufferers need to practice dying.  They need to imagine their nightmares during their waking experience and allow themselves to be killed. They need to do their very best to experience themselves as actually dying and then actually, finally, completely dead, with no thoughts and no feelings. Thoughts and feelings that arise indicate that the subject has not fully, completely died. Complete death means the complete surrender of struggle, such a unconditional capitulation is absolutely necessary for the rehabilitation from PTSD. Again, IDL subjects get a dose of this when they become high-scoring self-aspects, but that is not enough for people with PTSD. They need to practice being dead.  If they do, they will move into a state of deathless, fearless, anxiety-free peace and spaciousness.  The more this exercise is repeated the more a new perceptual framework that transcends and includes the old evolves.

Most importantly and most profoundy, false awakenings are a metaphor for the human condition. At some point we outgrow our awakenings. Our first love, a genuine first awakening, is often looked at in retrospect as an embarrassing delusion. Our loyalty to our family, employers, and nation is often experienced as a type of awakening into honor, honesty, and commitment, only to later be understood as a form of sleepwalking enslavement to cultural dreams.  By making such statements I am not negating the importance or value of any of these experiences or commitments; they have their place. I am simply pointing out a simple fact of human experience:if we are fortunate, we wake up out of false awakenings. Nor is it cynical to assume that this process is unlikely to end. In fact, it is a sign of hope, an indication that growth continues, and that enlightenment will never be a final, static awakening, regardless of how transformative it is.


Chapter VII

Ending Family Nightmares:

Waking Your Family up out of Dreamlike Drama


Do you ever wonder why you hurt the ones you love the most?  You and your family are locked in a socially scripted dreamlike drama.  If you are a parent, you are stuck in the role of parent, whether you like it or not, and your children are stuck in the role of child, whether they like it or not.  It’s safe to assume that your children dislike being stuck in their role as children just as much as you dislike being stuck in your role as perpetual parent. As someone’s child, you know how difficult it is to be seen by your parents (and your siblings, if you have any) for who you have become, instead of the comfortable image of who they decided you were when you were as a kid.   These roles create drama in and of themselves because they are inauthentic.  The core beingness of a person is not any role, although it expresses itself through many.  Such roles are merely artifices or tools that we use to structure relationships.  They have no reality in and of themselves.  That means that most fundamentally they are delusions and convenient artificial social structures.  What would your family be like if it could break out of those false, limiting, and misleading social perceptual frameworks?  IDL helps us to create relationships with the ones we love that are not predicated by these artificial and superficial roles.

The largely unconscious assumptions intrinsic to the family and culture that you were born into create drama that has very little to do with who you really are or accessing your many untapped potentials.  Social-cultural assumptions are entirely arbitrary, in that if you were born to a different family in a different culture you would speak a different language, have different religious observances, different attitudes toward money, and different tastes in food and clothes.  In short, you would be a very different person from who you know yourself to be.  While there is very little room to debate or doubt this fundamental reality, we do our very best to deny it by insisting on some predestination or fate or divine will for our lives.  Or we ignore the arbitrariness of our socially/culturally – based identity and to pretend that somehow who we are would very much remain the same, even if we grew up under very different circumstances.  However, that is a comfortable rationalization and self-delusion.  It’s just not true.  You and I would be very different people.

We know just how malleable our sense of self is from Zimbardo’s famous 1971 experiments at Stanford demonstrating that “normal” people can,  in just a few hours, be made to abuse and even torture other people.  We have the example of Patricia Hearst being quickly turned into a gun-toting robber by the SLA and of average people committing mass suicide at Jonestown.  Such experiences are extremely threatening to our sense of self; we cling to our uniqueness, to the irrational belief that somehow we are “different” or “special” and would “never do that.”  We tell ourselves that those people were crazy or brainwashed or weak, anything to reassure ourselves that we would never be like them.  We do much the same when we fly into a rage or say and do things that we later regret.  We think, “It wasn’t me!”  We say, “I didn’t know what I was doing!”

