Inner Work - Using Dreams & Active Imagination For Personal

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INNERWORK U ..... INO- U'J'c:EI'M"S & I\.CTTVP' TMAG 1NJ\.'rION ~-O" PE.J.'lBO.NA.L CftOVVT .. ' INNER WORK Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth ROBERT A. JOHNSON ,miNE. WORK. Copyright © 1986 by Robert A. Johnson. All rights re- Printrd in the United States of America. No part of this book be uled or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical MIl reviews. For information address Harper Be Row, Publish- 10 East ~5rd Street. New York. NY 10022. Published simulta- c.nada by Fitzhenry Be Whiteside, Limited. Toronto. Cataloging in Publication Data po lmaaination. I. Title. 1.81 15U'5 8~-4~S~7 10 8 • 7 6 5 4 5 2 1 Contents I. INTRODUCTION: The Unconscious and its Langua .. Waking Up to the Unconscious .,- Inner Work: Seeking the Unconscious Alternative Realities: The World of Dream· mg. the Realm of Imagination The Archetypes and the Unconscious Conflict and Unification: Credo in Unum I!. DREAM WORK Approaching Dream Work The Four-Step Approach Step One: Associations Step Two: Dynamics Step Three: Interpretations Step Four: Rituals Ill. ACTIVE IMAGINATION Defining and Approaching Active Imagination Active Imagination as Mythic Journey The Four-Step Approach to Active Imagination Step One: The Invitation Step Two: The Dialogue Step Three: The Values Step Four: The Ritual. Levels Bibliography I 13 19 27 56 41 42 M 52 65 87 97 I. INTRODUCTION: The Unconscious and its Language Waking Up to the Unconscious O~e morning a woman got into her car as usual and drove miles to her office. Along the way her imagination be n:""1 cluce a great adventure. She saw herself in olden t ' sa . pro. I·· . h . 1l1l<I, a IlDIpie wom~n IVlng In t e midst of wars and crusad6. She became. herOine. saved her pe?pie by strength and sacrifice, encountered a stTong and noble pnnce who loved her. With her conscious mind thus totally OCcupied, she drove alon several streets, stopped at traffic lights, signaled properly at"'= turn, and arrived safely at her office parking lot. Cominl to her senses, she realized that she couldn't remember any of the drhe to the office. She recalled not a single intersection or tum. HIr startled mind asked: "How could I drive this far without IIIiDt aware of it? Where was my mind? Who was driving while I wa dreaming?" But things like that had happened before, .. Ilia dropped the subject and went on into the office. At her desk she began to plan her day', work, butlhl'WI.III~t;; rupted by a colleague who Cilme storming into her om.. down a memorandum she had circulated. and went over some minOT point he disagreed with. She wu,-:== anger was so disproportionate to the size of the il come over him? He, in turn, hearing his own raised voice, radill4l ing a mountain out of a molehill. Embarruled. apology and backed out. In hi. own oIIia "What came over me? Where did tha~t::':!i get rattled over little thin~. I.ju.~ there was a boiling anger wlIhm hllD mllI.lIlI! his friend', memorandum but had over Ihi. petty matter, Where tha know. ize that they Ifthe""~~~:=~5i their lives that 2 / INTRODUCTION ordinary daily life, we experience the unconscious as it acts in us and through us. Sometimes it works alongside the conscious mind and takes over the controls of the automobile while the conscious mind is focused on something else. We have all had the experience of driving a few blocks on "automatic pilot" as the woman in our ex- ample did. The conscious mind is somewhere else. briefly. and the unconscious mind simply takes over whatever we are doing. It stops us at the red lights, starts us at the green lights, and keeps us within the law until the conscious mind comes back to the here- and-now. This isn't the safest way to drive, but the unconscious does provide us with an excellent, and crucial, built-in back-up system that we all take for granted. Sometimes the unconscious generates a fantasy so full of vivid, symbolic images that it captures the conscious mind totally and holds our attention for a long time. The fantasy of adventure. danger. heroic sacrifice, and love that enthralled the woman on her way to work is a primary example of the way the unconscious invades our conscious minds and attempts to express itself- through the imagination. using the symbolic language of feeling- charged images. Another way we experience the unconscious is through a sud- of emotion. the inexplicable joy or the irrational anger invades the conscious mind and takes it over. The make no sense to the conscious mind, because did not produce them. The man in our exam- not explain 10 himself the intensity of his reaction. He (f'Wllet"edid that come from?" He felt that his anger came . 