Understanding the power of the unconscious mind
Active imagination and the journey to wholeness

Using Active Imagination to reprogram the unconscious


I had left the comfort of my home. It was a dark night and, when I looked to where I had come from, the warm light shining from the windows tempted me back into my comfort zone. When I looked the other way it was dark and nothing could be seen other than the darkness. A man drives up in his car and starts verbally abusing me. Afraid, I hide behind an oil tank. I nervously glance both ways – to the house (my comfort zone) and into the darkness (the unknown). I am dreaming and before I can decide which way to run I wake up.

Using a technique called ‘active imagination’ I meditate and go back into the dream. I ask myself, “Why are you hiding from him? Why are you letting him have power over you?” I stand up and look directly at the man and ask him what he wants and why he thinks he has the right to talk to me like that. His face changes, he doesn’t know what to say, and he drives away. I realise that standing up to him took away his power.

The unconscious manifests itself through a language of symbols. It is not only in our involuntary or compulsive behaviour that we can see the unconscious. There are two natural pathways that we can go down to bridge the gap between our conscious and unconscious minds – one is by dreams and the other is through the imagination. Both are highly developed channels that have developed so that the unconscious and conscious levels may speak to one another and work together.

Active imagination is not a ‘visualisation’ technique in which someone imagines something with a goal in mind. Active imagination has a different relationship with the unconscious, one based on recognition of its reality and power. In active imagination, you go to your unconscious to find out what is there and to learn what it has to offer to the conscious mind. The unconscious mind is not something to be manipulated to suit the purposes of the conscious mind, but an equal partner to engage in dialogue that leads to a fuller maturity.

In my dream, the man was my animus – the blueprint in my unconscious for how I could expect the typical man in my life to treat me. This was set in my unconscious mind by my narcissistic father and reinforced with the narcissistic relationships that followed. I had been programmed early on to believe that it was normal for men to treat me badly. Bringing this unconscious belief into my conscious awareness helped me to reprogram my unconscious and instruct it that this behaviour is not acceptable and something I will no longer tolerate.

"In each of us is another whom we do not know. He speaks to us in dreams and tells us how differently he sees us from the way we see ourselves." Carl Jung.

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