So you have climbed high on the ladder of self-development. You’ve developed a strong sense of who you are, competencies in the world, you recognize the Drama Triangle and work hard at avoiding it in your relationships and your thinking. You know what you need to do to keep yourself healthy, and to a large degree you’re doing it. Your life is by no means perfect, but you’ve come a long way, baby.

The problem is, the higher you get, the less the world has to offer you in terms life direction. Why? Because higher level growth is internally directed. It requires that you are more in touch with yourself than ever before. You can learn models of what higher level, or integral, growth looks like, but that doesn’t put you any higher along your path. You can develop an “Integral Life Practice” to create balance to body, mind, and spirit. This is important, but nothing can replace finding and following your own inner compass.

The following interview is for someone who more or less meets the above description. Noel is a student of IDL and someone who has done a number of directed and self-directed interviews with herself and directed interviews for friends. She is finishing her PhD in the humanities and is a product of one of the best universities in the world in one of the wealthiest countries of the world. In a sense, she is an example of the type of person a parent hopes their child will be when they grow up: confident, capable, caring, engaged, effective, friendly, and fun to be around. She’s higher level functioning, just like you, and she’s also stuck in her own ways, just like you.

I’ve summarized the interview and what it told her, and followed with the actual interview. My hope is that her journey can throw light on your own and save you a few false starts and wrong turns.

Let’s start by looking at Noel’s life goals for herself:

“I want to be done with guilt and the associated procrastination. I want to be in a position in my career where I worry less about doing a good enough job and think more about projects I’m interested in and putting them together. I want to present myself, my teaching method, and my research confidently. I want to find a good balance with an office structure with a day and a half, two days off, on weekends. I want creative control and flexibility in doing my own work. I want to have a few really good quality friends. I don’t want to get too tied down with social obligations with acquaintances and colleagues. I want to keep being healthy. I don’t know if I want to join a gym or just do yoga. I need to figure out how to get the exercise in…I want to take trips and see people. I want to keep checking in and do the most creative work I can do. I imagine myself getting a job as a professor and teaching or getting a research job. I will get one or the other and decide if I like it or do the other type. Part of me thinks I might want to sell something I create, but now is not the time for that. Now is the time to try an academic career.  

What are my plans? I will fly back to the states and work at the museum until May; I will finish my PhD by December. This fall I will be applying for teaching jobs. I will go on job interviews in January, campus visits in February and March. In the spring I want to do research in the museum archives and give a presentation. By the end of May I want to have gotten as much out of the resources and archives at the museum as I can and plugged it into my revision of my manuscript. Once I file my dissertation I may change the shape of my writing toward publishing it as a book. In the summer I want to be in Russia and be in Berlin for a couple of weeks, and starting a teaching job in the fall.”

Noel was asked to imagine that instead of her dreams coming true, everything went downhill. What would that look like?

Let’s say it all turns to shit. Housing falls through, I don’t finish my dissertation, I don’t do my traveling, hate the fucking thing, get a policy job wearing a scratchy business suit….All my physical symptoms return…My hair falls out, acne, pot belly…I have a really terrible roommate who treats me like crap….My bike gets stolen! It all feels like shit! It makes me want to beat my head against the wall and then kill myself. I want to go postal and shoot people at whatever institute I’m working at…

Nice, huh? Maybe not so “spiritual,” but definitely REAL!

The problem with most spirituality is that it wants to pretend that crap’s not real. It wants to pretend that problems are illlusory, and that if we just breathe, smile, and say “namaste” that they will all magically disappear. But that’s not spirituality – that’s self-delusion, and people who sell that poison aren’t being honest with you.

How might you personify your worst fears for your future? For Noel, they turned into a reddish-brown brick made out of shit! That may not sound like higher-level functioning to you, but looks can be deceiving. Not only can looks be deceiving, but actions can be too. Haven’t we all been taught to not be violent and aggressive, that such behavior is not spiritual? Well, this Brick Turd lives to shatter windows. Not very spiritual, huh? Rather anti-social, yes? Requiring a trip to a counselor, if not some court face time? What could a window-shattering Brick Turd have to do with spirituality?

