Torching Bodies: The Transformational Power of Nightmares

When I share personal examples of Integral Deep Listening (IDL) interviewing, such as this one, it is not to imply what your own answers to your own interview will look like but to help you understand how and why the process works in order to encourage you to experiment with it on your own. That way you test the methodology in your own life and find out if it works for you by making it your own.

This particular dream was a low-grade nightmare, more of an image I couldn’t shake than something that wakes one up with sweats. The fact that it stayed with me was enough to prompt me to practice listening to it in a deep, integral and respectful way to see what it had to say.

This interview is not typical in that in the second part the original character, plus two other characters in the dream, are interviewed. Usually, the originally interviewed character transforms into a different element and the interview continues with it. However, this interview shows how one can use this format to interview several characters at once without creating a Dream Sociomatrix.

As always, we start by listing three life issues. This is to make the interview relevant to whatever concerns you today, in your everyday life. Because, if IDL doesn’t improve your everyday life in concrete, meaningful ways, why use it?

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

Preparing for this trip on a clipper, the Regina Maris,from Amsterdam to Tenerife for three weeks with 34 adolescents, to teach them conflict resolution and life skills. I am making a bunch of power point presentations.

Organization: I have a lot of projects going; I need to do a better job of clarifying my priorities and focusing.

Balance: Always work to do there.

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. 

I am watching some man with a flame thrower ignite bodies piled up in a long heap that is supposed to form a dam to keep rising waters out. Some are not dead and I see body parts writhing in pain. I don’t understand how a dam made from fried flesh and bone is supposed to keep out rising waters.

Why do you think that you had this dream?

Urg. Takes a lot to get me awake enough to even remember a dream. The rising waters might be associated with all the flooding from three hurricanes in a row this year – on at Houston (Harvey), Irma and now Marie.

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

Flame thrower

Flame Thrower, look out at the world from your perspective and tell us what you see… 

I am torching these bodies. I torch whatever I am pointed at.  It’s not up to me; I’m a tool. 

Flame Thrower, what do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?

I do my job well. 

Flame Thrower, what do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses?  What are they?

I can’t afford to get emotionally or morally involved. I can’t afford to be empathetic, because I have no control over how I am used. 

Flame Thrower, what aspect of Joseph do you represent or most closely personify?

I represent his automatic routines, his habits, his digestive system, for instance, which has to digest whatever he throws at it, pretty much, and so I can’t afford to get emotionally or morally involved or empathetic. Physical, mental, emotional, sexual digestive systems are all the same in this respect. We all pretty much are instruments; we rarely express autonomy. And that is a good thing, because if we did, we could not fulfill our functions.  This holds true even when we are either abused or not used optimally.

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

I see no purpose in torching these bodies. It doesn’t make any sense to me. So I would not be doing that, number one. Would I like to be something that has more freedom of action? I have a function and a role to play.  I don’t mind staying a flame thrower, but it would be nice to be able to transform into other things, like say the ocean or these bodies.

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

Bodies, what do you think of this dream?

We think it is terrible! First, we are being treated disrespectfully and cruelly! Thoughtlessly! Second, how on earth are we supposed to stop the water just because we are burnt? It makes no sense! 

Water, what do you think of this dream?

Seems pretty stupid to me. How are these bodies going to stop me? Looks like a totally unrealistic solution to me.  Besides, what am I endangering? Nothing. So what’s the big deal? This is an unrealistic reaction to a problem that doesn’t exist!

Flame Thrower, Bodies, Water, how would you score yourself 0-10, in each of the following six qualities: confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing?  Why?

Confidence, 0-10. Why?

Flame Thrower: 10 I have no fear

Bodies: 0: We’re victims! We’re powerless! We have no options in this dream! If we could change it, of course we wouldn’t be in it!

Water: 10 Nothing is going to stop me here. Even if I were stopped, so what? It wouldn’t change or affect me.

Empathy, 0-10.  Why?

Flame Thrower:  0: As I said, I can’t afford to feel empathy.

Bodies: 0 We don’t want to have empathy! We want others to have empathy with US!!!

Water: 0 I don’t need empathy, I simply am what I am.

Wisdom, 0-10.  Why?

Flame Thrower: 0 I don’t need any. I have structural competence, and that reflects the wisdom of my design.

Bodies: 2 We are wise enough to know this is unjust!!

Water:10 I have the wisdom of ages of experience, of being the sum of the awareness of all that I contain.

Acceptance, 0-10.  Why?

Flame Thrower:  10 Nothing not to accept.

Bodies: 0 This is intolerable! Acceptance is insane!

Water:10 I accept whatever comes.

Inner Peace, 0-10  Why?

Flame Thrower:  10 Nothing to get stressed out about.

Bodies: 0 How much inner peace would you have if you were being tortured??

Water: 10 I am deep and vast; nothing disturbs me, even storms on my surface or global warming. Sure, I change, but none of my changes disturb me.

Witnessing, 0-10.    

Flame Thrower: 10 I am highly detached, since I don’t get involved in what I do.

Bodies: 0: I am totally subjectively trapped in my experience.

Water: 10: I observe whatever I contain; since I transform into steam and water, I observe the sky and everything on the surface of the earth and within it, where I penetrate, as well as the within of all beings who take me within them.

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

Flame Thrower: I could not function as a flame thrower because I would have empathy and compassion.

Bodies: We would not be here; this dream would not be happening. Maybe we would don asbestos suits and disco dance in the flames! Ha ha!

