Understanding the IDL Interviewing Protocols

In the following, each element in IDL Interviewing Protocols is accompanied by an explanation of its purpose.

This annotated overview is intended to give those who are being interviewed, including yourself, if you are doing an interview on yourself of a dream or life issue, an understanding of what is meant by each question.

Annotated, Combined Dream and Life Issue 

IDL Interviewing Protocols 

Joseph Dillard, LCSW., Ph.D. 


(This interviewing protocol with explanations of each question is meant to serve as a guide to help you understand the purpose and function of each of the parts of the protocol. Because it contains explanations, it is recommended that you actually use just the interviewing protocol when you do an interview on yourself or someone else. For more information on the purpose of each question, see “Integral Deep Listening Interviewing Techniques.”)

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

(This question is meant to anchor the interview in concrete relevance to the current life of the subject. Extensive answers or explanations are unnecessary, but do push for three issues. It generally encourages a deeper look at what is currently important.)




If a dream or a nightmare is the subject of the interview, continue as follows: 

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. 

(Write down the dream, dream fragment, or nightmare)

Why do you think that you had this dream?

(Getting associations is a way to compare what comes up in the interview with what one thought at the beginning. Did they learn anything new? Have they changed their assumptions about the meaning of the dream? If so, point out that this is one test of the validity of the method. If they say, “I knew it all along, but didn’t put it in theses initial associations, point that out and also point out that of course they “knew” it; they just weren’t in touch with what they knew!) 

These are the characters in the dream, beside yourself… 

(Name characters and elements in the dream including objects like cars, rocks, cars, etc. This is to help the student recognize a full range of possible elements that could be interviewed.)

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

(What dream element is the dreamer most curious about? Go with their choice to interview as long as it is not a lover or close family member. The problem there is a lack of objectivity makes it more difficult to get into role and stay in the perspective of the character. There is too much projection. Normally a neutral, observing, objective element, like a house or a rock, provides a disinterested, broad perspective.)

If a life issue is being interviewed instead of a dream, skip the above after naming three life issues and begin here:

Which issue brings up the strongest feelings for you? What feelings does this issue bring up for you? 

(Have the subject choose one of the three issues listed above. Have them associate it with a feeling word: happy, sad, angry, anxious, confused, envious, possessive, etc. Like dream images, life issues are personifications or manifestations of feelings. Write it down. There may be more than one.)

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

(What color does the feeling remind them of? You are helping them concretize and objectify their life issue by turning it first into a feeling and then an associated color. It may be several colors or swirling colors. As with all questions, there is no right answer. Do not allow pauses; they represent the subject attempting to figure out the right answer when there is none. Instead, encourage them to answer quickly and spontaneously, without thinking.)

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

(You are continuing to help them concretize and objectify their life issue. Now, as a color, it is outside of them and has dimensionality.)

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? 

(If they block, ask, “If the color were an animal, what sort of animal would it be?” This is because imagery and emotions naturally first favor animals when we are children, so animals tend to be easier and innate.)

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! 

(You are not interested in their interpretations. You want them to answer as the dream character or personification of the life issue. Your job is to keep them in role and make sure that they answer in role, instead of as themselves.)

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

(This is an orienting question to help them get into the perspective of the character. You want them to look out from the “eyes” of the character or element, not look at it from their perspective. If can be helpful to ask them, “Character, is your human taking your perspective and viewpoint or are they still stuck in their own?)

(Character), what do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?

( You are inviting the perspective to elaborate on its positive characteristics.)

(Character), what do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses? What are they? 

( You are inviting the perspective to elaborate on its negative characteristics.)

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

( You are asking the element to interpret the “meaning,” function, or purpose that they have for the life of the subject of the interview.)

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

( You are inviting the element to either stay as it is or to change. If it is to change, ask it if this is what IT wants – the object is NOT for it to change in some way the subject wants it to change. If it doesn’t want to change that is perfectly OK: That indicates that there are aspects of the way it currently is that the subject needs to attend to. Sometimes a change can be avoidance, or a movement into imagined happiness, harmony, or perfection. Don’t allow such changes. Be skeptical!)

