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The Internal Landscape

by Bob King

Please feel free to annotate this page - use italics and link to your bio, please. Eventually this will be used as credited input for a book. Bibliographical annotations are particularly welcome - be sure to link to the relevant amazon.com page. I know, some of you think amazon is an evil bookseller, but it's also the most powerful tool in the box for searching published sources that I know of. If you have alternates, feel free to use those, if you prefer other sales sites, feel free to include those as well.

In re-reading this after three years have passed, I've noticed that at the time I wrote it I used terminology that others may find objectionable. First, let me note a few things:

This document is based on our personal experience, and we started developing language to describe it when the net was still flat.

We use the term "alter" in a way that differs in connotation from medical model connotations.

The "Internal Landscape" is a term that some find disturbing, because they feel that their other realms have an objective existence. So do I, or more importantly, while I cannot prove to you that it's non-objective, behaving as if it were simply an "imaginary construct" can lead to "imaginary injuries" that are just as painful as "real" ones.

Samuel Johnson did not kick the rock with his bare foot.

But there does seem to be a continuum between that which is completely representative of internal mental process and that which is clearly something else entirely. In between, the degree to which an evident "thing" or person can be affected by imagination varies.

Unfortunately, for us, it's not a line that clearly distinguishes between "us" and "not us." Our distinction between "internal" and "external, non-ordinary" subjective reality is much more dependent upon location than persons.

But as you see, all of the above are exceptions to general rules of thumb, and may or may not have any utility to others. So herein, we use the following terms in the following ways, with the understanding that if you use the terms in different ways with different understandings, that's cool - but be aware that you do, because that will affect how things work for you.

"Internal" versus "External" is used in a very precise and limited way, visualizing the body as a portal. That which is "outside" can be perceived and shared with those beings, separate from us, who are also "outside". The same is true for "inside." For the purposes of this discussion, here, the term "outside" refers to this particular consensus reality.

Internal Landscaping: The internal landscape is a concept that you will find mentioned in a lot of places around the web. It's also dealt with in some therapeutic contexts, as a therapeutic tool, a dangerous "retreat from reality," or the the use of tangible symbolism to represent mental process and specialized "chunks" of learned routine, mental habits, talents and abilities.

All of these viewpoints can be true, but beware; anything you believe to be true can become a defining factor in your landscape.

Obviously for our purposes, it's not terribly useful to consider it a dangerous delusion. If it is, there's no point in learning how to be deluded more effectively. If it's a useful and helpful thing that leads to better function, "imagination" is a better word. When you presume that your personal reality has inherently negative implications, werewolves and poison ivy tend to manifest.

From the viewpoint of working with it, our experience has been that the most useful way of looking at it is as a symbolic representation of internal structure. It seems to be best suited to the way our minds work -- to think of things in physical terms, to represent unconscious thoughts and intentions in ways that are generally associated with practical things in the external reality we are used to.

If I want to talk to someone inside, I might pick up the phone and talk to them, or I might walk over to their house. If I want to share a memory with them, I might hand them a photo, a book or a diary.

What is happening - I presume - is the opening of neural pathways between areas that were isolated before. Certainly, the results are what you would expect from that; better communication, better ability to co-ordinate, better function.

1: How

Well, that's the easy part. You just make stuff up. But you may find that it's difficult to simply make things appear. You may have to build them, or you may have to look around and find them, or you may have to put on your magic hat and wave a magic wand for things to appear. Everyones mind works in different ways. And some ideas and symbols will come into being more easily and naturally than others. Some things, you will realize, will have to be based on things you have to do first.

While I can't exactly say what those might be, I can give some illustrations. If you want to use telephones for communication, you need to string wires, or send up satellites. If you want food, you need kitchens to cook it, or fast food outlets or something. If you want communities, you may need to literally build them. What needs to be built and what seems to just appear probably indicates areas that need to be worked on as opposed to things that exist and just need an appropriate symbol for you to be consciously aware of them. The interesting thing is that it is possible to change things by doing something as irrelevant-seeming as stringing imaginary phone cords.

