Jungian Active Imagination & Hypnagogia

"the royal road to the unconscious"
-C.G. Jung

Barbara Hannah on Active Imagination

Barbara Hannah was born in England but went to Zurich in 1920 to study with Carl Jung. She lived in Switzerland the rest of her life and was a practicing psychotherapist and teacher at the C. G. Jung Institute. She was the author of Encounters with the Soul: Active Imagination. Many of her major observations about Active Imagination recorded in that book are listed below:

Jung (Re)Discovers Active Imagination

Hannah gives credit to Jung for discoverying, not inventing Active Imagination "for active imagination is a form of meditation which man has used, at least from the dawn of history, if not earlier, as a way of learning to know his God or gods. (p.3)"

Jung Finds Dreams An Inadequate Method

"It was only when he was confronted with so many of his own dreams which he could not understand that he learned how completely inadequate the method really was (dream analysis), and was therefore obliged to search further. (p.4)"

Active Imagination is Hard Work

"Above all, we must realize that active imagination is hard work...we undertake it in order to open negotiations with everything that is unknown in our own psyche...our whole peace of mind depends on these negotiations; otherwise, we are forever a house divided against itself, distressed without knowing why and very insecure because something unknown in us is constanstly opposing us. As Jung writes in Psychology and Alchemy: "We know that the mask of the unconscious is not rigid---it reflects the face we turn towards it. Hostility lends it a threatening aspect, friendliness softens its features. (p.6)"

Don't Take The Figures Of Living Persons Into The Process

"...one should never take the figures of living people into one's fantasies. As soon as there is any temptation to do this, we should stop and very carefully inquire again into our motives...it is likely we trying to use the unconscious for our own personal ends...Here, we come to the great fundamental difference between using active imagination in the right or wrong way. The question is: Are we doing it honestly to try to reach and discover our own wholeness, or are we dishonestly using it as an attempt to get our own way? The latter use may apparently be very successful for a time, but sooner or later it always leads to disaster. (p.12)"

Jung Never Interfered With Active Imagination

"The analyst should interfere with active imagination as little as possible. When I was being analyzed by Jung, he always wanted to hear if I had done any active imagination, but after listening carefully to any that I had done, he never analyzed it or commented on it at, all...Following that, he always asked for dreams and analyzed them with the greatest care. This was to avoid influencing the active imagination, which should always be allowed to develop in its own way. (p.13)"

When The Time Is Right

"...I seldom encourage people who are working with me to do active imagination in their early analysis; rather, I do my best to focus their attention on the reality of the unconscious until I feel that they really know from experience that they are dealing with something which is just as real as the outside world. (p.13)."

How To Do Active Imagination (p.16-21)

1. Be alone and free of disturbances.

2. Sit down and concentrate on seeing or hearing whatever comes up from the unconscious. This means learning how to let the images to gain in intensity (over our usual thoughts) and to be expressed freely. "Jung once told me that he thought the dream was always going on in the unconscious, but that it usually needs sleep and the complete cessation of attention to outer things for it to register in consciousness at all. There is one very important rule that should always be retained in every technique of active imagination...we must give our full, conscious attention to what we say or do, just as much---or even more---that we would in an important outer situation. This will prevent it from remaining passive fantasy."

3. When this is accomplished, "the image must be prevented from sinking back again into the unconscious, by drawing, painting or writing down whatever has been seen or heard...Images must not be allowed to change like a kaleidoscope. If the first image is a bird, for instance, left to itself it may turn with lightning rapidity into a lion, a ship on the sea, a scene from a battle, or whatnot. The technique consists of keeping one's attention on the first image and not letting the bird escape until it has explained why it appeared to us, what message it brings us from the unconscious, or what it wants to know from us. "

4. "Some people cannot get into touch with the unconscious directly. An indirect approach that often reveals the unconscious particularly well, is to write stories, apparently about other people. Such stories invariably reveal the parts of the storyteller's own psyche of which he or she is completely unconscious."

5. Another technique in dealing with the unconscious is through conversations with contents of the unconscious that appear personified. "Jung used to say that, as a rule, this was a later stage in active imagination..."

Source: Hannah, Barbara. Encounters with the Soul: Active Imagination, (Sigo, 1981).



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