Jungian Therapy, Jungian Analysis, New York

Jung on active imagination in Two essays Vol 7, par 342-359.
Jungian therapy, jungian analysis, new york city, dream interpretation narcissistic or narcissistic men narcissistic women narcissitic mothers

This transformation is the aim of the analysis of the unconscious. If there is no transformation, it means that the determining influence of the unconscious is unabated, and that it will in some cases persist in maintaining neurotic symptoms in spite of all our analysis and all our understanding. Alternatively, a compulsive transference will take hold, which is just as bad as a neurosis. Obviously in such cases no amount of suggestion, good will, and purely reductive understanding has helped to break the power of the unconscious. This is not to say--once again I would like to emphasize this point very clearly--that all psychotherapeutic methods are, by and large, useless. I merely want to stress the fact that there are not a few cases where the doctor has to make up his mind to deal fundamentally with the unconscious, to come to a real settlement with it. This is of course something very different from interpretation. In the latter case it is taken for granted that the doctor knows beforehand, so as to be able to interpret. But in the case of a real settlement it is not a question of interpretation it is a question of releasing unconscious processes and letting them come into the conscious mind in the form of fantasies. We can try our hand at interpreting these fantasies if we like. In many cases it may be quite important for the patient to have some idea of the meaning of the fantasies produced. But it is of vital importance that he should experience them to the full and, in so far as intellectual understanding belongs to the totality of experience, also understand them. Yet I would not give priority to understanding. Naturally the doctor must be able to assist the patient in his understanding, but, since he will not and indeed cannot understand everything, but, since he will not and indeed cannot understand everything, the doctor should assiduously guard against clever feats of interpretation. For the important thing is not to interpret and understand the fantasies, but primarily to experience them. Alfred Kubin has given a very good description of the unconscious in his book Die andere Seite; that is, he has described what he, as an artist, experienced of the unconscious. It is an artistic experience which, in the deeper meaning of human experience, is incomplete. I would like to recommend an attentive reading of this book to everybody who is interested in these questions. He will then discover the incompleteness I speak of: the vision is experienced artistically, but not humanly. By "human" experience I mean that the person of the author should not just be included passively in the vision, but that he should face the figures of the vision actively and reactively, with full consciousness. I would level the same criticism at the authoress of the fantasies dealt with in the book mentioned above; she, too, merely stands opposite the fantasies forming themselves out of the unconscious, perceiving them, or at best passively enduring them. But a real settlement with the unconscious demands a firmly opposed conscious standpoint.

I will try to explain what I mean by an example. One of my patients had the following fantasy: He sees his fiancee running down the road towards the river. It is winter, and the river is frozen. She runs out on the ice, and he follows her. She goes right out, and then the ice breaks, a dark fissure appears, and he is afraid she is going to jump in. And that is what happens: she jumps into the crack, and he watches her sadly.

This fragment, although torn out of its context, clearly shows the attitude of the conscious mind: it perceives and passively endures, the fantasy-image is merely seen and felt, it is two dimensional, as it were, because the patient is not sufficiently involved. Therefore the fantasy remains a flat image, concrete and agitating perhaps, but unreal, like a dream. This unreality comes from the fact that he himself is not playing an active part. If the fantasy happened in reality he would not be at a lost for some means to prevent his fiancee from committing suicide. He could, for instance, easily overtake her and restrain her bodily from jumping into the crack. Were he to act in reality as he acted in the fantasy, he would obviously be paralysed, either with horror, or because of the unconscious thought that he really has no objection to her committing suicide. The fact that he remains passive in the fantasy merely expresses his attitude to the activity of the unconscious in general: he is fascinated and stupefied by it. In reality he suffers from all sorts of depressive ideas and convictions; he thinks he is no good, that he has some hopeless hereditary taint, that his brain is degenerating, etc. These negative feelings are so many auto-suggestions which he accepts without argument. Intellectually, he can understand them perfectly and recognize them as untrue, but nevertheless the feelings persist. They cannot be attacked by the intellect because they have no intellectual or rational basis; they are rooted in an unconscious, irrational fantasy-life which is not amenable to conscious criticism. In these cases the unconscious must be given an opportunity to produce its fantasies, and the above fragment is just such a product of unconscious fantasy activity. Since the case was one of psychogenic depression, the depression itself was due to fantasies of whose existence the patient was totally unconscious. In genuine melancholia, extreme exhaustion, poisoning, etc., the situation would be reversed: the patient has such fantasies because he is a depressed condition. But in a case of psychogenic depression he is depressed because he has such fantasies. My patient was a very clever young man who had been intellectually enlightened as to the cause of his neurosis by a lengthy analysis. However, intellectual understanding made no difference in his depression. In cases of this sort the doctor should spare himself the useless trouble of delving still further into the causality; for, when a more or less exhaustive understanding is of no avail, the discovery of yet another little bit of causality will be of no avail either. The unconscious has simply gained an unassailable ascendency; it wields an attractive force that can invalidate all conscious contents--in other words, it can withdraw libido from the conscious world and thereby produce a "depression," an abaissement du niveau mental (Janet). But as a result of this we must, according to the law of energy, expect an accumulation of value--i.e., libido--in the unconscious.

