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Integral Deep Listening teaches that while some 95% of all fear is either a false alarm, some fears, like of driving on the wrong side of the street, are useful.  Begin by assuming two things about your fear; first, that it is most likely unnecessary and unhelpful, and secondly, that it is best treated as a wake-up call to be listened to. Instead of fighting, repressing, or ignoring your fears, assume that they are there because there is something that you need to listen to that you haven’t. The reason Integral Deep Listening takes this approach is because over thirty years experience shows that when fears are listened to they are reduced. If the recommendations that come from listening to a fear are followed, your fear is highly unlikely to return. Just one IDL interview generally is enough to eliminate repetitive nightmares; even post-traumatic stress syndrome, notoriously difficult to treat, typically diminishes in intensity in response to a series of IDL interviews. Your health, financial, and relationship problems will remain; the difference is that you will deal with them with much less fear, anxiety, or worry.

Your fears don’t go away because they have created a comfortable niche in your habitual patterns of thinking and feeling. Worry and anxiety about your favorite topics has been around so long they are like old friends with whom you continuously fight. This pattern is clearly seen in the following interview.

Anna, who was about fifty, had been afraid all of her life. She was afraid of being wrong, of failing, of loss of control, of displeasing others. These fears expressed themselves as a lack of self-confidence, perfectionism, micro-managing employees to make sure things were done right, putting a lot of pressure on herself, personalizing what others said, and difficulty making decisions, out of fear she would make the wrong one. This fear was black and took the form of a monster dog or knives coming at Anna. When we interviewed the monster dog, this is what it said,

“I am sitting next to Anna and I’m watching ever word she says! I control her!”

How do you control her?

“I bark at her and look at her fiercely! “I am proud of that! She does what I want! Just my presence is enough! I just make one move and it scares the shit out of her! I don’t have any fear. I am proud of that! I look scary. If I look at Anna she would never think of questioning what I say; she would never dare to rebel!

Go and bite her right now and tell me if she’s tasty or not…

“She tastes good!”

Go ahead and kill her!

“I don’t want to kill her! I don’t need to eat her or kill her! If she’s dead, then what do I do for a job?”

Well, if she’s dead, what can you do for a job?

“Harass someone else!”

Anna said, “I would like to deal with this monster dog by changing my shape and sending it away! I will be big and strong…a big tiger! I would hide and watch…then I would snarl at the monster and scare it away. I would show my teeth.”

What do you think about this, monster dog?

“That’s enough to make me run for my life!  Maybe I’ll sneak around and wait for an opportunity to scare her!”

Tiger: “I’m afraid I’m going to have to hurt that monster…bite it…but it’s difficult for me to get him…”

Tiger, what good are you if you can’t protect Anna from this monster dog? She needs someone else!

“I will have to be as cunning as the monster dog…I might have to be a snake or a spider.”

Spider, attack this monster dog and see what happens…

“I have the power of the tiger inside of me and since I don’t have a tiger bite I will attack him from behind. I will crawl up his back and give him a bite and paralyze him.”

Big dog, what do you think about this?

“I think that’s quite nasty, to grab me from the back. I can never feel safe! I will have to be more vigilant.  I’m not going away. I like control too much!”

(Cries…)

What’s Anna feeling right now, spider?

“I can’t kill it! I have another idea. I spider, could crawl into his ear, go into his brain and see if he forgets about Anna  I’m already in his head…I’m cutting a couple of connections…I will cut the connections that make for remembering me…”

Monster, what’s happening now?

“What?? I can’t remember!!!”

Spider, are you going to be vigilant? Are you going to make sure these connections don’t regrow?

“Yes!”

Anna, look around. Where is the monster dog?

“He’s running around. He’s pretty confused! He’s not interested in me! I feel better! I have no fear! The spider found a way without killing him to make him go away!”

Now that the monster dog is confused and not controlling you, what do you want to do with your life?

“I am overjoyed! I’m free!”

But what will you do with your life without the monster dog?

“I will stay scared that he will come back! I think I will have to kill it after all…I would rather delegate the job…The spider will kill him.”

Dog, how do you feel about Anna giving the spider the order to inject you with toxin and kill you? 

“I don’t think it’s fair. They are right. I am so strong I will grow back the connection, I will remember. The only way is to kill me. It’s fun to scare her. “

Anna, will you please give the order to inject the toxin into the monster dog and kill it?