We conveniently forget that we regularly and normally do all sorts of abusive things to ourselves and others in our dreams.  We cut, threaten, confuse, fight with, persecute, and victimize ourselves.  The only way we can escape the awful implications for our sense of self is to claim that our dreaming self is “not us.”   We must be temporarily insane.  Are we temporarily insane when we yell at, lie to, or threaten those we love?   In retrospect, perhaps.  Then we can say that who we were in those waking events that conflict with our self-image are somehow not real and are more like a dream.  Yet at the time, in the moment, who we were, what we thought and felt, and what we did, was real.  It was not a dream.  It was who we chose to be.

Most basically, the problem has to do with two factors. The first is your fixation in your waking identity.  You create internal conflicts and problems for yourself when you disown other legitimate parts of yourself that contribute to your greater sense of self. Whoever you think that you are right now is real.  All your other roles and possible selves are less real and dreamlike.  As you read these words the exercising you is less real, When you are driving, the reading you is less real and more dreamlike.  If you are in an argument, the confrontational you is more real and the peaceful, disattached you is less real and more dreamlike.  Our normal, adjusted sense of self is disassociated into innumerable comfortable, habitual roles, each of which is real and powerful enough when its moment comes to shine, center stage, in the drama of our lives.  At night your dreams often put these inconsistent roles together in the same time and space, pointing out the inconsistencies in our roles that we are blind to in our waking lives, because they only occur successively, in contexts in which we have come to feel that they are appropriate.

The second factor is your addiction to the Drama Triangle and its three roles of persecutor, victim, and rescuer, not only in your relationships with others but in your own mind.  For example, as long as you take the role of rescuer and tell your children how to think and what they can do and not do, they will at some point begin to resent you or fear you.  Therefore they will start to see you as a persecutor and attempt to avoid you or minimize your ability to tell them what to do.  They will begin to experience themselves as victims of your rules.  They are powerless.  You have all the power.  They are helpless; they can’t do anything right unless you say it is right.  They will attempt to rescue themselves through not listening to you or procrastinating about doing their homework or chores, or by asserting their autonomy through resisting your authority.  It is their way of saying, “I’m not a victim!”  Unfortunately, what they are doing is simply perpetuating the drama triangle by rescuing themselves and persecuting you.  Then they feel guilty or irresponsible in addition to having to deal with your frustration and anger at their avoidance.  Now you feel victimized by them.  You experience them playing the role of persecutor.

If you experience the roles of the Drama Triangle in your waking relationships you are experiencing them in your dreams. That means that while you are sleeping you are programming yourself to feel anxious and powerless in your waking life.  If you play one role you are playing all three.  If you experience yourself as victimized, then you are busy rescuing yourself from those feelings and persecuting yourself for having them.  You cannot have peace of mind within the context of the Drama Triangle.  The Drama Triangle is more than a dream; it’s a repetitive nightmare.  If you are in any of these roles they are being sustained by others in those roles, most likely those that are closest to you and that you love the most.  In other words, your children and significant other are trapped in the Drama Triangle too.

Integral Deep Listening in a Family

Imagine you are a young child sitting in the family room with your parents, brother, and sister.  Your mother is talking about three life issues that are daily challenges or concerns for her: a lump in her left breast, disagreements with your father over whether to put money into college savings for you kids or whether to pay off high interest credit debt, and how to deal with you when you watch TV instead of doing your homework.  Many people will tell you that the first two issues are hardly appropriate for parents to share with their children.  Why?

Now your mom shares a dream that she had.  It could have been from last night or last week, or when she was six.  It doesn’t matter, but it happens to have been from last week.  You listen to her dream with curiosity.   Now you watch and listen as your mother chooses a character from the dream to interview.  It’s a rabbit. You, your father, and your siblings now ask your mother, as she pretends to be this rabbit, the questions from the interviewing questionnaire, which you pass back and forth.

