The Psyche Doesn’t Care

How Active Imagination Helps Us Make Sense of Life

Photo by Bekah Russom on Unsplash

There is so much more going on here than we can see in day-to-day life. Real life or imagination, it’s all the same to the psyche. We can actively live something or we can symbolically do so. To the mind, it’s all the same. Crazy, right? And a bit freeing too.

Swiss Psychologist, Carl Jung, wrote extensively about such matters, as have countless others who’ve studied Jungian Psychology. Allow me to elaborate.


A few working definitions to get us started …

psy·che

the human soul, mind, or spirit. And in psychology, it’s defined as the totality of the human mind— conscious and unconscious.

persona/conscious ego personality

the outward ‘face’ we show to the world

shadow

those parts of us that we don’t show, yet very much exist

active imagination

dialoguing with images and symbols in our dreams, typically in written format, in order to understand what our dreams are trying to tell us


We have a lot to learn from kids. They practice life all the time, playing out certain situations, being who they aspire to become. And to them its all real. We adults, however, err on the side of practicality. If we can’t observe it with one of our five senses, it doesn’t exist.

Active imagination, on the other hand, allows us get in touch with various aspects of ourselves that might otherwise be unknown. We do this by dialoguing with parts of ourselves — as if they are separate entitites that exist deep in our psyches and need to come forward. Active imagination allows them to do just that.

Try it yourself. Sit in a quiet place and recall a figure that has appeared to you in a dream. Talk to it. Write out the dialogue that occurs.

A brief example from my own life …

A few weeks ago I had a dream about Genghis Khan. As happens with most of my dreams, nothing is linear. It starts one place, goes another, comes back around (or doesn’t) and ends someplace altogether different. In this particular dream, the words “Genghis Khan” kept repeating, but the images were of modern day people of German decent. They captured us but they weren’t unkind.

I did a little research on Kahn, then dialogued with him to discover the deeper meaning of my dream. While he’s most known for his barbaric and murderous nature, many things about his existence are also unknown. Certainly his reputation was personified through storytelling.

According to History, he had a rough childhood and was tolerant of many different religions. Through my dialogue, he asked me to not be so judgemental of his life. “There is more going on here than what you see and hear on this early plane. Life is bigger than your thoughts.” were his words. While I don’t condone murder, I have no idea of the conditions of life in the 1200’s. Perhaps this murdering of the masses was necessary in the history of the world. It happened. We can’t change it.

Kahn represents a person who whole-heartedly believed in his purpose, a lesson I absolutely need to learn.

Symbolically, I think that’s what the dream was about for me. It was telling me I need to believe in myself and my purpose. When we believe in ourselves we can achieve anything. When we don’t, we sink into the shadows.

I’ll continue to dialogue with Kahn to see what else comes up. I use it as an illustration so you can begin to do your own active imagination.

Real or imagined, it’s still happening in your brain, and ultimately, that makes it real.

There is so much more going on here than we can see in day-to-day life. Real life or imagination, it’s all the same to the psyche.


Thanks for reading! Connect with me online at heathersagechurch.me. Want to learn more about yoga philosophy, I’m offering a free e-book, Prelude to Yoga Prayers — the first 25 pages of a book I’m currently writing about the 8 limbs of yoga.