What do Children Need to Grow, be Happy, and Healthy?
Abraham Maslow, in his hierarchy of needs, emphasizes the fundamental importance of physical safety and security for growth. Physiological support is also required to develop a healthy body as a fetus and into infancy and throughout childhood. However, there are many examples from history and contemporary life of people who are safe, secure, and physically healthy, and who are exploitative and unhappy. Therefore, we can conclude that physical safety, security, and health are necessary, but not sufficient, for (mental) health, happiness, and a life of meaningful, useful, productive service to others.
Many people emphasize the importance of a loving environment for the health and happiness of children. They believe that “love conquers all,” and point to the examples of Jesus, St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Theresa, Paramahamsa Yogananda, and others. Their motto is often, “others first,” and believe that selfless giving is the key to health and happiness. However, it is not difficult to find examples of such people who die at an early age due to improper nutrition or disease, or who are ruthlessly exploited, abused, and murdered by those who value power and control, and who see love as weakness. This is perhaps best represented by two famous quotes. Plato has Thrasymachus say, “Might makes right.” Stalin said, “How many regiments does the Pope have?” Consequently, we can conclude that love and nurturance are also necessary but not sufficient factors for developing health and happiness in children.
Nations generally define health and happiness in terms of fulfillment of the social contract: “Support the government and the government will protect you and improve your standard of living.” But what happens when the government can no longer improve standards of living? Not only is there disease and unhappiness, there are riots and revolution. Therefore, this definition of health and happiness, not only for children, but citizens in general, is highly problematic. We all know have heard of people who are model citizens, such as military veterans, who are addicts or commit suicide.
What Do Children Actually Learn to Value?
None of these common “recipes” for health and happiness match the practical, everyday definitions of health and happiness that children face day in and day out. Society rewards children for obedience and good grades. The popular media, school, and parents hold up role models of wealth and power, such as politicians, corporate executives, or military officers, despite the fact that these people are generally deeply flawed, if not corrupt. The messages that children receive from mainstream culture, their parents, schools, and role models often contradict what these people claim to be teaching children. What children both hear and observe is that health and happiness come from making a lot of money and attaining positions of status and control. What other explanation could there be for the brightest and most talented students routinely choosing to go into the financial sector, which provides no products or value to society, but gambles money for the purpose of personal enrichment?
It also is important, according to the cultural world in which children are immersed, to do whatever you can to be beautiful or handsome. They know that both popularity and success are largely determined by how you look. Although parents, teachers, and role models often are not so honest as to come right out and say it, money, power, status, and looks are those values that many parents hope for their children. However, many parents are quite overt about it, as reflected by pushing their children into beauty contests or toward modeling careers, or toward those careers that provide status, power, wealth, or ideally, all three. Such careers are assumed to reflect well on parents, who can proudly announce that their child is a doctor, lawyer, politician, banker, broker, or performer. The undeniable reality is that as children grow they experience powerful and constant adult, peer, and societal pressures to have wealth, power, control, and beauty. Is it any surprise that so many of them suffer from anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem? Is it any surprise that entire industries now exist, such as the pediatric pharmaceutical industry, whose survival depends on encouraging dysfunctionality in children? Society makes vast amounts of money stoking these insecurities, desires, and hopes, as well as providing escapist forms of self-rescuing that both train children into cultural values and create the illusion that they are independent from it. Barbies, video games, porn, and popular magazines do both. How much are interest in the accumulation of wealth, power, control, and beauty drivers of the world economy? Certainly they are responsible for most of it.
What are the Implications of Cultural Immersion for Children?
So what? Aren’t these interests, pursuits, and purchases harmless? We are now at a point in the history of the world where it is obvious that the pursuit of such goals, as personal and social priorities, do not simply undermine the continued existence of societies, whether they be democratic, socialistic, autocratic, theocratic, or capitalistic; they are inherently exploitative. This means that in time the ecological and social fabrics that sustain existence of plants, animals, and people disintegrate.