“Rabbit, what’s happening in this dream?  What are you and the other characters doing?” “Rabbit, how do you feel?”  “What do you like and dislike about yourself?”  “What aspects of the dreamer do you most closely personify, rabbit?”  “Would you change this dream?  If so, how?” “If you were in charge of this dreamer’s waking life, would you change it? If so, how?” “How would deal with this dreamer’s waking life issues?” “Rabbit, how would you score yourself, zero to ten, for acceptance, wisdom, compassion, equanimity, and confidence?” “Are there times in this dreamer’s waking life when you would recommend that she imagine that she is you?”

Some days additional characters in a dream are interviewed, but today one seems to do the job.  Your mother seems pleased and satisfied with what she has heard.  She is agreeing to apply one or two of the rabbit’s recommendations that make sense to her. It had encouraged her to get her lump checked by a doctor soon.  It also recommended that she and your father go to a financial consultant and set up an overall financial plan that they could both agree on and live with.  Finally, the rabbit encouraged your mother to help you to decide when and for how long you should watch TV, taking into account homework, grades, family chores, and the needs of other family members.

Now you are watching your mother ask you, your dad, and your brother and sister for help in acting on these recommendations.  A week goes by and you are looking forward to hearing what your mother will say. She reports back on her progress: she went to her doctor and got an “all clear” on the lump, and got some good advice on dietary changes that would reduce the likelihood of getting lumps in the future.   She and your dad have made an appointment with a broker for a financial planning consult.  During the past week she sat down with you and helped you decide what you needed to have accomplished in order to get to watch TV.  You aren’t sure if you like this plan because you just set it up, but at least you are glad you got asked about it instead of just having some rule laid down like used to happen all the time.

Now you listen as your father gets to bring up three issues.  This time you interview a feeling of anger that he has, because he was passed over at work for a raise.  He thinks it’s unfair. The feeling is red, and the red color condenses into the shape of an icicle.  You’re excited, because next week is finally going to be your turn!  You never know what crazy characters are going to come up, and even better, everybody listens to your questions and what you have to say when it’s your turn.  Everyone gets an opportunity to contribute, and no one has the final word.  Everyone feels respected for whatever they choose to contribute.

Your Values

As this child, participating on an ongoing basis in this process with your family, it’s natural.  It’s not unusual.  It’s the way you grow up.  You assume it’s something that families do.   What sort of family culture do you suppose is being created?  What values do you imagine yourself learning as you grow up?  Here are some possibilities.

You learn that listening to yourself is important.  Without deeply listening to other points of view within yourself you cannot be sure that your plans match those of your greater self.  Most people are eagles that grow up in chicken yards; they spend their lives scratching and pecking without knowing that they were born to soar.

You learn that it’s important to ask a lot of questions.  That way you not only have better information on which to base decisions but it keeps you from jumping to conclusions that are wrong.  You have learned that because there have been many times when you or your sister or brother have told dreams and you were sure you knew what they were about and what they should do. But every time you found out that you were wrong, that the information that came out of the interview was very different but made sense to your mother or brother, even if it didn’t to you.  It was practical, and everybody could put the recommendations to work and report back to each other on how it was working. When it didn’t work you had fun confronting the rabbit or icicle or whatever, demanding to know why it gave “bad” advice.

You also learn that parents are people before they are parents.  As a child you know you need to respect and obey your parents, and as people your parents and you can show that you respect each other by really listening to what the other is saying.  You know that the people in your family are more than just the roles that you play of parent, child, worker, carpooler, student, sibling, and dog poop scooper. You learn that there are more important things for a parent to do than to be a good parent, and that includes being a whole person.  You learn that there are more important things for a child to do than to be a good son or daughter, and that includes being a whole person.

You learn that marriage is not only about love and caring.  It is also about partners helping each other be true to themselves. You learn that maintaining and building your inner peace is more important than any relationship, even marriage.  This is because without your inner peace you will neither make good decisions nor act in authentically loving ways toward yourself and others.

You learn that families are about doing a lot more than just obeying parents; they are about spiritual beings learning to support each other in listening to their own life pattern and supporting each other in its expression every day.

You learn that there is more to you than your waking personality. You discover that you can access parts of you that are very wise.  You come to understand that your waking self is often too limited to be depended on to make good decisions.  It needs the opinions of wise people, and it needs the opinions of wise self-aspects that know you better than anyone ever could, in addition to your own common sense.

