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Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth

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A noted author and Jungian analyst teaches how to use dreams and inner exercises to achieve personal wholeness and a more satisfying life.

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A noted author and Jungian analyst teaches how to use dreams and inner exercises to achieve personal wholeness and a more satisfying life.

30 review for Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Andrew

    Just excellent. Why did it take me so long to find this book? I've always admired Robert Johnson's memoir, BALANCING HEAVEN AND EARTH. This text should be required reading for anyone working with dreams or the imagination as part of their spiritual journey. "In fact, no one "makes up" anything in the imagination. The material that appears in the imagination has to originate in the unconscious. .... Imagination is a TRANSFORMER that converts the invisible material into images the conscious mind ca Just excellent. Why did it take me so long to find this book? I've always admired Robert Johnson's memoir, BALANCING HEAVEN AND EARTH. This text should be required reading for anyone working with dreams or the imagination as part of their spiritual journey. "In fact, no one "makes up" anything in the imagination. The material that appears in the imagination has to originate in the unconscious. .... Imagination is a TRANSFORMER that converts the invisible material into images the conscious mind can perceive." "Our isolation from the unconscious is synonymous with our isolation from our souls, from the life of the spirit. It results in the loss of our religious life, for it is in the unconscious that we find our individual conception of God and experience our deities. The religious function—this inborn demand for meaning and inner experience—is cut off with the rest of the inner life. … If we don’t go to the spirit, the spirit comes to us as neurosis."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gail

    I am not an analyst, although I've been fortunate to have an analyst guide me through some rough times. She recommended this book to me, and so I dutifully read it twice--and didn't quite "get it." Recently I read a reference to this book, and returned to it. Now I "get it." This book goes beyond trying to just document dreams to a four-step approach to Active Imagination--but with a warning that this activity shouldn't be entered into lightly, and preferably, at least at first, not alone; one s I am not an analyst, although I've been fortunate to have an analyst guide me through some rough times. She recommended this book to me, and so I dutifully read it twice--and didn't quite "get it." Recently I read a reference to this book, and returned to it. Now I "get it." This book goes beyond trying to just document dreams to a four-step approach to Active Imagination--but with a warning that this activity shouldn't be entered into lightly, and preferably, at least at first, not alone; one should have a guide or companion. I've begun to realize that where before, with help, I may have encountered some cues to the unconscious and tried to understand them and incorporate the messages into my consciousness--now, I find that I do this alone, and comfortably. I wonder if some of what I thought I didn't get earlier from this guide somehow seeped into my psyche after all. There are some beautiful things in this book. I was intrigued with the emphasis Mr. Johnson gave to the benefit of rituals, the subjectivity of interpreting one's own experiences, and the whole, well, 'cosmos' of concepts relating to just that: relating. Being aware and having the patience and courage to pay attention and devote time and effort to find your way into and through what you can't directly experience and understand--but for the aids of symbolic imagery and interpretation. I view Inner Work--the desire and ability to engage with symbolic messages that occur in dreams or imagination--as a means to dialog with parts of myself that heretofore I might have just waved away as irrelevant. But one's unconscious harbors huge reservoirs of information that is critically relevant to your life; casually dismiss it at your peril.

  3. 5 out of 5

    culley

    DIY Jungian dream work and active imagination. Working on dreams in therapy is wonderful and indulgent, but nine times out of ten when doing dream work you are on your own. This book provides a practical approach for working with dreams, and it also details the process of active imagination. This book is about as practical as a book on dreams can be. There are many ways to work on yourself, many styles and different approaches, something for everyone. Dream work is just another technique, but it DIY Jungian dream work and active imagination. Working on dreams in therapy is wonderful and indulgent, but nine times out of ten when doing dream work you are on your own. This book provides a practical approach for working with dreams, and it also details the process of active imagination. This book is about as practical as a book on dreams can be. There are many ways to work on yourself, many styles and different approaches, something for everyone. Dream work is just another technique, but it is, in my opinion, a pretty classy option. I intend to stay with it. This book is now one of my trusted resources. I really took the highlighter to it, poor thing.

