Dream Sociodrama


Joseph Dillard, LCSW, PhD


An outgrowth of Moreno’s sociodrama and sociometry and the AQAL model of Ken Wilber, Dream Sociodrama is one methodology of a multi-perspectival integral life practice called Integral Deep Listening. A playful excursion into constructive absurdity, Dream Sociodrama asks the protagonist to choose three life issues and then tell a dream or nightmare or share a waking drama. Alternatively they may choose a socio-cultural crisis, historical or fictional event or the group can present a shared context such as a work problem. Several group members take one role in the drama and answer scripted questions designed to generate transformations, often surprising and cosmically humorous, followed by the protagonist doing the same. All develop action plans based on recommendations that are evoked by the interviewing process.

How can group process accelerate both individual and group integration at the same time? How can the projective elements of interpretation be reduced? How can we best help each other find our own unique way forward into the fulfillment of our potentials?

Underlying Concepts

For the Hindu traditions from which it springs, a “yoga” is a sacred discipline that uses a physical (hatha, pranayama, kundalini), behavioral (karma), cognitive (jnana, raja)  or emotional (bhakti) focus for integration and transformation (Feuerstein, 2001). A dream yoga focuses on the waking up out of delusion into lucidity, clarity, wakefulness and enlightenment while awake, dreaming or in an altered state of consciousness (DreamYoga.Com). In Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist traditions dream yoga uses lucid dreaming to provide experiences of a liberated, non-conditioned existence.(1)

Integral Deep Listening (IDL) is a form of dream yoga and integral life practice that focuses on lucid living, that is, the attainment of higher levels of lucidity, clarity, wakefulness and enlightenment particularly while awake, in the state you currently are in as you are reading these words. This is because the self that you are at this moment is the self from which you perceive all experience in all states.(2) IDL views waking, dream, deep sleep and mystical states as perceptually conditioned, with interpretation and therefore our waking, dream and altered state reactions and behaviors determined by our more or less scripted context. The fundamental purpose of IDL is to support progressive awakening, clarity, lucidity and enlightenment in all four states through alignment of our priorities with those of our life compass (IntegralDeepListening.Com). Subsequently, these are underlying functions of Dream Sociodrama as well.

As a dream yoga focusing on lucid living, IDL is a type of integral life practice with two fundamental functions. The first is the reduction of filtering that slows and limits awakening. These include recognizing and transcending familial and cultural script injunctions, minimizing drama, and the substitution of realistic thinking for emotional, logical and perceptual cognitive distortions (Dillard, 2012). IDL views drama as intrinsic to life. It is therefore recommended that your default position be that you are always in drama, that is, stuck in either the role of victim, rescuer or persecutor (Karpman, 2008). Dream Sociodrama is intentionally structured to minimize enmeshment in destructive drama while maintaining its healthy, playful aspects. While there is no escaping destructive drama, it can be minimized to the point where it becomes relatively harmless and irrelevant, and that is an important function of Dream Sociodrama and IDL in general.

The second function involves the enhancement of access to broader and transformative contexts through the use of methodologies that teach listening in a deep and integral way (Dillard, 2012).(3) These are IDL Interviewing, Dream Sociometry and Dream Sociodrama.(4) IDL also teaches a form of meditation that emphasizes the naming of the contents of awareness as well as the observation of six stages of every breath within the context of seven cycles or octaves of life (Dillard, 2016b).(5)

While most integral life practices are directed by personal goals or those set for us by teachers or gurus, IDL aligns personal goals with priorities of your life compass, as expressed by interviewed emerging potentials, a generic term that IDL uses to refer to all interviewed personifications of perspectives, whether from dreams, waking life, history, fantasy or mystical experiences.(6)  These manifest as people, characters, animals, plants, objects or even processes like weather or death. They are often the personifications of emotions such as anger (fire), fear (monsters) or depression (a pit).(7) As framed by the IDL interviewing protocol, described below, they become possibilities for your future self that are emergent, that is, have not yet become grounded or identified with who you are today.(8)

As particularized for expression within a unique individual living at a specific time and place, life’s priorities, in contrast to our own, are called one’s life compass (Dillard, 2012). Your life compass is a composite, intangible context that does not belong to you but to life. It is constantly knocking on your door, surrounding you with wake up calls, attempting to express itself in life through the particularized expression of your feelings, thoughts and actions. It transcends and includes the values and priorities of interviewed emerging potentials which are vectors, pointing us toward sunlight, toward home.

IDL differs from other integral life practices in that it uses a process called triangulation to improve decision-making and reduce disempowerment caused by dependency on life framing by the interpretations of others (Dillard, 2012).(9)  While emphatically supportive of personal goal setting and seeking the council of experts, triangulation supplements common sense and authoritative interpretations with subjective sources of objectivity by interviewing emerging potentials which are themselves windows onto the priorities of life itself. Your life compass is accessed through interviewing emerging potentials, dream characters and personifications of life issues vital to you today, using three forms of IDL interviewing, single character, Dream Sociometry and Dream Sociodrama, as well as through meditation.

IDL interviewing involves identification with the perspective or world view which a dream character or element associated with a waking life issue personifies.(10) Embodying that perspective, the subject responds to a series of scripted questions called IDL Interviewing Protocols.(11) IDL single character interviewing may be self-directed, led by another student or IDL practitioner or provided in a group format, in which each individual chooses a dream or life issue and answers questions as their own particular character with pen and paper within a group context.

Dream Sociometry, derived from J.L. Moreno’s sociometry (Moreno, 1951), interviews multiple dream or life issue-related characters and then tabulates their preferences in a Dream Sociomatrix (Dillard, 2016a). Elaborations or explanations of character preferences are collected in various Commentaries and the preference-based relationships are depicted on a Dream Sociogram. Dream Sociodrama is a collective externalization of intrasocial processes. “Intrasocial” refers to relationships of groups of indefinite ontology. They contain but cannot be reduced to self-aspects or “internal” social or psychological groups, but they can also not be reduced to real, externally existing others in this or some other dimension or realm, such as shamanic totem animals, spirit guides or departed relatives. Nevertheless, these groups are “social” in that they involve interactions among interdependent elements. In addition, “intrasocial” is meant to indicate that they are disclosed through empathetic identification and interviewing with some methodology similar to IDL.(12)

Psychodrama, Dream Sociodrama and the Challenges of Interpretation 

Psychodrama asks a group to help an individual explore and resolve some internal psychic issue. It uses group members as “auxiliaries” who give voice to some aspect of the subject’s life issue, for example their deceased father or the alcohol they consume, or as “doubles” whose job it is to give voice to subject feelings or thoughts that others perceive and believe the subject is either unaware of or is not voicing. Both auxiliaries and doubles provide alternative interpretations of the experience of a subject, called the “protagonist,” in order to both broaden their interpretation of the story they tell themselves about their life issue and to reframe it in ways that contain new possibilities, meanings and solutions.