You learn that it is natural to use in your daily life what your internal voices recommend that you do to improve your life.  When people tease you because you listen to what an iguana tells you, you wonder how they can be so foolish or afraid of listening to themselves when it is not only easy and fun, but makes life so much easier.

You learn that your family and real friends can and will support you in finding and following your own path in life.

You learn that when you ask your dream characters for their advice you make better decisions than when you insist on doing things your own way.

Likely Consequences

As this young child, what might be the consequences for you of holding these values as you grow up and live your life?

These principles could be expected to generalize into who you are at school, how you treat your friends, how you react to cruelty, impatience, or anger in others, how you go about solving problems that arise, and how you think about yourself. You watch your parents and your siblings honestly share their issues and take responsibility for them.  This encourages you to do the same.   Because no one in your family is blaming anyone else for their problems, you don’t either. Instead of worrying, you grow up experiencing your parents and family members focusing on solutions.  Instead of feeling like you have to pretend that you are more confident than you are, you see your parents giving themselves permission to admit their limitations and fears and ask for help, even from you.  Because your parents are honest and open, you are too.  Relationships that are both intimate and honest are natural and easy for you.

Deep Listening to your inner support community shows you how to wear your roles of child, gender, race, nationality, and group as if they are clothes that you take on and off.  They aren’t really who you are, so you aren’t afraid of losing them.  If people don’t like one of your roles, you don’t take it personally, because it’s not who you really are.  For example, you ask tons of questions at school.  You know it annoys some of the other students and even some of your teachers.  However, you know you’re at school to learn, and if something isn’t clear to you and  you don’t ask, whose problem is that?  If you ask and other people are annoyed, whose problem is that?  If someone makes fun of your father, you don’t take it personally, because you know that most of what people say is about them; it’s not about you.  If someone makes fun of you because you tell them you and your family talk to ostriches, clouds, and bricks, you will understand that they just don’t play the same healthy games that your family does, and if they did they would probably like it.  They just don’t understand!  When you flunk a math test, instead of thinking that you are a failure you talk to the different friends you have made of feathers, trees, and birds.  You ask their help in problem solving what you need to do differently.  Maybe they help you find one that likes math and can do it well.   You make friends with that part of yourself and ask it for its assistance as you work on learning math.  If there is a death in your family, you are very sad.  You also know, from past experience with your family dream group, that dead people can and do visit in dreams.  You also know that self-aspects can’t die because they are never born.  As a result, you can miss those who die but still feel connected to them, deep down inside.

The most important thing most people need to feel is that they are being heard by others.  When you practice IDL you  not only give that gift to another person, you give it to yourself.  You feel listened to by your own self, instead of simply talking to yourself and not listening.  Integral Deep Listening can be used by entire families as an approach to healing inappropriate rules and roles, cultivating integrally-based relationships rather than those based on social approval and sanction, and to support transformation of family relationships to higher and broader levels of functioning.  This includes more quality time, if not a greater quantity of time.  It also includes more honesty and intimacy in communication.  Safety and security needs can be respected, addressed, and fulfilled.

What would a family that came together once a week and took turns interviewing dream characters and life issues look like? Imagine a world in which children watch their parents and older siblings

• identify life issues,

• listen to each other’s dreams,

• interview self-aspects about how to address their life issues,

• receive practical recommendations for how to proceed,

• ask their family members, including young children, for help in applying the help they receive for resolving their life issues.

What values would this child grow up assuming?

• listening to ourselves is most important;

• applying daily what we hear in practical and concrete ways is natural;

• those around us can and will support us in this process;

• confidence, security, self-esteem, control, and power come from alignment with the agenda of parts of you that do not die, not from social conformity;

• growing in a balanced, whole way is much more effective than pushing what we want on our greater selves.

If enough families in a school community began practicing this process, what would be the long term consequences for the school?

• These principles can be expected to generalize to many areas of life, including  learning, work, problem resolution, and leadership.

