What Is Active Imagination And How To Practice It?

What Is Active Imagination And How To Practice It?: It is a truth that we all are pawns in the hand of destiny, but it doesn’t mean that you only sit on a chair and let things just happen. God has gifted man with a brilliant mind, to look around and discover the hidden glories of nature and life.

According to a psychologist, the human mind has two parts, the conscious and the unconscious.

The conscious part is awake and aware, but the unconscious deals with the background process and sensations of the body, like storing the memories. The unconscious mind exists, without the humans, being aware of it.

It takes a lot of practice and effort to access it and explore through it, consciously.

In 1913-1916, there came a technique developed by Carl Jung’s in which one tries to translate the contents of the unconscious into images, narratives, or individual entities, called Active Imagination.

Active Imagination

We all long for something wonderful and magical to happen to us, that puts us in closer touch with the hidden part of ourselves. Luckily, active imagination is a solution to that naive wish.

It is a conscious intention to engage the unconscious mind, by focusing on it and bringing it to life.

Active imagination actually consists of the conversation between the conscious ego and the unconscious illusion in which the ego explores questions and observes.

It is the key to opening up a dialectical interaction between conscious and unconscious aspects of the psyche.

It is a manifestation of content from the unconscious, like solving a jigsaw puzzle. Furthermore, it procures a meaning from that, for the sake of a better understanding of your inner visions that are else wise, hidden.

Steps To Practice Active Imagination

Anybody can practice active imagination through decoding the most evident expressions of your unconscious mind, your dreams. This technique can be carried out anytime with two most important elements; a quiet place and deep concentration.

Pick one of your recent dreams in your mindset and just follow these steps.

Step 1 Concentrate

The only thing you need to grow your mind is a strong concentration. So to enter into active imagination, find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.

Settle yourself into a comfortable chair or couch placing your feet flat on the floor with your legs and crossed with your hands.

Step 2   Focus on the dream

Since you will be inviting aspects of the unconscious to come into consciousness, you will first take your mind off of the external world and turn your focus on the inner world.

Imagine yourself returning to the dream, starting from the beginning.

Direct your inner eye to a place inside your dream and then wait to see who or what will show up. It may take some time before anything happens.

You must deliberately avoid hasty jumping from one subject to another.

Step 3   Let the Unconscious speak

When someone or something does arrive, invite them to begin the dialogue.

Try to observe and watch closely as the picture continues to unfold or alter.

It is a critical step as you may get distracted, and the whole thing is over.

Note all the changes that you feel or see at that time. Try to step into the picture yourself, and if it is a speaking figure at all, then say what you have to say to that figure and listen to what that thing is trying to say.

Step 4   Generate an Artifact on paper

You are going to give life to your ‘manifestation’ in this step by drawing and converting the hidden message of your unconscious mind onto the paper.

You don’t need a masterpiece. The only goal is to transform the unconscious memory into an artifact that you can attempt to decode in the next move.

Step 5   Analyze the message

Now just relax and take your mind out of the imaginations.

Turn on your intellectual part and find the message contained within the piece of artwork you just made.


There are some compulsions to get meaningful results from this technique.

RULE 1: Whatever comes, receive it! Because once you start judging, editing, or second-guessing you destroy the whole thing. It won’t work.

RULE 2: If it moves, follow it!

RULE 3: Let the unconscious manifest in consciousness, and then begin to reconcile the lessons.


It kinds of freaks you out a little bit in the beginning but keep trying it several times. Once you reach the comfortable level of engaging with it, you may hear a voice, see an image, or may have a dialogue or a conversation with the invisible.

You must be thinking that how it is possible or how it works, but research proved that active imagination played a significant role in theosophical work.

Within this tradition, the active imagination acts as an organ of the soul, by which humanity can develop a cognitive and imaginative connection with an intermediate universe.

So, try at least once to get the real meaning of your life. Otherwise, you will also be counted in the list of those who never dare to try first and blame on ‘fate’.

As narrated by Jung’s

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

How does it work?

Active Imagination works by enabling the conscious and unconscious mind to interact by digging through the unconscious mind.

It does so by concentrating our conscious minds on underlying psychological expressions.

To make it work, you can starts from even a bad mood when all the things in your mind are scattered and you don’t exactly know at that point, which one to focus on.

For the starting point, try to find out what sort of image expresses this confused mood.

For the next time, fix this image by putting more concentration towards it and then alters it. Note the alterations for the better understanding of the unconscious mind, appearing in the form of an image composed of conscious memory material.

Just like that, our conscious and unconscious minds become align and we can receive the pure message from underground and interpret it.

To make you feel better during the process, and the better understanding of images that you have drawn on the paper, you can consult a therapist.

Psychiatrists and dream interpreters are those who can help you in the best possible way for this technique.

You can carry out this process on your own at any quiet place if you have a strong imagination and a better understanding of this kind of thing. In the other case, if you want expert advice, then go for a psychiatrist.

COMPARATIVE STUDY:  Active Imagination Environment VS Dream Environment

Active imagination is a stable environment. It is always there and reliable. You can do this technique repeatedly to understand a single vision as it remains the same tomorrow and even after ten days. You can continue the process from where you left yesterday, and enter into the world of unconsciousness.

By doing this technique in a disciplined fashion and with the regulations of rules, you will have more or less, what you need. You will have a set of characters or a place you can go to or people you can talk to.

The dream environment is mercurial as it changes every night. You can’t predict it or have no idea what’s going on tonight in your dreams. You can try to program it sometimes and might be lucky once or twice, but generally, it’s very autonomous and always surprises you.