This evokes similarities to dream interpretation, in which one or more external authority, whether it be a book on dream symbology, a dream expert, a dream group or a psychic channel gives its interpretation of a dream. Interpretation is an essential characteristic of culture and the interior collective quadrant of the human holon. There are times when interpretation by others is essential, as when expert financial, legal or medical advice is required. It became clear to the author in the late 1970’s that interpretation, no matter how helpful or “true” it was, was essentially projection, that is, the imposition of some framing of experience onto some context. We can interpret life and nature as lawful, as we do when we assume mathematics accurately describes it; we typically go through life interpreting the meanings of one another, particularly our family members, before they even open their mouths; and we seek out the interpretations of others, as in seeking professional advice or group interpretations of our experience in psychodrama or dream groups.  All these processes are projective, either of our assumptions onto others or reality or by others onto our own experience. While the projections of interpretation are inevitable, they can assume mind reading; either someone else knows what we should do, what we are thinking or feeling better than ourselves or we know the intent or purposes of nature, one another or a dream. While such projections are inevitable, like reductionism and elevationism they can be identified, minimized and neutralized when they need to be. Doing so is an important goal of IDL and Dream Sociodrama.

Both use triangulation, that is, taking three different sources of objectivity into account in decision-making, in order to reduce problems with interpretation. First, IDL accesses common sense by asking the subject of a Dream Sociodrama what they think their dream means or why they think they are dealing with the particular life issue that concerns them. The subject may not know, but even that answer is an expression of common sense, or a positive valuation of the perspective of the protagonist who, after all, is the final arbiter of the meaning and usefulness of all interpretations. Secondly, IDL and Dream Sociodrama attempt to minimize the distortions of projection by accessing the interpretations of perspectives that know us better than any external authority possibly could: interviewed characters that are at least partially aspects of ourselves. For example, let us say that the element chosen to be interviewed is Freud’s famous cigar. Dream Sociodrama takes this a step further by having the protagonist listen to the interpretations provided by several other “cigars” voiced by different group members before the group hears from the protagonists’ own cigar.

These interpretations are then compared with those of objective sources of authority such as experts (“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”), books, group members or the feedback of auxiliaries in Dream Sociodrama. All of this is then again subjected to common sense: “Which of  these recommendations makes the most sense?” “Which ones are useful?” “Are there any that are important and practical enough for me to experiment with in my life?” The protagonist then subjects chosen interpretations to an empirical dream yoga: they are treated as injunctions to be operationalized and then followed. Application is then subjected to feedback not only from the group and peers in the method but from the court of life: As a result of following the interpretation does your sense of self broaden and thin? Are you happier? Does your life flow more? Are you healthier? The interpretations of others and ourselves are modified and broadened by those accessed by questioning multiple perspectives in a way that encourages transformation, which is one function of the IDL interviewing protocols.

What is Dream Sociodrama?

“Sociodrama” is a term coined by J.L. Moreno that means, “A dramatic play in which several individuals act out assigned roles for the purpose of studying and remedying problems in group or collective relationships” (Moreno, 1953). Although Dream Sociodrama shares methods and similarities with Moreno’s psychodrama, constellation therapy, Voice Dialogue, gestalt and even Tibetan Deity Yoga, it is not derived from them and is only very indirectly related to them.(13) While such methodologies may use group processes to help an individual explore and resolve some internal psychological issue, Dream Sociodrama asks participants to share in the growth of a subject into one or more emerging potential in order to access the priorities of their life compass. By so doing group members are increasingly guided by organic factors and states that are negentropic, evolutionary and sacred.

We commonly assume we are awake, aware and conscious when in fact we are more or less asleep, dreaming and sleepwalking our way through our lives. “Dream” in Dream Sociodrama is meant to refer to the dreamlike, delusional, contextually-based nature of human identity and perception. It is not meant to imply idealism, that is, a philosophy or world view that is life or world denying or as George Berkeley famously does, reduces reality to our perception of it. To point out the dreamlike nature of waking life is not meant to deny or minimize the reality or importance of those things that are empirically not self. IDL views life very much as J.L Moreno did; it is creative, and it wants to be expressed through playful expression and living, not through life-denying withdrawal. (14)

“Socio” is meant to both include and transcend common meanings of the prefix “psycho.” “Psycho” refers to those issues and qualities internal to the individual, such as thoughts, feelings and level of consciousness. Psychological approaches therefore treat dream characters and objects of psychodramatic or gestalt interviews as self-aspects. Everything can be reduced to subjective perception, meaning that objectivity and “others” are projections to be re-incorporated through the taking of responsibility for how we perceive and treat them. “Socio” in its inclusive sense refers to the multiple perspectives that inform thoughts and feelings as the internalized culture or microcosm of the individual. These form the world view, frame of reference, hidden assumptions, groupthink or context within which an individual is immersed.(15) Our world view is generally so broad that we are unaware of it, as presumably is a fish of the water through which it swims or our normal lack of awareness of the air between our eyes and these words that we are now reading. Our world view contains socially internalized scripting and injunctions, typically associated with conscience, intuition, dharma, natural and divine law, and concepts such as destiny, karma and fate.

The second, transcendent context that “socio” refers to is broader. It includes all four realms of our sense of self, the psychological, cultural, social and behavioral. A more appropriate word for this context is holon, and so Dream Sociodrama could also accurately be called “holonic drama” or “holondrama.”(Wilber, 2001).(16) “Socio” in this transcending sense refers to telic or emerging potentials which do not belong to us but to life, and which are attempting to be born within our awareness. Sociodrama interviews perspectives that are emergent, that is, aspects of larger contexts that are striving to generate higher orders of integration in the psychological, cultural, social and behavioral realms of our identity. This is no more or less mystical than the pattern of an oak existing as an emergent potential in an acorn.

“Socio,” unlike “psycho,” intentionally refers to macrocosmic issues and qualities that are external to the individual, as they define themselves. Dreaming provides a helpful analogy in that it contains a social environment that is “not self,” as defined by our perspective when we are dreaming. Later, when we awaken we say, “Oh! That was me scaring myself! Oh! I must have created that dream setting with its scenery! However, during the dream, unless we become lucid, we are surrounded by an external social reality that is “not self,” just as in real life. It is reductionistic to say that others are really aspects of self and just like dreams; if we will just wake up we will realize it. Like Kant, IDL says there are noumena that really exist as not self and are therefore not reducible to either self-aspects or denizens of the psychological realm. However, it does not therefore grant them independent ontology like say, Tibetan Dream Yoga tends to do.(17) Rather, “socio” in sociodrama refers to the intrasocial realm, a space where both objectivity and subjectivity are interdependent, ontology or beingness is conditioned and indefinite, and which is accessed through character identification.

How a Dream Sociodrama is Conducted

As in psychodrama, a group is formed and a “subject,” called a “protagonist” is selected. This individual shares three life issues that are important to them at this point in their lives. They could be health, work or relationship related. They could be immediate, such as what to do in the group, or they could be distant and broad, involving life goals or existential questions about war and peace. Issues do not have to be problems or conflicts in search of resolution.