• Kids would grow up in a cultural context of transpersonal perspectives that emphasize values like compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing.  This would largely compensate for and defuse the natural narcissism and short-sightedness of immaturity.

• Problem identification and treatment would largely be proactive rather than crisis-oriented. Problems would be identified sooner and solutions more easily found because an effective support system is already in place, starting with the child’s family.  This would largely reduce the need for massive social financial, physical and mental health support systems.

• The creativity of students will increase as they access innovative interior perspectives on the issues that concern them.  Consequently, their interest in learning should increase, along with their sense of satisfaction with their lives.

•  With the reduction of inner resistance and access to transformative aspects of self he personal development of students should not only be much smoother, but quicker.

Children should feel less alone and isolated growing up.  They would be less likely to feel that no one could or would understand their problems.  Consequently, they would be more likely to talk about them.

The goals that children set their hearts on are less likely to be self-centered and driven by the desire for acceptance, fame, or power.  Their goals are more likely to reflect the agenda of a consensus of their own interviewed self-aspects.  As a result, they are more likely to succeed in life, because they have less internal resistance and conflict and more internal support for their life direction.

• The speech and actions of children in the school would be more likely to occur from a place of inner consensus rather than superficial, impulsive selfishness.

Students would be more likely to feel that all humans are family members, because as they treat them so they are treating that aspect of themselves that they represent.  Consequently, they would be more likely to feel supported by other students and teachers and to give their support in turn.

Such changes become possible when the cultures of families reflect the cultural priorities of a majority of internal self-aspects of each member of the family.  The internal cultural, or intracultural values become the cultural values of the individuals that make up the family.  The cultural values of families create the cultural values of school, sport, and work.  The cultural values of school, sport, and work create the cultural values of an entire society.  Four hundred years before Jesus, Confucius said it best:

If there be righteousness in the heart,

there will be beauty in the character.

If there be beauty in the character,

there will be harmony in the home.

If there be harmony in the home,

there will be order in the nation.

If there be order in the nation,

there will be peace in the world.


You spend about an eighth of your life dreaming.  In the course of your life you will have over 150,000 dreams.  Not only does this time represent lost potential, if not addressed it can prevent you from healing, balancing, and transforming your life.  Future generations will look back at our discounting, ignoring and avoidance of our dreams as quaint and short-sighted.  Beyond eliminating nightmares, you need to learn how to make all dreams your friends, your confidants, and your support system on your road to personal fulfillment.


Integral Deep Listening provides a roadmap to waking up, not only out of nightmares but out of waking pain and suffering.  It does so by developing within you six core qualities that are associated with enlightenment.  These are confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing.  These in turn generate an ongoing sense of abundance in your life, an ability to laugh at the absurdity of the human condition, and a growing sense of the transparent luminosity of all things.  For more information about Integral Deep Listening, see IntegralDeepListening.Com.  For information about waking up out of the dream of life, see DreamYoga.Com.


Integral Deep Listening

Interviewing Instructions

For Children

Joseph Dillard, LCSW, PhD

623 252-1637



Is there anything that makes you sad or scared?

If that (sadness/fear/etc.) had a color, what would it be?

Imagine that color could turn into anything it wanted. What would it want to be?


Have you had a scary dream?

If your dream were playing at a theater, what name would be on the marquee?

Why do you think you had it?

(“These are the characters in the dream…”)

If you could learn more about any character in the dream, which one would you choose?

Pretend you’re that character!  (Character,) I’m going to ask you some questions, OK?

(Character), what do you like most about yourself?

(Character), what do you dislike most about yourself?

(Character), if you could change this dream in any way you wanted, would you? If so, how would you change it?

(Character,) if you could be anybody you wanted, anything you wanted, anywhere you wanted, would you change?  Or would you stay the same? What? Why?

(For kids eight and older:)

(Character), you are in this person’s dream or life experience, correct?  They created you, right? What part of this person are you most like?

(Character), Do you ever get scared?  If you’re scared all the time, give yourself a zero.  Give yourself a “10” if you’re never afraid!   How come?