Interviews are typically read back to people, but as if they said it to themselves. Here is some of what BrickTurd had to say to Noel. You can see where the remarks came from in the complete interview, below. See how much of this applies to you and your life:

There’s a part of yourself that is bored with your problems. It accepts itself for what it is – it doesn’t care if it stinks or is made out of shit. It thinks it’s better to take action, like shattering windows, than to have everybody like you. In other words, instead of pretending to be smart, lovely, social, and respectful, this part of you says, “I know I’m a reprobate and I DON’T CARE! I’M GONNA BE ME!!!”

This very self-accepting part of you doesn’t like being passive. It wants to be able to initiate action in your life. It wants to be noticed in the sense of making an IMPACT. It’s not interested in fame or notoriety but in following through with action in whatever it does.

Most of us are over-educated. We know so much that we can see three or four sides to every issue. We stop ourselves because we haven’t considered EVERY possibility or considered everyone’s feelings. So we stop ourselves. We don’t risk. We don’t act.

It’s about the energy of action rather than seeing or hearing too much. Such things can get in the way of action. You get mentally constipated. Your life starts turning to shit because if you don’t take risks, you don’t fail, learn, and grow. Your emerging potentials don’t care about social niceties, what other people think. They want you to take ACTION!

Your emerging potentials, like this Brick Turd, don’t take yourself  nearly so seriously as you do. From its perspective, life is absurd, full of rules, expectations, and preferences that aren’t real or important, and that’s OK.

You have parts of yourself that will tell you, if you listen to them, what Noel is told by her Brick Turd: Don’t take shit from anybody or from yourself!  Focus on doing what YOU want to do!

Now if you were three, or a sociopath, that would be dangerous advice. It would be license to be selfish, aggressive, and not care. But you’re not three and you have figured out you’re not happy when you are selfish and aggressive and don’t have empathy, so what is the likelihood of you turning into a sociopath? If you asked your best friend if they thought you could be a sociopath, don’t you think they would laugh?

This Brick Turd is about giving yourself permission to be what feels and seems “aggressive” and “antagonistic.” Socially inappropriate. Scandalous. Embarrassing. Insensitive.  It’s not directed at anyone. If anyone takes it personally it’s their problem.

Focus on action and don’t worry about the consequences! Why? Because you’ve spent your life so far getting a PhD in “Worrying About the Consequences.” You have that down. Now it’s time to trust you have learned that lesson and go with your gut!

The Brick Turd part of yourself doesn’t get upset about other people and their stink.

Despite all of this window-breaking action this Brick Turd scores very high in all core qualities: confidence, compassion, wisdom acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing. How could you break windows and still have inner peace? I think Socrates is an example. He was an iconoclast – a breaker  of the beliefs or “idols” of the mind that people worshipped. He went around breaking windows. Yes, he got killed for his efforts, and he also was so inspirational that he can count as his children the brilliance of the thought of both Plato and Aristotle and through them, Western philosophy.

The brick turd part of yourself says that if you will be more like it that you will go out into your world with verve and gusto and do the things that you do. You will have the same naive, childlike enthusiasm that this emerging potential part of yourself has, when you live your everyday life, writing articles and going on bike rides, not worrying about what it all means all the time. You will do what you do with dedication!

Your Brick Turd will help you work smarter, not harder. It wants you to find the right life and activity structures so that there doesn’t have to be so much will power. Will power takes too much energy!

Your Brick Turd doesn’t see why hedonism can’t be spiritual. It’s all for you maximizing your comfort and having a good life. After all, what’s your idea of self-indulgence? Noel is a good example: if she really goes overboard and becomes a hedonist she’ll buy a juicer! Pretty depraved, huh?  She’ll schedule more relaxation for herself, including weekend trips and getting out in the country. Now doesn’t that sound absolutely depraved and non-spiritual?

This Brick Turd would like to grow legs and carry a ladder so it can climb up and get a higher perspective on life, even though it doesn’t have eyes to see it with and doesn’t want or need them. Interesting, huh?

What’s your ladder?  Are you so busy using it that you’re not shattering a window or two when you feel like it? How would your life be different if you looked at your life the way this Brick Turd does? Do you think it would be more or  less spiritual? Do you think you would be more or less stuck? Do you think you would be talking about higher-level functioning or actually functioning at a higher level?