Next, a dream, personal life issue, group problem, contemporary world crisis, historical event, fairy tale, fiction or myth is chosen as the context for the Dream Sociodrama. Strangely enough, it does not have to have anything to do with the life issues. It can be something whimsical, like Daniela Simmons’ use of Alice in Wonderland, or some socio-cultural crisis, like 9/11. There are advantages and disadvantages to each framing of the Dream Sociodrama on various scales. For example, some contexts are more personal, like dreams, nightmares and life issues, while some are more collective, such as shared group problems and contemporary world crises. Personal issues are most relevant for the subject while collective framings may draw in more members of the group at greater depth. Personal contexts contain more pathos, personal drama, angst and catharsis while others, like fairy tales and fiction, are lighter and more fun. Some choices have implications mostly for personal growth while others have powerful global implications. However, any and all of these contexts can produce impressive results for both the individual and the group. Look for themes that interest and motivate the group as a whole. Much of the time a context will be volunteered by the protagonist or be a pre-appointed topic that the group wants to work on, like a group work task or interpersonal issue with a co-worker they haven’t been able to resolve. Attempt to choose contexts that are magical, mystifying, playful, challenging and interesting to the group for maximum member engagement.

Once the context is chosen the protagonist is asked to tell the group what it means to them. What is their interpretation of the dream? Why did they pick this life issue, fairy tale or historical event? The sharing of the protagonist’s interpretations surfaces their own biases, prejudices and presuppositions so that these are less likely to color the process; sharing initial assumptions informs the director and the group of these biases, which will inform and thereby expand their own assumptions about the dream or life drama; and it serves as a pre-test by which everyone can later judge the effectiveness of the Dream Sociodrama. Did it confirm the interpretation of the dreamer? Did it produce new interpretations? Did it generate concrete, useful and operational recommendations? This is important, because one way we maintain our psychological geocentrism is by telling ourselves, “I knew that all the time!” Of course this is true, because we are listening to internal perspectives. The pre-test provides a way of asking after the interview, “If I knew this all the time, why was it not part of my initial interpretation?”

Next a character from the dream, personal life issue, group problem, contemporary world crisis, historical event, fairy tale, fiction or myth is chosen to interview. Which is best? How does one choose? The protagonist will usually be making a choice based on the characters available within the dream or life issue that they are relating, but here are some guidelines to help you, the director, steer them in making a good choice.

We are most likely to project our own identities, beliefs, assumptions, expectations and desires onto human and humanoid characters. Of these, love partners are the worst. They should be saved for experienced subjects. Newly deceased children are also terrible choices, as are parents. Our internalized script injunctions are so entangled with intimates that it is quite unrealistic that we will approach them with any objectivity. At the other extreme are things one has never interviewed before and would never think of interviewing, such as a meerkat, pogo stick or gob of spit. Inanimate objects (a rock), vegetation (a rhododendron), human artifact (chair), or environmental realm (the sky) are good choices because they provide relative objectivity. The basic continuum at work here is between emotional investment and objective detachment. The more emotional investment the protagonist has in a character the less likely he or she is to get into role and instead make the character a surrogate for pronouncing his or her own preferences. The less emotional investment the protagonist has in a character the more likely he or she is to allow it to speak. However, there is an important drawback. Great objectivity means emotional and experiential remoteness, meaning a reduced likelihood that the protagonist will identify with its concerns, precisely because it is distinct or remote from the dramas from which most of us draw our identities.

For many first timers working with life issues, animals are a good balance between emotional investment and objective detachment for several reasons. All of us have an innate ability to identify with animals; as children our dreams were full of them. There is a sense of emotional identification, either positive or negative, with most animals, which supports the identification. Most of us have never imagined we were an oyster, squid or aardvark before, so we have relatively few coloring preconceptions to bring to the role.

The group members who volunteer to take up the chosen role and answer the scripted series of questions in the IDL interviewing protocol as auxiliaries will provide emotional identification and plenty of amusement. Listening to the various embodiments of the chosen object or character adds emotional coloration and meanings that are as unsuspected as they are relevant. These reframe for the protagonist not only the function of the character or object in the dream or drama but make available multiple alternative ways of approaching the entire issue under consideration. Even deeper emotional identification with the character or object is likely to occur later, when the protagonist themselves becomes the character, because of witnessing the responses of multiple presentations of the character or object to the interviewing process.

Taking the role, fully and completely, is the heart of the process of Dream Sociodrama, just as it is with psychodrama. There are important distinctions, however. In psychodrama there are multiple roles at the same time, represented by different auxiliaries, one being mother, another being the pet dog, another the mortgage payment, and so forth. In both psychodrama and Dream Sociodrama, more than one auxiliary can take the same role that the subject takes. Instead of different individuals playing multiple roles, in Dream Sociodrama several individuals are playing the same role. The protagonist interviews three or four different versions of the same dream chair, mortgage payment, or nasty demeantor.(18)

The protagonist, with the assistance of the director and other group members, throws out questions to the characters that follow the structure of the IDL interviewing protocol but may elaborate on it or challenge answers given. The randomness of who answers is part of the fun of the process which is supposed to be light, fun and chaotic. The interviewing protocol divides questions into a sequential progression of role identification, role disclosure, invitation to transform, self-ratings of core qualities associated with emerging potentials, desired life changes and life recommendations. In both psychodrama and Dream Sociodrama auxiliaries speak for the characters they embody, with multiple auxiliaries often providing multiple responses to the same question. In response to the question, “How would you live the waking life of this dreamer if you were in charge?” characters answer referencing the life of the auxiliary, not the protagonist. The same occurs with the recommendations about the life issues, even though they may not have anything at all to do with the issues facing a particular auxiliary. Therefore, recommendations directed at auxiliaries, not at the protagonist, are forthcoming at this point. Transformations are multiple as well. The room may end up being full of skunks, angels, giant squids and turds. God may even show up.

This process is then repeated by the protagonist becoming the chosen character and responding to the same scripted questioning protocol. He or she is asked the scripted questions by the director and various group members. The protagonist as character or object explains who and what are, how they view the life issue and what, if anything they want to do about it as the character. Do they want to transform? If so, how? Why? How do they score themselves in the six core qualities? How would they live the protagonist’s life differently if they were in charge? How would they handle the life issues? Group members are free to act as auxiliaries or to mirror. Again, the director keeps the answers coming quickly with no pauses. The protagonist then returns to his or her normal waking identity and states what he or she have heard themselves say and what they want to take away from the interview/group process.

In Dream Sociodrama an important part of the group process is helping the subject operationalize recommendations in order to set up a process of accountability to the group on whatever they choose to do with the interview. At this point, other group members can say what, if anything, they want to commit to doing differently as a result of the Dream Sociodrama, since they have themselves received recommendations from it. Subsequently, there is a sense of collective reliance and nurturing in growth that comes out of the process.