(Character), how loving are you?  Give yourself a “10” if there is no one you don’t think loving thoughts about!  Give yourself a “0” if you are mad at everyone, including yourself!  How come?

(Character), how wise are you?  Give yourself a “10” if you always know the right and loving thing to do and say.  Give yourself a “0” if you never do!  How come?

(Character), how accepting are you?  Give yourself a “10” if you accept everyone, including yourself!  Give yourself a “0” if you reject everyone, including yourself!  How come?

(Character), how at peace are you?  Give yourself a “10” if you’re always deeply at peace!  Give yourself a “0” if you’re never peaceful!  How come?

(Character), how objective are you?  Give yourself a “10” if you can always watch the drama of life and not get caught up in it!  Give yourself a “0” if you’re always caught up in life’s dramas!  How come?

(Character), if you scored tens in all six of these qualities, would your life be different? If so, how?

(Character), if the person who dreamed you scored tens in all six of these qualities, would their life be different? If so, how?

For both young and older kids: (Character,) if you could live this person’s waking life for him/her, how would you live it differently?

For younger kids: (Character,) if you were the person who dreamed you, how would you deal with their (fear/sadness/anger?)

(For older kids:)

If you were them, how would you deal with their first life issue?

If you were them, how would you deal with their second life issue?

If you were them, how would you deal with their third life issue?

(Character,) would it ever be helpful for (this person) to imagine that they are you and act as you would?  When?

(Character), how is (this person) most likely to ignore what you are saying?


“What did you hear yourself say?”



(To explain the six core qualities to children:)

How would your life be different if you:

Confidence:   …were never scared?

Compassion: …always loved yourself and everyone else?

Wisdom: … always learned from the mistakes of others?

Acceptance:  ….accepted yourself completely for who you are?  …and others too?  (but not accept injustice or cruel actions)

Inner Peace:  …felt as peaceful as your favorite big tree or the depths of the ocean all the time?

Witnessing:  …looked at your feelings and the upsets of life the way the sky looks at the world?


Integral Deep Listening


Interviewing Instructions

Joseph Dillard, LCSW, PhD

(623) 252-1637




Marquee Name:



Date of interview:

Date copy to client:

Date copy to Dr. Dillard:


What are three fundamental life issues that you are dealing with now in your life?





Tell me a dream you remember.  It can be an old one, a repetitive dream, a nightmare, or one that you’re sure you understand.




Why do you think that you had this dream?




If it were playing at a theater, what name would be on the marquee?




These are the characters in the dream…


If one character had something especially important to tell you, which would it be?



Now remember how as a child you liked to pretend you were a teacher or a doctor?  It’s easy and fun for you to imagine that you are the shape that took form from your color and answer some questions I ask, saying the first thing that comes to your mind.  If you wait too long to answer, that’s not the character answering – that’s YOU trying to figure out the right thing to say!


(Character,) would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing?



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



What do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses?  What are they?



(Character), you are in this person’s life experience, correct?  They created you, right?_____  (Character), what aspect of this person do you represent or most closely personify?



(Character,) if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change?  If so, how?



(Continue, answering as the transformed object, if it chose to change.)

(Character), how would you score yourself 0-10, in confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, peace of mind, and witnessing?  Why?






Inner Peace:


(Character,) if you scored tens in all six of these qualities, would you be different?  If so, how?



How would the life of the person who created you be different if he/she naturally scored high in all six of these qualities all the time?



If you could live the life of the person who created you for him/her, how would you live it differently?



If you could live this person’s waking life for him/her today, would you handle his/her three life issues differently?  If so, how?





What three life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of his/her life?





In what life situations would it be most beneficial for this person to imagine that they are you and act as you would?



Why do you think that you are in this person’s life?




How is this person most likely to ignore what you are saying to them?



What would you recommend that they do about that?




I think this person had this dream because




I think this dream event happened or (some character) was in the dream because…




What have you heard yourself say?



If this experience were a wake-up call from your core, what do you think it would be saying to you?