1III!W11et"e OIllsidt him. He felt that he was " not himself" momenU. But in fact this surge of ungovernable emo- c:ome from a part of him. a place deep within that he "'tI.", with hi. conlCious mind. It i. because of this invi.ibil- place within i. called the .. unconsciou .... of the unconlCious derives from a limple oboervation Thet-e is material contained in our minds that awaft of IIIOIt of the time. We IOmetimes become a pleuant UIOCiation, an ideal, a belief that from an unknown place. We IeDIe that we _here inside us for • Jong WAKI N G UP T o THE UNCONIC10UI I time- but where? In an unknown part f h . bo · 0 t "total __ he outside the undanes of the conscious m' d r-. ,'" tha, ... . . In. T he UfnconSC IOr~S 15 1 a l , marvelous univerle of unseen ~ forces. o rms 0 mle tgence-even distinct rJOnG ' ~ -.-~ ..... live within us. It is a much larger realm lh In latia-lhll h I I·r · an mOOt of u._ ...... one that as a camp ete I e of Its own running It I ---. nary life we live day to day. The unconscious r,~ e to theonD. of much of our thought. feeling, and behavior It ."1\--'" II h . tn ........... iD ways that are a l e ~ore. ~werful because unsuspected, Most of us have an mtUltlve feeling about what is hoa h h h · meant. we ear 1 e term t e u nconsClOUS. We correlate this idea 'th iads of exper ien~es •. small and large. that are interwoven ':ithm:: fabric of our dally Itves. We all have had the experienc:e of doiat something unconsciously when our minds were "someplacee ..... then being surprised at what w~ had done. We remember I'lt\aa worked up durmg a conversation and blurting out some .... opinion we didn't know consciously that we held. Sometimes we are startled: "Where did thati~orne~:~:~.1 know I felt so strongly about tha .. " As we become the surges of energy from the unconsciOUI we "What part oj me believes that? Why does~ ~;:;~~ju1: ... :011 intense reaction in that unseen part of n We can learn to look at the issue more closely. WlIIU ' over me" is a sudden invasion of energy from till"" ...... I think I wasn't being "myself," it i. because I don't " myself" also includes my unconscious. These ourselves have strong feelings and w"an~~t~~:c::; less we learn to do inntT work, these p from OUT conscious view. Sometimes these hidden penonalitie .. re lent, and we are humiliated when they 4 / INTRODUCTION I didn't know were part of my definition. " These qualities lived in the unconscious, where they were "out of sight. out of mind." We are all much more than the ''I'' of whom we are aware. Our conscious minds can focus on only a limited sector of our total be~ ing at any given time. Despite our efforts at self-knowledge. only a small portion of the huge energy system of the unconscious can be incorporated into the conscious mind or function at the COn- scious level. Therefore we have to learn how to go to the uncon~ scious and become receptive to its messages: It is the only way to find the unknown parts of ourselves. APPROACHING THE UNCONSCIOUS- VOLUNTARILY OR INVOLUNTARILY I The unconscious manifests itself through a language of sym~ bois. It is not only in our involuntary or compulsive behavior that we can see the unconscious. It has two natural pathways for bridg~ ing the gap and speaking to the conscious mind: One is by dreams; the other is through the imagination. Both of these are highly re- fined channels of communication that the psyche has developed ID that the unconscious and conscious levels may speak to one an- Cllher and work together. The unconscious has developed a special language to use in and imagination: It is the language of symbolism. As we inner work is primarily the art of learning this symbolic of the unconscious. Therefore we will devote most of to working with dreams, imagination, and the uses of communicative efforts by the unconscious are lost on us. -:::~~:~~:~~~:,to the surface in dreams. but few people M necessary to take their dreams seriously and ... wad llhe'ir language. The activity of the unconscious is also in the running of the imagination: the bursts of fantasy like bubbles across the landocape of the conocious mind. _iced UI; the veritable flood. of fantalY that seize ... Ie lrea~borlyand run like river. along the edges of their we are "thinking" or we think we are "plan- "'_ often we are in a daydream. loot for a few min- .