Differences from Psychodrama

Both psychodrama and Dream Sociodrama involve the group in the depiction of the drama of some dream or life circumstance of the protagonist, but in different ways. With Dream Sociodrama the dream or life issue is told and, instead of different group members playing different parts in the drama, two or more take the same part, say Genghis Kahn, a bookshelf, toilet brush or snapdragon.  The more people who want to take on the persona of the identified character, the merrier. These supportive group members are not meant, in the first part of the Dream Sociodrama, to serve as traditional psychodrama auxiliaries, providing out-picturings of the protagonists’s own experience, but rather are to forget about the protagonist and his or her issue and speak authentically, giving voice to whatever character has been chosen, as they deeply identify with this or that role, whether it is a cucumber, radio or orc. However, they are still auxiliaries, in that they are in part responding to the life issues and context of the protagonist. Their response to questions about the life issues raised by the protagonist may be two-fold. On the one hand, it may be advice for the auxiliary in their own life. On the other, it may be advice for the protagonist “channeled” by the muse, shamanic totem, spirit guide or Flying Spaghetti Monster. In any case, the major responsibility of an auxiliary is to answer spontaneously as if they were the character, forgetting, shelving or ignoring their own point of view, opinions, expectations and assumptions for the moment. This is equally true for the protagonist when their turn comes. If there is a pause in answering, that is an indication that the waking identity of the group member or protagonist is acting as censor, trying to figure out the “right” answer or worried that it is going to be stupid or wrong. But there is no right answer in Dream Sociodramas and it is impossible to be too stupid or too wrong.(19) Neither IDL interviewing or Dream Sociometry involve a search for the Truth or The Solution.

Questioning and answering should move quickly, randomly and spontaneously from one version of the character to the next in a playful, quirky, odd and stupid way that does not need to make sense.(20) When it is the protagonists’ turn to play the role, for example of Freud’s famous cigar and he or she gets stuck repeatedly, ask the cigar, not the protagonist, “Cigar, it appears  that your human, by hesitating, is not letting you speak. Is that right? If so, how does that feel?” The cigar is likely to respond by saying something like, “Pretty shitty! He talks all the time! Why can’t he shut up for once and listen to me?” Or, it may be that the cigar is persistently disinterested. If it is, ask it if it recommends some other character to interview.

Another important difference from psychodrama is that the different actors inhabiting the same role, in this case the cigar, are asked the same scripted questions. The purpose is for multiple voices to first fully occupy and then amplify one specific role in various ways while the protagonist watches and asks all the same scripted questions.(21) Therefore, to this point, transformations are primarily occurring for the participants, not the subject, which is different from psychodrama, which is created primarily for the benefit of the subject, although the group as a whole benefits.

All participants are made aware of the nature and purpose of the scripted questions, and each one is given a copy to refer to, to use as a guideline for questioning and to help the process stay on track. A character whose role is being portrayed, like the cigar, can also speak up and tell the subject questions they wish to be asked. Other group members not in role, as well as the director, can chime in with additional questions as long as they amplify instead of deviating widely from the purpose of the scripted questions. The job of the director here is to keep questioning on track and moving along rapidly.

The reason why there is a set script for questioning is because it follows a formula that supports the acquisition of multi-perspectivalism.(22) Its first objective is to make sure that group members get into role authentically and as completely as possible. The primary task of the director is to make sure that this occurs. Because the protagonist will have seen multiple group members take the same role they themselves will later occupy, this should desensitize them if they have any reluctance to becoming the cigar or some other character, like a bullfrog or cabbage.

Another objective of the script is to encourage transformation. There are at least four distinct places in the script that invite characters to transform if they so desire. Consequently, the room may fill with parrots, ships, icebergs, deceased relatives or dogs. However, it is not “better” for a character, even an old, worn out smelly one, like an old sock on a bathroom floor, to transform. If it does not want to, it wants to be heard, appreciated and respected for what it is, not turned into a pink cloud or a rainbow. The script also educates about and accesses core qualities that are building blocks for integrated development. These are discussed below. Concrete suggestions regarding resolving the life issue are proposed by the character in its multiple, often transformed, manifestations. The script makes sure that the group members and protagonist appropriately process the interview and come away not only with a concrete action plan but with an accountability strategy to support and monitor their application of those recommendations they have chosen to implement (Dillard, 2012).

Why not simply have the protagonist occupy the role at the same time that the others do? This certainly would shorten the process. Simultaneous responses to questions by the protagonist in the role of the interviewed character are likely to cause the other group members in the role of the object to respond to questions in a way to “help,” that is, rescue, the protagonist by supplying what they think is the “right” or “best” answer for the protagonist. This defeats the purpose of role identification for other group members and it drains the authenticity out of the process. The protagonist answers last so that she or he has the benefit of the previous answers. The advantage of having several group members get into role and answer the questions first is that the protagonist will be more likely to get into and stay in role easily if he or she has seen others play the part. Their answers expand her understanding of what that interviewed character’s perspective entails so that when she becomes the cigar, dump truck or tree sloth the experience is likely to be that much more profound.

If group members want to look like and act like the character they are embodying while they answer the questions, they are certainly encouraged to do so. This adds another degree of frivolity and absurdity to the entire process. A “prop box” is recommended, with masks, noise-makers, tools, foam bats and toy weapons, gadgets, as well as art materials to encourage participants to amplify their role with their own creations.  Group members should be encouraged to be dramatic, to ham it up, to be stupid, ridiculous and playful. What this tends to do is break us out of our personalization of our dramas as serious, real, important and worth worrying about, but without discounting, minimizing or ridiculing how important they are to us. Chickens clucking and cats rubbing up against furniture has a way of deflating drama. This is called cosmic humor, because it is trans-rational absurdity. Prerational humor is laughing when a dog licks your feet; rational humor, like the following examples, makes you think: “If a man says something in the woods and his wife isn’t around, is he still wrong?” Groucho Marx: “Outside of a dog a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” Trans-rational humor looks absurd or irrational but is firmly grounded in a methodology or form of reasoning. In addition, it is integrative. That is, it is humor that heals, balances and transforms. A famous example is, “If you meet the Buddha in the road, kill him.”

It is after questions are answered with fun and chaos by multiple group members in the role of one character that it is the subject’s turn to become the interviewed object. He or she is then asked these same questions. The subject, who has had the benefit of listening to several group members as the character and has observed their various transformations in those roles, now has a different and broader framing of what that character is or can be than he or she had before. His or her responses in the role of the character or object are now greatly expanded from what they would have been if only he or she had been asked the questions from the beginning, with other group members serving as auxiliaries or doubling them. At this point group members can indeed double the protagonist in his or her responses in identification with the interviewed character.

The end of the questioning process involves the protagonist, once again herself, deciding which of the recommendations she wants to apply, how they will be operationalized and how she wants to be held accountable for her application. She will have had the advantage of having heard various versions of her cigar’s responses, transformed or not, to how it would handle her life issues and what recommendations it has. All this not only adds enormous depth to her responses but is more likely to produce a plan that is practical and realistic.

