Some IDL Interviewing Guidelines



There are many, many ways you can approach an interview with someone. There is the objective, professional, clinical approach; there is the mysterious “I have special knowledge” approach; there is the approach to be taken with dedicated spiritual seekers; and there is the off-handed, light-hearted approach. The first is probably best with people who need a socially-sanctioned authority figure in order to trust. The second is probably best with people who need to believe in magic in order to suspend doubt. The third is for people who have tried a lot of things and are familiar with a lot of methods and remain serious seekers instead of turning into jaded cynics. The fourth is probably best with children and the young at heart.

Notice that this is a multi-perspectival stance, designed to gear your approach to your listener to their level of development. Some may respond that this is not authentic, that they want you to be honest with them and present the approach you believe in, not one that is tailored to their needs. The issue here is to balance truth and love. Those who favor truth consider those who emphasize love, that is, sharing the perspective and concerns of the listener, as dishonest chameleons who have no loyalty to themselves. They see such people as merely “kissing up” to their audience to gain its approval and support. On the other hand, those who favor love can consider those who emphasize truth as rigid, insensitive, judgmental, intolerant, dismissive, and discounting of those who do not agree with them. Both have legitimate arguments; all you can do is be aware that attempting to balance both of these extremes is an issue that is not going to go away, nor is it every going to be resolved. However, Wilber has it right when he describes an integral approach as one that listens to what level of development your audience is on and then speaks a bit above that level, calling the listener to take a broader, more inclusive perspective, but to be realistic about it. This is something to remember with IDL interviewing. Emerging potentials that score less than “all tens” in the six core qualities are probably going to prove to be more attainable than those that are “perfect.”

Let us look at each of these four approaches and consider some of their their strengths and weaknesses.

If you think your client needs a socially-sanctioned authority figure in order to trust you and the process you will want to impress them with your credentials and with the effectiveness of the approach. Give them reasons to believe that you know what you are doing and that they are indeed fortunate to be experiencing IDL from someone as trained and experienced as you are. Assume the attitude that you know what is best for them and that of course they will trust you because you are a trained professional and know what you are doing. You can impress them with your knowledge of Wilber’s AQAL model and how IDL is an important integral life practice.

The strength of this approach is that you are socially credible. Those who value social credibility, like other professionals, will feel comfortable with you. Sigmund Freud would be a classical example of this approach. The weakness is that your ability to gain professional students will be maximized but that will not necessarily have any correlation at all with your competency as an IDL practitioner, as Freud’s ability to help his patients with his methods were dubious.

If you think your client needs to believe in magic in order to suspend their doubt and believe, you might want to take on the “I have special knowledge approach.” Explain IDL in terms of the particular religious tradition of the person if their spirituality is framed in terms of a particular mythological narrative, or explain IDL’s understanding of lucid dreaming, IDL as a dream yoga and a spiritual discipline, interviews with angels, dolphins, spiritual masters, UFO’s, near death experiences, past life experiences, and the deceased in dreams. There is much you can legitimately say that is fascinating, mysterious, and magical.

The strength of this approach is that you plug into the aspirations, hopes, dreams, and idealism of your client. You show them ways that they can frame IDL in terms of their culture, value, traditions, and world view. The weakness is that it tends to be elevationistic, promising more than it delivers, and possibly setting your client up for disappointment because of unrealistic expectations.

If your client is a serious spiritual seeker they will have committed for some time to one or more study or discipline. They have studied and perhaps taught meditation; they have spent some years following this or that teacher. It is clear that their primary priority is enlightenment, not the elimination of pain, religious conversion, access to altered states, learning another modality to add to their professional armamentarium, or having a good time. These people want to know if you can really help them to wake up, and if so, if it is in a way that will work for them. Since people are different, there is no way that you can be all things for all people. The best that you can do is share with these people how IDL has awakened, and continues to awaken, you. Tell them how you have changed and how your life has been changed. If they feel your transformation and it resonates with where they want to go, you have created trust.

The strengths of this approach are that it is honest and experiential, like the transpersonal. The weaknesses is that it assumes the most both of you as a teacher and your client. If you haven’t engaged in serious spiritual discipline yourself, don’t try to convince these people you have; it won’t work.

If your client is a kid or a child at heart, take a  light-hearted, playful approach. I favor this approach because one of the core qualities that undermines IDL is cosmic humor. It involves learning not to take yourself, your role, or life too seriously, yet not dismissing yourself, others, or life in a flippant way either. Dreams are spontaneous, creative, and whimsical; having worked with them for years some of that perspective has rubbed off on me. But this may not be your natural style. If not, experiment with the others. It is generally best to be able to take the role that is going to generate the most confidence and trust in your client, regardless of your own natural tendencies.