-.ullr faJlII8llY before we pull ourselvel back to the WA KI NG U P T O T HE UNCONSCIOUS / I physical situation, the work at hand th~ peno . are speaking. 'nl With whom ,. To gel a true sense.of who we are, ~come mOTe com integrated human bemgs, we must go to the un . p\ete and .. . h . conscIous and let up com mUOIcatlon w it It. Much of ourselves and man deter . nants of our character are contained in the unconsc· Y I " - h· . h IOU'. til only by approac Ing It 1 at we have a chance to becom . complete , whole human beings. Jung has shown that ,:"con~ . h . dl ·· u,awr-... 109 I e unconsClOUS an carnmg ItS symbolic langua I" . d f II I· W be .. ge, ..., 1ft richer a ~ u er Ives. e . gm to live in paTtnttship with the unconSCIOUS rather than at Its mercy or in constant warfare with it. Most people. however, do not approach the unconsciOUI\''Olun- tadly. T hey on,ly b.ecome aware of the unconscious when they pc. into trouble wIth It. We modern people are so out of touch with the inner world that we encounter it mostly through paychotop.. cal distress. For example. a woman who thinks she haaeverytbiDa under control may find herself horribly depressed, ableneithcrta shake it off nor to understand what is happening to her. Or __ may find that he has terrible conllicts between the lim he .. outwardly and the unconscious ideals he holdJdeep inaide ..... where he never looks. He feels torn or anx.iety-ridden, IIU1IGIIIlL say why. When we experience inexplicable confticu that we solve; when we become aware of urges in:'::!:"~~:::;= tional. primitive, or destructive; when a neu~ cause our conscious attitudes are at odds WIth our selves~then we begin to realize thatlhe role in our lives and we need to face it. Historically, it was through lhil kind ~~~:)~ Freud rediscovered the existence of the the psychological suffering of pal~U inll,. __ between the conscious and unCODlCIOUI JUNG'S MODEL OF THE uNCOINJ Jung discovered lhal the __ age of lhe conscioul mind. a unpleaaanl feelinp are 6 / INTRODUCTION tonsciou5 50. m~m~nto~s t~at the Western world has still not fUlly caught up with ItS Implications. He showed that the unconscious is the creative source of all that evolves into the conscious mind and into the total personality of each individual. It is out of the raw material of the unconscious that our conscious minds develop, mature, and expand to include all the qualities that we carry po~ tentially within us. It is from this treasure trove that we are en~ riched with strengths and qualities we never knew we possessed. Jung showed us that the conscious and the unconscious minds both have critical roles to play in the equilibrium of the total self. When they are out of correct balance with one another, neurosis or other disturbances result. THE EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS Jung's studies and work led him to conclude that the uncon- scious is the real source of all our human consciousness. It is the source of our human capacity for orderly thought, reasoning, hu- man awareness. and feeling. The unconscious is the Original Mind of humankind. the primal matrix out of which our species bas evolved a conscious mind and then developed it over the mil- lennia to the extent and the refinement that it has today. Every capacity, every feature of our functioning consciousness, was first .\RIUDed in the unconscious and then found its way from there the conscious level. developed a magnificent vision of this human capacity for '-lUIneli. of its role and meaning. He saw a creative force at Dature-a cosmos laboring through timeless aeons to to this rare quality that we call consciousness. Through .. nan race. the huge unconscious psyche of Nature has slow- a part of itself conscious. Jung believed that God and all .. w.:m labored through time to bring conscious awareness univene. and that it is the role of human beings to carry forward. develops out of the primal matter of the Ita growth is nourished by a continuing stream of the uru:onsciOUI that rises gradually to the level of -aunS to form a more complete. conscious per- ... 1CIIi1ll of unconscious materiall mUlt continue WAKING UP T . 