Purposes of Dream Sociodrama

Help individuals and groups grow into authentic, expanded contexts (Wilber, 2001). Therapy has traditionally focused on how to repair and integrate the self so that it functions well in the world. This is because many, perhaps most, people who come to therapy want to fix some problem that keep them from living a “normal” life. While this is vital work and is addressed by Dream Sociodrama, it is also important to remember, as our second definition of “socio” indicates, that there exist broader and highly significant contexts that function like hidden attractors in chaos theory. Like the old Bruce Willis movie, The Kid, all of us are growing into our future selves and, if fortunate, are accessing the priorities of emerging potentials and our life compass, which provide a stable foundation upon which to build our future life. There are several reasons to place emphasis on this point. It calls out the best in ourselves and others; it emphasizes respect for our own path forward and provides group, that is cultural, support for us in our discovery and pursuit of it; it subordinates both our professional formulations and the agenda our stuck, blind and lost waking perspective to those presented by interviewed subjective sources of objectivity; it makes no truth claims and demands that it be empirically tested in the furnace of our daily life.

Because personal experiences of vastly expanded contexts are normally so rare, occurring only in mystical, near death experiences, under the influence of hallucinogens or during shamanic visionquests, when they occur we are likely to err in one of two extreme ways. We either conclude they are delusions and therefore commit reductionism, or we conclude that we have seen God and are enlightened, that we have grasped Reality, Truth and the Ultimate. This is called elevationism. Both inaccurate responses are due to our unfamiliarity with relatively unfiltered, vastly expanded contexts that include but transcend our own. When we have such experiences ourselves we are likely to be overwhelmed by the non-filtered, free, accepting and nurturing nature of some vastly broadened context and, if we do not have a melt-down, we are likely to indulge in elevationism for the rest of our lives. We know such transformative and transpersonal contexts exist by reflecting on our past choices, say when we were teenagers, and recognizing that while we did the best that we knew at the time, from our current perspective we see limitations in our decision-making that was not apparent then. Because we see that we are clearer and more awake now than we were in our adolescence, we can infer that in ten years, when looking back on who we are today, that we will have greater clarity and objectivity than we now do. Our context now includes but transcends the context of our fifteen-year-old self; similarly, the context we will inhabit in ten years will include but transcend that which authentically describes us today, unless we simply stagnate. If we were able to acclimate to mystical and near death experience, as advanced meditators may be able to do, such experiences may habituate. Instead of providing continuous transformational synthesis, with continued exposure they then become thesis stage building blocks in our developmental dialectic.(23) IDL interviewing provides examples of this process as a matter of course.

Reduce both reductionism and elevationism. All professional guilds have tendencies toward reductionism and elevationism. For example, psychology tends to define all four quadrants of the human holon in terms of itself, reducing other disciplines to elaborations of its world view while elevating its own status.(24) On a personal level, we observe this phenomena in psychological geocentrism, also called the “Anthropic Principle,” our tendency to reduce the world to our own values, priorities and world view. For example, since Pythagoras, science has tended to reduce nature to mathematical laws, thereby elevating both mathematics and ourselves to a central, grandiose and narcissistic status. While this is inevitable, due to the reality of the limitations of our perceptual context, no matter how wise or broad it may be, awareness and vigilance can still identify, minimize and neutralize its effects. This is one of the goals of the multi-perspectival approach of IDL and Dream Sociodrama.

Increase multi-perspectivalism. The life compass is a reliable “eye of the hurricane” in which to stand in order to maintain our stability amidst the drama and insanity of personal, familial and world events. Therefore, the function of Dream Sociodrama is not primarily insight or the building of “ego strength” but rather the expansion and thinning of the self through identification with multiple alternative self-definitions. This multi-perspectivalism embodies a capacity for ambiguity, empathy, objectivity and flexibility. While these qualities are important for development, they can be threatening to normal social scripting. There is very little social reinforcement for becoming a green centipede or discarded plastic in the Pacific gyre. Society rewards us for becoming intact “normal” identities that play by the rules and contribute to society. It does not reward us for thinning our sense of self, which it labels as decompensation, idealism, withdrawal from life and, above all, impractical. Solutions to our wounds are more adequate when they reflect greater objectivity that yet remains intimately aware of who we are and how we sabotage our own happiness. Broadening and thinning of identity is therefore threatening to the well-being of individuals and the organization of society.

Reduce and redirect projection and interpretation. As we have seen, IDL recognizes the invasive, mind-reading aspects of both projection and interpretation. When we interpret for others we may well be placing ourselves in the role of rescuer in the Drama Triangle and the other in the role of helpless victim, unable to think for themselves and arrive at their own path forward. We may unwittingly thereby foster dependency rather than independence or interdependence and substitute our own blindingly brilliant insights for direction by one’s own version of life compass. Therefore, IDL emphasizes interpretation first by the subject to “clear the decks” for the Dream Sociodrama, followed by the perspectives of one’s own interviewed characters, first as internalized and voiced by other group members, then by the subject, and then later by the subject and the group as their own summarizing interpretations. Interpretation definitely has its place in IDL and Dream Sociodrama, but it is primarily the venue of interviewed subjective sources of objectivity, not of the group, its director or even the protagonist. This is because emerging potentials, personified as interviewed dream characters or life issue elements, reflect broader contexts and interpretations that are therefore more adequate than those of narrower contexts.

Identify, minimize and neutralize psychological geocentrism: Our definitions of who we are typically solidify and become so rigid that they become a cognitive straight jacket that kill us long before we die. Identification with multiple alternative perspectives is a powerful way of breaking out of this self-sustained prison. Becoming one with everything can simply be the ego inflation of psychological heliocentrism, a grandiose expansion of psychological geocentrism.(25) Near death experiences usually involve projecting one’s world view onto a relatively unfiltered reality, which means that reality orbits around your understandings and interpretations of it. Both ego-inflation and world view projection tend to block the development of multi-perspectivalism.

Increasing multi-perspectivalism: IDL views multi-perspectivalism as a pre-requisite to a genuinely thinned and broadened sense of self that is not grandiose or narcissistic. Characteristics of multi-perspectivalism include adaptability and tolerance, both of ambiguity and multiple alternative perspectives. Tolerance of ambiguity is itself associated with non-reactivity and a reduction of the perception of others or events as personal threats. Because fear is a fundamental barrier to integration, the importance of exposure to authentic multiple perspectives through Dream Sociodrama is not to be underestimated.(26)

Accessing life compass priorities: The life compass is not a thing but an evolving process that is a response to your current level of development. It is the agenda of life, personalized for your unique context and opportunities, seeking to awaken to itself through your eyes, ears, feelings, thoughts and experiences. However, it is not yours. It does not belong to you; you belong to it, as your body belongs to the sun, out of which its composite elements came and to which they will eventually return. As you learn to identify with multiple alternative perspectives you will begin to recognize common themes that draw you toward health, balance and transformation. These are shadows of “your” life compass. The more that a protagonist gets anchored in a sense of their life compass the more they experience internal stability, regardless of their age or external circumstances. This stability in turn generates confidence, wisdom, acceptance and inner peace.

