Back in May of 2017 I wrote and article on Embodied Cognition a means for “acting out” material to be learned or discovered and thought I would catch up to myself and expand on the usefulness of this as a dream tool.
What do I mean by Active Imagination? You might think, don’t we all have an active imagination? Yes, that’s probably true to varying degrees, but that not what this is all about. Active Imagining is a dream study/therapeutic technique used by some analysts to assist people in their exploration of their unconscious motivations.
In this technique the ego remains fully conscious. The ego gets to observe and even feel unconscious content, but gives up critical content to be open to what might be available. Once the unconscious has downloaded its content with respect to certain dream images, the ego can then elaborate (activate its imagination), then after doing so as completely as possible, it then determines the meaning. This last part is critical, just enjoying the elaboration isn’t enough.
If done properly, the process can lead to a transcendent experience where as Ibn Arabi, 13th century Andalusian Muslim scholar, mystic and poet suggested, “Spirits embody themselves through the power of imagination.” He thought that form is related to spirit in a significant way and to relate to the forms within the imagination can lead one to go beyond the boundaries of the psyche. If there is no difference between spirit and the imaginal form then this technique can actually lead one to the divine. We all have this potential within the latent self.
Key to this process is to not allow the ego to manipulate the process any more than it usually does. To do so would cause a degeneration of the outcome. Which is why I would recommend doing this process with a qualified therapist. Some groups can also be helpful if they understand the parameters and possible outcome of this self-exploration technique. Note, however that beliefs can bias the material that comes from the unconscious.
At first the material will be comfortable for the ego, but later the unconscious will begin to challenge the boundaries of the ego, thus becoming an important psychological and spiritual healing tool.
There is also the possibility that the ego will resist the process because it can be threatening to the ego’s status. Many objections might show up, “This doesn’t work!”, “It’s too boring!”, “It’s stupid!” and other ego impatience and critique. Stick with it and wonders can unfold.
This is an incredible technique for exploring that, which troubles us. So don’t wish your troubles away, show the courage and grace to transform them. This way, as Carl Jung suggested, one can transform oneself as an inner partner.
“Active imagination requires a state of reverie, half-way between sleep and waking.”
For more on this technique the website of Tony Crisp might prove useful.