By consulting authorities and your conscience, your common sense, and subjective sources of objectivity through IDL Interviewing you increase the likelihood your decisions will stand the test of time.
Why do we make bad decisions despite the noblest of intentions?
Can you look back at your life and spot times when you were sure you were making a good decision and it turned out to be a horrible mistake? I certainly can! Did you try to rationalize the catastrophe away by telling yourself, “I wouldn’t be who I am now if it hadn’t happened,” or “It was my karma,” “It is all in divine order,” “It was fate, luck or destiny,” or “It was part of my soul contract?”
If you were presented with the same circumstances today, would you make the same choice, knowing the train wreck that lies ahead if you follow that track? Would you still dive into that relationship? Would you still start smoking? Would you once again blow off homework and the goals you’ve set for yourself? If your answer is “yes,” then you are validating Santayana when he said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Clearly, not all misfortune is avoidable. Shit happens. While it might be comfortable to gold-plate stupidity and display it prominently on the mantle of our lives, like politicians do, there is some wisdom in stopping the pretending and facing the fact that sometimes we make terrible decisions and that all things don’t work out for the best. And no, repeating our mistakes is probably not a winning option.
What is it about ourselves that causes us to insist that black is really white, that there really is a silver lining in ignorance, in avoiding our responsibilities or in our many collective disastrous failures in decision-making, such as in repeating choices that have already proven themselves stupid or disastrous? How is it that we can bring ourselves to ignore global warming, bomb other countries or justify exceptionalism, which is simply a justification of discrimination?
Essentially, we self-destruct due to a lack of necessary objectivity. Most of us are determined to do what makes us comfortable and ignore reason when it leads to uncomfortable conclusions. Soldiers kill people and capitalists strip resources from people, countries and environments not because they are evil or stupid or sociopaths but because they operate in social. military, corporate and governmental cultures that reward them for predatory behavior. For example, Barak Obama is neither evil, stupid or a sociopath, yet he has authorized multiple international crimes against states and humanity.
Why and how we destroy our lives and what we need to do to prevent it is readily available to you and me right now, on the internet. Jared Diamond, in Collapse, has illustrated in great detail the anthropogenic factors that combine to destroy civilizations. Innumerable social and cultural solutions exist on both personal psychological and collective socio-cultural levels; there is a vast and growing data base of proven policies and procedures that doctors, hospitals, mayors, business executives, law enforcement and religious leaders can take to reduce individual and collective human suffering. In light of that indisputable and very positive fact, how is it that we, both as individuals and as a species, still keep sleepwalking toward the cliff?
Are we so addicted to the short-term rewards provided by our relationships, our work, the praise of others, as well as by our very realistic fears of punishment if we stop playing our assigned roles in our family, work and societal dramas, that we ignore, deny, repress or rationalize away longer term costs? These costs may be bodily, as those of a physical addiction to smoking or sugar; emotional, as in addiction to destructive relationships, beliefs or drama itself. Costs are invariably behavioral, with time lost to pointlessly checking emails, surfing the internet or distracting trivia. Most of us have career addictions to pleasing employers so we can not only pay our bills but achieve greater status. The costs of addiction to religious, political, national or cultural world views that are obviously delusional groupthink are less obvious. Indeed, they are generally harmless enough until a crisis comes. At that point our judgment is so distorted by our delusional beliefs that it is almost impossible to avoid disaster.
Most of us consider ourselves rational, competent, reasonable and effective; we say we want to wake up out of our individual and collective sleepwalking. The truth is, we don’t want to wake up, typically because we are afraid of failure, poverty, rejection or death. Our fears keep us from thinking clearly. Important roles that we take don’t want objectivity. Instead of operating like Mr. Spock on Star Trek, or better yet, integrating the Spock and Kirk sides of ourselves, we are much more likely to be a well-intentioned Captain Kirk that routinely gets ourselves in over our heads.
Using IDL to Access Priorities that Include Yet Transcend Your Own
Integral Deep Listening (IDL) offers one approach to problem solving to address not only our personal challenges but contemporary socio-cultural nightmares that present themselves as successive, intensifying global crises. IDL is a dream yoga of awakening. It teaches the defusing of any and all fears by suspending our own assumptions in order to respectfully listen to what, if anything, they might have to say to us. Why are they in our lives? How can we approach them as wake-up calls?
