Getting to Know Your Iceberg Self

You are asleep means you are of most of who you are. If you compare yourself to an iceberg, you are mostly in touch with the ten percent of yourself that is above the water. That is who you think you are most of the time. Even when you dream you still think you are that same self that experiences life in your waking state. So the way you experience the sky, other icebergs, and the water is in that context – your experience as the ten percent of yourself that you think you are. This is the perspective humans generally take to understand the interior of humanity. They are on the outside looking in; they are the ten percent observing itself and the ninety percent. There are important, built-in limitations to this perspective and our lack of awareness of them can make us miserable. Here is a parable that attempts to clarify that point.


Imagine that your iceberg self is in the far north, surrounded by cold water, cold air, and plenty of other icebergs. You have just been calved off your mother glacier. There is a strong wind blowing from the south, assuring you that your future is an icy one, which is what an iceberg wants and  needs for a long life.  You are happy, comfortable, and your future looks bright. Days pass. You notice that the other icebergs have moved farther away. The air is warmer. The water is warmer. This is strange! What is happening? More days pass. Now no more icebergs are to be seen anywhere. You are alone and the water is warmer.  You are melting! You think, “How could this be happening?” “Why is this happening?” “Life is unfair!” “I am a victim!” You live out your iceberg life bitter and alone, feeling betrayed by life.


This little iceberg analogy would be trite if it didn’t so clearly apply to the life experience of many, many people, who feel victimized by life. This parable says that their misery and suffering is a function of their lack of awareness. Because they are unaware of the entirety of themselves, the ninety percent that lies below the surface of their awareness, they lack the information that is required for their lives to make sense. When events do not make sense it is easy to feel that we are out of control, pushed along by life forces that we might term “fate,” “God’s will,” genes, our life script, or the norms of our particular society and culture.


How do we avoid concluding not just that we are victims of circumstances beyond our control, but that we are therefore helpless, hopeless, and powerless?  Integral Deep Listening works to move you from unawareness to awareness, from victimization to a healthy participation in the flow of life. It does so by showing you how to get in touch with the rest of your iceberg self. Returning to our analogy, if you were not only aware of the ten percent of the part of you that is above the surface of the water but were also aware of the twenty percent of yourself that lies below the surface of your awareness, what information might you have that you did not have before? As the ten percent above the surface of your awareness you experienced a strong wind blowing from the south. From this you concluded that you would be pushed to the north, remaining in very cold waters. But you did not stay north. You moved south! Your awareness as the ten percent of the iceberg is not sufficient to explain why and how you move south and melted!


When you expand your awareness to include the ninety percent of yourself that is below the water you have more information. You are now aware of ocean currents that move slowly through the deep, pushing against your underwater mass. This force can be so gentle as to be almost imperceptible, but as long as it is steady and it impacts on your huge underwater surface that faces the current, it will be stronger than even hurricane winds blowing in an opposite direction on the upper ten percent. It is because these gentle but powerful currents are pushing you south that your life is the way it is, not because of the fierce excitement of storms on the surface. Out of touch with this awareness and you are likely to experience yourself as a victim of fate; in touch with this awareness and you are much more likely to be at peace with your life and able to enjoy it to the fullest.  Once you get in touch with the ninety percent of your iceberg self and experience life from its perspective, life makes sense. You may not like it, but you can be at peace with the nature of things.


Now imagine that as the ten percent of the iceberg above the water you look down into yourself. What do you see? You see your reflection in the water. You dimly see yourself disappearing below the water as well, but what you make of that below the water self is based on your out-of water perspective.  It will be distorted by waves and refracted in illusory ways by the light. Your conclusions about your underwater self will inevitably be delusions.