“Now I am going to read back to you the comments of your characters as things you are telling yourself.” (Read them back…)




Integral Deep Listening

Life Issue

Interviewing Instructions

Joseph Dillard, LCSW, PhD

(623) 252-1637



Marquee Name:



Date of interview:

Date copy to client:

Date copy to Dr. Dillard:


What are three fundamental life issues that you are dealing with now in your life?






Which life issue brings up the strongest feelings for you?


If those feelings had a color (or colors), what would it be?



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


Now watch that color swirl, congeal, and condense into a shape. Don’t make it take a shape, just watch it and say the first thing that you see or that comes to your mind: An animal? Object? Plant? What?



Now remember how as a child you liked to pretend you were a teacher or a doctor?  It’s easy and fun for you to imagine that you are the shape that took form from your color and answer some questions I ask, saying the first thing that comes to your mind.  If you wait too long to answer, that’s not the character answering – that’s YOU trying to figure out the right thing to say!


(Character,) would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing?



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



What do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses?  What are they?



(Character), you are in this person’s life experience, correct?  They created you, right?_____  (Character), what aspect of this person do you represent or most closely personify?



(Character,) if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change?  If so, how?



(Continue, answering as the transformed object, if it chose to change.)

(Character), how would you score yourself 0-10, in each of the following six qualities:  confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing?  Why?






Inner Peace:


(Character,) if you scored tens in all six of these qualities, would you be different?  If so, how?



How would ______’s life be different if she naturally scored high in all six of these qualities all the time?



If you could live ______’s life for her, how would you live it differently?



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





What three life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of her life?





Why do you think that you are in _______’s life?




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




(Character,) _____ is so stuck in her waking perspective that she is likely to forget about you.  Some people find it useful to put up pictures in their bathroom, car, or at work to remind them of when to become a character.   Others give their worries to them.  Others have their friends talk to the character when they get stuck.  Some keep a record of when and how they are to be used and when they have used them.  A few have even created “tarot decks” of self-aspects to remind them of when and how to use them. What do you think would work for _____ to keep you a real, living part of their daily life?




______, what have you heard yourself say?




If this experience were a wake-up call from your core, what do you think it would be saying to you?




“Now I am going to read back to you the comments of your characters as things you are telling yourself.” (Read them back…)




Sleep Terror Resources


Aldrich, Michael S. Sleep Medicines. New York: Oxford University Press,1999.

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed. text revised. Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

Chokroverty, Susan, ed. Sleep Disorders Medicine: Basic Science, Technical Considerations, and Clinical Aspects. 2nd ed. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1999.

Sadock, Benjamin J. and Virginia A. Sadock, eds. Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry. 7th ed. Vol. 2. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2000.

Thorpy, Michael J, ed. Handbook of Sleep Disorders. New York: Marcel Dekker Inc., 1990.


Owens, Judith A., Richard P. Millman, Anthony Spirito. “Sleep Terrors in a 5-Year-Old Girl.” Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 153, no. 3 (March 1999).


American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 3615 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20016-3007. (202) 966-7300. Fax: (202) 966-2891. <> .

American Academy of Sleep Medicine. 6301 Bandel Road NW, Suite 101, Rochester, MN 55901. (507) 287-6006. <> .


American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). “Children’s Sleep Problems.” AACAP Facts For Families Pamphlet #34. Washington, DC: American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 2000.

Post-Traumatic Stress Resources


American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th edition, text revised. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association,2000.

Beers, Mark H., M.D., and Robert Berkow, M.D., eds. “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.” In The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, 17th edition. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories, 1999.

Herman, Judith, M.D. Trauma and Recovery. 2nd ed., revised. New York: Basic Books, 1997.

Laub, Dori, M.D. “An Event Without A Witness: Truth, Testimony and Survival.” In Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History, written by Dori Laub, M.D. and Shoshana Felman. New York: Routledge, 1992.


American Psychiatric Association. 1400 K Street NW, Washington D.C. 20005. <> .

Anxiety Disorders Association of America, Inc. 11900 Parklawn Drive, Suite 100, Rockville, MD 20852. (301) 231-9350. <> .