0 THE UNCOlI4SCIOUI / , until, finally. the consCiOUS mind reftcel h h tal self. s t e W olenaa of the ~ Jung believed that every mortal has an 'nd' 'd this evolution. For just as OUT collective ~u IVI ualrole to play in I d f h man capacity t sciousness evo ve out 0 t e unconscious h . or con· , d ' 'd I E h f P'Yc e, so It ~--- ' each 10 IVI ua . ae 0 us must, in an indi 'd II' . '-'UQ m h I , f h VI ua Ifetlme Pitulate t e eva ullon 0 1 e human race and h ' ....... , " d I . '. • eae of us mUll L._ an lndivi ua contamer In whIch the evolution f . \K: carried forward. 0 consclOusn", i. Each of us is a microcosm in which the universal izes itself. Therefore we are an caught up in the mprocm actua). . OVement of the contents of the unconscIous toward the level of th ' h f " I d ' e consaoua m~nd . Eac 0 us IS IOVO ve 10 ~he countermovement of the mmd back toward the unconscIOus, reconnecting with'ts ~ ' h ' , b' I root tn the parent matriX t at gave It Its Irth. Withi~ t~~ . uncons~ious of e~ch person is the primal pattern, the "blueprlOt, If you Will, accordlOg to which the conscious mincland the total functional personality are formed-from birth throup all the slow years of psychological growth toward genuine inner maturity. This pattern, this invisible latticework. of energy, ~ tains all the traits, all the strengths, the faults, the balic structure and parts that will make up a total psychological being, In most of us, only a small portion ofthisstorehouseofraw .. ergy has been assimilated into the conscious penonality, Only. small part of the original blueprint has been actualized at theca- scious level. The inner, unconscious model of the individual is liIu: the for a cathedral: At first, as the plan is translated intopbpk:.ll!lll ality, only the general contours can be seen, After a part of the actual structure is finished enough to (live tion of what the final work ofart will be, A. yean rises, stone by stone, until finally the last bloc~ the finishing touches are complete. Only then .. vision of the architect revealed. In the same way, the true dleept;'~h~la~n::d!J::;; human being is never totally n ofthe personality are moved from the conscious and actualized at the level Each of us is building a life, 8 / INTROD UCTION person the plan and the basic structure are established in a dee place in the unconscious. But we need to consult the unconsciots and cooperate with it in order to realize the full potentiai that is built into us. And we have to face the challenges and painful changes that the process of inner growth always brings. THE EGO IN THE MIDST OF T H E UNCONSCIOUS The unconscious is an enormous field of energy. much larger than the conscious mind. Jung compared the "ego- the conscious mind-to a cork bobbing in the enormous ocean of the uncon- scious. He also compared the conscious mind to the tip of an ice- berg that rises above the surface of the water. Ninety-five percent of an iceberg is hidden beneath the dark, icy waters. T he uncon- scious, like most of the iceberg. is out of sight. But it is enormous- ly powerful-and as dangerous as a submerged iceberg if not re- spected. More people have sunk after collisions with the unconscious than Titanics after collisions with icebergs. Ego. in Latin, simply means " I." Freud andJung referred to the conscious mind as the ego because this is the part of the psyche calls itself "I," that is "self-conscious"-aware of itself as a ~,iIN!"nl~ , as a field of energy that is independent and distinct from When we say "I" we are referring to only that small sector !lameh,es of which we are aware. We assume that " I" contains IIW personality, these traits, these values and viewpoints that on the surface within the ego's range of vision, accessible ",cicIUlne ... This is my limited. highly inaccurate version of leao·miind is not aware that the total " I" is much larger, "'~.ive than the ego, that the part of the psyche that is in the unconscious is much greater than the conscious much more powerful. ... tend to think of the unconscious as being outside our- ... mm though ill contents are actually deep inside us. This i. ~=:.:peop1e say things like "I just wasn't myself when I did I _ lind ounelves doing something unexpected, ". I~" doeIn'l fil in with our conscious conception of .... III of it u though IOmeone else _re acting ralh- mmcioul mind illtarded, because il pre- WAK ING UP TO THE UNCONSCIOUS / 9 ds that the unconscious isn't there Since