Escaping negative aspects of childhood scripting: Unless you learn how to question the largely background assumptions you learned from your parents and others when you were three, those injunctions will define who you are, what you can see, who you will choose as friends and what you can become until you die. Your childhood scripting can even program how and when you will die. You will find that the characters you interview and become in Dream Sociodramas and IDL are generally not scripted as you are. Some are radically script and drama free, offering you alternative ways of framing and building your life that you have not previously considered.

Reframing emotional, logical and perceptual cognitive distortions: Interviewed characters regularly offer alternative rational framings to cognitive distortions. These tend to be both practical and tailored to the circumstances of each unique individual. Together, the movement out of childhood life scripting, drama and cognitive distortions remove major barriers that block development and filter our perception of the good, true and beautiful. There are three types of cognitive distortions, or delusional ways of thinking, that create anxiety and depression and impede your development (Dillard, 2012).

Reduce personalization: IDL views personalization, or psychological geocentrism, as the most fundamental cognitive distortion. It involves the delusion that the world revolves around us, that people are talking about us, that what we do or say is highly important to them. Fundamentally, it is grandiose and narcissistic. It may be most evident in teenaged girls obsessed with how they look and what other people think of them. By practicing taking multiple perspectives as occurs with Dream Sociodrama, both children and adults learn to de-centralize identity, meaning they get to experience life that is not centered on them. As these experiences generalize, personalization diminishes.

Increasing freedom from drama: Most people spend their lives locked in destructive drama, that is, trapped in the roles of victim, rescuer and persecutor and unable to get out. Indeed, many people cannot conceive of life outside these roles, nor are they interested in such a life, which they are sure would be boring. Nothing could be further from the truth. Identifying and eliminating drama is one of the quickest and most effective ways to move out of both anxiety, depression and dukkha, the Buddhist concept of pervasive suffering.(27) When you do Dream Sociodrama or any other type of IDL, you become perspectives that are relatively drama-free. They will teach you how to be more like them in your daily life, if that is what you wish.

Building the six core qualities: Included in the interview protocol, these evolved out of observation of the six stages of every breath. They also relate to the seasons, the phases of our activities during any day, the stages of  relationship, a job or a complete lifetime (Dillard, 2016b). As such, there is something intrinsic about these six qualities in that they are given by life, although the words used to describe them are arbitrary.  Confidence refers to the exuberance and brashness of awakening and new life, of something out of nothing, of existence out of non-being. While naive confidence is dangerous, it contains spontaneity, courage and vitality, core qualities for a fulfilled existence. Empathy refers to the ability to see others as others see you and, by extension, recognize that as you see others you are so seeing the parts of yourself that they represent. Therefore, it makes no sense to hold onto anger, fear or grief regarding another person. Wisdom refers to awareness that comes from balancing experience, emotions, ideas, and people in healthy ways. Wisdom for IDL is not intuition but flow, that is, being in the right place at the right time in order to say and do that which will awaken, in a practical way, both others and yourself. Acceptance is not tolerance or turning the other cheek; it is an open receptivity to alternative perspectives and even harmful experiences, resulting in an ability to frame them as wake-up calls and listen to them in an integral and deep way. Inner Peace refers to the center of the hurricane of life. It is not withdrawal from life, but the ability to find and live in deep reservoirs of equanimity in the midst of life’s unavoidable stressors. Witnessing is objectivity, identification with ground, detachment, clarity and the relative absence of drama. In meditative traditions witnessing is often the sine qua non, the most valued of qualities. However, IDL takes a multi-perspectival approach, noting that every stage of the round of breath and life is most important at one time and condition or another. Therefore, rather than arguing over which of these six core qualities is most important or what words are best to use to refer to each, IDL chooses to focus on the enhancement of all of them while learning the specific situations in which one is more valuable than another. Because IDL asks interviewed characters about these six core qualities students learn about them, become them and integrate them into their developing sense of self.

Developing freedom from innate developmental self-definitions: The evolution of the self moves through stages of identification, then disidentification, as we grow into a broader, more inclusive self-definition. These are, “I am my body; I am not my body; then, I am emotions that contain a body; I am not my emotions; then, I am an ego (self) that has emotions and a body; then, I am not a separate self; my identity comes from my affiliation with my family, language, religion, culture, race, gender, political party and nation;  then (for those who get so far), I am not my group affiliations; I am a reasoning being who sees and respects the universality of law/dharma; then, I am not a reasoning being; I am one with all sentient beings.” As we have seen, IDL encourages identification with non-sentient, profane, secular and imaginary beings as a way to free ourselves of any and all self definitions as stable, true or real. This is one of the reasons IDL, as a dream yoga, is a transpersonal integral life practice.

Developing objectivity regarding various types of “foods” and addiction to them: What we “eat,” that is, the experiences, feelings, thoughts and relationships that we consume, are based on the needs of different inner constituencies. As they evolve, our choice in “foods” tends to evolve as well. First we accumulate things that will make us safe. If we don’t do this, if we starve in this way, it is unrealistic to try to eat some other type of food. We will neither have the energy nor patience for reading or love if we are hungry or scared. Safety foods include food and shelter. Security foods tend to be fear-based. Either we need them to protect ourselves or we can’t stand how we feel without them. These “comfort foods,” emotional binkies or transitional objects include such things as guns, gated communities, guaranteed income and health care. They also include a broad variety of addictions: coffee, sugar, tobacco, alcohol and drugs. Identity foods validate who we think we are. These involve the quest for status as well as professional and peer recognition. Trophy spouses, wealth and power are common examples. Acceptance is a food that comes in two varieties or flavors. One is the seeking of the acceptance of others, a Quixotic quest to which most people devote their entire lives. The other is self-acceptance, another hopeless task, but important for development nevertheless. It is important because acceptance is a core quality that is necessary for the healthy development of the other core qualities, such as confidence. However, the acquisition of self-acceptance is finally a Sisyphean task in that there is no self that requires accepting. We know this from countless interviews with various dream characters and personifications of life issues. However, the awareness and acceptance of this reality is itself a high, rarefied and important form of acceptance. The sort of unconditional acceptance taught and practiced by IDL is a form of phenomenological suspension of assumptions about what is and is not acceptable. Respect is a very high octane food. For IDL it is foundational, because without it we fixate and stop growing. IDL teaches radical respect by practicing becoming and deeply listening both to dream monsters as well as multiple profane and apparently meaningless characters or objects that appear both in dreams and our waking life dream. All of these foods are important, and Dream Sociodrama seeks the council of subjective sources of objectivity to identify which form of “food” is most needed for balance in our lives today and how to go about getting it.