Water: I would flow where I wanted and the people and land would adapt to my coming and going.

How would Joseph’s life be different if he naturally scored like you do in all six of these qualities all the time?

Flame Thrower: He would be impersonal and detached when he needed to get a job done. He wouldn’t let feelings, empathy or rationalizations get in the way of him focusing on his priorities.

Bodies: If he was like me in the dream he would be the victim of what comes along, like we are in this dream. He would submit to circumstances, regardless how stupid, meaningless, cruel or irrational they were. Assuming I changed? Then he would act to take charge of circumstances, whether awake or dreaming.

Water: He would go where he wished and do what he wished and let the world and others adapt to that.

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

Flame Thrower: He would set about his work in a very impersonal and detached way. He already does this regarding many things; he needs to build on that and extend that ability. Being me will help him because it is an area of my expertise. 

Bodies: He would realize that he puts himself in my position far more than he needs to, has to, or is good for him, whether in waking or in dreams. Notice that this is not in a dream a matter of him waking up in the dream, but rather of any particular perspective within a dream waking up and saying, “I want to change and I will.” But regarding his waking life, it is mostly a matter of being more like the Flame Thrower or the Water.

Water: If he were more like me he would do his own thing and enjoy the sense of freedom, oneness and peasure that being me entails, even in the midst of one fish eating another and storms.

If you could live Joseph’s waking life for him today, would you handle Joseph’s three life issues differently?  If so, how?

1. Preparing for this trip on a clipper, the Regina Maris, with 34 adolescents, to teach them conflict resolution and life skills. I am making a bunch of power point presentations.

Flame Thrower: Stay objective, focused, professional. Have confidence in your skills.

Bodies: Turn it into whatever you want! You do not have to play the victim of circumstances!

Water: You will be riding on me. Get in touch with me. Enjoy my power, depth, freedom, and timelessness.

2. Organization: I have a lot of projects going; I need to do a better job of clarifying my priorities and focusing.

Flame Thrower: I am good at that. Make a list and become me in tackling it.

Bodies: You don’t have to feel victimized by your choices or responsibilities. Remember that you always have choices. Exercise them! Be creative!

Water: Beneath your priorities, beneath your business, there is always me. Become me and you will feel stable, balanced and whole, regardless,

3.  Balance: Always work to do there.

Flame Thrower: Balance is mostly a matter of simplicity. Less is often more. See how simple you can keep your thinking, your feelings, your relationships, your life and see what happens.

Bodies: To get out of the Drama Triangle you first have to realize when you are playing the helpless victim, the persecutor or rescuer. Then you have to choose a response that is not one of the other two. You already do this some, and you can work at doing it more. I urge you to practice it in your dreams.

Water: I am always in balance, Become me and you will feel your balance, find it and live within it.

________, what life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of Joseph’s life?

As above.

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

Flame Thrower: When he wants to get something done as quickly, easily and efficiently as possible.

Bodies: When he recognizes he is in the Drama Triangle and wants to get out.

Water: When he wants to get in touch with a deep, timeless, deeply enjoyable sense of balance.

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

Flame Thrower: To help him understand that empathy and compassion toward others and himself sometime get in the way and are not the solution he needs. 

Bodies: That victimization, misery and suffering are optional and represent an absence of creativity and objectivity. Also, that this is a problem that can be solved. As it is, his life will become richer and easier.

Water: To connect him with a deathless sense of the presence of life. 

Why do you think Joseph had this dream?

Flame Thrower: To wake him up to multiple transformative perspectives he can take in his daily life and dreams that move him into lucidity. 

Bodies: To dramatize how he plays the victim unnecessarily, whether in dreams or awake, help him wake up to it and see that he has options. That is lucidity that matters. 

Water: As above: to connect him with a deathless sense of the presence of life.

Why do you think the guy using the flame thrower was in the dream?

Flame Thrower: That was you being mindless, not aware of what you were doing because you were running on automatic, not thinking it through. You are much more this way in your dreams than in your waking life, but you need to be more vigilant in both areas. Being me will help.  

Bodies: He personifies your unintentional cruelty based on ignorance and/or thoughtlessness. You have extraordinary power, represented by the flame thrower. You have to think through, “Is this the right tool for the job?” “Is this job even necessary?” Instead, you go on automatic.

Water: Agreed. That was you not thinking things through.

Why should Joseph pay any attention to what you have said? Aren’t these just a projection of Joseph’s own wishes and desires?

Flame Thrower: I can make his life a lot simpler and easier. He will be more efficient and happier with the results he produces. 

Bodies: The Drama Triangle is subtle. Learning to wake out of it in all states is an advance in both objectivity and creativity, both of which will immeasurably enhance the quality of your life, moment to moment. 

Water: To appreciate the opportunity that being shocked into rememberance represents and to make use of such opportunities. 

Thank you, character! And now a couple questions for Joseph: 

What have you heard yourself say?

A lot.  I need to take a more instrumental approach toward my everyday life. I need to not only be more vigilant about how I am victimizing myself but how I can move out of powerlessness or a sense of being trapped or without choice.  I need to remember I live in a vast, unlimited reservoir of potential and to make the most of it, luxuriate in it.

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

Listen to and use wake-up calls. Take them seriously, Integrate them into your daily life. You won’t regret it.

Look back over the interview and list the specific recommendations that were made:

Many. But perhaps the most important is to read over this interview often so that I do not forget, to ponder it and how I can integrate it into my life more fully today.

For more information about the Drama Triangle, go here.

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