Active Imagination

Information Goldmine

Have you ever sat still with your emotions? Such as anger, pain, hurt, frustration. By that I mean have you ever listened to these emotions in an undisturbed silence? I used to regard these feelings as uncomfortable. On one or more occasions I thought of these feelings as shameful. Yes, I was ashamed to say that I have been heartbroken as if somehow this heartbreak could have been purely my fault. In more ways than one, the hurts and the heartbreaks could have been my responsibility. Possibly because I was carrying around moods from years past and I was taking these moods into new situations.


The way I would release unnecessary emotions was through concentrating on them and letting them pass like a wave. Waves have a tendency to return to the shore. What if there was a way to release yourself from the shackles of your own triggers? Learning to breathe with mindfulness meditation certainly helps me. How would one learn to carefully examine their anger, fears, and dreams and through that examination become rational rather than ruled by instant triggers? A method described by Carl G. Jung as Active Imagination first noted in his paper named “Transcendent Function” could be the answer to these questions.



Carl G. Jung explored the psyche through understanding the images produced by one’s mind. Jung delved into his unconscious as a way of self-experimentation. This method described here is the result of these experimentations. Active Imagination is a meditation where the practitioner can sit down face to face with his unconscious in an attempt to recognize parts of himself or herself that were previously hidden in the shadows. These parts, although, unrecognized by the practitioner are often projected into the world unknowingly. This is my best attempt in describing the complexities of active imagination.


In order to tap into the unconscious one should concentrate on a particular “mood” during silent meditation. Unlike, mindfulness meditation where the person learns to disengage from thinking while imagining actively the practitioner observes the images, feelings, phrases that might come through. Observe these messages of the mind and engage with them as if they are real. You may write these messages down or document them in a different form if the intuition leads you to do so. After the fact, you may begin to analyze your observations. 

I Would Like To Conduct An Expirement

Active Imagination is relatively simple but requires an open mind. I have done similar experiments myself; however, I have never attempted this particular process. I would love to try it out and tell you about it. This process can be done in three easy steps.


1. The practitioner is required to sit with his or her emotions and feel them without interpretation. Remember that this stage is for receiving information from the unconscious and refrain from the analysis here; unless you feel compelled to start writing or drawing. Each person works mysteriously different; thus while sitting with these moods one may expect to get visuals, sounds, or phrases that might seem meaningless, yet are crucial to understanding the inner workings of the Self. Possibilities are limitless; however one must not forget that when the mind produces “messages”, they could be challenging to decipher.

2. Once the feeling has been successfully felt, the practitioner can now create. One may either journal in a free flow or draw. I don’t need to tell you the direction you will feel the ways that your creative juices will flow.

3. Analyze your work. This one might take a minute or a week. Understanding will unfold with careful observation and patience.


The Elixir

I often find myself meditating on emotions that I want to rid of. I look for ways to be more positive but then end up chasing my own tail. It may even be slightly insane to try to be positive instead of simply being. In the past, I would meditate on a particular feeling and sit with it. This method has taken me far in terms of understanding where my triggers come from and then releasing them. However, I have never meditated with intent to release emotions into art, or so I thought.

Writing has been tremendously therapeutic for me. That’s why I do it. I have talked to a lot of poets and writers recently and I am coming to a conclusion that healing is why a lot of people write. I would not be surprised if painting or sculpting works the same way. The artistic medium does not matter as long as it heals the broken pieces. This is how I interpreted active imagination.

I sat down to meditate on a sunny day and warm breeze in my face. I felt blessed. I did not want to go digging for negativity when I was having a good day. I decided I would expand on the good mood instead of making space for a healing process. After a couple of short breathes I was compelled to start writing. The words flowed easily as if written by someone else’s hand. Ten minutes later I had a poem.

The most important lesson I learned from this is that it is not necessary to heal through active imagination. It really is a method to learn about the inner workings of the psyche. To Imagine Actively is to learn about the corners of yourself previously unexplored and to tap into the collective consciousness. It opens gates to places where ideas reside. It opens eyes to the understanding of our archaic heritage. Do not underestimate the power of imagination. 


Anastasiia Ryzhkova