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Active imagination and the method
of free associations

Day Dreaming

The method of free associations, invented by Sigmund Freud, is used both in the anamnesis and in the interpretation of dreams. What is the relation between it and the active imagination widely used by Carl Jung, as the method of exploration of the unconscious, is what I will show here.

In the method of associations, the subject is invited to speak freely about anything that passes through his mind without filtering through rational or ethical censorship. It is a kind of free speech, without any restraint, something like automatic speaking of mediums.

The active imagination no longer starts from words and speech. It is entirely based on images. But the same condition is imposed on the subject, namely to let go the flow of illogical images without any restraint. The active imagination can be a waking reverie, a short hypnagogic impression, a spontaneous visualization of an idea or situation.

Identity is obvious: both methods involve free will and the unwanted intervention in the flow of ideas or images. The only difference is the use of words and speech in the method of free associations, while in the active imagination we limit ourselves to images and visualization.

There are two things to add to the active imagination: the completion of the analytical session also requires an approach by word, by speech, that is, a rational elaboration of the imagined scenes. It is an analysis of them, similar to the analysis of dreams, in which the patient's verbal associations, his memories, his own opinions, explanations and interpretations intervene.

Secondly, through active imagination, more precisely by spontaneously created fantasies, the subject relives certain blocked emotions so that they purge. Therefore, active imagination can also be considered as a psychotherapeutic method of eliminating libidinal stasis.(1)

We could consider active imagination a better method of psychic investigation and processing of unconscious. Its effect is indeed remarkable.

However, not all subjects are able to adopt this method based solely on spontaneous visualization. It is as with hypnosis, in the history of psychoanalysis, which Freud had to give up early because not all people may be hypnotized.

1. In his reflections on the active imagination, Jung insists on the requirement to actually live the respective fantasy. If the subject does not intervene in the imaginary scenario, the therapeutic effect is practically nil.

Paper by J Jones


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