IDL also accesses priorities for our lives that transcend yet include our own. This is important because we know that goals are a major source of life meaning, and that sense of direction is an important antidote to both anxiety and depression. When we practice deep listening to our waking and dream nightmares our fears and resistances are unmasked and our monsters are not so scary any more. Consequently, we waste less of our lives creating imaginary threats and running from them. This represents a powerful addition to the two problem-solving strategies that most of us rely on and that prove themselves to be insufficient. These are a reliance on our own common sense and the advice of others.
Problems from Relying on Our Common Sense
Refugees escaping warfare on boats and drowning at sea or experienced investors who follow their best judgment and lose everything are two powerful examples of reliance on common sense and it just not being good enough. Reliance on common sense is often enough to get us through the day, but when we are confronted with new or unexpected circumstances it is likely to be insufficient for good decision making.
In retrospect, we can see that reliance on our common sense is not very effective. What was the result when we relied on our common sense when we were five? Because our fund of experience was limited we didn’t have much common sense. As it is commonly put, we didn’t know better. More to the point, we lacked the objectivity that we have today. While we had more common sense at eighteen than we did at five, in retrospect we probably can see major limitations in our assumptions and the choices that we made, although we were doing the best that we knew at the time. Similarly, in twenty years, looking back at today, we will see that the trust we place today in our common sense is in many ways short-sighted and self-destructive. We lack the objectivity that we will hopefully have in five years, if we continue to pay attention rather than wrap ourselves in anesthetizing cocoons of comfort. We will see ways that we could have saved ourselves time and trouble that if we had made a few simple decisions today with greater wisdom.
We have all experienced misfortune and failure by trusting our common sense, because while it is authentic and “true,” it is just too partial. Like a blind man groping an elephant, it only grasps a part of the whole, and therefore draws partial conclusions. The best that we know, regardless of our intentions, just doesn’t grasp the entirety of the elephant. And what we do not perceive is still there and continues to matter, to exert itself, to influence our live and to victimize us out of our realm of awareness.
Problems From Relying on Authority
For this reason, society places great emphasis on the experience of others. As children, you and I were expected to obey our parents, teachers and to respect authority, just as we expect and require our children to do the same. Taking the experience and advice of parents, friends, respected authorities or ancient wisdom provides immense opportunities to avoid much of the pain caused by both ignorance and stupidity. Having the collective wisdom of the ages at our fingertips on the internet is a transformational breakthrough in our ability to avoid mistakes by learning from the experience of others. Clearly, exterior sources of objectivity are extraordinarily important and useful.
However, at the same time we have all experienced problems that were caused by trusting the authority of parents, respected friends, employers, lawyers, gurus or politicians. If we are trained from childhood to trust and obey authority and we then find that those sources are untrustworthy and unworthy of our obedience, or are simply inadequate for the problems with which we are confronted, what then? Where do we turn?
Why Relying on Internalized Voices of Authority is Dangerous
Most people answer this dilemma by turning back to reliance on their own common sense, as adolescents often do, with disastrous results. The other option is to make decisions based on some internalized source of authority, such as following our conscience, our “still small voice,” “heart,” our “soul purpose,” “divine will,” dharma, karma, or our intuition. These are not the same, and it is important to understand what they are and what they are not.
Conscience is the voice of scripted internalized authority. As children we learn from our elders and religious teachers what we should and should not do. To trespass on these injunctions brings guilt, shame and punishment. Conscience is an important tool for socialization because if you learn to parent yourself by following your conscience, it saves your parents and teachers a great deal of time and effort. Similarly, if you have been appropriately socialized, that is, if you are good at following your conscience, then you are a good citizen, which means that you do not create problems for government or leadership. Therefore, the strengthening of social conscience is a wonderful problem solver for those in authority, but how about for those who are not?