  4. 4 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~ ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣

    Dreamwork archetypal analysis.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Avalon

    The single best book on dream analysis I’ve had the pleasure of reading. I highly recommend if you want to expand your knowledge on dreamwork and making the unconscious conscious.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Chiraz Ben a

    I have only read 1/3 of the book but I feel like I have opened a Pandora's Box. It has been one "aha" moment after another ever since I started reading this book a couple days ago. Just blew my mind away!! It opened my eyes to, what to me is, the Greatest SECRET of the Universe: the essence of the total self, relationship between the conscious and subconscious, the subconscious as the source of all creativity and language, the symbolic language that the subconscious uses to communicate with the I have only read 1/3 of the book but I feel like I have opened a Pandora's Box. It has been one "aha" moment after another ever since I started reading this book a couple days ago. Just blew my mind away!! It opened my eyes to, what to me is, the Greatest SECRET of the Universe: the essence of the total self, relationship between the conscious and subconscious, the subconscious as the source of all creativity and language, the symbolic language that the subconscious uses to communicate with the conscious mind through dream images and imagination, the notion of the collective subconscious of all of humankind, and how fairytales and myths are an expression of it. Being a scientist who has always prided herself in her superior rational thinking abilities, another major epiphany for me has been about the major disconnect in modern culture between science and the spiritual/religious. I guess with all the great scientific and technological feats of the past century, a lot of us have gotten a little too cocky, over confident about the capabilities of the rational mind, and have degraded or dismissed the spiritual and religious to the realm of pure personal belief.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Amé

    Excellent introductory book to (unsupervised) Jungian dream analysis and active imagination for beginners. The author gives an approachable overview of such necessary jungian terms as unconscious, archetypes, symbols, ego, consciousness and individuation and how their interplay in dream and active imagination images, when properly understood and directly related to our everyday life through ritual (the translating of spirit into matter or of intellectual understanding into physical reality), the Excellent introductory book to (unsupervised) Jungian dream analysis and active imagination for beginners. The author gives an approachable overview of such necessary jungian terms as unconscious, archetypes, symbols, ego, consciousness and individuation and how their interplay in dream and active imagination images, when properly understood and directly related to our everyday life through ritual (the translating of spirit into matter or of intellectual understanding into physical reality), they contribute to a deepening and widening of our consciousness and goad us steadily on the journey to individuation. This does not claim to be the ultimate book on dream analysis because there simply cannot be such a book. When it comes to inner work one can only get so much from books the most valuable contribution being one's lifelong commitment to the painstaking journey itself. I heartily recommend this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Paterson

    I have often wondered why we dream, and where the stuff of dreams comes from. This book answers those questions from a Jungian perspective and shows the reader how to interpret dream material and other things that emerge from the unconscious aspects of our minds. I certainly have a new perspective on dreams as symbolic communication, but I expect that many people would need help to interpret their dreams using the deceptively simple method outlined.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Travis Boren

