L4 - ART, DREAMS AND ACTIVE IMAGINATION

Abstract for TAoAT 2002 by Prof. Joy Schaverien

Art and dreams are commonly considered to be forms of Active Imagination.  They are similar in that each is a bridge between inner and outer, and between private and public, experience.  Each reveals the spontaneous movement of the psyche in depth psychology, through ‘the transcendent function,’ Jung CW8. However, more detailed observation of their specific nature reveals three distinct forms of imaginal activity. Drawing on aesthetic, Jungian, and psychoanalytic theory, these distinctions will be elucidated. Exploration of the similarities and differences will include consideration of the following: 

  1. Dreams are intangible, fluid, elusive, evanescent, ephemeral and of their nature multi-facetted.  Through anti-logical and non-linear narrative they may release and reveal the flow of the unconscious.  A dream may be described but it is ultimately impossible to show someone else a dream; it is essentially private.
  2. Art has a tangible and material existence. It records traces of the imaginal activity that produces it but it holds, contains and fixes at once moving and containing the flow of the unconscious. In art there is a public manifestation and a shared viewing; both people see the same thing.  There is an object for the shared gaze of the spectators.
  3. Active imagination is a means of developing associations and waking dreams that lead the psyche further into the realms of the imaginal and then back again to the real.  It is a bridge between the private and public. Its starting place may be a dream or a picture but it travels on from there.  This may be a solo venture or a shared imaginal journey.

This has implications for their application in the clinical setting. Case material will illustrate each of these means of accessing the imaginal and its relation to the transference. 

Biography of Dr Joy Schaverien

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