What does following your conscience have to do with finding your own unique path forward in life? While the two may be aligned, if so it is a happy accident or a course decided by survival needs. The more you learn to think for yourself the more you recognize that conscience is the internalized voice of society and is not yours at all. In addition, you recognize that any voice that is directed by shoulds is toxic, in that it is fear-based, critical and persecutorial, although always wrapped in concern for your own health and happiness. This realization has largely evolved historically from the lack of dependency on the support of family and social groups for survival which was created by the industrial revolution. We no longer have to live near our family to survive; we no longer have to obey our parents and elders to succeed. This massive break from traditional social requirements for survival and prosperity is largely responsible for the rise of humanism and the reduction of power of religions world-wide. At the same time, it has cast many adrift upon the ocean of life, no longer having their life purpose dictated to them, but not having one of their own that can stand the tests of time.
A second category of internalized authority is variously called divine will, soul purpose, dharma, karma, predestination, destiny, fate or luck. These “explanations” are all versions of “psychological heliocentrism,” which is the idea that reality revolves around some expanded definition of who we are. Just as the Earth orbits the sun, so our sense of who we are orbits our soul, God, destiny, divine will, dharma, karma and fate. As we align ourselves with these by making ourselves one with God and His will, follow our dharma, fulfill our karma, learn and follow our soul purpose, read the entrails, and thereby learn to follow our destiny and fate, we will have “grace,” “good luck,” and “green fingers;” we will become good problem solvers and find ourselves on the Road to Happiness.
The problem with all these notions is that their meanings are externally given. Dharma is defined by Hinduism or Buddhism; the Way of Tao is defined by Lao Tzu and his followers; “grace” by Christian tradition; our soul purpose and karma are defined either by scripture, a medium or channeler, or our own interpretations of our dreams, visions and life experiences. There is a place for all of this on the road of life; such beliefs were vital at certain points in my own growth and so they may well be in yours. However, history is full of the disastrous consequences of people living their lives following what they believe to be divine will, soul purpose and karma. What dictator or leader has not gone to war under the banner of God’s will? What parent has not spanked or yelled at their child for his or her own good? Who has not looked back on their lives and rationalized their stupidity, exploitation, and addictions as part of their “soul purpose?”
If I want you to do something am I more likely to get you to do it if I tell you to do it, or if I find golden tablets on which God has written what He wants you to do? If I am a Hebrew priest, scribe or prophet, am I more likely to get your obedience if I write, “You should…” or if I write, “And I, God Almighty, command..?” If you want your children or employees to do something, are you more likely to succeed if you order them to do it, or if you tell them that God will reward them if they do so and punish them eternally if they do not?
Therefore, you are wise to be extremely cautious in your acceptance and use of the above category of internalized authority, whether it comes from conscience, God, dharma or soul. Its prescription for happiness is not your own, although you may think it is. You simply do not remember when and how you internalized these belief systems and made them parts of your identity, because the process happened when you were young and without attention being called to it. Once you have made cultural assumptions of dharma, God’s will, karma, and soul your own, you became a slave to those who created and use that particular mythology. That system of thought, with its strengths and limitations, will make your decisions for you. Instead of realizing your dreams you will follow theirs and call them your own.
Problems With Relying Solely On Intuition
The third category of internalized authority is the most treacherous because we are so completely convinced it really is our own rather than internalized authority. This is also called by various names, but common representatives are “following your heart,” listening to your “still small voice,” your “inner compass,” “knowingness,” or following your intuition.
You probably place your intuition, or whatever name you give it, into a separate, sacrosanct category that designates your truth and your unique path, as opposed to the dictates of others. While you can’t always trust your own common sense or the guidance of authority or conscience, you know you can trust your intuition, heart, still small voice or inner compass. But how do you know that you can?
A large part of the problem is the same that we find with placebo cures, like astrology, bioenergetics and homeopathy. No matter how many studies demonstrate that these do not function beyond placebo, there is no shaking the confidence of practitioners and adherents. We know, from our own experience, that they work. To challenge these things is to challenge our experience, our common sense and ourselves. It is a personal attack, a personal insult. Because we take questions regarding the efficacy of reliance on our intuition, heart or still small voice as a personal insult, belief is a matter of faith and belief and not of reason. Reasoning about usefulness and questioning efficacy is viewed as a personal attack.