International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc. 10176 Baltimore National Pike, Unit 201, Ellicott City, MD21042. (410) 750-9600. Emergency: (410) 313-2473. <> .

International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. 60 Revere Drive, Suite 500, Northbrook, IL 60062. (847) 480-9028. <> .

National Center for PTSD. 1116D V.A. Medical Center, 215 N. Main Street, White River Junction, VT 05009-0001.(802) 296-5132. <> .

National Institute of Mental Health. 6001 Executive Boulevard, Rm. 8184, MSC 9663, Bethesda, MD 20892-9663. (301) 443-4513. <>

About the Author

Joseph Dillard was born in Little, Rock, Arkansas, in 1949, the son of an orthodontist and a housewife. At thirteen he traveled to the Middle East with the Association for Research and Enlightenment, dedicated to the study of the Edgar Cayce readings. The group included Hugh Lynn Cayce, son of Edgar Cayce, Bill and Gladys McGarey, founders of the American Holistic Health Association, and Ida Rolf, founder of the bodywork known as Rolfing. At that time he was introduced to meditation, dream work, and a number of talented psychics. In college he studied comparative religion, psychology, and philosophy, with particular interest in Nagarjuna’s Madhyamika (Mahayana) Buddhism. In 1975 he graduated from the University of Texas with a BA in philosophy. He traveled and lectured with Hugh Lynn Cayce on meditation and dreamwork. During this period of time Dr. Dillard learned and practiced Jungian, Gestalt, and other forms of therapy that use dream material extensively. In 1976 he began work in the mental health field and received his Master’s in Social Work from the University of Arkansas in 1978. In 1979, while working in northern Arkansas as the administrator of a multidisciplinary pain treatment center, he had the opportunity to continue his education by developing and presenting health risk reduction programs to groups of senior citizens. For this work, in addition to program development at the pain treatment center, he was awarded his PhD in Wholistic Health Sciences from Columbia Pacific University in 1980. Also in 1980, he created Dream Sociometry, the dreamwork methodology that led to the development of a form of therapeutic imagery, Integral Deep Listening, a type of “deep listening” to the transformational perspectives of spirit within. A dream led to a move to Phoenix, Arizona in 1983 and work as a psychotherapist at the ARE Clinic. About this time he became a devoted admirer of Ken Wilber’s integral psychology, whose influence is found throughout his writings.

In 1985 Dr. Dillard co-authored Dreamworking, How to Use Your Dreams for Creative Problem Solving with Stanley Krippner, a pioneer in dream telepathy and shamanic healing. Dr. Dillard has been in private and group practice as a LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) in greater Phoenix, Arizona, since 1985, treating individuals, couples, and families for relationship issues, depression, anxiety, addiction, ADD/ADHD, and spiritual development issues. His daughter Kira was born in 1987. Also in 1987, he became a co-minister at Logos, an interdenominational church in Scottsdale, Arizona. In 1989 he ran the Pike’s Peak marathon. In 2000 he began offering Practitioner Certification in Therapeutic Imagery at the Southwest Institute for the Healing Arts (SWIHA), in Tempe, Arizona. In 2007 he started offering Integral Deep Listening Certification in Germany. In 2009 he moved to Berlin.  Dr. Dillard loves to camp, hike, bike, and swim. He pursues an integral life practice, of which Integral Deep Listening is a major component. His real love is helping others awaken to their unique potential for personal fulfillment and service to others.

In addition to Dreamworking and Deep Listening: Awakening Spirit’s Purpose with Integral Deep Listening, he is author of six textbooks used in conjunction with the Integral Deep Listening curriculum. These are: Transformational Dreamwork: Toward an Integral Approach to Deep Listening, Dream Yoga, Dream Sociometry, Integral Deep Listening and Healing, Integral Deep Listening Practitioner, Integral Deep Listening Interviewing Techniques, and Integral Deep Listening and Meditation. He is also authored IDL, Love, and Romance and the free e-book, Ending Nightmares for Good. A German version of Integral Deep Listening is also available, Der Weg der Traume.

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