Jung and Imagery

Jung and Imagery
by Frank Coughlan
Theory in Deep Imagery has been studiously avoided in order that people may learn and grow from their own imagery rather than getting caught up in trying to make their imagery fit with the expectations of a theory. Avoiding the potential of theory ‘strait-jacket’ is important since many of our psychological injuries come from forcing our personalities into pre-conceived notions of who we should be. One of the great values of Deep Imagery is the space it provides for individuals to successfully express through imagery the genuine nature of their own inner being.

Nevertheless, when I gave the April talk at the C G Jung Society of Queensland, I found that people there appreciated being able to intellectually relate the Deep Imagery process to Jung’s Active Imagination process.

One of the initial challenges for some people in working with imagery is the tendency to feel that they are somehow ‘not doing it right’. The person might feel that the image that comes is not correct. Sometimes they say there is no image although, frequently, when I ask further, an image or an experience has taken place and it has been discounted. I think that these responses reflect the injuries that have been done to us in our social upbringing whereby people in our lives have denied or rejected — often unconsciously and with the best intentions — important expressions of who we are. We internalise those injurious patterns and we learn to discount important energies within ourselves.

Hearing Jung’s advice on what the Active Imagination process is and on how to do it seems to provide reassurance and permission for people to more readily accept whatever images arise. In the five-minute imagery journey at the end of the meeting, people readily experienced their imagery, in some cases with profound insights.

What was it in Jung’s ideas that helped people to so readily trust their imagery process? To paraphrase Jung from his commentary on “The Secret of The Golden Flower”, ‘the process is a simple one, if only simplicity itself were not the most difficult thing. A scrap of fantasy comes and floats away. An image seems too stupid or irrelevant.’ In Deep-Imagery speak: the animal or image that comes is exactly the right one. Jung writes on extensively to show the importance of respecting those wisps of imagery that arise.

Another helpful idea from Jung is his observation about what people did to reach a new level of awareness within themselves, roughly equivalent to our imagery process. Again I paraphrase as I do not have the book to hand. He wrote ‘They did nothing (wu wei – action through non-action) but simply let something arise of its own accord’. Jung is describing an attitude to ourselves of letting imagery arise without trying to impose expectations on it: easy and not so easy at the same time.

The CG Jung Society of Queensland will host a talk and a one-day workshop by Steve Gallegos in the week prior to the Festival of the Animals in October this year. Jung Society members keenly look forward to meeting Steve and to hearing more about his work.

Frank Coughlan
frankcoughlan [at] fastmail [dot] com [dot] au