Is Active Imagination a Positive Idea?

It may take a while for you to have a sense of trust in the unconscious but yes it exists and is autonomous.

It gives you a better understanding of life and clarifies your mysterious ideas by giving a proper meaning to them.

It’s great to practice it and get a lot of advantages from this therapy.

Gains from Active Imagination

Let’s have a look at the gains and benefits, a person or even a mentally distorted person can get from this therapy.

The use of active imagination helps one to explore and occupy an internal, subconscious space that is neither conscious nor fully unconscious.

You can use the resulted image to come up with answers to questions that you have in our life.

It’s a great opportunity to explore and learn about both the outer world and our inner-self.

It is a blessing that we all have thoughts, and just by using it in the right way (doing active imagination), you can cope up with all the disturbing speculations.

Let’s take an example here to clear the concepts that how can you get real benefit from an active imagination.

“You are trying hard to bring your skills and talent into the world in a cohesive way to be of service to people but you don’t exactly know how to do it or how to transform all your energies and effort at one place or task”

At that point, just go for active imagination, not only for a few minutes but for hours or maybe days if possible. JUST consider the situation whatever it is, and follow the steps of this technique, as mentioned above.

Conclusively, you will see the pathways and channels opening up in your way. You can follow these channels and they lead to other ideas and concepts.

In the end, after struggling with the battle of your conscious and unconscious, you will arrive at the answer to your questions.

You’ll figure out what you need to figure out because you’ve allowed your mind to connect up with spirit which utilizes this in order to give you the answers that you need.

You’d be amazed at how many solutions, remedies, and puzzle pieces start coming together when you employ active imagination.

You can take some degree of control over your growth process.

Research studies show that this super amazing technique has transformed the lives of many people. They said that their lives have changed a lot in a positive manner and they come up with a lot of ideas for their lives.

Don’t think that it is a very difficult task; Carl Jung’s tries his best to teach us all this technique in a simple way.

It has the power to transform your life and blow your mind.

It has its great importance in the medical field as it proves very beneficial for the strengthening of mind and improves mental health.

It proves to be a natural healing function of the imaginations and many dreadful thoughts that is why termed as a therapeutic method.

NOTE:  This activity would not be recommended for someone with a weak reality of ego function, nor should it be used if the patient resists strongly.


It is an interesting scenario that how Carl Jung’s explores the method of active imagination.

From his autobiography, we came to know that after he broke up with Freud in I912, he went into a period of deep uncertainty and disorientation in his practice and even in his personal life.

He was disturbed by his own visions and hallucinations, unable to understand them even though they seemed to be richer and more vivid than ever.

After a few months of agonizing about his predicament, Jung claims he knowingly subjected himself to his unconscious urges by simply opting to do “whatever happened” to him about his self-analysis.

After that, he started asking himself what he should do in his analysis, and as a result, he started playing childhood games like building blocks. While playing these games, he discovered that a stream of fantasy was often released in the course of the activity.

There, he uses ‘inner voice’. Jung’s said that the inner voice is something that speaks autonomously from the ego. It apprises Jung’s to consider his visions and dreams in a precise manner.

From this experience, he came to know that manifest dreams and the content that we fantasy in our minds are of great importance. One should not neglect these visions especially when they are continuous.

He believed that dreams are the ‘language’ and the natural product directly coming through our minds. It’s up to the man that in what manner he is going to interpret it.

Later, by having a firm belief in his ideas, he initiates this process by his own experiences with imaginary plays and long records of his dreams that he kept during his analysis.

According to him “The active imagination approach is the most important auxiliary for generating certain contents of the unconscious that lie, as it were, immediately below the threshold of consciousness and are the most likely to spontaneously burst into the conscious mind when amplified.”


According to Carl’s Jung’s, the ultimate purpose of human existence is to understand what our unconscious mind tries to say.

He said…

“A man should follow his unconscious to confront his destiny, which is the never-ending development of consciousness until death. The only purpose of mankind in this world is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being”

Now, as we all know the development of anything requires something to add in it. It’s just as simple as the development of a child, when we gave him all the necessary ingredients for his healthy growth.

So, that something to ‘add’ for the development of conscious mind comes directly from the unconscious in the form of messages, images or voices. They help to develop consciousness and allow us to better understanding the inner world.

This exactly happens to Carl’s Jung’s when he starts getting the message of his inner figures and learned it, resultantly came up with such a revolutionary idea that first changes his perspective of life and then of many peoples till now.

Bare Bones of Active Imagination

When Carl’s Jung’s was fighting the battle against his inner self and thoughts, he said that he feels a constant inner pressure all the time. He said so, just when he was about to discover and unfolds the meanings of his thoughts and visions.

This phenomenon starts when any settled problem continuously disturbed you.

According to Jung’s idea, there must be some essential elements that spark gave a spark to this process.

  • Stress and pressure
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion of issues
  • Ambiguous thoughts
  • An insoluble issue
  • Lack of content for visions

Without these elements, you are unable to proceed towards active imagination.

Summing Up

Active imagination is not a daydreaming or just fantasy. It’s a part of oneself that will rise to the surface and we need to be willing to engage it.

It was a good and real gift that this works and happens to its pioneer.

We should consider it and must be willing to truly receive it, and I think that’s the right attitude to take it seriously.

I encourage you to try it in your life to get uncountable benefits from it.

Everyone should be open-minded enough to embrace the positive change in life

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