Quotes: Inner Work


Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth by Robert A. Johnson.

In the rare cases of people who get easily lost in the fantasy realm and can’t find their way back, it is better that they not do active imagination but find cooler ways of relating to their inner world. p137

Using dreams and active imagination personal growth

  1. Waking up to the unconscious

    1. The idea of the unconscious derives from a simple observation: there is material contained in our minds that we are not aware of most of the time. Page 2

    2. The unconscious is a marvelous universe of unseeing energies, forces, forms of intelligence – even distinct personalities – that live within us. p. 3

    3. These hidden parts of ourselves have strong feelings and want to express them. Yet, unless we want to do inner work, these parts of ourselves are headed from our conscious view. p. 3

    4. It has two natural pathways for bridging the gap and speaking to the conscious mind: one is by dreams; the other is through the imagination. p.4

    5. Jung has shown that by searching the unconscious and learning it’s symbolic language, we live richer and fuller lives. p. 5

    6. Jung believed that God and all of creation labored through time to bring conscious awareness into the universe and that it is the role of all human beings to carry that evolution forward. p. 6

    7. Each of us, in an individual lifetime, recapitulate the evolution of the human race, and each of us must be an individual container in which the evolution of consciousness is carried forward. p. 7

    8. Since the total psyche is much larger and more complex than the ego–mind can grasp, these unexpected things always feel as though they come from outside us rather than from within us.p. 9

    9. Our isolation from the unconscious is synonymous with our isolation from our souls, from the life of spirit. p. 10

    10. Individuation is the term young used to referred to like ball process of becoming the complete human beings we were born to be. p.11

Inner work: seeking the unconscious

  1. Live with the symbols in your dreams as though they were your physical companions in daily life. You will discover, if you do, that they really are your companions in the inner world. p.16

Alternative Realities: The world of dreaming, the realm of imagination

  1. Once we become sensitive to dreams, we discover that every dynamic in a dream is manifesting itself in some way in our practical lives, and our actions, relationships, decisions, automatic routines, urges, and feelings. p.19

  2. Dreaming and imagination have one special quality in common: their power to convert invisible forms of the unconscious into images that are perceptible to the conscious mind. p21

  3. Material that flows through the imagination takes many forms from the frivolous to the imaginary. p22

  4. Imagination is a transformer that converts the invisible material into images the conscious mind can proceed. p22

  5. At first glance, active imagination may seem too simple or naive to be taken seriously as a psychological technique: it consists in going to the images that rise up and one’s imagination and making a dialogue with them. p24

  6. When we experience the symbol, we simultaneously experience the complex, the archetype, the inner psychic entity that is represented by the symbol. p25

  7. Dream work and active imagination to us to the larger vision of life. p26

Defining and approaching active imagination

  1. Most people do a fair amount of talking in their active imagination, exchanging points of view with the inner figures, trying to work out a middle ground between opposing views, even asking for advice from some very wise ones who live in the unconscious. p 138

  2. When you begin to do active imagination regularly, you will find that your dreams decrease in number, will become more focused and concentrated and less repetitious. p.140

  3. The essence of active imagination is your conscious participation in the imaginative experience. p.140

  4. The real question is not the authenticity of the images, but rather, what do I do with them? It is easy to misunderstand them and miss use them. But most people never get to the real question of what to do with the revelations from the unconscious because they are so stuck in doubting its authenticity. p. 150

  5. When you begin to see your imagination for what it really is, you will realize that it reflects the inner world of your unconscious as faithfully as a highly polished mirror. p.151

Active imagination as mythic journey

  1. Make a place in one’s life where the great archetypal themes can live themselves out. p. 157

  2. I like dream work, where it is so important to analyze and draw meetings from the symbols, it can be counter productiveI like dream work, where it is so important to analyze and draw meanings from the symbols, it can be counter-productive in active imagination if you distract yourself by thinking too much about what the symbols may mean and psychological terms. The magic of active imagination comes about through the experience itself. p.158

Four – step approach to active imagination

  1. Invite the unconscious

  2. Dialogue and experience

  3. Add the ethical element of values

  4. Make it concrete with physical ritual
    p 160

Step one: the invitation

  1. Go to a place, describe it vividly and in detail so as to get yourself anchored there, and then see whom you encounter. p166

  2. Perhaps the purest form of active imagination is that in which you simply clear your mind, go to your imagination, and wait to see who will appear. p. 167

  3. Harnessing fantasy is a way of converting passive fantasy into active imagination. In its simplest form, you look at the fantasies that have been going through your mind today and you choose an image, and inner person, or situation. p.168

  4. If you have some affect that is following you around and dogging your steps, some mood that you can’t shake off, this gives you a strong hint as to where you should go to start your dialogue with the unconscious. Go to the one inside you who is obsessed, depressed, or some other mood. p.171

  5. If a dream is not resolved, or you keep getting the same dream over and over again, you can extend the dream out through imagination and bring it to a resolution. p171

Step two: the dialogue

  1. In order to do a true act of imagination, it is necessary to stick with the image that we start with, stay with the situation until there is some kind of resolution. p.180