Does it…

Dog: “It was just a game for me. It’s over. “

Monster dog, do you think that Anna can live without this game? Or do you think that she is so addicted to you and the game that she can’t live without it?

“No, she can’t live without me or her addiction to the game.”

So the real problem is not you, monster dog, but her addiction to the game?

“She will always remember me. Somebody who watches over her created the monster. I am to blame because I nurtured the monster and made it big. The challenge for me would be to not feed it.”

What is the most self-confident animal you can think of?

“A horse.”

You can feed the monster or the horse. Which do you want to feed? Which are you going to remember to feed? 

“I want to feed the horse!”

Do you know when you are feeding the monster? You can either do the discipline of feeding the horse instead of the monster or you can continue to play the game of scaring yourself. 

Anna’s homework was to ask herself, “How good a job today did I do at remembering not to feed the monster and to feed the horse instead?” “On a scale of Zero to ten, how well have I remembered to feed the horse instead of the monster dog?”

Clearly, Anna has a daily, hourly choice to make. If she goes into her normal, default sleepwalking mode, she will feed the monster dog. It is a discipline to ask herself, hour by hour, “Who and what am I feeding?” The visual, experiential metaphor of feeding the horse is a way of saying to herself, “I am going to choose just for now to feed my confidence in the face of my fear.” Notice that this does not deny either her fear or the experiential reality of her monster dog. It is not a competition. It is simply a preference of temporary focus. She is not saying she will always choose her horse over the dog or that it is always better to do so, only that right now, in this situation, in these particular circumstances, that is her choice.

One reason Integral Deep Listening is so powerful and effective for Anna is that it objectifies her fear as a uniquely individualized and appropriate form that is then differentiated from her sense of self. When her fear is not objectified it defines who she is; she cannot change that which she is identified with, fused with. This objectification is not merely cognitive, as in a thought such as, “My fear is like a monster dog.” Instead, by becoming the monster dog, the objectification is the result of a full experiential identification. The objectification is not in the service of defense, or there would not be the prior full identification with the object of fear. We know Anna is not defending herself from her fear by turning it into a monster dog, because of how genuinely menacing, scary, and threatening it is. Therefore, the monster dog cannot be dismissed as a defense mechanism that Anna has created to protect herself from her fear by objectifying it. Instead, the objectification comes from a full acceptance and recognition of the perspective, preferences, and purposes of the monster dog as valid and genuine. Out of that “integral deep listening” to the monster dog came a full realization that repression and conflict with the monster dog was not going to work. Only in the full recognition that defense is ineffective do other more effective responses arise. In the case of Anna, the more effective response is to recognize that she has the choice to amplify her confidence, that is, “feed the horse.” Her confidence creates a context in which the monster dog can be understood, respected, and contained. It creates a context that includes yet transcends the monster dog. This is a functional definition of healing, balancing, and transformation for Anna in relationship to her fear.

Fear works by shutting down objectivity. It convinces you that you have no options but to flee or fight. The more anxious you are, the more your sense of self shrinks into a defensive crouch; the smaller your world becomes. Agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder are two extreme examples of this process. Integral Deep Listening works by slowly expanding your sense of self through identification with perspectives that are less afraid than you are. The more you do this, the more you objectify your fears, worries, dramas, and concerns. While they do not go away, they become less emotionally colored, you react to them less, and you are able to make better, measured decisions about how to handle them.

Fear is a universal issue. The inability to recognize and address fear with wisdom and compassion is a major source of human misery. For example, a major way that governments effectively manipulate their people into acting against their own interests is by scaring them by the amplification of some real or imagined threat. For children and many adults, emotions easily overpower reason. The result is that they lose control of their lives because they give up their ability to think. Instead of thinking, they react based on what they believe is a life-threatening fear, when it is only a shadow, generally conjured by some authority figure for its own purposes. In the case of Anna, this is indicated by her saying, “Somebody who watches over her created the monster.” Culturally, the media, politicians, pundits, and religious figures generate fear to control populations. Integral Deep Listening cultivates objectivity from feelings so that citizens, workers, partners, students, and children are less likely to act and react out of largely unrecognized emotional responses. The result is an empowerment of humanity and a greater control over one’s destiny, both as individuals and members of a society.

While examples such as the above are interesting and educational, they are abstract. The way you test the efficacy of IDL is by choosing a fear and using the IDL Life Issue Interviewing Protocol to interview its personification. Take those recommendations that make sense to you, operationalize them, and test them in your life.

