Integral Deep Listening basically works by providing authentic, realistic, personalized reframings of how and where people are stuck.
“Reframing” refers to a different contextualization of our problem and of ourselves. It could be to a relationship with a partner, parent, child, or co-worker, a physical disability, a childhood trauma, or a fear of the future. When we find a way of looking at ourselves and our challenges that “fits,” that makes sense and is useful, life tends to smooth out, because we are no longer so much in conflict with ourselves, others, or life.
If we start with the premise that we are all scripted from childhood to perceive ourselves, others, and life challenges in certain ways, we can conclude that unless we become aware of that scripting that we are destined to be victimized by its limitations, while supported by its strengths.
Generally speaking, the problem with cultural scripting by our families, teachers, and peers, is that such scripting provides a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Our parents and culture have a certain set of expectations about how and why we are supposed to act in order to succeed, and they do their best to make us conform to that set of expectations. When we do not know who we are, and the expectations of our parents and teachers conflict with those of our peers, we can get very confused. Similarly, if the expectations of our partner conflict with those of our career, script conflicts can create huge problems.
We are individuals; one type of cultural script couldn’t possibly fit all of us. We have all experienced feeling like a round peg being pounded into a square hole. Others, like our parents, friends, and therapists, mean well, but they are not us; they have their own scripted expectations about what we need.
The above diagnosis, that many psychological problems boil down to not knowing who we are because we have assimilated cultural scripts that are not who we are, comes from Transactional Analysis.
The solution provided by Transactional Analysis is to become aware of your scripting and then choose a script that fits you.
The problem with this solution is that we don’t always know what is best for us and others. We see this clearly in adolescents who simply react to the scripting of parents and authority figures by taking up the scripted behaviors of peers (cigarettes, alcohol, tatooing, piercing, styles of dress and speaking, etc), confident that these are authentic individual choices when they are simply identification with cultural sub-scripts.
There are many circumstances where we do what we believe is best for us and others and we are mistaken. In fact, many people spend their entire lives discovering what doesn’t work for them, what not to do, what sorts of people to avoid, rather than finding what works. Most of us know what that is like – failed relationships, ineffective health remedies, mistaken career choices.
IDL assumes that the perspectives provided by our interviewed emerging potentials can access our “life compass” or a way forward that “fits” and that is authentic, that may be quite different from our priorities or what we ourselves might choose. It may also be quite different from the prevalent cultural scripting, which can put us at odds with parents, teachers, and friends. So beware! Becoming authentic carries authentic risks!!
IDL “works” by accessing perspectives that are part of us, and therefore know us much better than others ever will, and as well as we know ourselves. But in addition, they add their own unique perspective to our own. This provides a creative reframing of our life issues and dreams. There is no guarantee these perspectives are true or helpful; we must test them to find out if they really make a difference or not.
Operationalizing and applying recommendations
This is tested by operationalizing and acting on recommendations of our choice made by interviewed characters.
To “operationalize” means to answer the question, “How would anyone know anything was different?” That means that something has to be measured so that you can tell if there is more or less, better or worse. Otherwise, how does one know if there is any genuine change or not?
IDL is also tested by “becoming,” or taking the perspective, of previously interviewed characters in the particular circumstances that they recommend. For example, if an interviewed crocodile recommends you become it when you want to procrastinate, you take that as a hypothesis and practice becoming the crocodile when you want to procrastinate. What is the result? Do you procrastinate more or less?
On what conditions is IDL most effective?
IDL Interviewing is most effective on the most common of all mental health disorders, anxiety-based disorders, such as fear, sense of threat, phobias, and PTSD. Nightmares obviously fall into this category.
The reason it is so effective against anxiety disorders is because fear is often a matter of misperception. When a sense of threat or anxiety is reframed in ways that makes sense and feels authentic, fear and anxiety naturally diminish. Sometimes one interview is all that is required, but most of us need ongoing infusions of broader perspectives, because we have a natural tendency to fall back into old scripts.
IDL is also effective in other areas where reframing is the major issue. This includes marital and relationship conflicts, in which people often have unrealistic expectations or misperceive who the other person is. When and if these framings become more realistic the conflict often is reduced if not eliminated all together.