    I found this book to be very instructive as far as an actual way to increase awareness of our subconscious--a practical guide, one isn't a virtually useless dream-dictionary or full of stereotypical analysis platitudes. I guess that's what I was predisposed to believe; that this would be stereotypically Jungian book and prove to be too mystical or unusable for me. I found this was a prejudice that I had, and that I was judging the book literally by its cover. Although there are still small insta I found this book to be very instructive as far as an actual way to increase awareness of our subconscious--a practical guide, one isn't a virtually useless dream-dictionary or full of stereotypical analysis platitudes. I guess that's what I was predisposed to believe; that this would be stereotypically Jungian book and prove to be too mystical or unusable for me. I found this was a prejudice that I had, and that I was judging the book literally by its cover. Although there are still small instances of what I would consider mysticism, (and therefore not really logical/provable/reliable theories), the overall value of the book is not harmed by this. There is a conscise introduction about the general characteristics of the unconscious--the conflicts, the parts, (or different subselves), the archetypes. The dream section is made in steps, and when I use the steps methodologically, analyzing/getting value from my dreams does not feel overwhelming as it always has been. It has many examples to concretize what the steps mean, and lots of common questions answered--most all that popped up in my head were answered shortly after they came up. I've personally made some progress with recognizing what conflicts dreams are illustrating as well. The Active Imagination section was something that I thought sounded very cooky at first glance, but it turns out to be very sound in what it actually meant; its similar to the inner dialogue process that is done in Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy. This is where we participate in an active dialogue with different parts, or "selves," that are in our subconscious. It merges our conscious questions with our subconscious parts that all have needs, desires, and personalities of their own. The "active" in Active Imagination is to denote the conscious participation of our interaction with the subconscious, as contrasted with passive fantasy. As someone who's done IFS for about 6 months and has seen its value, I really took a lot of useful information from this part of the book. It was a strength to have this Active Imagination section written from a Jungian perspective, and it addresses some things that IFS, to my knowledge, doesn't. If you've ever wanted to understand the practical ways in which you can change your relationship with your unconscious, of which that have had a long history of being effective, then this book is for you. It is a very well laid out guide to understanding the mechanisms of inner work and why they are effective.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    2012 rating: Wow, what a year in therapy with a Jungian will do. This book sings to me now and I'm at a place where I am open minded enough to do work that I once was highly skeptical of. Putting the Active Imagination exercise to work has proved to be eye-opening and helping me dig further into the layers of my unconscious and my depression. 2011 rating: 3 stars: I wish they had an star rating that meant "unsure". This book was both easy to read and hard to grasp at the same time. The concepts 2012 rating: Wow, what a year in therapy with a Jungian will do. This book sings to me now and I'm at a place where I am open minded enough to do work that I once was highly skeptical of. Putting the Active Imagination exercise to work has proved to be eye-opening and helping me dig further into the layers of my unconscious and my depression. 2011 rating: 3 stars: I wish they had an star rating that meant "unsure". This book was both easy to read and hard to grasp at the same time. The concepts of dream work and shadow/unconscious/ego made sense to me and further fleshed out the Jungian books I have read. The new idea of Active Imagination work left me wondering and confused a little. It helped explain exactly what Jung was up to when he was writing "weird" things in his autobiography but left me lost as if it was a practice I could put in place myself or the merits of doing so. All in all further food for thought.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ashwini Murthy

    I'm a big fan of Carl Jung. I've read other books on Jungian psychology. But loved this book because it's so easy to understand. The nice thing about this book is that it provides practical methods for working with dreams and imagination. I've been maintaining a dream journal for 2 years now. Reading this book gave me better clarity. But the methods outlined in the book are rather difficult and tedious to follow and don't work for me every time. The unconscious doesn't seem to co-operate so easi I'm a big fan of Carl Jung. I've read other books on Jungian psychology. But loved this book because it's so easy to understand. The nice thing about this book is that it provides practical methods for working with dreams and imagination. I've been maintaining a dream journal for 2 years now. Reading this book gave me better clarity. But the methods outlined in the book are rather difficult and tedious to follow and don't work for me every time. The unconscious doesn't seem to co-operate so easily. especially active imagination. What seems to help me is the urge to understand or sometimes a flash of insight. Not so much a step by step method. Or, maybe I'm doing something wrong! Nevertheless, it's a great read

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marjorie

    This is an excellent work on the process of dream interpretation and is the first book to give me real confidence that I can interpret my own dreams. The process Johnson outlines is deceptively simple but it leads to some intense, evocative results. Beyond the mechanics of dream interpretation, the book is incredibly well written. Johnson is a thoughtful, engaging writer who puts words together in a way that we not only understand but enjoy reading.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jennie

    Fascinating and practical. If you want to do your own dream work this is a great tool to get you started. I need to read it again to really put what I’m learning to use.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sergio Lopez

    Excellent book for anyone who wants to begin inner work. Informative, practical, and easy to read. He gives great examples for how to work with dreams. Resonated with my experiences. I know I will return to this book often for its wealth of resources.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kris

