Courtesy of Bilal Ulker
The way the unconscious mind speaks to the conscious mind or ego is in the world of dreams when you sleep. In dreams, you have the language of symbols.
The Benefits of Dreams
As dreams express the unconscious mind, there’s a wealth of learning. You can identify conflicts and ideas you were not aware of. What happens in your waking life manifests in the dream life.
Dreaming and imagination have something in common. They both have the power to change the mystery of the unconscious mind into images or symbols. These images or symbols can be interpreted and understood by the conscious mind. Have you heard the expression, ‘I’ll sleep on it’? Well, this simply means that dreaming is the imagination at work during sleep. Also, imagination is similar to your dream life when you’re awake.
If you’re willing to learn, you can decipher the dream energy that can help you to solve problems in the form of emotions, moods, and symbols.
Imagination can comprise fantasy or daydream in wakeful states, or it can be about visionary experience known as Active Imagination, derived from Carl Jung ( as Swiss Psychiatrist).
Active Imagination is a method of using the imagination productively to work with the unconscious mind.
Robert A. Johnson, the author of Inner Work -Using Dreams & Active Imagination for Personal Growth (1986) outlines a four-step approach to using Active Imagination for dream work.
Invite the unconscious: Here you look within to focus on your dream by getting into a meditative stance and stilling the mind. If you focus on the inner world long enough, a symbol or character will usually come up.
When something or someone from your dream arises, you can ask, “Who are you? What do you have to say?”
There might be a special place that allows you to be imaginative or to understand your dream.
The Dialogue: Once you have invited your unconscious mind and images have come up, you can then start to have a dialogue.
If a particular character in your dream comes up, ask what this person would like to talk about or ask who they are. You must be willing to listen and let go of control.
You can write out the dialogue, express your thoughts and feelings, and allow your character ( the different aspect of yourself) to respond. Let your feelings out, and your character should do the same. It’s a process of listening to your unconscious mind that comes from that dream character.
You need to balance the conscious and unconscious minds and focus on what you need to say. You will soon realise that you have little control over your life as it’s dictated by the unconscious mind at times.
It’s important to write with a flow and not think too much about what you write. Let the character speak to you, but don’t force it. You don’t know what’s going to happen in the dialogue.
Values: Make sure that your conscious mind during the dialogue prevents the imagination from getting destructive. Your values or ethics guide you. You can have dark parts in your unconscious mind or inhuman parts, but you need to guide the dialogue ethically and protect yourself. For example, Johnson spoke about a woman whose inner character wanted complete control over her life, at the cost of her feminine side. This character was attempting to control her basic instincts as a woman.
In the case above, you need to balance both your masculine traits and feminine traits so that one doesn’t dominate the other. You need to balance out your conscious and unconscious mind to live in a practical and realistic way.
The Rituals: The dialogue or active imagination needs to be connected to the physical, earthbound life. Any inner work needs to be concrete so that you can integrate the dream into your practical daily life. For example, your dream might be telling you that you work long hours and need more physical relaxation. To create a ritual, you could take time out to relax at the beach or walk through a park. This small act or ritual can help to make your dream concrete so you can integrate the dream message into your life.
Johnson mentions that one precaution is NOT to use real people in your life in the Active Imagination work as this can cause real conflict in your relationships.
You can apply what you learn in your Dialogue to your everyday life, but be ethical and moral about it. You cannot act on the dark parts of your imagination, but use limits and boundaries on what you do.
Inner work takes a certain amount of imagination and spiritual sense in order to use it effectively. The use of active imagination uses dream life with that of your ego or imagination, to resolve problems, understand different aspects of yourself, balance the conscious and unconscious mind, and work ethically to apply what you learn to practical life. Have a go!