Another example is geocentrism. We all experience the sun rising and setting; to question that reality is crazy. But since Copernicus we know that this is a relative truth, not an absolute one. From the perspective of our senses, it is indeed true that the sun rises and sets and, as long as we are operating like animals, in a life that is sensory, it is indeed all that we need. Intuition is much the same. It is not that it is wrong; there are many circumstances in which trusting it is invaluable. However, problems arise in not recognizing that it is partial, like the sensory awareness that the sun rises and sets. When we base truth and happiness on trusting our intuition we are trusting to a partial definition of truth that will indeed work for us in some circumstances but will fail, due to its partiality, in others. As long as you stay on planet Earth, geocentrism works, But what if you aim for the stars? At that point you need not only heliocentrism but multi-perspectivalism, with multiple sources of truth that can provide checks and balances for each other. That is what triangulation attempts to provide.
Studies have shown that intuition doesn’t function above chance. However, we continue to rely on it because it has strong secondary benefits. If you tell me I am headed for a train wreck in my life that you can plainly see but I tell you that all is in divine order and that my intuition tells me that I am on the right path, am I not really simply telling you, in a polite way, that I have made up my mind, to not argue with me, that I don’t want to hear your advice, arguments or facts, and to just go away and leave me alone? As a blind man grasping the leg of the elephant of life I know the nature of an elephant is like a tree; do not try to convince me that it is also like a snake, rope, wall or palm frond, depending on the part of the elephant you grasp. If you do, I will take it personally as you questioning my judgment, intuition and me.
To test this theory, think of people you know who rely on their intuition. Call them up or email them a question that challenges the wisdom of some basic life choice they made, religious belief or political position that you think they justify by appealing to their intuition or best judgment. For example, in the US a lot of liberal “progressives” and students of integral thought made up their minds to vote for Hillary Clinton. They may well have acknowledged that she was the corrupt, even criminal candidate of the plutocratically-controlled status quo, but they have decided either that she is the lesser of two evils or that she champions some cause that outweighs all the others, such as feminism, green energy or non-discrimination. What happens if you question a True Believer regarding Hillary Clinton (or Donald Trump, for that matter,) on their choice?
You have just broken a taboo that says, “If you will ignore my stupidity, ignorance and my obstinate belief in my own sense of direction that is impervious to reason, I will ignore yours. Furthermore, if you don’t ignore mine, I will take it as a sign that you are not my friend and will have nothing further to do with you. I will probably also do my best to get back at you by telling our mutual friends and/or family members how cruel and thoughtless you are and how you are not to be trusted.” None of this needs to be said because it is strongly implied. Threats of blackballing and scapegoating still is quite effective with most people.
When you question someone’s intuition and they act annoyed or betrayed, it is a sign that you are walking into a mine field. It may not even have to be their intuition; a lot of people confuse their judgment with their intuition. If you question their judgment you are questioning their intuition; if you question their intuition you are questioning their judgment. In either case they personalize your questioning of their reasoning; they hear it as a personal attack. This is not a trivial matter; it was grounds for the democratic council of elders in Athens to vote for the death of Socrates, merely because he challenged adolescents and adults to think through their reasons for their beliefs and decisions.
When others take your questioning personally, as if you were insulting or attacking them instead of their judgment, you have proof enough that intuition serves the purpose of fending off any genuine thinking that might force hard choices. It also demonstrates an almost religious commitment to a lack of objectivity. Most of us don’t want to think and don’t know how to reason; instead, we want to have our preferences, beliefs and choices validated.
If loving, spiritual, compassionate best friends suddenly turn into raging, vengeful enemies or cut off contact with you, sulking and punishing you by withdrawing from you, don’t take it personally. If you didn’t know them and someone else questioned their intuition, this is the reaction they would get. It’s not about you! Instead, their expectation of collusion in sleepwalking has been threatened and they are fighting to maintain the delusional, pre-rational world view that they have internalized and now mistakenly take to define themselves.
This is only to be expected, because all of us form our sense of self by internalizing the examples, behaviors and beliefs of those around us. As children we run around in an extremely suggestible state in which we soak up everything and internalize it without sorting out the good, useful and authentic from the bad, harmful and phony. We take it all in and it becomes how we define ourselves. If we do not at some point objectify all that by going down into the basement and sorting through all the rubbish, it will forever after act as the chains and images that form our reality as we sit in the rear of Plato’s Cave watching the images of life thrown outward by the workings of our own minds.
