Active Imagination – A Tool For Healing

active imagination

“The central aim of active imagination is to relieve the neurotic pressure of these unlived things and the anxiety of choice, and transfer it to the level where it really belongs, the celestial dialogue of the pairs of opposites, the song of heaven.” – Robert Johnson, He


The Sufi tradition holds three ways of ‘relating to mystery’:-

1) Prayer

2) Meditation

3) Conversation (sobbet – the exchange)

It is number 3, where we can put ‘Active Imagination’ – and it can be as powerful as meditation and prayer.


Active Imagination

Essentially, active imagination is a technique to go into a dialogue with the unconscious parts of our psychology, the features that are hidden or suppressed within us. 

We allow the energies in our psyche, both positive and negative, to surface. We can then build a relationship with this energy – put a name on it, give it an image and relate to it as if a person in the world. Of course, this is all done in the confines of your psyche. We then write down the dialogue over time and allow the energy to express itself – it must be an honest dialogue between you and the psyche’s energy.

Our conscious minds often block the unconscious aspects of surfacing. It may be challenging to do active imagination if you’ve never practised silencing the mind through meditation or any other means. To enable the unconscious parts of the psyche to be communicated with, active imagination requires a significant degree of stillness. 


Is it Real or Imaginary? 

Imaginary does not mean unreal; it is psychically very real. We need to overcome the idea that because we cannot measure a thing in the external world, doesn’t mean it is not real. 

Symbolic experience can significantly affect us as a physical experience; it can have more of an impact. Imaginary experience is ‘more real than real’ as it can touch us in ways which outer experience cannot. 

Your imagination is arguably more real than what we perceive to be the objective world anyway. Objectivity is known through our biases and separation. Imagination has no separation – it is the content of your mind.


Why Use Active Imagination?

A lot of the darkness within the unconsciousness is socially incomprehensible. We can use Active Imagination to live the darker aspects of the psyche without violating these social rules. Rather than living in a fantasy and giving energy to that in the external world, often leading to marriage breakups and addictions, we can use active imagination to live this hidden aspect and not give it power objectively.

The difference between a psychotic and a genius is their strength of consciousness. If you give your life over to the unconscious, you’ll become ill. A healthy ego responds to the unconscious with morals, ethics and values.

Robert Johnson said – There is no development of consciousness without ethical conflict. Let your consciousness set the boundaries as not to become destructive – This is very important. 


I did a podcast on this topic a while ago. You can find that here. 

Check out a good video on active imagination here.