Notice that avoided, but only that they need to be pursued within the context of the priorities of one’s own inner compass. This is a metaphorical reference to a type of gyroscopic, or self-balancing, and cybernetic, or self-correcting, expression of the negentropic nature of all life. We see it in the genetic patterning within a fertilized ovum, which is a manifestation of this inner compass that directs the extraordinary complexity of an unfolding life form. We see it in the pattern of an oak within an acorn.
But who does this? Most people think they already do. They call it following their “conscience,” “intuition,” “God’s will,” their dreams, or “divine guidance.” These can be helpful, or they can be detrimental. None of them are the same as what IDL means by “following your inner compass.” How can we know when we are doing so?
IDL is exceptional in that it provides a way to objectively evaluate what we think is true and right so that we can move beyond the self-delusions of self-knowledge that are pervasive for humans. It does so by accessing perspectives that are aligned with core qualities that are associated with waking up, or enlightenment, on the assumption that this is a basic goal of both a child’s inner compass and of life itself.
Because there are not only many important factors that contribute to health and happiness but also many emotional, financial, and status incentives for raising children in the way you choose, there is no one simple or easy answer to this problem. Nevertheless there are many good and courageous people all over the world who are working on it from many different angles.
What is the Approach of Integral Deep Listening?
Integral Deep Listening (IDL) offers an approach that attempts to take not only these various problems but multiple solutions into account in helping children. It begins with the assumption that life is negentropic, which means that it attempts to do two things: grow and wake up, or become more aware of itself. This is why IDL helps children to not only grow, but to become more awake.
What does it mean to “grow?” Typically, parents mean, “to raise children in ways that they will thrive within the culture in which they live.” However, as culture expands and quickly transforms, it is more and more difficult to predict what the culture of the future will look like. If you raise a child to fit into today’s culture you may be raising a child who does not fit into tomorrow’s realities, because of the speed at which world culture is evolving. This problem becomes obvious when poor people from third world countries migrate to first world countries, or even to a large city within their country. They were raised for one culture and are inadequately prepared for survival and growth in another. This becomes increasingly likely as the rate of cultural transformation continues to speed up. The answer lies in helping each child to find and follow their “inner compass.”
Accessing the Inner Compass
IDL defines the inner compass as the shared perspectives, values, and recommendations of multiple interviewed emerging potentials. “Emerging potentials” are either interviewed dream characters or the interviewed personifications of life issues important to the subject. Once one is interviewed it can be re-accessed when desired or needed. From this definition we can see that IDL views your inner compass as a process, not as a “thing.” It is not something someone can find for you. You can’t go to a psychic and have them tell you what your inner compass is. You can’t say, “I know what my inner compass is because my intuition tells me it is…” Instead, it requires that you do multiple interviews, become multiple emerging perspectives, and apply various recommendations that make sense to you. By doing so you grow into a knowingness of what your inner compass is, and you can tell other people, by looking at the shared perspectives, values, and recommendations of your emerging potentials.
What makes this so powerful is that it is not a belief, concept, or the product of one enlightening insight. Notice that religious ideals, philosophical beliefs about love, and romance can produce such convictions. At the time we are sure they are true and right; we plunge ahead and are left dismayed and confused when the bottom falls out. Your inner compass is different. It is a living, growing, ongoing experience in which you are grounded.
When we emphasize the cultivation of the inner compass the issues then become, “How do we reliably access this inner compass?” “How do we support it in maximizing its priorities, in conjunction with those of parents, culture, and society that are compatible?” Notice that may generate very real conflicts for parents: “Do I want to support my child’s inner compass or do I want to insist on what I think is required for his or her health and happiness?” The answer is, “both.” Parents will inevitably support their child’s growth out of what they believe is best for them or what they want, whether for altruistic or selfish reasons. To pretend that parents will not is delusional. However, what can be done is to educate parents on the existence and importance of an inner compass and why it is in their best interest, as well as that of their child, to support its growth and influence.