Libido can never be apprehended except in a definite form; that is to say, it is identical with fantasy-images. That is why, in a case like this, we give the unconscious a chance to bring its fantasies to the surface. This is how the foregoing fragment was produced. It is a single episode from a long and very intricate series of fantasy-images, corresponding to the quota of energy that was lost to the conscious mind and its contents. The patient's conscious world has become cold, empty, and grey; but his unconscious is activated, powerful, and rich. It is characteristic of the nature of the unconscious psyche that it is sufficient unto itself and knows no human considerations. Once a thing has fallen into the unconscious it is retained there, regardless of whether the conscious mind suffers or not. The latter can hunger and freeze, while everything in the unconscious becomes verdant and blossoms.

So at least it appears at first. But when we look deeper, we find that this unconcern of the unconscious has a meaning, indeed a purpose and a goal. There are psychic goals that lie beyond the conscious goals; in fact, they may even be inimical to them. But we find that the unconscious has an inimical or ruthless bearing towards the conscious only when the latter adopts a false or pretentious attitude.

The conscious attitude of my patient is so one-sidedly intellectual and rational that nature herself rises up against him and annihilates his whole world of conscious values. But he cannot de-intellectualize himself and make himself dependent on another function, e.g., feeling, for the very simple reason that he has not got it. The unconscious has it. Therefore we have no alternative but to hand over the leadership to the unconscious and give it the opportunity of becoming a conscious content in the form of fantasies. If, formerly, my patient clung to his intellectual world and defended himself with rationalizations against what he regarded as his illness, he must now yield himself up to it entirely, and when a fit of depression comes upon him, he must no longer force himself to some kind of work in order to forget, but must accept his depression and give it a hearing.

Now this is the direct opposite of succumbing to a mood, which is so typical of neurosis. It is no weakness, no spineless surrender, but a hard achievement, the essence of which consists in keeping your objectivity despite the temptations of the mood, and in making the mood your object, instead of allowing it to become in you the dominating subject. So the patient must try to get his mood to speak to him; his mood must tell him all about itself and show him through what kind of fantastic analogies it is expressing itself.

The foregoing fragment is a bit of a visualized mood. If he had not succeeded in keeping his objectivity in relation to his mood, he would have had, in place of the fantasy-image, only a crippling sense that everything was going to the devil, that he was incurable, etc. But because he gave his mood a chance to express itself in an image, he succeeded in converting at least a small sum of libido, of unconscious creative energy in eidetic form, into a conscious content and thus withdrawing it from the sphere of the unconscious.

But this effort is not enough, for the fantasy, to be completely experienced, demands not just perception and passivity, but active participation. The patient would comply with this demand if he conducted himself in the fantasy as he would doubtless conduct himself in reality. He would never remain an idle spectator while his fiancee tried to drown herself; he would leap up and stop her. This should also happen in the fantasy. If he succeeds in ng in the fantasy as he would behave in a similar situation in reality, he would prove that he was taking the fantasy seriously, i.e., assigning absolute reality value to the unconscious. In this way he would have won a victory over his one-sided intellectualism and, indirectly, would have asserted the validity of the irrational standpoint of the unconscious.

That would be the complete experience of the unconscious demanded of him. But one must not underestimate what that actually means; your whole world is menaced by fantastic irreality. It is almost insuperably difficult to forget, even for a moment, that all this is only fantasy, a figment of the imagination that must strike one as altogether arbitrary and artificial. How can one assert that anything of this kind is "real" and take it seriously?

