Carl Jung and active imagination

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Confronting our unconious self is apparently a effective way to draw out our creativity (Chodrow, 1997). Carl Jung developed the idea of active imagination between the years of 1913-1916, and consists of techniques of unlocking our early expieriences and giving form to them (Chodrow, 1997). Carl Jung himself suffered during a period of inner turmoil a few years prior, and instead of sinking into oblivion, self healed himself through the use of his imagination (Chodrow, 1997).

Jung healed himself through the process of reconnecting himself with his inner child and rediscovering childhood play (Chodrow, 1997). It began when he was thinking about play as a child, and the feeling he felt when deeply engrossed in building games (Chodrow, 1997). It was these feeling which induced a sense of illumination, and he realised in order to heal himself , he must develop an ongoing relationship to the lively spirit within himself (Chodrow, 1997). Continuing with building games, he began to connect more and more with his inner childhood memories, however it was not long before he was overwhelmed by a dark and terrifying dream that he had as a child (Chodrow, 1997).   This dream had led him to mistrust and distance himself from religion at an early age, but unaware of this growing up, he had instead spent his life trying to reconnect to it (Chodrow, 1997). Discoviring this, he was able to look at these long buried fears in a more mature critique (Chodrow, 1997). This nightmare had expressed a long held problem, but upon contemplation also provided a solution (Chodrow, 1997). Continuing with this technique of unlocking fantasies through play, Jung was able to develop his ideas of active imagination and develop rites of entry into his deep fantasies (Chodrow, 1997).

The main ideas that come from Carl Jungs theories is that humans share a collective unconscious which feature core archetypes and are comprised of the self, persona, shadow, anima, and animus (Spoors, 2014). The self is our true ego, our unconsciousness and conciousness in its entirety (Spoors, 2014). Our persona is the mask which we pull over ourselves, to hide our unnacceptable parts of our ego and to project a logical, socially acceptable form of our self (Spoors, 2014). The shadow is our hidden aspects of the ego, which we keep hidden from society and ourselves (Spoors, 2014). The anima and animus are our masculine and feminim aspects of ourselves and ego (Spoors, 2014).

The the cultural archetypes of our collective unconsciousness consist of the king, the great mother, the warrior, the sage, and the lovers (Spoors, 2014). The king is seen as the great protector, for example the strong fatherly figure or Zeus/Jupiter. The great mother is seen as the creator and nurturer, for example the caring mother or Hera/Juno. The warrior is seen as the disciplined aggressor, such as the soldier or knight. The sage is seen as the wise mentor, for example Gandalf from lord of the rings or Dumbledore from Harry potter. The lover is seen as the one with compassion who cares (Spoors, 2014).

Individuation is where the ego accepts and unionises with the shadow, and through this interaction the self desires to interact and unionise with others within society (Spoors, 2014). However projection is where the shadow of the ego is revealed in others. The act of active imagination is therefore to confront ones unconscious shadow (Spoors, 2014).



Chodrow, J. (1997) Jung on Active Imagination/ C.G. Jung ; key readings

selected and introduced by Joan Chodrow. London : Routledge.

Spoors, G. (2014). Week 3 Mythopoesis.

Lecture given at Edith Cowan University, Mount Lawley.





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