Higher-level functioning is, of course, more than confidently acting without concern for what others think. It’s more than approaching life from the absurdly funny point of view of a Brick Turd. That’s Cosmic Humor for you, but there’s also luminosity and abundance. But Noel’s interview focuses on cosmic humor in life. If you want it in yours, you can have it!

But don’t pay any attention to any of this. it’s just an imaginary Brick Turd talking, after all!

 

Here’s Noel’s interview:

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

 

I want to be done with guilt and the associated procrastination. I want to be in a position in my career where I worry less about doing a good enough job and think more about projects I’m interested in and putting them together. I want to present myself, teaching method, research confidently. I want to find a good balance with an office structure with a day and a half, two days off on weekends. Creative control and flexibility in doing my own work. I want to have a really few good quality friends. I don’t want to get too tied down with social obligations with acquaintances and colleagues. I want to keep being healthy. I don’t know if I want to join a gym or just do yoga. I need to figure out how to get the exercise in…I want to take trips and see people. I want to keep checking in and do the most creative work I can do. I imagine myself getting a job as a professor and teaching or a research job. I will get one or the other and decide if I like it or do the other type. Part of me thinks I might want to sell something I create, but now is not the time for that. Now is the time to try an academic career.  

 

Work at the museum until May; finish my PhD by December. Will be applying for jobs. Will go on job interviews in January, campus visits in February, March. In the spring I want to do research in the archives and give a presentation. By the end of May I want to have gotten as much out of the resources and archives there as I can and plugged it into my revision of my manuscript. Once I file my dissertation I may change the shape of my writing toward publishing it as a book. In the summer I want to be in Russia and be in Berlin for a couple of weeks, starting a teaching job in the fall. 

 

Which issue brings up the strongest feelings for you?

Let’s say it all turns to shit. Housing falls through, I don’t finish my dissertation, I don’t do my traveling, hate the fucking thing, get a policy job wearing a scratchy business suit….All my physical symptoms return…My hair falls out, acne, pot belly…I have a really terrible roommate who treats me like crap….My bike gets stolen! It all feels like shit! It makes me want to beat my head against the wall and then kill myself. I want to go postal and shoot people at whatever institute I’m working at…

 

What feelings does this issue bring up for you? 

 

It feels like shit. It makes me want to beat my head against the wall and then kill myself. I want to go postal and shoot people at whatever institute I’m working at…

 

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

 

Reddish brown: rage mixed with shit!!!!

 

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

 

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? 

 

It’s a brick made out of a turd! Reddish brown, hefty, baked turd that’s brick-shaped.

 

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!

 

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

 

I am sitting on the sidewalk. Noel’s really irrelevant. It’s a hot day. It smells, it’s me. Nothing’s happening. Just a hot day for a brick on the sidewalk. Noel just picked me up and threw me through a window.  It’s great! All that potential energy! Middle of the action! 

 

Brick Turd, would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing?

 

I’m inside Kähnsdorf now! 

 

Brick Turd, what do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?

 

I’m a brick turd on fire! People don’t want to be anywhere near me because I stink and I can hurt! It’s better to be feared than to be loved, right? 

 

Brick Turd, what do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses?  What are they?

 

I don’t like that it takes someone else for me to get thrown through a glass window. I want little legs. I can jump through windows when I want to. I am perfect with legs. I don’t need eyes or arms. 

 

Brick Turd, what aspect of Noel do you represent or most closely personify?

 

I represent her mental constipation…if everything went to shit. The force in her that can get stuck. 

 

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

 

As above – grow little legs. I think I’m hilarious! I really like being a Brick Turd with legs that has its own impetus!

 

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

Brick Turd, 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? 9 I don’t take shit from anybody. I’m already full of it! I walk around where I want and jump where I want. 

 

Compassion, 0-10. Why?  I’m a little aggressive, antagonistic. I get off on other people plugging up their nose. Compassion for myself is a 9, for others a 5 on a good day. 