(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? 

(These six qualities are values associated with the six stages of every breath, as explained in Integral Deep Listening Pranayama. Their purpose is to invite but not require transformation. Low scores are just as valuable, meaningful and important as high ones. The object is NOT to generate high scores!)

Confidence, 0-10. Why?

(Confidence is fearlessness. A higher number means less fear of more things in more contexts; a lower number means more fear of more things in more contexts.) 

Empathy, 0-10. Why? 

(Empathy is the ability to get into role, to accurately take the perspective of another. A higher number means increased ability to take the perspective or “become” more things in more contexts; a lower number means either less ability or less interest in taking other perspectives.)

Wisdom, 0-10. Why? 

(Wisdom is not intelligence, but inner knowing. A higher number means a broader sense of knowingness; a lower number means less awareness about more things.)

Acceptance, 0-10. Why? 

(Acceptance is detachment, letting go. A higher number means an increased ability to die to emotion, ideas, plans, habits, or life itself; a lower number means more attachment and investment in all of the above.)

Inner Peace, 0-10. Why? 

(Inner Peace is harmony and freedom from stress. A higher number means greater and deeper inner peace in more contexts; a lower number means more stress toward more things in more contexts.)

Witnessing, 0-10. Why? 

(Witnessing is objectivity, the ability to watch yourself go by. A higher number means greater objectivity toward more things and people in more contexts; a lower number means more subjectivity toward more things and people in more contexts.)

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

(The object of this question is not to encourage that the character or element to move into some idealized state but to find out what the result would be if it did. There may be no change; the character may not want to. Such responses are completely acceptable.)

(Character), how would _______’s life be different if he/she naturally scored like you do in all six of these qualities all the time? 

(The character is not asking to respond as if it were “tens” in all six qualities but in terms of its actual scores for each of those qualities. You can review them: “Character, you gave yourself an 8 in confidence, a 6 in empathy, an 8 in wisdom, a 3 in acceptance…how would ____’s life be different if…”)

(Character), if you could live _____’s life for him/her, how would you live it differently?

(What would be different, if anything, if the character was running the subject’s life, living their daily routine, having their relationships, their life issues, their feelings, their thoughts, their addictions?)

(Character),if you could live _____’s waking life for him/her today, would you handle ____’s three life issues differently? If so, how? 

(Refer to the three life issues above. Repeat the first one and have the character respond. Write down their response. Then repeat with the second and third life issues.)

1. 2. 3. 

(Character), what life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of ______’s life? 

(The character may not want to change the life issues or it may want to change only one or two, or it may want to propose three entirely different life issues that are important to it.)

1. 2. 3. 

(Character), in what life situations would it be most beneficial for ____ to imagine that he/she is you and act as you would? 

(Does the character recommend that the subject become it, that is, take its perspective, in specific life situations, relationships, or times during the course of the day? If so, what, when, and how?)

(Character), do you do drama? Do you get into playing the Victim, Persecutor, or Rescuer? If not, why not?

(Playing the Victim means to feel helpless, hopeless, and powerless; playing the Persecutor means to be critical in a self-righteous sort of way; playing the Rescuer means to believe you are helping others when you are really trying to make yourself feel like you are a good person. You are also a persecutor to yourself when you are self-critical and a rescuer to yourself when you indulge in addictions or avoidance.)

(Character), What is your secret for staying out of drama? 

(The character may not stay out of drama; they may like it; they may be immersed in it. If so, that is fine. However, if they do stay out of drama, this is their chance to explain how and why they do so.)

(Character), you are imaginary. Why should ______ pay attention to anything you say? 

(Skepticism is a good thing! No one is expected to accept the recommendations of an interviewed character on faith! Let them give reasons why their perspective is important. This is also important as a way to remind the subject later, when they return to their normal perspective, when they will tend to discount the value of the interview, just why it is valuable, important, and legitimate.)

(Character), why do you think that you are in ______’s life? 

(What is their purpose for appearing, instead of a cabbage, archangel, or cloud?)

(Character), how is _______ most likely to ignore what you are saying to him/her? 