Developing a meditative perceptual grounding in everyday life: IDL teaches meditation not to reach higher states of consciousness, such as bliss or mystical union with the divine, but to enhance the experience of characteristics of wakefulness, lucidity, clarity and enlightenment in everyday life. These include abundance, cosmic humor and luminosity. One way that it does so is by exposing students to perspectives that normally and naturally have these characteristics. The access to same daily, on demand, is one of the ways that IDL differentiates itself from many other approaches to the transpersonal and non-dual. Dream Sociodrama often elicits such perspectives.

Using life compass priorities to direct one’s integral life practice: Most of us set goals and then work to achieve them. But how do we know our goals are the best use of our time? We don’t; we merely assume they are. We can look at others and we can look back at our own lives and recognize that many goals we pursued for years were not the best use of our time. Why not? In hindsight, we can see that they taught us more about what we don’t want out of life and who we aren’t than what we want and need out of life and who we are. When we are in contact with our life compass we are more likely to make solid decisions because we are accessing the priorities of life rather than our emotional whims or the cultural fashions of the day. Dream Sociodrama tends to point us toward broader, more adequate framings of our priorities that are more in alignment with our life compass.

Providing healing, balancing and transformation for all group members, including the facilitator: Dream Sociodrama is not created or conducted for one person, the protagonist. While they are the focal point, along with the chosen context, individual life issues and their specific framings are vehicles for the awakening of the group as a whole.

Supporting the development of children: While multi-perspectivalism is normally associated with late personal and early transpersonal levels of development, IDL and Dream Sociometry have demonstrated conclusively that it is not only compatible with childhood development; it vigorously and dramatically supports it. This is counter-intuitive to many adults, who put great stock in the importance of using childhood to build and solidify one’s sense of self through emphasis on obedience, performance, playing by the rules and achievement. Kids learn these things anyway, simply by being immersed in a society and its culture. What they don’t learn are two things: how to identify and listen to their life compass and how to escape the bonds of their social scripting, when and if they so desire. IDL, Dream Sociometry and Dream Sociodrama are tools for helping both children and adults to do so.

Purposes of Psychodrama, Sociometry and Dream Sociodrama Compared (28)




Dillard J., Integral Deep Listening Interviewing Techniques, Deep Listening Pub. Berlin, 2012, discusses the function of the various questions in the IDL questioning protocol, as well as how to deal with various challenges that may come up during interviews.

Dillard, J., Waking Up: Using Integral Deep Listening to Transform Your Life. Deep Listening Pub., Berlin, 2012. IDL also emphasizes goal setting, behavioral monitoring and communication skills.

Dillard, J. Dream Sociometry: A Multi-Perspectival Path to the Transpersonal. Deep Listening Pub., Berlin, 2016a. For a description and examples of Dream Sociometry, Dream Sociomatrices and Dream Sociograms see http://integraldeeplistening.com/examples-of-dream-sociometry/

Dillard, J., Seven Octaves of Enlightenment:Integral Deep Listening Pranayama. Deep Listening Pub., Berlin, 2016b. “Naming” is explained in Waking Up, 2012.

Feuerstein, Georg (2001). The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice. Arizona, USA: Hohm Press.

Karpman MD, Stephen (1968). “Fairy tales and script drama analysis”. Transactional Analysis Bulletin. 26 (7): 39–43. This concept has been expanded by the author from the realm of interpersonal relationships to the realms of intrapsychic or cognitive drama and to dreaming, as explained in Dillard, J. Waking Up, 2012.

Moreno, J. L. Sociometry, Experimental Method and the Science of Society. An Approach to a New Political Orientation. Beacon House, Beacon, New York, 1951.

Moreno, J. L. Who Shall Survive? Foundations of Sociometry, Group Psychotherapy and Sociodrama. Beacon House, 1953.

Wilber, K., et.al, Integral Life Practice: A 21st-Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening, 2008.

Wilber, K. Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution, 1st ed. 1995, 2nd rev. ed. 2001. While “contexts” is an allusion to post-modernistic perspectives, such as popularized by Heidegger, Derrida and Foucault, it is more concretely associated with Wilber’s integral concept of “holon” as “part-whole” consisting of four quadrants of psychology or consciousness, behavior, social interaction and culture. This concept is described in depth in Wilber’s Sex, Ecology, Spirituality. Its relationship to IDL is described in (IDL and AQAL).


(1) For Hindu foundations of dream yoga, see http://integraldeeplistening.com/hindu-yogic-foundations/; for Tibetan dream yoga and its relationship to IDL see http://integraldeeplistening.com/tibetan-dream-yoga/.

(2) For Hindu foundations of dream yoga, see http://integraldeeplistening.com/hindu-yogic-foundations/; for Tibetan dream yoga and its relationship to IDL see http://integraldeeplistening.com/tibetan-dream-yoga/.

(3) “Integral” is a term derived from Ken Wilber’s integral psychology, philosophy and spirituality. In that context, as well as here, it refers to AQAL, an acronym that stands for “all levels, lines, quadrants, states and styles and which is fundamentally multi-perspectival, meaning that it honors truth in all traditions. AQAL is a developmental model that encompasses transpersonal stages alluded to by Maslow, Kohlberg, Assagioli, Aurobindo, Jung and de Chardin. For its relationship to IDL see  http://integraldeeplistening.com/ken-wilbers-integral-aqal-and-dream-yoga/

(4) http://integraldeeplistening.com/idl-resources/questionnaires/.

(5) The first function may be understood as therapeutic in that it focuses on healing, balancing and integration of the self. The second function may be understood as transpersonal in that it focuses on clarifying and accessing yet to be realized potentials while thinning and broadening one’s self-definition. IDL bridges these two domains, by reframing scripts, drama and cognitive distortions, undercutting fundamental dualisms such as self/other, inner/outer, subjective/objective, mind/body and imaginary/real, and promoting disidentification with rigid definitions of the self without thereby supporting depersonalization or decompensation.

(6) Emerging potentials are emergent, autopoietic processes, not things or entities. As such they are more like the hidden attractors of chaos theory, negentropic holons or contexts that inherently generate order and higher orders of integration out of increasing levels of complexity. Examples are the uniqueness of every snowflake and the saltations or discontinuities of species generation in evolution.

(7) These examples are inherently misleading. Fire may personify light, heat, warmth or any number of other characteristics instead of anger. This inherent ambiguity is true for monsters and pits. This is why IDL insists on taking a phenomenological approach by suspending our assumptions and instead respectfully interviewing the fire, monster or pit and letting each speak for itself.

(8) The priorities of individual interviewed dream characters or personifications of life issues may or may not reflect the priorities of your life compass and interviewed characters may or may not be emerging potentials; they may be regressive fixations whose priorities support decompensation. However, the practice of Integral Deep Listening provides opportunities for the most fearful and odious of experiences to reframe themselves in ways that reflect the priorities of life compass.