The strength of a light-hearted approach is that playing pretend is a natural developmental competency for a five or six year old. If you approach IDL in such a way you increase the likelihood that your subject will imagine they are a child, get into role, and have a good interview. The weakness of this approach is that it doesn’t work if you aren’t the playful type or your client won’t or can’t play. It isn’t for everyone. In addition, listeners who need socially validated authority to feel secure enough to suspend their doubts about you and IDL may think you’re a superficial fool who doesn’t take them or life seriously enough. But if you want to try it, here are some of the sorts of things you would say:

“Are you ready to have fun?” “Are you ready to get crazy?” “Are you ready to learn a lot?” “Are you ready to GROW?” “We’re going to play a game. It’s easy and fun!” “Do you remember how you played ‘pretend’ as a kid?” “We are going to play ‘pretend!’ We don’t know yet what you are going to pretend to be yet, but whatever it is, just keep pretending! Stay in the role of that character, OK?” “You don’t have to think about what you’re saying because I’m going to write it down so you’ll be able to think about it later, OK?” “Don’t worry if it’s stupid or crazy or strong emotions come up – that’s part of the game. Just keep pretending, OK?” “And pretend with your eyes open, just like an actor on stage would do, OK?”

You can say more, but at least cover the above points. You are establishing expectations for the interview so that their mind set is positive and so they won’t take it too seriously. You are erring on the side of making them take the interview too lightly than on the other side, which is for them to think it is weighty, important, serious stuff. Why? Because they see their problems that way already, and that causes them to have all sorts of control issues and to micro-manage their growth, thereby clogging off creative solutions that can make all the difference. If you present IDL in a serious manner you are likely to hook their need to perform well for the teacher, to stay in control, and to look good. But all that is about them; you’re wanting them to suspend as much of that phony, superficial scripting as possible. You are telling them only half-truths, but this is the half they need to hear and focus on now, at the beginning of the interview.

You are also giving them permissions. Permission is important. Many people don’t give themselves permission to pretend, to have fun, to be crazy, to learn new things that might threaten the status quo, or to grow. You are consciously, specifically giving them these permissions. You are also requiring that they give themselves these permissions by expecting an answer in the affirmative to each of these questions: “YES!”


“We’re going to play a game.”


You are saying that important, serious, transformational stuff doesn’t have to be serious. This reflects a fundamental value of emerging potentials: cosmic humor. Hindus talk about this as lila, the play of Brahman, in dreaming the universe. Cosmic humor has also been called “crazy wisdom.” It’s the idea that life is absurd, but not in the sense of existentialists, who equate that absurdity with meaninglessness. Instead, it is the absurdity of trans-rationality, of experience that transcends but includes both belief and reason. This game is not irrational. It is highly rational. It is carefully thought through. But the rationality has a higher purpose. It is to access luminosity and abundance, and it does so by accessing not just humor, but cosmic humor. This is made abundantly clear in the absurdity of interviewing monsters, telephone poles, God, spoons, rocks, and dwarfs. It is made abundantly clear by the audacious, unexpected, and provocative answers that often come from emerging potentials.

By making this statement you are communicating and establishing a core value for Integral Deep Listening, for your life, and for their life: that growth happens best when it is not taken too seriously, when you can laugh at yourself and at the very real, undreamlike frustrations, dramas, and challenges that poverty, death, suffering, and loss present you with.


“It’s easy and fun!”


You are saying, “Don’t work too hard at this! Let it be natural! Let it flow! Be a kid! Have a good time! Be stupid! I don’t care! Nobody cares!”

You are creating a safe “time out” from the normal expectations of life. You are telling them not to care about what you think; you are giving them permission to stop judging themselves during this game. You are giving them permission to play!

Again, some people will hear this and dismiss it, you, and IDL as superficial, naive, and foolish. These people need to first be reassured that you are “professional” and know what you are doing. They need you to cite research, have books published, good references, and social/cultural validation to reassure them that they are not wasting their time and will not be laughed at by their status-conscious friends. If you have taken the time and made the effort to jump through the professional hoops of credibility you will find that more people will suspend their disbelief and allow themselves to play and get crazy.


“Do you remember how you played ‘pretend’ as a kid?” “We are going to play ‘pretend!’


Playing pretend was a time in your life when you escaped from all the expectations of your parents, caregivers, and teachers. It was a time when you got to be yourself and have fun. It was also a time when you were creative and free to be stupid and crazy without getting embarrassed about it. Many people won’t remember those times and will even have forgotten how to play pretend, except in the stereotyped, fossilized roles they take throughout their current lives: worker, driver, buyer, bill payer, and cook, cleaner, and caregiver.

“We” means, “You are not alone! I’m here to have fun with you!” You are there to support them in being free, spontaneous. You are there to accept them for who they are, not to make them into someone you think they should be. This is very different from what most people have experienced in their relationships.

Playing “pretend” is not to be underestimated. It is an extraordinarily powerful process. You became who you are today by assimilating the ways of talking, feeling, thinking, and acting of those around you. You didn’t even know you were doing so most of the time. It wasn’t a conscious game of “pretend;” it was an automatic process of adapting to and surviving in your family or origin. If you didn’t adapt, you wouldn’t grow; you might not even survive. You had to pretend.

Those were not conscious, chosen games of pretending. Those were forced on you. But you had other, chosen times when you got to choose who and what you wanted to pretend you were. When you did so, you felt free. You explored what? Your emerging potentials. You tried on the “clothes” of some potential “you” to see how they fit. You allowed yourself to experiment with growing into one identity or another.

