Embracing the Shadow: Active Imagination

One of the ways clients can continue to work with parts is to ask them to practice Active Imagination as homework. Active Imagination is a Jungian technique developed to help people interpret their dreams. Like writing a play, we write a script, speaking with a part that appeared in our dream or in our psyche. In writing, we ask the part why it has appeared now. Then, imagining we are the part, we include the part’s response in the script, and continue the dialog by asking curious questions such as: What is your role? What do you do? What do you want?

This practice can lead to extraordinary insights. The process is simply to ask to speak to a part and write down the conversation.

Active Imagination Example

Self: I’d like to speak to the part of me that doesn’t want me to travel so much.

Part: I’m here.

Self: Can I ask you a few questions?

Part: Sure. But I wish you’d just stay home. Self: How come?

Part: You know why! It’s because you get so depleted when you travel.

Self: So you want me to be more rested?

Part: More important than that, I want you to have better relationships with the people you love. Get a life!

Self: What would you like me to call you?

Part: Mr. Priority

Self: Okay Mr. Priority, what’s most important to you?

Mr. Priority: Your relationships, of course!

Keep the dialog flowing until the part has said all it wants to say. No arguing with the part or giving it advice. Just listen with curiosity and learn all you can about the part. To wrap up the dialog, take a moment to appreciate the part, even if you don’t like how it’s acting or what it’s saying.

The process of active imagination allows us to shift from seeing the figures in our dreams as external people, and begin to see them as parts of ourselves. We become conscious of our shadow parts and the process helps us reclaim lost parts and welcome them home.

Excerpt from Coaching for Transformation by Lasley, Kellogg, Michaels and Brown. 

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