(9) Triangulation seeks the opinions of such multiple “subjective sources of objectivity.” This is, of course, a contradiction and a paradox. How can anything that is subjective be objective? IDL and Dream Sociometry demonstrate quite conclusively that interviewed dream characters and the interviewed personifications of life issues can indeed be highly autonomous, often expressing opinions, views and interpretations that differ from our own. While external sources like experts and friends provide important and necessary objectivity, they do not know your mind because they are not you. Even gurus and psychics who claim to know your mind interpret your mind through their own perceptual filters with the result being that they present their truth but mistakenly represent it as your truth. Interviewed dream characters and the personifications of your life issues are in part aspects of yourself. Because they know you as well as you know yourself, their feedback is not so easily dismissed as that of external sources, nor is there the issue of wondering if one is being lied to by others. In addition, they present their own perspectives which often are different from your own, which provides a degree of objectivity and autonomy that is not unlike consulting the interpretations of external authorities.

(10) These categories are meant to imply the inclusion of other possible contexts for interviewing, including fantasy, synchronicities, socio-cultural events and crises, historical events, near death and mystical experiences and topics of concern to the  entire group.

(11)  Protocols for interviewing dream elements, the personifications of life issues and children are available at  http://integraldeeplistening.com/idl-resources/questionnaires/.

(12) Most knowledge of reality is obtained by observations of mental or behavioral states or life processes by our waking identity. Intrasocial reality is obtained by observations made by other perspectives with which we respectfully and empathetically identify. This involves a rethinking of epistemology itself and is dealt with elsewhere. See http://www.dreamyoga.com/dream-yoga-and-the-phenomenological-perspective.

(13)  For comparisons to Gestalt Therapy, see http://integraldeeplistening.com/perls-gestalt-therapy-and-dream-yoga/. To Voice Dialogue, see http://www.dreamyoga.com/voice-dialogue-hal-and-sidra-stone. To Tibetan Deity Yoga, see http://integraldeeplistening.com/tibetan-dream-yoga/.

(14)  While this is the emphasis of Dream Sociodrama, IDL recognizes the importance of appropriate withdrawal, detachment and death as innate elements within life itself. It uses pranayama to elaborate these qualities in healthy, productive ways.

(15)  This refers to the interior collective “cultural” quadrant of the human holon in Wilber’s integral. It is “social” in that it contains a multiple of interdependent perspectives but these are interior to the individual. Therefore this might more clearly be thought of as the social quadrant of the intrasocial quadrant within the collective interior or cultural quadrant of any individual.

(16) “Holon” is a term originated by Arthur Koestler and elaborated by Ken Wilber that means “part-whole.” It points to the fact that no parts exist that are not contained within some greater whole and that no wholes exist that do not have parts. It also notes that there is nothing, including the concept of nothing itself, which is not a part of something greater (in the case of nothing, it is a part of the set that contains nothing and all things), and there is no whole that does not contain parts. Wilber further divides holons into the four above-mentioned quadrants by noting that just as there is no collective that does not have individual members, so there is no exterior that does not have an interior. It is important to note that the opposite is also equally true, that there are no individual members that are not part of some larger collective and that there are no interiors that do not have exteriors. Take a moment and contemplate this. Can you think of any exceptions to the above principles?

The interior individual quadrant of a holon is private and personal, the realm of psychology in the sense of thoughts, feelings and states of consciousness. The exterior individual quadrant is public but personal, the realm of the observed actions of cells, atoms, animals, people and galaxies. The exterior social quadrant is public and collective, the realm of social psychology, human interaction and systems, from physiology to cosmology. The interior collective quadrant is private and collective, the realm of values, culture, interpretations and world views. See Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution, 1st ed. 1995, 2nd rev. ed. 2001

(17) See http://integraldeeplistening.com/tibetan-dream-yoga/.

(18) While it is indeed possible to interview more than one character from the dream or life issue at the same time in Dream Sociodrama, with several group members choosing to become one or the other, it is recommended that you first get well grounded in the process of having multiple group members focus on one role. This is essentially to reduce complexity and to focus on quality of identification and respectful deep listening rather than to risk defusing it with quantity. One character, due to the likelihood of multiple transformations, is likely to supply more than enough provocation, absurdity and information to keep the group processing for some time thereafter.

(19) “Nobody is smart enough to be wrong all the time.” (Wilber, 2001).

(20)  “Cosmic humor” and trans-rationality, both concepts explored by IDL, are genuine experiences of relative selflessness that are neither rational nor irrational but transcend and include both.

(21) Questions can be asked by anyone or shared by the group as long as people know what they are doing.

(22) For examples of scripts for dream and life issue interviews, as well as for children, see http://integraldeeplistening.com/idl-resources/questionnaires/

(23) The developmental dialectic of integrative thesis, challenging antithesis and transformative synthesis is a concept derived from the German philosopher Fichte and elaborated by Aurobindo and Wilber, among others. It is treated at some depth, particularly in relationship to understanding the functioning of intrasocial groups, in Dillard, J., Understanding the Dream Sociogram, Deep Listening Press, Berlin, 2016. 

(24) Examples include social psychology and communication-based therapies like Transactional Analysis in the external collective “social” quadrant, cognitive and behavioral psychologies and behavior-based therapies like Piaget and behavior modification in the external individual “behavioral” quadrant, normative psychologies like Lawrence Kohlberg’s work on morality in the internal collective “cultural” quadrant and thought/emotion/intention centered therapies such as psychoanalysis, Jungian analysis, Assagioli’s psychosynthesis, Ellis/Beck/Burns cognitive therapies in the internal individual “psychological” quadrant.

(25) Reality revolves around the self in psychological geocentrism; this remains the case with psychological heliocentrism, only identity has inflated to equate the self with soul, atmen, God, dharma, the Divine or whatever concept represents the center of one’s reality. You are now one with God and reality revolves around omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent mystical you. Both world views are self-centered, only the second is much more grandiose.

(26) IDL respects fear. If you ignore genuine threats, like the traffic laws that say stay on your side of the road, you die. However, its stance is that about 95% of the anxiety, worry and fear that we experience is based on misperception and therefore are false alarms. The challenge is to learn to disarm the habitual false alarms that exist because there was perhaps a very real threat at one time, without ignoring all fear. Therefore, its approach is to assume that any worry, fear or anxiety is a false alarm unless proven otherwise. While this may sound naive and even unwise, the alternative is to live a life based on fear rather than trust.

(27) The Buddhist conception of suffering is often misunderstood as saying that to exist is to suffer. A more accurate understanding is that delusion is suffering, and that defense of one’s concept of what it means to exist is a certain way to generate more suffering. Dream Sociodrama attempts to defuse this by showing such concerns to be absurd without thereby disparaging the reality of our fear of nothingness.

(29) Dream Sociometry is not included here. It interviews multiple dream characters or personifications of life issues in order to objectify and re-frame the feelings and beliefs that reinforce and validate some “stuck” emotion, belief, attitude or perception.

Posted in Dream Sociodrama, Essays

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