the t I teO d I ' ota piyche is much larger an m~re comp ex than the eg(>mind can hese unexpected thmgs always feel as though they grup. t h h f . h· com. from outside us ral er t an rom Wit In us. In dreams and ":,yths the conscious mind is often symborzed island. Like an Island people in an island world lh ' by an. • e ego sets up a lillie world of, ItS own-a system of order and a set of auum t·ons about realIty. OUT egos are not aware that QUls,·d. th I· p- I . . ' e Imlll f t heir little Islands, outSide th e narrow perimeters of th· . o . . . elT VI- sion, there IS a whole umve,rse of realitIes and truths contained in the vast sea of the unconsCIOus that OUT egos can't perceive. Deep in this unseen ocea~ of energy huge forces are at work. Mythical kingdoms. symbohzed by the legends of Atlanti. exist there in the dep~hs and carryon lives parallel to the daily iife of our consCiOUS mmds. Centers of alternative consciousness. alter. nalive values, attitudes, and ideas exist there like other islands in the great sea. T hey wait to be discovered and acknowledged by the searching conscious mind. The purpose of learning to work with the unconscious is not just to resolve OUT conflicts or deal with our neuroses. We find there a deep source of renewal, growth. strength. and wisdom. We connect with the source of our evolving character; we cooper .. ate with the process whereby we bring the total .. If together; we learn to tap that rich lode of energy and intelligence that waita within. T HE UNCONSCIOUS AND THE INNER LIFE T he inner life thatJung described is the secret life ""all day and night. in constant companionship with our __ ... conscious, inner selves. When human life is in balance. scious mind and the unconscious live in relationahip. constant flow of energy and information between they meet in the dimension of dream. viIiaD. imagination. The disaster that has overtaken the m,iKlln ., plete splitting off of the conscioul mind conllCious. All the forms of i~~:~:~:; nourished our ancestors-dream. 10 / INTRODUCTIO N perience-are largely lost to us, dismissed by the modern mind a primitive or superstitious. Thus, in our pride and hubris, ou; faith in our unassailable reason, we cut ourselves off from OUT ori_ gins in the unconscious and from the deepest parts of ourselves. In modern Western society we have reached a point at which we try to get by without acknowledging the inner life at all. We act as though there were no unconscious, no realm of the soul, as though we could live full lives by fixating ourselves completely on the external, material world. We try to deal with all the issues of life by external means- making more money, gelling more pow- er, starting a love affair, or "accomplishing something" in the ma- terial world. But we discover to our surprise that the inner world is a reality that we ultimately have to face. Jung observed that most of the neurosis, the feeling of frag- mentation, the vacuum of meaning, in modern lives, results from this isolation of the ego-mind from the unconscious. As conscious beings we all go about with a vague sense that we have lost a part of ourselves, that something that once belonged to us is missing. Our isolation from the unconscious is synonymous with our iso- lation from our souls, from the life of the spirit. It results in the 10$5 of our religious life, for it is in the unconscious that we find our individual conception of God and experience our deities. The religious function-this inborn demand for meaning and inner •• men,ce-is cut off with the rest of the inner life. And it can .. ..,'JDru iu way back into our lives through neurosis, inner con- and psychological symptoms that demand our attention. ""m,1 yean ago I was invited to speak at a Roman Catholic At the last minute some mischievous urge Look hold of entitled. my lecture "Your Neurosis as a Low-grade Reli- .1*pleJ"iience." The lecture apparently shook the congrega- .~:::::~.'~,I had a greater deluge of questions, impassioned • and raised voices than I had ever had. The subject • raw nerve, you see. People were startled to hear that if hlaa" t to the Ipirit, the Ipirit comes to us as neurosis. This is !ll1I_leclliue. practical connection between psychology and reli- III our time. ,,!'111m mUit live the inner life in one form or another. or IIIUlOIIICioUIly. voluntarily or involuntarily. the in- iJIIt"'lim UI and exact ita du .... If we go to that realm