To do so you had to lay aside for the time being who you normally were as a child. You had to lay aside those pretend roles that were forced upon you by the adaptive requirements of your family of origin and your cultural and social environments. As an adult, you don’t do that so much except in your dreams, in lucid dreaming, and when you meditate. Many people will attempt to do so with movies, sex, parties, drugs and alcohol, books, vacations, job changes, new relationships, and so forth. They are attempting to escape from the prison of their stereotyped pretend roles but they move into other stereotyped, pretend roles that do not bring healing, balance, or transformation. Some lay aside their stereotyped pretend roles by attempting to evoke mystical experiences with meditation, lucid dreaming, drugs, or ecstatic practices of one sort or another. These can indeed bring healing, balance, and transformation, but it generally doesn’t last. When these states fade, as they always do, a person shrinks back into their normal, stereotyped roles. Their life can then become a quest to duplicate a rare and unlikely experience.

Integral Deep Listening interviewing provides a deceptively simple, easy, and powerful way to play “pretend” that can easily be duplicated and which generates slow stage development instead of intense but transient states. By inviting your subject to identify with authentic emerging potentials you are bringing the best of their childhood into their present experience in a healthy, ongoing way that they can use to change their life for the better however and whenever they so desire.


We don’t know yet what you are going to pretend to be yet, but whatever it is, just keep pretending! Stay in the role of that character, OK?”


The first statement says, “Trust me. I know what I’m doing.” This is the basic decision your subject has to make. Are they going to trust you or not? If they get resistive, do not hesitate to ask them point blank: “Will you trust me?” If they won’t, the interview won’t be successful because they won’t get into role. You’re wasting your time and theirs. Refuse to go further.

The second statement says, “We don’t want to hear from YOU. You listen to yourself and your petty dramas in your head all the time. How’s that working for you?” We have heard from you and we will hear from you after the interview. But now, during the interview, ‘SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!” “Turn off the ‘inner whiner,’ the ‘inner doubter,’ the ‘inner interpreter,’ the ‘inner critic,’ inside your head. Just have fun playing pretend!” Get a ‘yes’ on this at the beginning. Insist on agreement, and then during the interview, insist on compliance. Your job is to keep your subject in role.


“You don’t have to think about what you’re saying because I’m going to write it down so you’ll be able to think about it later, OK?”


You are taking away one of their reasons/excuses for not staying in role. You are telling them that you don’t want them to analyze or think about why they said what they said, to explore why they made such an interesting response, or reflect on the implications of this or that remark. You  are assuring them that they will have plenty of time for that later, that nothing is going to be lost. Again, you are looking for a “yes.” You want them to agree and to commit themselves to staying in role.


“Don’t worry if it’s stupid or crazy or if strong emotions come up – that’s part of the game. Just keep pretending, OK?”


You are telling them that the interviewing process may seem stupid to them. It may seem bizarre or crazy. They may think they are having a mental meltdown, dissociating, going crazy, losing their minds, or getting hysterical. You are telling them that you are giving them permission to do any of these things. You are telling them to trust you, that you can handle it if they do any of those things!

Is this true, or are you lying to them? It’s true, and this is why. The interview is not about you and your skill as an interviewer. It is about listening to and trusting their emerging potentials. They are not only supposed to do so, but you are as well. Their emerging potentials know them, and know them better than they know themselves or you know them, even if the person is a family members of yours. Why? Because interviewed emerging potentials include, yet transcend, who they are. They are part of the client, yet they are more; they are value added. They are “perspective added.” They include the perspectives and roles of the individual, but they add their own. This means that the intereviewed character provides a degree of objectivity and awareness that innately knows how to deal with the delusions and dramas of the person.

With practice comes the confidence to not be intimidated by the possibility that a subject will have a meltdown. If they do, simply keep them in role. The objectivity of that perspective will pull them out of their drama. It is because they are unwilling or unable to maintain identification with the roles of their emerging potentials that they stay stuck. You are teaching them how they can get unstuck at any time. But to do so you must insist that they stay in role. They have to agree to do so and they have to follow your instructions to do so.


“And pretend with your eyes open, just like an actor on stage would do, OK?”


It’s relatively easy to go into trance, generate an emotional catharsis, or alter consciousness. It’s not so easy to integrate that expanded state into your every day waking awareness. Just ask anyone who has had a mystical or near death experience. Keeping your eyes open helps. It reduces the experienced separation between emerging potentials and everyday awareness. On the one hand, this makes it easier for your subjects to discount the experience by thinking, “That was just imaginary!” (Of course it was!) On the other hand, it helps them to own their emerging potentials. What is actually happening, of course, is that their waking identity is being assimilated into those emerging potentials; they just perceive it as the other way around.

The more interviewing that you do the more confident you will be. At the same time, the more that you listen to and follow the recommendations of your own emerging potentials the more out of your own way that you will be so that you will read people better and be able to respond to their needs in a more empathetic, altruistic way. Remember that your own emerging potentials will guide the interview better than you can, if you let them.

From Dillard, J.  Integral Deep Listening Interviewing Techniques

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