2: Who (are we)

This is the harder part. Once you have a context to be in, there's the question of who you be. This takes some thought, for some folks, because they are mostly sure of who they aren't, or have an identity that's centered around just one thing; trauma or ability. Which works fine in a more restricted context, but in a brave new landscape where they have to interact, talk, converse and use the stretches of time between doing whatever it is they do, there's some exploration and growth needed.

We refer to this process as individuation. Before you can figure out where you fit and what your role in a collective is, or can be, you have to know and adequately define for others who you are and what you do. This process can be difficult and it can be painful, it's often exciting and it sure requires a lot of intense concentration. But since it is a process undertaken by each individual, it doesn't have to take up the whole attention of the collective.

In other words, nobody has to "wait their turn," everyone can get started.

Progress will be affected by things like system resources, of course. This is an energy-intensive process; you will need lots of it in all forms. Meditation, food, prayer, running, social activities, alone time in a forest, fasting on a mountaintop, writing, reading - all these things may provide the energies you need for a particular task/person. Don't be surprised by odd desires, needs, and cravings; within the bounds of reason and prudence, indulge them.

One thing that most people find very difficult in this process is that people in the inner world often have rather different views, needs and desires. Their morals may vary; they may have entirely different belief systems and values. They may seem to be either dark and dangerous or entirely too "nice." You will also likely find that people seem to be noticeable, at first, by one or perhaps two defining characteristics; not exactly well-rounded. In some cases, that's how they may remain, either because it's their nature to be just that, or because they've chosen to emphasize certain aspects and specialize in them. In other cases, they will tend to round out more, becoming more flexible and adaptive. Part of this dynamic of individuation is to find out what needs doing, what IS being done, and how to make it easier for each person to do what it is they do best.

Very often you will find that the way things have been getting done is through manipulation and coercion. There may be one or two people that function as coordinators and rule-keepers, who boss everyone around, or it may be that there are two or three such, perhaps working in uneasy co-operation, but in competition for resources. This will tend to be based on the way your family worked, blended with whatever other examples you have stumbled across in real life.

Getting some kind of co-ordination going here is one key. The other key is finding out what resources are needed and obtaining them. This may mean re-evaluating some hard-held views as to what is proper and appropriate.

Very often, when there are disturbing behaviors going on, they occur for a reason. Now, these reasons may well be trauma-based, but they very often have some sort of symbolic value. It's usually not a good idea to try and get people to stop doing things unless there's an immediate safety issue, not until the system has a better handle on why those things are done, who has the needs, and what the goals are.

Most systems have a good number of people who deal with various "unspoken" issues; sexual needs and hungers, for example. They are often associated with various unconscious urges. They are also very often protector entities, guarding and providing for the system on a very essential level. Or at least, they are capable of doing so. When the system isn't being protected properly, it's often due to isolation, misinformation and misperceptions or disagreement on goals and priorities. It usually is not because of any malevolent intent.

Usually. It's quite possible for there to be, quote evil alters unquote. They are people, after all, and we all have choices to make. Sometimes people make ultimately bad choices. However, it's far more likely for people to confuse "unpleasant" with "evil."

Truly evil people are usually far more charismatic; it allows them a far greater scope of effect. On the other hand, every society needs a certain number of nasty mean paranoid sonsabitches who are more than willing to draw a line in the sand with a bayonet. These people are the enforcers of boundaries, among other things, those who keep us "nice folks" safe, and it's a vital role.

One does not want a "kinder, gentler" force of Recon Marines, one does not particularly desire cute or non-threatening attack helicopters or innocuous, inviting perimeter walls that have the effect of luring people in. It means that enforcing the boundaries causes far more hurt than is necessary - people don't always respect boundaries they don't see as such, and resent it when you try.

There is a place