Why does IDL Interviewing work?
The above picture, of animals performing jazz, is on its surface, absurdist. It is an example of what Integral Deep Listening (IDL) calls “cosmic humor,” a way to get over ourselves and to move into lucidity and clarity. These animals represent the various images that we interview, either from dreams or waking life issues, which produce recommendations for life transformation. When these agree and blend, life, just like a jazz ensemble, moves into what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has called “flow.”
On its surface, interviewing spoons, caves, spit, potholes and imagery of any kind from any source, such as dreams, nightmares, daydreams, personifications of physical pain (like fire or a knife), or of relationship conflicts (like a knot or a porcupine), or even an element from a mystical experience, like a tunnel or bright light, is irrational. Why should becoming a cactus generate lucidity, a higher order awakening, healing, balance, or transformation? While we might create associations for the cactus (“our relationship is prickly”), how about guacamole or a congregation of singing termites?
Not only are our associations not likely to be helpful, but IDL purposely wants to dampen down this human urge to constantly interpret experience to make sense out of it. This is because doing so puts life in a box and renders it relatively impotent. We are making life conform to our definitions and expectations about what healing, balancing, and transformation are rather than simply opening up and letting life work its magic to bring a higher order of integration and lucity. These are aims of any authentic dream yoga.
Fuller Torrey, an “alternative psychiatrist” that I studied almost forty years ago, wrote a fascinating book, The Mind Game: Witchdoctors and Psychiatrists. In it, he discusses why traditional shamanic healing methods can in some cases be as successful, or more successful, than contemporary “scientific” approaches to healing. I too have had healing experiences from shamanism, and I have known other people who have had them as well. Tibetan Buddhism, considered by some to be the most sophisticated of all classical meditative traditions, has a strong connection to shamanism through the native Bon tradition.
Shamanism points us toward a key to understanding why becoming “irrational” and “imaginary” elements like teacups and refrigerators and be transformative. By doing so we get out of our normal framing of how things work. We suspend all of those suppositions when we let go of who we are and “become” or “identify with” a virus, lobster, or pile of goo. We surrender our framings of experience, including our interpretations, expectations, and assumptions and instead fully embody the perspective, values and preferences of a stool, cloud, or squid. This act inherently creates space for life to move systems toward integration, toward higher level functioning.
Something similar happens in shamanism when you drop your assumptions about healing and step into reality as framed by someone waving incense sticks and inviting you into a sweat lodge. Expectations and assumptions about healing are no longer active within that context and other expectations and assumptions, often completely foreign, take their place.
When healing or transformation happens from a shamanistic or other non-traditional experience, like going to a psychic, joining a cult, religious, or psychological group, we attach value to that particular methodology. Shamanism heals. Psychics reveal the Truth. Our cult reveals the truth and provides a transformational path. Our religion validates a common world view and provides concrete steps for life improvement. Our psychological group, like The Forum or Constellation therapy, generates catharsis and integration. We jump to the conclusion that it is our particular group and our identification or “belongingness” that creates the transformation. Effectiveness comes from underlying processes of “confusion,” or “disorientation” through submission to an entirely alien process that has a therapeutic or integrative intention. This is easily seen with hypnosis, but any process that pushes us out of our normal world view and sense of self creates opportunities for re-integration in a more effective way. Sometimes the process doesn’t even have to be therapeutic or integrative, but merely supply such a shock to the system that it is forced to reorganize itself. Things like witch dunking, electroshock therapy, and trepanning come to mind – stuff that is crazy, but actually do “cure” some people some of the time.
However, culturally abnormal or extraordinary interventions are of temporary effectiveness for most of us due to our natural need to understand and control our experience and our environment. Pretty soon we create mental and emotional structures of expectation and understanding in which we frame shamanistic, spiritual, and religious experiences. This is true with whatever we do – taking psychedelics, taking cold plunges, going on visionquests, whatever. When we do anything repeatedly, it loses its salience.
Some approaches are more likely to be effective than others. Here are some criteria. As you read through the list, consider how IDL addresses each of these:
- Emphasis on finding your truth, rather than parroting scripture or the teaching of some parent figure;
- Suspension of interpretation, assumptions and world view in order to get out of the way of direct experience;
- Procedures for turning temporary state awakenings into permanent stage development;
- Access to multiple forms of learning: visual, emotional, rational, trans-rational, auditory…
- Access to various states in which to learn and practice lucidity; waking, dreaming, deep sleep
- Some genuine, effective form of centering: meditation
- Recognition of the developmental needs of body (exercise, nutrition), emotions (honoring and objectifying), imagery (dreams, creative imagination), thoughts (learning to reason; objectifying), trans-personal (learning to objectify your sense of self).
When in doubt, give preference to those approaches which have passed standards of repeatability and peer review. They may not fit for you, but the odds that they will prove effective are innately higher than those which have not.
Integral Deep Listening is an approach which has passed standards of repeatability and peer review, yet it includes “medicine” provided by the “miraculous,” “mysterious,” and unexpected. You never know what is going to come up when you identify with a porta potty or a vampire bat. You may have your expectations and assumptions, but what you hear and experience usually transcends and includes whatever your assumptions and interpretations are. That transcendence reframes not just your experience, but your sense of self, in broader, more inclusive, more integrative ways.
Dreams and fascinating, magical, irrational imagery continue to serve that purpose for humanity because it is typically three steps farther around the bend than we are, no matter how much meditation we do or enlightenment we attain.
This is a reason why all children need to learn to work with their dreams and imagery; no matter what we learn at school or from our culture, dreams and imagery transcend our conceptual framings, allowing these sorts of higher order reorganizations room to take place, if we learn how to take advantage of them in such a way. This is why Integral Deep Listening teaches what it does. One set of skills, involving script analysis, escaping drama, and transcending cognitive distortions, removes fundamental blocks we all have to growth, while another set of skills, involving element interviewing, application of recommendations, and meditation, generate integration, in the form of healing, balancing, and transformation.
It is because we all have an innate attachment to our definitions of who we are and to maintaining control that we dismiss our dreams and the interviewing of all things mundane and imaginary. From infancy, we were taught to be some one, to control ourselves, to be liked and to be successful in school, in relationships, and at work. Integral Deep Listening challenges that basic, deeply embedded survival scripting. The laying down of our sense of self temporarily, in a playful way, from time to time, in no way keeps us from picking up our normal sense of self again. It in no way undermines our sense of control over our life. Instead, we find that our sense of self expands and with it, our ability maintain control without the constant stress of being in control. We do not have to control life in order to be fully alive, resilient, adaptive, and to thrive. What we do need are ways to access life above and beyond our habitual framings of what life is and who we are. Integral Deep Listening provides a spontaneous, evocative, and playful way of doing so at any time, for both children and adults.
As you do IDL interviewing, either individual character interviews of dream elements or of personifications of life issues, or interview others, or do dream interviewing, such as with dream Sociodrama, or interview multiple dream or life issue characters at the same time, with Dream Sociometry, remember that lucidity is more than temporary state awareness. It is about carrying the expanded world view and concrete recommendations you receive into specific daily circumstances and into your dreams, as a mindfulness to interview people, animals, and objects you encounter in them.
This is a sort of lucidity that is more profound than simply recognizing you are dreaming; it is about moving out of drama and into the lucidity of both mutual respect and clarity of moment-to-moment awareness.