Through a Jungian Lens

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Experimenting With Active Imagination

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Rescuing materials from a new housing project in ChangZhou, China

I took a walk this afternoon passed the university in order to check in on the arrival of the new students, the freshmen, and the many students that I know who are working at various stations as a welcoming committee for the various programs of study.  After taking a fair number of photos, I continued on for the walk which led me over a canal into a new subdivision of high rises and expensive villas where I took this photo.  It was quite a contrast with Mercedes and BMW’s whizzing by and this man carrying a load such as was done hundreds of years ago.  The old ways haven’t quite disappeared in spite of the new face that ChangZhou has put into place in its race to become a modern, civilized city.  It is easy to see what is consciously driving a city such as this, but it isn’t so easy to see what is unconsciously working beneath the veneer of the city’s surface, the city’s persona.

One has goals.  I have goals that drive me to act, to be present in this world.  They are conscious goals  As C.G. Jung said, “There are psychic goals that lie beyond the conscious goals“. Active imagination is a way of discovering something about these psychic goals of the unconscious. By engaging in active imagination, one hands control or should I say leadership to the unconscious in a safe manner.  Unconscious contents then have an opportunity of entering into consciousness through fantasy.  One accepts the fantasies for what they are, expressions of the unconscious which are vital to the achievement of balance in the human psyche.

In accepting the fantasies, one is then obligated to act, to engage in active participation in the fantasy rather than engage in trying to analyze and intellectualize.  Run with the flow of the fantasy without setting boundaries – allow the words or the art form or the dance or the music or whatever form of artistic form you are using for active imagination become filled with your presence as well as that which emerges from the unconscious.  I have found that drawing, working with clay or writing poetry works best for me.

As one engages in active imagination, it is necessary to accept without criticism the reality of the products or the contents.  The contents which emerge from the inner world within are just as real as the facts in our outer world.  Both inner and outer realities comprise the whole of self.

I would like to invite you to engage in active imagination with either this image or any other image.  I would like you to become each part of the image, to tell your story from each part.  For example, with this particular image, what would you say, what would be your story if you were this man, if you were the pavement upon which he is walking, if you were the pole balanced on his shoulder, if you were one of the bags being toted, or were the contents of one of these bags?  What would by your story if you were one of the bushes or the distant buildings or his clothing?  In trying this, remember to be “I” in each scenario, talking about what is seen, what is felt, what is sensed, what is wondered, what is known about that form of self.  Don’t censor yourself in terms of being too serious or too silly or too unreal – just let it happen and allow the voices to emerge.  Then, if you could, please write here and tell me something about your experience.



One Response

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  1. I will take you up on this challenge; I will imagine today, and get back to you what pops into my head or bubbles up from the Psyche. Hopefully the Ego won’t be too censoring 🙂


    September 12, 2011 at 3:44 am

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