(You are helping the subject to identify their resistances to using the interview.)

(Character), what would you recommend that he/she do about that? 

(You are helping the subject to defuse their resistances to using the interview.)

Thank you, (Character!) Now here are a couple of questions for _______:

If this experience were a wake-up call from your life compass, what do you think 

it would be saying to you? 

(Your “life compass” is not a thing but a process, a sense of interior direction that is pointing you toward integration.)

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

(Listing recommendations is a way to harvest value from the interview as well as areas of interest to be tested to validate the process by seeing if application of recommendations actually improves your life.)

Every night before you go to sleep read over the recommendations you choose to work on. Score yourself 0-10 on how you did on each. Read the interview over several nights a week to incubate a non-drama alternative reality in your dreams. 

(These suggestions are designed to move your dreams into greater lucidity by focusing their thematic content on enacting the recommendations that your own life compass is encouraging you to work on. By so doing, you are stating your commitment to the agenda and goals of your life compass. The more regularly and thoroughly you do so before sleep the more likely you are to incubate 1) dreams that are more lucid; 2) dreams that help you to fulfill your recommendations and resolve these and other life issues; and 3) cause you to awaken in the morning with a more positive, creative, focused perspective on making the most of your day.)

Find a partner or a support person, like another person who you exchange interviews with or an IDL Coach or Practitioner. Exchange emails. Send a report each week on how you have done on applying your recommendations. Don’t worry about perfection; just focus on making a game out of doing better! 

(We all need both support and a structure for accountability. Creating such a relationship with another person interested in IDL and who is working with interviewing and applying recommendations is a priceless support and opportunity for growth. Friends of IDL is created for that purpose! Use it!)

Applying Recommendations for Life Change from Your IDL Interview 

This is important because we change what we are aware of. We don’t change what we’re not aware of. Simply increase your awareness of something and it will tend to change in the direction you want it to: increase or decrease.

It’s also important because it’s the way you test IDL. Does it bring lasting, positive changes to your life or not?

1) Make a list of the recommendations in the interview.
2) Choose the ones that you want to work on.
3) Make a weekly chart to track your application daily, before you go to sleep.
4) Operationalize them.

To operationalize a recomimendation, write it in a way that change is measurable so that you can test the method. What will be done differently? When? How will you know that a change has happened?

Are you eating more of this, less of that? Are you thinking different thoughts? Are you feeling different things? Are you talking/acting in different ways to certain people? When? How? What is different?)

5) There will be some items you can check off if you’ve done them before you go to sleep.

6) Other items need to be rated on a zero to ten scale. How did you do? Rate yourself without criticism.

7) Make it into a game with a partner. Have fun!

If you only do a bit of this, no problem. You can come back to this format with successive interviews and over time, you will improve your ability to monitor your application of your recommendations.

(It is OK to ask follow up questions during the interview to make sure you understand or to check out some interpretation you have. But beware of attempting to infuse your agenda into the interview! Integral Deep Listening is not about you providing answers, diagnosing, or treating! It is about empowering the subject by helping them to find and listen to their own authentic answers and recommendations.)

(It is also OK to be skeptical, to ask questions like, “Character, are you sure that is what you want/think or is that your human talking?” “Character, that sounds crazy! Why do you say that??” These character are not gods! They tend to have broader, more inclusive perspectives, but that does not mean that they are “right” or “better.” That remains to be determined by testing their recommendations.)

(The entire process is a movement into lucidity, in that the subject is gaining important objectivity regarding a dream or nightmare or a life issue, including where, how and when they get stuck and how to get unstuck, or how to generate greater lucidity in their lives.)

(The more waking interviews that you do of both others and yourself, the more likely you are to find yourself having dreams in which you are interviewing dream characters or elements. This is a powerful form of lucidity and objectification from your normal identification with your waking perspective, which we normally do even when we have a lucid dream. As such, it cultivates a higher octave of lucidity, both in dreams and in waking life.)

Leave a Comment

For more information, contact joseph.dillard@gmail.com. While IDL does not accept advertising or sponsored postings, we gratefully accept donations of your time, expertise, or financial support.