Active Imagination is a life-transforming process pioneered by famed psychoanalyst, Dr. Carl Jung. It is a powerful tool to gain access into one’s own interior life. With practice, it offers intuitives an added doorway to experience areas of psychic functioning.
It’s believed that we regularly access the unconscious mind while we’re sleeping or in some form of hypnotic or artistic state. Dr. Jung asserted that it was the greatest desire of the unconscious to become known, that is, to be heard, seen and experienced.
You can liken this to how we feel when we’re ignored. Few people prefer to feel invisible, and will often “act out” to gain attention. If it is the unconscious (the unseen) that drives our behavior, then certainly it’s in our best interests to create a dialogue between our conscious goals and our unconscious directives.
Active Imagination provides this possibility. Though it requires some work on our part, this technique offers the seeker unlimited opportunity to experience the brilliance that lives within.
One of its highlights is that anyone can do this process. However, Jungian analyst Robert Johnson believes that most people won’t participate, because he contends, most of us don’t really want to change. Moreover, he believes that while we can detail what we don’t like about ourselves, we stubbornly resist the gold within.
However, without our inner gold, life is mundane. And no amount of shopping, drinking, T.V., or outside stimulus will ever be enough to compensate for its loss.
Johnson consistently reminds us that life generally appears in opposing pairs and the process of Active Imagination works wonders with this paradox.
With that in mind, I recently applied Active Imagination to an issue I was facing. While I was away for a long weekend in Northern California, inner voices pulled me sharply in two directions.
One, to go home to Los Angeles and work on my business (that is, constantly produce results and earn money), and the second voice pushed me to stay in the Bay Area, rest, relax, play, and trust that more work would be available to me when I got home.
Feeling agitated, I took out my notebook before going to sleep and let each voice have its full say. I also encouraged the two sides to dialogue together.
One voice told me that it didn’t want to be constantly moving and doing things. “Your inner life is bubbling up from the core,” it said. “We need to speak to you and you won’t listen.”
“How can I listen?” I asked. “What do you want me to know?”
It even reminded me of the Buddhist art exhibit, Circle of Bliss, I’d seen years earlier. As I’m writing today, I recall that this exhibit culminated in the dismantling of the intricate and beautiful mandala the monks had just painstakingly created.
After I set my writing aside that night, I dreamt about a plant that needed water and had outgrown, in fact, grown beneath its pot. This image stayed with me throughout the weekend as I pictured myself as that unwatered plant growing a new plant beneath its container.
I asked myself and the universe, why have I neglected this plant? It’s sitting beside the sink but not watered and it’s clearly confined.
I could have (and should have) gone on to dialogue with the plant to see how it was feeling, what it wanted, and why it chose to come into my dream. The great thing about Active Imagination is that I can always do this no matter how much time has passed.
However, as I focused on this dream symbol, I found myself able to relax and participate fully in the weekend. While one voice insisted on the value of non-stop work, the plant showed me that it needed a level of care that the intellect was ignoring.
I could also question whose voice spoke with such vehemence and fear regarding the need to work without ceasing. In another more recent exercise, I was able to clearly hear my father saying: “You don’t do what you want in life; you do what you have to do.”
I asked myself how his philosophy had worked for him. Had it paid off on any level? Was it the philosophy I wanted to guide my life?
We internalize parental voices and they can drive us to live lives incongruent with our true selves. If we don’t take the time to consciously listen then it’s possible to be endlessly and blindly driven, at least in some areas of existence.
Here we have the opportunity to write, to listen and to allow our images and inner work to authentically guide us. Poet Joy Harjo wrote that she had no peace until she learned to live with paradox. Active Imagination can provide that powerful bridge to this peace.
Inevitably our lives are filled with paradox. One example that Robert Johnson cites is the issue of impossible love, stating: I love this person who is married to someone else. How can I symbolically experience that love and yet remain ethical to myself?
The Jungian model: Give each voice a venue to speak, to fully express itself without fear of being judged. (Most people use writing but some prefer to speak the different voices, or even dance or paint them out.)
“Suffer it through,” Johnson advises, informing us that suffering originally meant “to allow.” “Be aware of [the problem]” he says, “but otherwise, leave it alone.”
In this context of trust, more is ultimately revealed, even healed in the divine right time. Symbolic dreams, synchronicities, and unexpected insights are likely results from this immersion.
Though you may love someone, you’re not necessarily meant to take outer actions on that love. What happens when you address the discomfort by working with your own psyche? Do efforts on the unseen level end up influencing the material world?
I believe they do. They will certainly influence one’s psychic integration and ability to choose. I notice this process is affecting me as I write this article.
While I’d normally send the first and all the successive drafts off to my friend and editor, this time I’m letting the article sit and then I come back to it. The process is teaching me to wait rather than rush, to allow myself to be with not knowing and imperfection.
Johnson laments that most of us will not take the time to investigate our lives this way. He asserts that active imagination is a primary key for living a deeply fulfilling life.
Certainly it is a safe, easy way to start strengthening ourselves, to become aware of what wants to express from inside, and to gain consistent access to the voices that determine our lives.
Moreover, it teaches us how to be with our fears and discomforts without racing to alter or “fix” them. This allows us greater mind space and a wider range of actions that we might ultimately take.
While psychologists advise us not to take this into practices of telepathy, for instance, but to remain with the psychological, I believe that once you are strong enough in yourself, you can extend this process into areas that provide greater psychic and intuitive understanding.
For this article I asked my fantasy version of Carl Jung what he would like you to know. His response: Everyone can do it and everyone should.
Perhaps you can ask your inner Dr. Jung whether he agrees and if this practice would be helpful to you?
*Lorrie Kazan is an award-winning psychic and writer. Check out her free newsletters and articles at www.ilovemypsychic.com.