One way that this can be done is to emphasize realities parents already understand. Parents know full well that the world is a complex place and that they don’t know which, of multiple opportunities and possibilities, are best for their child. Should they go to school here or there? Should I insist they do sports, music, volunteer work, or all of them? Should I not insist on anything but instead take a lassiz-faire attitude and just trust? Clearly, that is not the approach of educational systems or society. Both have clear expectations and requirements, and shielding children from them is not going to help them prepare to deal with them, which they most certainly will have to do.
Therefore, parents and teachers need to approach consulting the inner compass as a supportive skill set, or as another tool to support them in the growth of the children in their care, rather than as the only or most important tool, factor, or priority. When driving a car you do not need to consult your NAVI all the time; if it is working, you can pretty much ignore it and allow it to give you direction. This frees you to focus on other things, yet to get where you are going in the quickest and easiest way.
IDL is something like this for children. Parents and children use interviews of dream characters from recalled dreams, as well as personifications of life issues important to the child to generate recommendations that are like directions from a NAVI. In addition, the process of becoming this or that interviewed element or character amplifies the child’s contact with their inner compass. The result is that the innate priorities for growth toward health, happiness, balance, and integration become stronger in relationships to the multiple, chaotic demands of external priorities of parents, school, peers, and society.
Some parents and educators will hear this and fear that their child will become head-strong and independent, no longer willing to obey or be compliant with self-discipline, ethics, or law. While this is a normal concern, over forty years of work with IDL demonstrates that this is emphatically not the case. In fact, the opposite occurs. The more centered that a child feels in their own sense of direction, the less they see parents, teachers, peers, and society as the source of their happiness or unhappiness and therefore find fewer reasons to be in conflict with them. This does not mean that they do not disagree with authority, but that these disagreements are much more likely to arise from an authentic need rather than from emotional reactivity or simple selfishness.
Why Find and Follow Your Inner Compass?
IDL teaches children and their parents to find and follow their inner compass for many reasons. One is to access a source of growth and integration that will stand the test of time and the unpredictable demands of an evolving society and world culture. Another is to provide parents with invaluable support in making parenting decisions. In this regard, IDL teaches “triangulation.” This is an approach to decision-making. Most parents make decisions regarding their children based on their own common sense and what they know, in conjunction with advice they pick up from others, who may be other family members, teachers, friends, or experts in child rearing. They may even ask the child what they want to do. The problem is that parents rarely or ever consult the inner compass of the child themselves because even if they believe that such a thing exists (most have not been taught the concept), they do not know how to access it.
IDL encourages parents to consult friends, experts, their child, and any other exterior sources of information and experience in decision-making, as well as to trust their own common sense and judgment. However, IDL also encourages parents to interview dream characters and the personifications of life issues important to their child, in order to access perspectives that are more likely to reflect the priorities of their child’s inner compass.
A question normally arises, “How do you know that the perspectives and advice of interviewed characters and elements reflect priorities of my child’s inner compass? Why can’t they just reflect his own desires or some imaginary, fictional interest that is either irrelevant or unhealthy? First, IDL acknowledges that interviewed perspectives may represent such things, but it has ways of testing this theory. It does so by interviewing a number of different emerging potentials and looking for patterns. If a number of them express similar priorities that do not agree with those of the child, yet are valid and appropriate, this is a indication of both the autonomy and value of interviewed perspectives. Also, these recommendations are never considered “truth” or “right,” but only one more source of advice, to be taken into account along with the advice of others and your common sense, in order to strengthen your confidence that you are making the best, most informed decisions for your child, student, or client.
In addition, such decisions are more likely to be ones that your child supports as well because they have been included in the decision-making process, meaning that the time and effort spent in doing so pays off in compliance and self-regulation in subsequent days, months, and years.
For the program to work it needs to be supported by parents, which means that it will have to speak to powerful interests that parents have for their children.
Here are some of the expected benefits for parents:
More obedient children;
Less “acting out” behavior, including fighting with parents;
More focus on achieving personally chosen life goals;
Less depression due to an increase in a sense of personal reasons to live, interact, and learn;
Less anxiety because of a reduction of internal fearful feelings;
Increased confidence and self-esteem;
Greater objectivity, less reactivity;
Skills for reducing stress, increasing inner peace;
Skills for helping others access their inner compass and helping them follow its recommendations
The following two protocols, the first, for working with nightmares and the second for working with post-traumatic stress disorder, are a summary of concepts and procedures found in Ending Nightmares for Good combined with additional concepts and procedures.