By analogy, this is what mankind, religion, and psychology has always done and continues to do. It looks from the outside in. It looks at greater human consciousness primarily from the perspective of waking identity, the part of itself that it is aware of. Consequently, almost everything that is viewed is distorted and misperceived. This or that part of the enormous iceberg self that lies outside normal awareness is not viewed as itself, for itself, and in itself.  It is viewed in terms of its meanings and values for the ten percent of ourselves that we are mostly aware of.  What this means is that stuff inside that looks distorted is distorted to you. Stuff that looks stuck really is stuck to you. Parts that you can’t budge really won’t budge for you. Stuff inside that looks scary, such as nightmares is scary to you.  Stuff inside that is misunderstood because it is seen through waves and refracted light is dismissed as delusional by you. Or, on the other hand, you see the distortions caused by the refraction of the water’s surface and think the illusions are real. Forming beliefs on those illusory experiences, you live in a delusional world.


You identify with a part of yourself, the ten percent, that lacks the ability to make the stuck parts of yourself in the other ninety percent of yourself budge. The top part of your iceberg is in the minority. It does not have the ability to control or direct the destiny of its greater identity. It is the tail wagging the dog, the flea thinking it is in charge of its host. However, there are other parts of your iceberg self, below the surface, that aren’t stuck. There are other parts of yourself that might be able to make the stuck parts of yourself budge, if you only were able to access them. There are other parts of the iceberg that are in harmony with the parts that are not to your liking. When you take their perspective you may discover new ways to get stuck parts moving or to move into acceptance of some things being the way they are.


When you look down into the water or through the ice you see more water, either as the sea or as the frozen fresh water of your iceberg self. The frozen fresh water below the surface is one part of your greater identity that lies outside your normal awareness; the ocean itself is another, far more vast part of your greater identity that lies outside your normal awareness. These “aspects” are so vast and impersonal that it makes little sense to refer to them as “self-aspects.” Aspects of what self? Certainly not our waking identity! But the water in the iceberg essentially belongs to no self. Because of this it makes better sense to refer to these “underwater” perspectives, whether they are within “your” iceberg or in the ocean, or in other icebergs, as “emerging potentials” rather than as self-aspects. This is because each perspective is emerging into your awareness. It has the potential to be part of your awareness. It also has the potential, when it does, to make a difference in your life.


How can you access parts of your greater self that know how you are stuck and what you need to do to get unstuck? Returning to our analogy, it would be as if you took ice cores of your ninety percent below the surface and, beyond that, explored the sea itself. If you took enough such samples, you would gain a pretty good sense of what the extent and nature of your previously unknown self was. You wouldn’t have to explore everything all the time in order to gain a broad overview map of a much broader sense of who you are.


In Integral Deep Listening you do so when you interview and become various emerging potentials. By doing so you discover that your life looks and feels a lot different. Things inside you that looked scary aren’t any longer. When you become the monster in your dreams you find out he was chasing you to give you a message or to scare you into paying attention to some danger. You come to view surprises and life events as wake-up calls. When you become the personification of some waking fear, such as frustration, abandonment, or poverty you find that your fear diminishes greatly. Your experience of yourself is now broader and more inclusive. Looking out into the water or up through the water or even into yourself is a lot different when you are this or that part of the iceberg that is under water. What you find is that all parts of yourself are different, in that they are in different locations, take different perspectives, and throw off light in unique ways. Yet they are all the same in that they are all made out of water. There is nothing “shadowy,” illusory, or stuck about any of this, only the reflections seen by the ten percent may seem shadowy, illusory, or stuck. There is nothing that won’t budge, there is nothing that is stuck, there is nothing that is in conflict or that takes an adversarial stance.


The normal view of life taken by our waking sense of who we are is “egocentric,” or “geocentric” and “Ptolemaic.” That is, it is centered on the perspective of the ten percent of your iceberg self that is out of the water. To take sample perspectives of your iceberg self or of the ocean is not to move into a “heliocentric” “theocentric” perspectives, that is, centered on the perspective of something outside of yourself. Instead, it is “polycentric” or “aperspectival,” that is, like a hologram, whatever point you are identified with is experienced as central and as the whole of life.


The perspective of the ten percent of yourself that is out of the water is the perspective of common sense. We all need that.  Common sense is absolutely legitimate and necessary. When viewed from the perspective of this or that emerging potential, your waking perspective is experienced as only one of an infinite variety of legitimate perspectives, most of which are totally unknown to you, yet immediately accessible.  In general, if that ten percent is to understand who and what it is, it needs to view itself both from multiple external and internal perspectives. It needs to view itself from the perspective of other icebergs, the sky, the clouds, and the ocean. It also needs to view itself from different ice cores taken from within itself.