  2. Active imagination is a complete experience, one that has a beginning, middle, and an end. p.180

  3. The most important aspect of this is to be present in your feelings and participate with your feelings. One must sense that it is real, that it is actually happening – even though it is inside rather than outside. p. 181

  4. We must not stray from the zone of participation into the zone of control. p.182

  5. Active imagination is, more than anything, the process of listening. p.183

  6. It is from this that the true power of active imagination rises: we learn to listen to the ones who we have kept mute. We learn to honor those whom we have dishonored. p. 184

  7. The ego’s capacity for consciousness gives it the power, right, and even the duty to wrestle with the great unconscious on equal terms and to work out at a synthesis of values. p. 185

  8. There are now so many systems around that can be confused with active imagination but are completely distinct from it. The main difference is that they work with a prepared script; everything is determined and advance. p 185

  9. The problem with these approaches to imagery is that it is the ego that does all the deciding. The unconscious is seen as a sort of stupid animal that has no viewpoint of its own, no wisdom to contribute. The whole point of the exchange is to train the unconscious to do with the ego wants. p.186

  10. Active imagination starts out from a completely different idea about the unconscious. We afferm that the unconscious has its own wisdom, it’s own viewpoints, and that they are often as balanced, as realistic, as those of the ego–mind. The purpose of active imagination is not to “program” the unconscious, but to listen to the unconscious. And, if you do listen, the unconscious, in turn, will listen to you. p186

  11. Much of the artificial loneliness of your life will evaporator if you realize that your way is merely a way–one way among many, yet unique and distinct from all others, springs from your own nature, a way that is inborn, not made, and waits to be discovered. p.188

Step three: the values

  1. It is a conscious ego, guided by a sense of ethics, that must set limits in order to protect the imaginative process from becoming in human or distructive or going off into extremes. Page 189

  2. First, you add thw ethical element by holding out for the attitudes and conduct that are consistent with your character and your deepest values.
    Second, ethical balance requires that we not let one archetype or one part of ourselves take over at the expense of the others. We can’t sacrifice essensual values in order to pursue one narrow urge or goal.
    Third, we must nurture and preserve the specifically human values that serve human life, that keep practical daily life going, and that keep our human relationships alive. p. 192

  3. If an attitude comes roaring out of your unconscious that will destroy your practical existence, hurt your relationships with your family, cause trouble for you at your job, or get you into power struggles with everyone, then you have both the duty and the right to answer back to present the ethical alternative. Page 193

Step four: the rituals

  1. There is one very important point that needs to be made regarding this fourth step: you must not act out. In psychological jargon, acting out means, basically, taking our inner, subjective conflicts and urges and trying to live them out externally and physically. p 196

  2. To incarnate your imagination, during this fourth step, does not mean to act out your fantasies in a literal way. It means, rather, to take the essence that you have distilled from it – the meaning, insight, or basic principle that you have derived from the experience – and incarnate it by doing physical ritual or by integrating it into your practical life. p.197

  3. You should not call to mind the image of your spouse, your friend, or your coworker at your job and start talking with that person and your imagination. If you do that, it puts you under extreme unconscious pressure to take up the active imagination physically when you are around that person again. You involuntarily confuse the level of imagination and the level of external, physical relationship. p. 197


  1. Horse trading, as I call it, is the most practical, personal level. It is the use of imagination when you need to negotiate with your inner personalities, to make those compromises and trade – but are sometimes required to keep practical life functioning. p.200

  2. Most are approaches to active imagination are keyed to coming to terms with that unconscious by bringing the images up to the surface, reducing the negative effects and there autonomous power, making them conscious, and making peace with them. p 203

  3. Our inner lives often feel like journeys from one Jericho to another. We are continually coming up against obstacles within ourselves that seem like fortresses, defended with impregnble walls. Sometimes they call them autonomous complexes because they are complexes that are completely outside of the influence or knowledge of the conscious mind. We only know them through the havoc they wreak in our lives and emotions. p 204

  4. Seven symbolizes a complete cycle of inner time, the inner time required for a complete evolution of consciousness. p 206

  5. You will learn that some of our problems and obstacles are our truest friends – our wounds turn out to be the source of our healing. p. 207

  6. If we can find our way around our egos prejudices, we are surprised to find that some of these unlived or repressed qualities turn out to be the finest strenghts we have. Page 207

  7. It is possible to get much of life on a symbolic level, and this often satisfies that unload part of ourselves even more than if we had lived it out externally. p 208

  8. It is very difficult to know what to do with such a vision. I think the answer is inherent in the experience itself: don’t do anything with it. Don’t try to convert it to something “practical,” or something that makes sense to your ego – mind. Just look, experience, be there. p. 221

  9. Yung believed that God needs human agencies to assist in the incarnation of his creation. As Thomas Mann observes in Joseph and his brothers, God needed the latter and Jacob’s dream as a way to come and go between heaven and earth. The visions of human beings make such a ladder and transmit information to the collective unconscious of humanity. No “practicality” beyond this is required.