We can hardly be expected to believe in a sort of double life, in which we conduct ourselves on one plane as modest average citizens, while on another we have unbelievable adventures and perform heroic deeds. In other words, we must not concretize our fantasies. But there is in a strange propensity to do just this, and all his aversion to fantasy and his critical depreciation of the unconscious come solely from the deep-rooted fear of this tendency. Concretization and the fear of it are both primitive superstitions, but they still survive in the liveliest form among so-called enlightened people. In his civic life a man may follow the trade of a shoemaker, but as the member of a sect he puts on the dignity of an archangel. To all appearance he is a small tradesman, but among the freemasons he is a mysterious grandee. Another sits all day in his office; at evening, in his circle, he is a reincarnation of Julius Caesar, fallible as a man, but in his official capacity infallible. These are all unintentional concretizations.

As against this, the scientific credo of our time has developed a superstitious phobia about fantasy. But the real is what works. And the fantasies of the unconscious work, there can be no doubt about that. Even the cleverest philosopher can be the victim of a thoroughly idiotic agoraphobia. Our famous scientific reality does not afford us the slightest protection against the so-called irreality of the unconscious. Something works behind the veil of fantastic images, whether we give this something a good name or a bad. It is something real, and for this reason its manifestations must be taken seriously. But first the tendency to concretization must be overcome; in other words, we must not take the fantasies literally when we approach the question of interpreting them. While we are in the grip of the actual experience, the fantasies cannot be taken literally enough. But when it comes to understanding them, we must on no account mistake the semblance, the fantasy-image as such, for the operative process underlying it. The semblance is not the thing itself, but only its expression.

Thus my patient is not experiencing the suicide scene "on another plane" (though in every other respect it is just as concrete asa real suicide); he experiences something real which looks like a suicide. The two opposing "realities" the world of the conscious and the world of the unconscious, do not quarrel for supremacy, but each makes the other relative. That the reality of the unconscious is very relative indeed will presumably arouse no violent contradiction; but that the reality of the conscious world could be doubted will be accepted with less alacrity. And yet both "realities" are psychic experience, psychic semblances painted on an inscrutably dark black-cloth. To the critical intelligence, nothing is left of absolute reality.

Of the essence of things, of absolute being, we know nothing. But we experience various effects: from "outside" by way of the senses, from "inside" by way of fantasy. We would never think of asserting that the color "green" had an independent existence; similarly we ought never to imagine that a fantasy-experience exists in and for itself, and is therefore to be taken quite literally. It is an expression, an appearance standing for something unknown but real. The fantasy-fragment I have mentioned coincides in time with a wave of depression and desperation, and this event finds expression in the fantasy. The patient really does have a fiancee; for him she represents the one emotional link with the world. Snap that link, and it would be the end of his relation to the world. This would be an altogether hopeless aspect. But his fiancee is also a symbol for his anima, that is, for his relation to the unconscious. Hence the fantasy simultaneously expresses the fact that, without any hindrance on his part, his anima is disappearing again into the unconscious. This aspect shows that once again his mood is stronger than he is. It throws everything to the winds, while he looks on without lifting a hand. But he could easily step in and arrest the anima.

I give preference to this latter aspect, because the patient is an introvert whose life-relationship is ruled by inner facts. Were he an extravert, I would have to give preference to the first aspect, because for the extravert life is governed primarily by his relation to human beings. He might in the trough of a mood do away with his fiancee and himself too, whereas the introvert harms himself most when he casts off his relation to the anima, i.e. to the object within.

So my patient's fantasy clearly reveals the negative movement of the unconscious, a tendency to recoil from the conscious world so energetically that it sucks away the libido from consciousness and leaves the latter empty. But, by making the fantasy conscious, we stop this process from happening unconsciously. If the patient were himself to participate actively in the way described above, he would possess himself of the libido invested in the fantasy, and would thus gain added influence over the unconscious.

Continual conscious realization of unconscious fantasies, together with active participation in the fantastic events, has, as I have witnessed in a large number of cases, the effect firstly of extending the conscious horizon by the inclusion of numerous unconscious contents; the secondly of gradually diminishing the dominant influence of the unconscious; and thirdly of bringing about a change in personality.

This change of personality is naturally not an alteration of the original hereditary disposition, but rather a transformation of the general attitude. Those sharp cleavages and antagonisms between conscious and unconscious, such as we see so clearly in the endless conflicts of neurotic natures, nearly always rest on a noticeable one-sidedness of the conscious attitude, which gives absolute precedence to one or two functions, while the others are unjustly thrust into the background. Conscious realization and experience of fantasies assimilates the unconscious inferior functions to the conscious mind--a process which is naturally not without far-reaching effects on the conscious attitude.