Intuition, following our heart, following our still small voice and our inner compass work for us very much like “home base” did for us when we played tag as children. All we had to do was run to home base and no one could tag us and make us “it!” Intuition is our designated emotional home base. When we evoke it, or its equivalent, we are basically announcing, “I have made up my mind; I don’t want to be warned or informed because I am going to do what I want to do, regardless.” Appealing to intuition is a friendly, kind, loving way to tell the world to fuck off. You are telling everyone, “I know what I am doing, so go away and leave me alone.” “By questioning my reasons you are insulting my judgment!”
The fundamental assumption is the same we make in our nightmares: that those who question us or disagree with us or appear to us to be threatening are indeed threats and we must defend ourselves. But is the threatening monster or fire in a nightmare not self-created? Are we not scaring ourselves?
Appeals to intuition, dharma and divine order are an announcement to the world that we are content to rely on our common sense, and damn the consequences. Putting ourselves in competition for a Darwin Award would not be such a problem if our ignorance, stupidity or failure did not have tragic consequences for others.
An excellent and all too common example of the disaster of following our intuition is the mythology of soulmates. Some people, when they meet someone that they are deeply attracted to, tell themselves, “S/he is my soulmate!” “This is a match made in heaven!” “It is God’s will that we met!” “This relationship is what I have waited for all my life! It is my destiny, my fate, my dharma, part of the Divine Plan!” If you haven’t heard yourself say such things about some relationship you certainly know people who have.
What is going on here? Are we not busily convincing ourselves that our decision to whole-heartedly throw ourselves into a relationship is the right thing to do? Are we not doing our best to enlist others in the validation of our decision? Of course if you point this out to someone in the throes of real romance they will feel insulted and “hurt;” you certainly will not be listened to because they will feel you are attacking them and therefore will attempt to defend themselves. Consider people who are in love as experiencing a highly addictive state. Talking to an addict about the wisdom of their decision doesn’t work because they are in an altered state of consciousness. Have you ever tried talking to a drunk or someone who is very angry? Were you heard? Were you listened to? Could they repeat back to you what you said? Could they remember anything that you said the next day? By questioning or reasoning with them you have become the problem, instead of their addiction or their delusional mind set. Therefore, recognize that when you defend your decisions based on your intuition, you are telling other people to leave you alone, that you don’t want to have to think through your reasons or question your choice. You don’t want objective feedback. While this is sometimes a healthy and necessary thing to do, it usually is a mistake, and it can lead to an immense amount of unnecessary, avoidable misery.
If you revisit in five or ten years a decision based on intuition that turned out to be disastrous, what do you think the result will be? If the person is still delusional they will say something like, “It was a mistake, but it was all in divine order.” “Why, if I hadn’t spent all those years being miserable with that abusive drunk I wouldn’t have the beautiful children I have today!” If the person is a bit more honest and humble, he or she is likely to shake their head and say, “I didn’t know what I was doing!” “I was delusional! I was sleepwalking!”
The amazing thing is how little we generally learn from such experiences. Instead of learning to make better decisions we either swear off relationships and trusting others and ourselves, or else we dive right back into the same melodramas again and again. If our intuition can be so wrong on major life decisions, how trustworthy is it likely to be on a small, day-to-day basis?
In an increasingly interconnected world, the importance of our decisions on the lives of others is greater today than it has ever been. We need a way to make decisions that reflect an ability to listen to our resistances, our justifications for staying stuck and our fears, in order to defuse them. We need a way to recognize our defensiveness, our personalization, so that we can make decisions that are based on the greatest good for the greatest number.
Why Consulting Subjective Sources of Objectivity is Important for Decision-Making
IDL refers to such an approach to problem-solving as triangulation. Instead of just consulting common sense, external or internalized authority or some combination of these, IDL adds a third category, what it calls “subjective sources of objectivity.” These are interviewed characters and objects from dreams and nightmares, as well as the personifications of your feelings, such as anger, pain or depression, or actual characters from your life issues, like a broken leg, a lost mobile phone, a pet cat or the building in which you work.
When you answer questions, such as those from the IDL Interviewing Protocols, in the role of that cat or building, you take perspectives that include your own but are more objective than yours normally are. They are more objective because, not having bodies, these perspectives cannot die and are therefore relatively detached from both your dramas and a personal investment in your decisions. Because they express perspectives that are more objective than your own, these interviewed characters allow you to access “emerging potentials,” or priorities of broader contexts that are attempting to be born in and through you. You grasp more parts of the elephant of life.