A Proctocol for Working With Nightmares
Integral Deep Listening claims that it eliminates most nightmares, including ones that have repeated for years, with only one interview. This is a strong and rather startling claim, and IDL not only requests, it requires that you not believe it, but instead test its efficacy for yourself. Here is how you do that, for yourself, your friends and family, and your clients.
Begin with where you are. That means choose three life issues that are important to you in your life right now, things that keep bugging you, that you haven’t been able to solve, places where you are stuck. We all have them. IDL starts here because this is the test of relevance. If IDL can’t help you transcend, include, and integrate the issues that matter most to you, what good is it?
Write out the nightmare, preferably in first person, present tense, as if it were happening to you now.
Write out your associations to the nightmare. This acts as a pre-test of your level of understanding. This is important because after the interview you or your subject is likely to think or say, “I already knew that.” Of course this is true, because the information you are drawing from is something you have access to, however, it misses the point. The problem is not what you know or do not know, but your priorities and what you do with them. You can know how to save the world but if you spend your life doing other things, so what? After the interview as a post-test, compare recommended priorities with the initial associations. Are they different? If so then the interview is telling you both how and why you need to change your priorities.
Interview either the antagonist or an inanimate object.
Follow the IDL interviewing protocol for dreams. You can find both adult and child IDL dream interview protocols at IntegralDeepListening.Com under “Resources.”
Stay in role! This means, answer from the perspective of the character from the nightmare. Do not analyze or interpret; you’ll have plenty of opportunity later to do so.
Write out the recommendations.
Choose the ones you want to work on and operationalize them. Emphasize quality, not quantity.
A Protocol for Working with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder may be thought of as the externalization of a nightmare into waking life, complete with all of the arousal components normally associated with it. You can no longer wake up to escape from the nightmare. IDL claims to be able to significantly reduce, if not eliminate, most characteristics of PTSD in a month to six weeks. In most cases, you should see marked improvement after only two sessions, with gradual but steady improvement thereafter, with most benefits occurring within six weeks.
Use pre- and post-tests of anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms. These are highly recommended so that you can validate the method for yourself and for your client. David Burns, MD, has excellent, short, straight-forward, and validated questionnaires for both depression and anxiety. Both adult and child PTSD inventories are available on the internet.
Follow the protocol for nightmares.
Allow the necessary time. This means booking double sessions (two fifty-minute hours or one hundred minutes) three times a week the first two weeks, two double sessions, the next two weeks, and one session each week the next two weeks. IDL interviews take a half an hour to an hour, depending on how thorough a job you do. It will take at least another half an hour to operationalize goals and to arrange a system of accountability – daily noting, emailing of the results.
The IDL community exists to support you and your subjects. Therefore, go to “Friends of IDL,” on Facebook and post your problems, questions, and findings. Educate us. Help us to learn from your experience. What can we do to make the process clearer, simpler, and more fun?
Secondly, know that what you are doing is important. The more that you find and follow your inner compass the more you wake up. The world needs you to be as awake as possible! The more awake you are, the more effective you will be at deep listening to yourself and others: the more you will get out of your own way and be able to show others how to find and follow their own inner compass. This is how revolutions start. This is how you change the world, from the inside out, starting with yourself, then your immediate culture – your friends and family. That is indeed the acid test. If you are successful at helping those who know you and who take you for granted, you can help anybody! So before you go off saving the world, get yourself and your family out of drama. Teach your immediate cultural support system how to wake up out of self-created misery. Then you will have a secure, strong base to expand your outreach. Focus on children and their parents. This is because children have the fewest resistances to IDL and because the earlier anyone finds and follows their inner compass the more it will shape the trajectory of their entire life. Parents are normally the most committed sources of support that a child has; if you teach a parent how and why IDL will help their child, you change the family culture in which that child grows; you have made a huge and lasting improvement to the life of that child and the entire family.