Through a Jungian Lens

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Fort “A” and Fort “B”

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I realise that this photo is anything but in focus, but that is the reason I chose it to begin today’s post.  This morning I went for a walk with three of my grandsons to visit their “forts” in a nearby clump of bush.  In this miniature forest in the middle of an American prairie city, the two sets of grandsons had discovered two forts, Fort A and Fort B.  Over the past few years, theses forts are the focus of their “play” that belongs all to them, play that isn’t structured by the adults.  Adults who take turns supervising make sure that they do so at a bit of distance (minimal to be sure).  What emerges out of this play is something that is more about imagination than it is about the reality of the actual “forts.”

Interestingly enough, yesterday I was re-reading a part of Jung’s “Memories, Dreams and Reflections.”  In Chapter 6, Jung talks about his youth and his “play” involving building blocks.  In youth, it is natural to create worlds which adults can’t see, can’t understand.  However, it is in such “play” that an adult can unlock hidden contents of the “self” that are begging for one’s attention.  Jung learned this out of the necessity of trying to cope and understand his own midlife demons.

‘Aha,’ I said to myself, ‘there is still life in these things.  The small boy is still around, and possesses a creative life which I lack.  But how can I make my way to it?’  For as a grown man it seemed impossible to me that I should be able to bridge the distance from the present back to my eleventh year.  Yet if I wanted to re-establish contact with that period, I had no choice but to return to it and take up once more that child’s life with his childish games.  This moment was a turning point in my fate, but I gave in only after endless resistances and with a sense of resignation.  For it was a painfully humiliating experience to realize that there was nothing to be done except play childish games.

This response to necessity proved to be the experience that lead to the use of active imagination in the practice of psychotherapy.  And so I watch my grandsons “play in their imaginary realms of Fort A and Fort B and know that in doing so, they will be providing their own realms of redemption for their own adult lives.

Fort "A"

Fort "B"


4 Responses

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  1. I love this. My imaginary life included plastic dolls, my children, about whom I was passionate. Holding my own young child in my arms as I commenced to embrace a long lost childhood friend who also held her own babe was a spiritual moment for me, for both of us. We found ourselves tearing up as we used to play withour plastic dolls side by side upon a grassy hill. Now it is all real, and we had ot keep touching each other to know we had realized, without knowing it, our childhood dreams.

    • Wait for the moments when play becomes the way through darkness. This is the wholesome power of active imagination. Yes! The realisation that the imagination of childhood as it becomes the realized dream of adulthood is a powerful elixer.

      Robert G. Longpré

      July 10, 2010 at 4:14 pm

  2. Is the Jungian idea here the same thing as Winicott’s transitional objects? I don’t know if they are the same or not.

    I miss having people with whom to discuss these ideas. I appreciate you for this.


    July 10, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    • Urspo, I do see “some” similarities. Transitional objects are replacements for the mother-child bond. Conceivably, one could say that Active Imagination is a way to use objects to return to the mother-child bond as a mature person, where the “mother” is in reality the “unconscious” the original state of being of the child. 🙂

      Robert G. Longpré

      July 10, 2010 at 4:53 pm

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