These interviewed characters are not divine and they are indeed biased, prejudiced and fallible. Each is invested in its own perspective, priorities and opinions. Therefore IDL interviews a number of characters regarding any issue or problem that you are attempting to resolve and then looks for recommendations that repeat. This input is typically quite different from the recommendations you are likely to get from traditional authoritative sources, whether expert, conscience or intuition. These recommendations will often ring true, and you may tell yourself that you already knew all this, and that you are just hearing your own common sense. However, different priorities from those you normally prefer will often be stressed, supported and encouraged. While you may be quite aware of those priorities, you normally do not make them your priorities, nor are they what you usually conclude based on your appeals to intuition. For example, what God tells you to do may be entirely different from the consensus recommendations of an interviewed teapot, toilet and cloud.
You Need to Combine All Three
The repeated recommendations you receive then become one of three factors, along with authority and your common sense, that you use to guide your decision making. The result is a multi-perspectival approach to decision-making that enhances your objectivity. Such an approach does not guarantee success, but it does mean that the path you choose is much more likely to feel grounded in a way that is not based on rationalization, hope, belief, fear, authority, emotional predisposition or wishful thinking.
The consensus recommendations of interviewed dream characters and the personifications of your life issues point you toward priorities of life that are attempting to be born in you. These priorities are in process and are constantly changing, like a kaleidoscope or the way colors reflect off a turning multi-faceted diamond. They are not the Truth, but they approach authenticity and groundedness more directly than does intuition, following your heart, soul purpose, divine guidance, or your still small voice. They are both more objective and multiple, while intuition, dharma, karma and conscience tend to be singular and subjective. Consequently, IDL provides ways of cross-checking the usefulness of the input you receive as well as providing a method by which triangulation itself can and should be verified by you.
Because these priorities are directional, they serve as a type of compass. Because they are not subjective creations but belong to contexts that include but transcend your own they are not “inner.” Instead, IDL speaks to them as belonging to life and expressions of a “life compass.” However, this life compass is not a “thing,” nor is it the Truth. It invites questioning, challenging and disagreement.
Triangulation is Not Necessary for Normal Decision-Making
Most decisions do not require triangulation. The usual combination of common sense and the consultation of various authorities will work for most decisions. However, the more critical a decision is, the more that it represents a critical fork in the path of your life road, the more convinced you are that it is the one right, true and best choice, the more important it is to have as broad a range of relevant input as possible. Certainly, obtaining perspectives that are more likely to represent the priorities of life itself is wise and cannot hurt. There is nothing that says you cannot disregard or over-rule the opinions of such sources.
Why is triangulation not commonly practiced? We tend to dismiss the perspectives of imaginary characters as subjective fantasy or wishful thinking that do not provide any information that we don’t already know. IDL demonstrates that these explanations are largely a reflection of our desire to maintain a sense of control over our lives rather than a statement of the true worth of triangulation. We don’t want to share power; we often don’t want to access other perspectives that may challenge our own even if we are stuck or confused. If we hear information that is true but goes against the system of socio-cultural rewards and punishments in which we are embedded, we have extremely strong reasons for ignoring it.
In addition, interviewing is work; you have to take the time to become and interview alternative perspectives, sort through their recommendations and then test them in your life. Authentic alternative perspectives that make sense to you are still a challenge to your comfortable, complacent world view, your confident self-assurance that you know what is best for you, that your goals are those of dharma/life/God/soul/divine will for you. Most of us prefer to suffer, be wrong or sleepwalk in drama rather than wake up. If we seek enlightenment, we do so by trusting some external authority instead of learning to practice deep listening, in an integral sort of way, to our life compass.
This is indeed the human predicament, so go easy on yourself! Set goals that are realistic, find a support community of other IDL students, Coaches, Practitioners or Teachers, and take baby steps up the mountainside. There is a lot of help available in the posts on this site, as well as at DreamYoga.Com., “Friends of IDL” on Facebook, and in the various books about IDL. Waking Up also provides a good overview of a dream yoga, an integral life practice, that stands the tests of time.