    "Step Four: RITUALS... You have done your best to understand the dream with your mind. Now it is time to do something physical. This step is very important because it helps you to integrate your dream experience into your conscious waking life." (p.97) "People are usually surprised to learn that the most powerful rituals area the small ones, the subtle ones. It is not necessary to do big things or expensive things. In fact, it is counterproductive to put out huge amounts of time or energy on your "Step Four: RITUALS... You have done your best to understand the dream with your mind. Now it is time to do something physical. This step is very important because it helps you to integrate your dream experience into your conscious waking life." (p.97) "People are usually surprised to learn that the most powerful rituals area the small ones, the subtle ones. It is not necessary to do big things or expensive things. In fact, it is counterproductive to put out huge amounts of time or energy on your dream ritual... Keep your physical rituals small and subtle, and they will be more powerful. The ritual is a physical representation of the inner attitude change that the dream called for, and it is this level of change that is requested by the dream. It is also not a good idea to try to make a ritual out of talking about your dream or trying to explain yourself to others... The best rituals are physical, solitary, and silent: These are the ones that register most deeply with the unconscious." (p.99) "Four Principles for VALIDATING INTERPRETATIONS [OF DREAMS]: 1. Choose an interpretation that shows you something you didn't know. 2. Avoid the interpretation that inflates your ego or is self-congratulatory. 3. Avoid interpretations that shift responsibility away from yourself. 4. Learn to live with dreams over time - fit them into the long-term flow of your life." (p.94-95)

  16. 5 out of 5

    David Elliott

    Robert Johnson is well-known as the author of a series of books popularizing Jungian-inspired interpretations of gender and relationship (HE; SHE; WE). Like those and other of his works, he mixes helpful insight with a great deal of repetition and prescription. This particular work is no exception. The first half, which focuses on dream work, is stronger than the second, which addresses active imagination. Particularly in the second half, Johnson's habit of paraphrasing Jung without citing sourc Robert Johnson is well-known as the author of a series of books popularizing Jungian-inspired interpretations of gender and relationship (HE; SHE; WE). Like those and other of his works, he mixes helpful insight with a great deal of repetition and prescription. This particular work is no exception. The first half, which focuses on dream work, is stronger than the second, which addresses active imagination. Particularly in the second half, Johnson's habit of paraphrasing Jung without citing sources is very frustrating. But I'll give the book four stars simply because of its clear presentation of a Jungian-inspired process for both dream work and active imagination. Helpful— and I'd definitely supplement it with the 2010 compilation of Jung's writings on dreams, and one of Jeremy Taylor's works.

  17. 5 out of 5

    JeanAnn

    I'm taking a "Dreams" class at Synod School. This is one of the recommended books to read prior to class. I liked the book "Dream Theatres of the Soul" better. Even being reminded of the importance of dreams and visions in the Bible like those of Jacob and Joseph and quotes like "A dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read" (Talmud Jewish text 3rd-5th c. AD)and "Almost the greater part of mankind gets its knowledge of God from dreams" (Tertullian 2nd c. Church father), I I'm taking a "Dreams" class at Synod School. This is one of the recommended books to read prior to class. I liked the book "Dream Theatres of the Soul" better. Even being reminded of the importance of dreams and visions in the Bible like those of Jacob and Joseph and quotes like "A dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read" (Talmud Jewish text 3rd-5th c. AD)and "Almost the greater part of mankind gets its knowledge of God from dreams" (Tertullian 2nd c. Church father), I find a huge passion and commitment would be needed for true, in-depth dream work. I still remain a little skeptical and not willing to give it the needed commitment of time and study. And yet, I hope I'm not missing something important.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    This book speaks to two areas: Dreams and Active Imagination. It is a good overview of understanding dreams as reflections of our own inward struggles,the aim to be conscious of what is going on in us under the surface so that we might more holistic decisions. Johnson does well both describing the role and function of archetypes in dreams and emphasizing the need to interpret dreams from one's own personal experience and understandings. He depends heavily on Jung. Active Imagination is allowing This book speaks to two areas: Dreams and Active Imagination. It is a good overview of understanding dreams as reflections of our own inward struggles,the aim to be conscious of what is going on in us under the surface so that we might more holistic decisions. Johnson does well both describing the role and function of archetypes in dreams and emphasizing the need to interpret dreams from one's own personal experience and understandings. He depends heavily on Jung. Active Imagination is allowing unconscious imagery to come to the surface in order to consciously deal with inward struggles and bring resolution. Ultimately the book helps one to become aware of their inner inconsistencies, compromises, and dreams, so one can live more authentically, untangling the inner conflicts.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Eleanor Cowan

