Active Imagination is a way of further amplifying insights realised in a dream analysis. While awake, one enters into a conscious dialogue with characters and images that appear in the dream. Dr Jung developed this technique when working with his own dreams.
It is a method of entering into the “dream state” while fully conscious. This is not a passive process as in daydreaming; hence the name Active Imagination. One is awake as an active participant and has control over the process. This of course differs from dreams where we are asleep and our unconscious or psyche directs the show. In dreams, our ego (known as dream ego), is either watching or participating.
I have worked with a number of clients who have found Active Imagination most helpful. One can perform the process in various ways. One can use a computer or pen and notebook and dialogue with the characters/symbols that way. Some people choose to paint, sculpt or dance their Active Imaginations.
Click HERE for a good Wikipedia article on Active Imagination
GESTALT THERAPY or Chair Work
A valuable resource for some clients is Two Chair work, which is a technique used in Gestalt Therapy. Rather than writing a dialogue, one sets up two chairs, usually facing each other. One chair is for ego-self and the other is for the person/entity who we wish to talk to. When ego-self has said its piece then we move to the chair we have been addressing and “embody” the person we are addressing. The presumption being of course, that this person who we are talking to is actually a part of ourselves. It can be particularly helpful when dealing with situations of extreme conflict with another or, if we are struggling to reconcile two conflicting viewpoints within ourselves. For example we may be faced with a dilemma such as “should I end this relationship or try to make it work?” Often this process can reveal the unconscious feelings and attitudes that are operating under the surface of our dilemma.
Click HERE for an article on Gestalt Therapy
The term “somatic” means “of the body” and is used to describe feelings and sensations in the body. Often a “way in” to the psyche may be facilitated by using a technique known as Focusing. This is involves scanning the body and noticing any pain, sensations, feelings and emotions. One then selects the strongest sensation and treats it as a separate living entity within. It is similar to Active Imagination and Gestalt in that one engages in a dialogue with the feeling and notes its appearance and substance. Again, much can be learnt from these exchanges. An example of this might be that one has a stiff neck continually and no amount of massage or adjustment seems to fix it. We can address the “stiff neck” and ask it why it is here in us? What is it trying to tell us?
Scientific Rationalism tends to treat body and psyche separately whereas in reality, both affect the each other. This is NOT to say that one should forgo medical treatment for severe conditions, but it is imperative not to ignore the benefits of a holistic approach. Often unacknowledged, unconscious material can make us sick if not given expression.
Click HERE for an article on Focusing
There are many forms and varieties of meditation. Wikipedia describes meditation as follows: “Meditation is a practice in which an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit, or as an end in itself.”
We could say that Active Imagination and Focusing are forms of meditation; ACTIVE meditation in that one participates consciously with intent and engages with the inner world.
Meditation, as taught in Eastern traditions, often refers to a practice of not getting caught up in thoughts and sensations/emotions, but bringing one’s focus back to the breath. This can be particularly beneficial is one is too anxious or unsettled to engage in Active Imagination or Gestalt etc. Sometimes it is important to just be able to detach from the affect and allow oneself to be still.
I teach this particular form of meditation, which is breath focused. I also provide guided relaxation.