 

Wisdom, 0-10. Why? 7 I’m the result of everything she’s taken in and put back out. At least as much as she has, maybe more…

 

Acceptance, 0-10. Why?  9 The only thing that gets me worked up is a glass window! Other than that, I let people do whatever they want. I don’t get upset about other people’s stink. 

 

Inner Peace, 0-10. Why? 9.5 Remarkably high for all of this violence. Sometimes I’m through a window, sometimes I’m just strutting around on my cartoon legs. I am really content with that! 

         

Witnessing, 0-10. Why? 8      I witness myself well, but not so much the wider world.      

 

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

 

I would be a brick turd with arms so I could hug people. That would be my compassion. And a ladder, so I could get some more perspective. I would carry it around underneath my right arm. 

 

Brick Turd, how would Noel’s life be different if she naturally scored like you do in all six of these qualities all the time?

 

She would be carrying around a ladder and smell like shit! She would go out with verve and gusto and do the things that she does. She would have the same naive, childlike enthusiasm – writing articles and going on bike rides – not worrying about what it all means all the time. Doing what she does with dedication. 

 

Brick Turd, if you could live Noel’s life for her, how would you live it differently?

 

More or less the same way. I have more energy than she does. Less worrying about making the right decision and covering all eventualities. Just be out in the world – screw the consequences! She is always trying to learn from past mistakes – turns into an obsession. Chill out! Don’t try to be in control all the time! More time for doing the things she actually likes doing. Hanging out with the computer too much lately. I have sunglasses now. I look a little like a california raisin…

 

Brick Turd, what life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of Noel’s life?

 

1. Finding the right structures so there doesn’t have to be so much will power. Will power takes too much energy. 

2. Maximizing comfort and the good life. Buying a juicer! 

3. More scheduled relaxation, weekend trips, getting out in the country. 

 

Brick Turd,, in what life situations would it be most beneficial for Noel to imagine that she is you and act as you would? 

 

When she gets stuck planning and doesn’t actually do something. When she’s preparing and not acting. She needs to go out there and throw herself through a window. Just charge forward! Deal with the consequences as they come!

 

Brick Turd, do you do drama?  If not, why not?

 

I am designed to do drama, but I don’t actually, because I don’t give a damn what other peole think. I take a lot of pleasure doing what I do. No one is getting hurt. It’s not retaliation. There’s no drama. It’s just my thing! 

 

Brick Turd, What is your secret for staying out of drama?

 

 I don’t have eyes, ears, or a mouth. That helps! I can’t engage with people in ways that often leads to drama! I take such pleasure in my own activities and own routine…I just focus on those things that make me happy. 

 

Brick Turd, what do you think about Noel’s nightmare scenario?

 

It’s pretty funny! It’s not such a bad scenario. She’s not scared about it. Maybe her real nightmare scenario would be really sleepy and not having any energy to write. You’ve gotta deal with whatever circumstances you have and not get caught up in whether or not they are ideal. 

 

Brick Turd, you are imaginary. Why should Noel pay attention to anything you say?

 

If she doesn’t, it’s just going to start stinking in here! I’m  like a skunk. I only stink when things aren’t going my way…

 

Brick Turd, why do you think that you are in Noel’s life? 

 

I think I’m funnier! She likes her clown car. It helps her stay in the witness. I’m a combination of that humor and action. I am not just about putting out fires; I’m about my own interests and activities. Permission to take care of her own priorities.

 

Brick Turd, how is Noel most likely to ignore what you are saying to her?

 

She will worry about logistics and spend too much time planning how to get stuff done. I’m not going to sit there and wait for her to get with the picture. I’ll keep doing my own thing. 

 

Brick Turd, what would you recommend that she do about that?

 

She could set up a time of day when she deals with everything – put it on a schedule – do them as quickly as possible – get them out of the way.

 

Thank you, Brick Turd! Now here are a couple of questions for Noel: 

 

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

 

Go oout there and do what needs to be done. Focus on the things that give me pleasure. Get the things that have to be done out of the way as quickly as possible, without drama. 

 

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

 

Make a schedule of things that need to be done.

Do them as quickly as possible.

Don’t focus on other people’s priorities so much; focus on living your life.

Combine humor and action. 

 

Every night before you go to sleep read over the recommendations. 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.