    I appreciate the empowering tools that invite me to become the primary authority of my own life. I learned that symbols are personal. For example, one person might interpret a dog in their dream as a symbol of loyalty, and another might see threat. I learned to relate to the dream in such a way that their meanings become 'felt' information all my own. The work we do to quietly enhance our own lives is always beneficial. A great book. Eleanor Cowan, author of : A History of a Pedophile's Wife: Mem I appreciate the empowering tools that invite me to become the primary authority of my own life. I learned that symbols are personal. For example, one person might interpret a dog in their dream as a symbol of loyalty, and another might see threat. I learned to relate to the dream in such a way that their meanings become 'felt' information all my own. The work we do to quietly enhance our own lives is always beneficial. A great book. Eleanor Cowan, author of : A History of a Pedophile's Wife: Memoir of a Canadian Teacher and Writer

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mary Karpel-Jergic

    This is a worthwhile read for understanding, in a straightforward and accessible fashion, some of Jung's theory about the unconscious and how it impacts upon our lives. It also provides quite a useful toolbox for analysing dreams based on Jung's ideas. He goes on to suggest active imagination as an another way of exploring our unconscious. So, dreams and imagination are how the unconscious tries to communicate with us but the language used is symbolic - so not as straigtforward as one might thin This is a worthwhile read for understanding, in a straightforward and accessible fashion, some of Jung's theory about the unconscious and how it impacts upon our lives. It also provides quite a useful toolbox for analysing dreams based on Jung's ideas. He goes on to suggest active imagination as an another way of exploring our unconscious. So, dreams and imagination are how the unconscious tries to communicate with us but the language used is symbolic - so not as straigtforward as one might think. I'm not sure if it's enough to attempt any self analysis but it is enough to make one seriously think about what might be going on in our heads that we have no idea about.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    So Good!! Lots of practical information to get a person started building a relationship with the energy systems swimming in the ocean of the unconscious. I've read plenty of Jung, but could never figure out how he did his analysis. Johnson does an excellent job filling in the gaps. Highly recommended if you're into not only learning the symbols your unconscious self is serving up, but interacting with them in a meaningful way in order to integrate them into your conscious self and become more wh So Good!! Lots of practical information to get a person started building a relationship with the energy systems swimming in the ocean of the unconscious. I've read plenty of Jung, but could never figure out how he did his analysis. Johnson does an excellent job filling in the gaps. Highly recommended if you're into not only learning the symbols your unconscious self is serving up, but interacting with them in a meaningful way in order to integrate them into your conscious self and become more whole. Good stuff.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Shanti Elliott

    Here's a sample of this cool book's Jungian teachings: We are all a rich mixture of archetypes, energies, and potentialities Some of the possibilities within us are never lived out because they look 'bad' or inferior to us. Our egos tend to classify anything they don't understand as 'bad,' an, naturally, we avoid looking at the things in us that make us uncomfortable. But if we can fined our way around our ego's prejudices, we are surprised to ind that some of these unlived or repressed qualities Here's a sample of this cool book's Jungian teachings: We are all a rich mixture of archetypes, energies, and potentialities Some of the possibilities within us are never lived out because they look 'bad' or inferior to us. Our egos tend to classify anything they don't understand as 'bad,' an, naturally, we avoid looking at the things in us that make us uncomfortable. But if we can fined our way around our ego's prejudices, we are surprised to ind that some of these unlived or repressed qualities turn out to be the finest strengths we have.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Miguel Solari