Here is the transcript of the original interview with Anna:

IDL Life Issue Interviewing Protocol

Joseph Dillard, LCSW., Ph.D.

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

1 Fear

2 Too little self-confidence

3 Control issue: I can’t delegate tasks without controlling them. I will check to see if they do it right. I am a perfectionist. I put a lot of pressure on myself; then I am scared I can’t manage. It is difficult for me to make decisions because I wonder if it is the right one. I take every criticism  personally.

Which issue brings up the strongest feelings for you?

Fear

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

Black

 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? 

A monster! It could be a monster dog or knives coming at me!

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!

Monster dog, would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing?

I am sitting next to Anna and I’m watching ever word she says! I control her! 

How do you control her?

I bark at her and look at her fiercely!

Monster dog, what do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?

I am proud of that! She does what I want! Just my presence is enough! I just make one move and it scares the shit out of her!

Monster dog, what do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses?  What are they?

I don’t have any fear! I am proud of that! Because I look scary! If I look at her she would never think of what I say! She would never dare to rebel!

Go and bite her right now and tell me if she’s tasty or not…

She tastes good!

Go ahead and kill her! 

I don’t want to kill her! I don’t need to eat her or kill her! If she’s dead, then what do I do for a job? 

Well, if she’s dead, what can you do for a job?

Harass someone else!

What’s it like to be dead?

I would like to change my shape and send it away! Big and strong…a big tiger! The first thing, I would hide and watch…then I would snarl at the monster and scare it away. I would show my teeth.

What do you think about this, monster dog?

That’s enough to make me run for my life!  Maybe I’ll sneak around and wait for an opportunity to scare her! 

Tiger: I’m afraid I’m going to have to hurt that monster…bite it…It’s difficult for me to get him. 

What good are you if you can’t protect Anna from this monster dog? She needs someone else!

I will have to be as cunning as the monster dog…I might have be a snake or a spider. 

Spinner, attack this monster dog and see what happens.

I have the power of the tiger inside of me and since I don’t have a tiger bite I will attack him from behind. I will crawl up his back and give him a bite and paralyze him.

Big dog, what do you think about this?

I think that’s quite nasty, to grab me from the back. I can never feel safe! I will have to be more vigilant.  I’m not going away. I like control too much!

Cries…What’s Anna feeling right now?

I can’t kill it! 

I have another idea. I spider, could crawl into his ear, go into his brain and see if he forgets about Anna  I’m already in his head…I’m cutting a couple of connections…I will cut the connections that make for remembering me…

Monster, what’s happening now?

What?? I can’t remember!!! 

Spider, are you going to be vigilant? Are you going to make sure these connections don’t regrow?

Yes!

Anna, look around. Where is the monster dog? 

He’s running around. He’s pretty confused! He’s not interested in me! I feel better! I have no fear! The spider found a way without killing him to make him go away!

Now that the monster dog is confused and not controlling you, what do you want to do with your life?

I am overjoyed! I’m free! 

But what will you do with your life without the monster dog?

I will stay scared that he will come back! I think I will have to kill it after all…I would rather delegate the job…The spider will kill him. 

Dog, how do you feel about Anna giving the spider the order to inject you with toxin and kill you? 

I don’t think it’s fair. They are right. I am so strong I will grow back the connection, I will remember. The only way is to kill me. It’s fun to scare her. 

Anna, will you please give the order to inject the toxin into the monster dog and kill it?

Does it…

Dog, it was just a game for me. It’s over. 

Monster dog, do you think that Anna can live without this game? Or do you think that she is so addicted to you and the game that she can’t live without it?

No, she can’t live without me or her addiction to the game. 

So the real problem is not you, monster dog, but her addiction to the game?

She will always remember me. Somebody who watches over her created the monster. I am to blame because I nurtured the monster and made it big. The challenge for me would be to not feed it. 

What is the most self-confident animal you can think of?

A horse.

You can feed the monster or the horse. Which do you want to feed? Which are you going to remember to feed? 

I want to feed the horse!

Do you know when you are feeding the monster? You can either do the discipline of feeding the horse instead of the monster or you can continue to play the game of scaring yourself. 

Homework: How good a job today did I do at remembering not to feed the monster and to feed the horse instead? Ask yourself several times a day, “On a scale of Zero to ten, how well have I remembered to feed the horse instead of the monster dog?”