Monday, November 29, 2010

A Creative Life - The Seed

by Lawrence Staples,
author of The Creative Soul: Art and the Quest for wholeness and Guilt with a Twist: The Promethean Way


Active imagination is a technique developed by C.G. Jung to help amplify, interpret, and integrate the contents of our dreams. When approached by way of writing, active imagination is like writing a play. One takes, for example, a figure that has appeared in one’s dreams. Usually, these figures express a viewpoint quite the opposite of one’s normal conscious view. Sometimes it is a male or female, shadow figure. At other times, it may be a feminine, anima, or maternal figure.

One starts to converse with the figure in writing. One challenges the dream figure and lets him/her challenge the dreamer. The dreamer asks the figure why he appeared in the dream. He asks the figure what it wants from him. Then, the ego, like a playwright, puts himself as best he can into the figure’s shoes and tries to express it and defend its viewpoint. There ensues a dialogue between the writer and the opposite figure in his dream or piece of writing. With practice one can become accomplished at expressing both viewpoints, just as a playwright does. One gets better at this the more one does it.

The technique of active imagination tends to detach the qualities and traits that are first seen in a dream or in a story as belonging to external persons, and coming to see them as belonging to one’s self. Active imagination, then, helps the writer become conscious of his opposite qualities by forcing him to give voice to figures, like shadow figures, that carry qualities opposite those of his ego. These qualities personify the rejected opposites that are present in the unconscious. This technique helps recover them and make them available to the ego and consciousness without necessarily having to act them out.

Following is an impressive and rich example of the power of this technique to affect and even shape our lives. It’s an active imagination done by Mel Mathews when he was in his late thirties. He was an extremely successful salesman who was, nevertheless, unhappy with his work and life. Despite his high income, work had lost its meaning for him. He had entered Jungian analysis in order to help him out of his suffocating existence and find a new and different way. He had a powerful dream that he took to his analyst. His analyst suggested he do active imagination with one of the figures in the dream. His is a beautiful example of active imagination that led to much more than a dialogue. It became the seed of a creative life that grew and flourished into a wholly new career. Out of his active imagination came a novel, LeRoi - Book 1 of The Chronicles of a Wandering Soul series, which was then followed by several other novels, including Menopause Man and SamSara.

The power of the active imagination is seen in the fact that it unearthed in Mel some deep hidden spring of creativity that suddenly gushed forth. Apparently, he had been living a life of suspended animation that lay there until some psychic prince awoke it. He had the following dream:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Guilt Cure

(Masaccio Fresco image from the 
Cappella Brancacci, Santa Maria 
del Carmine,  Firenze, Italia
provided via Wikimedia Commons  
[Public domain].)
Assuaging the Wounds of Guilt
article by Lawrence H. Staples

Suffering: The Price Guilt Exacts

(Masaccio Fresco image from the Cappella Brancacci, Santa Maria del Carmine,  Firenze, Italia, provided via Wikimedia Commons [Public domain].)

Guilt can cause prolonged suffering. We suffer regardless of whether the guilt serves essential human needs or not, whether it has outlived its usefulness or not, whether it is deserved or not, whether it is meaningful or not, and whether it was incurred intentionally or not. Nor does it matter whether we have a religious background or not, and if we have a religious background, it does not matter which religion. Even if our parents were atheists or agnostics, we are subject to guilt. They often had dogmatic and rigid beliefs of their own. With the possible exception of sociopaths, all of us suffer from guilt, to some degree. The point is that all guilt, regardless of its origin or meaning, brings pain that we need to treat and relieve.

Fortunately, the psyche has a self-regulatory function that helps soften the pain of guilt it inflicts. It appears to function somewhat like the sympathetic and parasympathetic operation of the physical body’s autonomic nervous system that protects us with its opposite tendencies. In the physical body’s system, one part may dilate the pupil and the other contract it. One part may inhibit the heartbeat while the other stimulates it.