    Expand the possibilities, limits and understanding of life thru this practical Jungian analyst manual to navigating and distilling one’s subconscious dream and imagination escape into a cohesive active modality for self improvement. Pretty cool. It makes me want to read more Carl Jung. My own sense is that this isn’t the kind of work for the faint hearted or uncommitted or unwilling to be serious. Engaging in this stuff without proper guidance (at least closely following this book’s instructions Expand the possibilities, limits and understanding of life thru this practical Jungian analyst manual to navigating and distilling one’s subconscious dream and imagination escape into a cohesive active modality for self improvement. Pretty cool. It makes me want to read more Carl Jung. My own sense is that this isn’t the kind of work for the faint hearted or uncommitted or unwilling to be serious. Engaging in this stuff without proper guidance (at least closely following this book’s instructions or a professional’s) could make one go crazy. Read this book tho!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Neena Verma

    It is one of the most lucid and transformative work on helping one do the "Inner Work" , recognising, acknowledging & harmonising one's dark ' bright side. It call for courage to do such Inner Work, and Robert Johnson's deep approach helps one find that courage within. A brilliant read , whether one is on the path of personal awareness & growth , or as a practitioner of Depth Psychology. I received this book in my world for personal inner work, and amazingly it left me with empowering str It is one of the most lucid and transformative work on helping one do the "Inner Work" , recognising, acknowledging & harmonising one's dark ' bright side. It call for courage to do such Inner Work, and Robert Johnson's deep approach helps one find that courage within. A brilliant read , whether one is on the path of personal awareness & growth , or as a practitioner of Depth Psychology. I received this book in my world for personal inner work, and amazingly it left me with empowering strength to facilitate & support my family, friends & clients in their journey.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    This book was really useful for breaking down the process of dream analysis. It had a lot of examples and broke the process into steps that made it easy. I'd definitely recommend it for anyone interested in Jung's method of dream analysis. It makes a good starter point, though it is technical at time. With all the examples of each step that are given, it makes it easy to translate reading about it into doing it yourself.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    I've kept a dream journal for years and had fashioned my own methods of analysis and interpretation, but learned much from reading Johnson's book about skillful interpretation. I'm astounded by the messages in my dreams discovered by applying Johnson's simple 4 steps. The part I'm having the most fun with is the archetypal amplification but it's all good and revealing. The opening chapters were a bit wordy and redundant, but once he got to the dream work steps, it was highly interesting.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    An intriguing and approachable book that offers a sophisticated yet not overly technical view of dream work and how it can integrate with other psychological and spiritual practices to foster deeper self-knowledge. I found that some of the methods presented here align with some aspects of Ignatian spirituality as I have come to understand and practice it. I look forward to returning to my notes on this book and deepening the ideas and learning it stirred in me.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Larry

    This is the book I would recommend for someone interested in working with dreams. It's quite down-to-earth and practical. Captures the essence of Jung's ideas on this topic without all of Jung's mumbo-jumbo. I'm not quite ready to take the plunge with active imagination yet, but feel I understand it better after reading this book and could envision possibly giving it a try some day. Great book!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    This book will now serve me as a solid reference for both dreamwork and active imagination endeavors. Robert Johnson's four part dream analysis is the most revealing, useful, and fascinating I've learned so far...If ever I join or facilitate a dream-work group, this is the book and his is the format I will use. I recommend this highly for those engaged in deepening the dialogue with their own personal dreams and the images and visions that appear from the individual/collective unconscious.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Wendell

    3.5 stars. Overall, excellent suggestions for doing dream work. Some of his personal experiences/visions are a bit reminiscent of an old "hippie," but if one skims those passages there is much that is helpful. Fairly easy to understand for anyone--you don't need to be familiar with Jung; just enough discussion of archetypes to make inner work plausible.

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