That this iceberg analogy is very different from Freud’s iceberg analogy. While both see the conscious mind as above the water, Freud saw the remainder of the iceberg as the unconscious mind.  IDL does not set up this dualism between conscious and unconscious. It sees awareness as a spotlight that shines light from wherever it is at the time, awake, dreaming, deeply asleep, or in some other state. The ninety percent of the iceberg that is underwater is misperceived by waking identity as unconscious.  It is much more helpful to view it as a ground for extraordinary, innate, and authentic potentials. When you become this or that aspect of the iceberg or its environment, what was ground becomes figure and what was figure, the ten percent of yourself that was above the water, becomes another part of the ground.



We then have first hand, personal experience that there is nothing unconscious or shadowy about the ninety percent; it is our waking unawareness that is unconscious. The “unconsciousness” of the other ninety percent is a projection of the unconsciousness of our waking identity, which is deeply asleep and dreaming. That ten percent projects its perspectives, biases, prejudices, interpretations, and fears onto the remainder of our iceberg self, and beyond it, out onto the world, as is easily observed in dream interpretation. What we learn when we take ice cores is that it is our own waking unawareness and fear-based addiction to drama that is shadowy.  We have met the enemy and found that it is not some manufactured unconscious. It is us, our own scripted waking identity.


The good news is that the help and growth you seek and need is closer and easier to access than you may realize. You have a diamond mine in your back yard, but you have to be willing to climb down and bring up a lot of rock that is heavy, dirty, and looks useless. Then you have to clean it up.  That’s all.  It’s amazing how many people are still not willing to mine that gold, even after they are taken down into their mine to pull out the gold for themselves. They then testify that it is, indeed, gold.  Still, they continue not to believe that it is genuine. They give themselves endless reasons why not to go down and get it – that is, to do IDL interviews with their dreams and life issues.


Parts of yourself that are stuck (the ones Christians, psychologists, and Wilber refer to as evil or “shadow”) are not part of the ninety percent of yourself that is underwater.  Although it may not seem like it, those stuck parts are primarily other aspects of the ten percent of yourself that is above the water. These are the scripted roles from your childhood and culture that agree with and validate your waking perspective when you become them. They are the roles you have internalized from years of groupthink. They are the voices that say, among other things, “Yes, you are right to think you’re a failure.” “Yes, you are right to feel victimized.”  “Only the ten percent of yourself is real.” “The ten percent must be in control to be happy.” Such voices, as well as the drama of your addictions are part of the internality of the ten percent of your iceberg that is above the water. It is made up of a constellation of roles or selves, and together they validate whomever your iceberg thinks it is.  They conspire to maintain your illusion of separateness from your other ninety percent as well as from ocean, sky, and other icebergs.  These interdependent culturally induced roles in the ten percent of yourself that is out of the water work together to keep you in the Drama Triangle, alternately taking the roles of victim, rescuer, and persecutor. They keep you looking for God, Jesus, Buddha, Angels, the White Brotherhood, or Glenn Beck to rescue you. The greater part of yourself that is underwater doesn’t do any of this.


Misery is optional, but it means taking the time to question your suppositions as to who you are as the ten percent of the iceberg.  Freud didn’t do this. His model assumes that the interpretations of the ten percent of Freud that is above the water line are correct. Wilber’s model still looks at reality mostly from the perspective of the evolving ten percent. Although his Vision-Logic developmental doorway to the transpersonal is aperspectival, that model is drawn by multiple waking perspectives, waking selves reporting back on what they observed of other states of consciousness. The combined map of the self reflects a collective ten percent  map of consciousness.   Since Wilber adopted Genpo Roshi’s Big Mind process in about 2006 he has started to shift this a bit. However, the perspectives used in that process, adopted from the Stone’s Voice Dialogue work, tend to be collective rather than personal.

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