Another area where reframing makes a huge difference is in the area of self-esteem and a realistic appraisal of one’s abilities. If we lack self-confidence and access perspectives that are authentically confident and then practice becoming them, as well as act on their recommendations, it is not unusual to experience improvements in self-esteem and self-confidence.
IDL is also effective in the treatment of exogenous or environmentally-induced depressions, like that often accompanying divorce, death, or physical disability. Again, it does so by re-framing the experience in ways that objectify it. We feel less victimized and have a greater sense of understanding what has happened and how to go forward to build a better life.
IDL can also be effective in both diagnosing and treating personality disorders. It diagnoses based on the ability of an individual to take the perspective of this or that character and embody perspectives that are radically different from their own. If an individual is not able to do so, but instead every character parrots their waking perspective and preferences, this is an indication of a lack of the ability to empathize, a core indicator of possible personality disorder.
The act of practicing identifying with multiple characters probably enhances the ability to empathize – to put ourselves in the perspectives of others, thereby providing one treatment option for those with personality disorders.
There are all sorts of specific issues, related to the life issues that people bring up, that IDL can help resolve, or at least gain a broader, more creative and objective perspective toward. Examples might be writer’s block, fear of job interviewing, decisions regarding whether to move or stay in a city or with a partner.
Areas where IDL is not so effective
IDL does not work with those who do not or will not identify with the perspective of this or that character. If every character parrots one’s waking perspective and preference, the interview is not going anywhere and is useless. If you suspect a lack of empathy/identification with an interviewed character, first ask the character, “Is your human allowing you to speak or are they putting words in your mouth?” If the character answers that they are putting words in their mouth then there is empathy and you can go on with the interview after you find out from the character why they think this is happening. If the character answers that they are speaking for themselves but continues to parrot the perspective of the subject, then you have someone who is incapable of empathy. Stop the interview; you are wasting your time. Try some other intervention.
Addictions are notoriously difficult to treat because they are maintained by much more than a mistaken world view. They are maintained by physiological and habitual urges that are extremely powerful, and strong addictions generally require behavioral modification – changes in setting, rewards and punishments, and long-term withdrawal. So while IDL can support such these changes for addicts that want to stop, it is unable by itself to combat the multiple resistances to change that normally accompany the treatment of addiction.
Regarding schizophrenia, IDL offers some help but is no cure. These people often can get into role and produce some very powerful, very resonating reframings that make sense to them and help them to live with the schizophrenia. However, I have never seen IDL get rid of schizophrenia, which I believe is a physiological and genetic disorder. These people cannot live outside their delusions unless they are first stabilized on medication. I hate to say that, because I hate the side-effects of these meds. However, I have not seen anything else make a dent in active schizophrenia besides being kept in a safe environment – usually in-patient – while prescribed medication is being given time to work. In between episodes, these people can use IDL to put their lives back together and make the best of a bad situation.
Endogenous, or biologically-based depression, is not going to go away because of the re-framing provided by IDL. What IDL interviewing can do is give the depression a broader meaning or purpose so that there is less or no suicidality, for example. It can also help people turn a disabling condition such as depression into an asset, as has been the case with some extraordinarily depressed, yet creative artists.
Setting realistic expectations
It is important that you set realistic expectations for IDL, for yourself as an interviewer, and for those who you interview. You can make confident claims about its ability to eliminate nightmares, recurring dreams, and various forms of anxiety and fear. You can also make confident claims about its ability to help with issues of self confidence, self-esteem, and finding a sense of life direction and purpose. While you can use it to improve relationships, this is more complicated, because sometimes just changing how we view the other person or the relationship does not take care of the issue, if the other person is not a participant in the change process.
What populations are likely to benefit the most?
Regarding populations, IDL is most effective with children. This is because children naturally “get it” because they live in an imitative dreamworld much of the time in which they are always practicing imitating others. Their social scripting is not set in stone, so it is more amenable to change. Not as much damage has been done by bad scripting, because they are younger, and they are still pliable, so course correction is much more likely to not only be successful but make a huge difference to future happiness and success.
Imagine a world in which parents interview their children, children interview each other, couples talk to previously interviewed characters when there is a block in the relationship, or work groups consult with interviewed potentials for creativity and to work through work-related problems.
IDL is also more effective where the need is greater. The greater the misery or suffering, the more motivated one is to cooperate and follow instructions.