The Role of Imagination in Healing & Growth
Another Chat with Jungian Analyst Vlado Solc
This is a followup to the Dose of Depth episode I’m about to publish. I’m excited to bring back Vlado Solc for the third time. He’s a Jungian analyst and psychotherapist practicing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Vlado focuses on psycho-spiritual crisis, which you can think of as losing meaning or a sense of direction in life. He also focuses on mind-body connection, immigration & cultural issues, and women’s empowerment. His treatment specialties include addiction, individual and marital psychotherapy, and youth populations.
Vlado has authored many articles, and he is the co-author of the book, Dark Religion: Fundamentalism from the Perspective of Jungian Psychology.
Links to my previous chats with Vlado, along with a recent blog post I wrote about his book:
Dose of Depth episode: Self-Reflection in a Time of Conspiracy Theories
Dose of Depth episode: Three Ways of Why
YouTube version: Three Ways of Why
Blog post: A Framework for Self-Reflection in a Time of Conspiracy Theories (w/review of Dark Religion)
I’m excited and nervous because I’m shaking it up today. I’m throwing away my usual template where I thoughtfully provide context for the topic and for exploring it through a depth psychology lens. Instead, we’re diving into the realm of the feminine, which requires a more meandering approach and embracing the mysterious unknown. This unknown, the unconscious, is where all the treasure is hiding, until we shine a light on it.
You’ve heard me say that the unconscious – your unconscious and the collective unconscious – seeks to create, to expand consciousness. New creations don’t come from the mind, although the mind, the masculine, partners with the feminine to bring form to what is seeking to be created. And, the most powerful creations, or insights, come from partnering with what feels like a mysterious force. It’s that being in the zone or groove with a task, surrendering to something that’s bigger than you, that flows through you to mix with your unique human experience, to create what only you and it, call it creative intelligence or God, can create.
Whether you’re seeking to create a whole new version of you or way of living or paying attention to the chaos out in the world that is pressuring us to create new systems in which to live as humans, your route to those new ideas is your imagination.
Vlado and I had a spontaneous conversation, that included vulnerable stories, experiences, drawings, and poetry to help you understand how imagination has contributed to our unfolding and how that’s related to how we’re showing up in the world. Enjoy! Try active imagination for yourself. If I can do it, you can too.
Sharing Our Experiences w/Active Imagination
Drawing Like a Child
My first experience with active imagination was after it sunk in that I would be ending my twenty-four year marriage. One of my favorite bars was owned by an artist. Sometimes we would draw together. One evening, I told my mind to take a hike and after staring at the page, not knowing what to do, my hand took over. The space remaining in the center of the page after I drew all those lines was in the shape of a heart. I colored it in so hard, and then I cried. I felt vulnerable, like a kindergartner, but that was the point. My buried child energy unleashed in the form of spontaneous cartwheels, a new love for beach volleyball, and skipping down the sidewalk listening to pop music. If I had not allowed myself to draw like a child, that shift might not have happened.
Drawing an Embodied Dream w/Active Imagination
By fifty-one, I had divorced, gotten a new job, and was working on getting accepted into the PhD program. Oh, and I was taking a break after a series of encounters with younger men who helped me come into deeper relationship with my body and sexuality. I was feeling in control again until . . . one day at the beach, I got swept up by another younger man. I thought I was just having fun until . . .
I had this dream:
I’m in a restroom at a state park;
it’s cold, dark, and empty.
I can’t see my way out.
I walk slowly, my hands out in front of me,
dragging my feet across the floor.
Suddenly, I fall backwards down the hill.
There’s only blackness, but the soft warm breeze,
and freshly fallen leaves cradle me.
I feel so trusting.
I awoke feeling more safe and secure than I ever had in my life. Drawing the Image helped me hang onto that feeling, and my imagination told me to add a pair of hands beneath my falling body. I didn’t realize that the dream was my psyche’s way of telling me I had to feel my way through the dramatic and transformative relationship. It was also assuring me I would be able to handle it.
Once she calls, you have to let go,
there’s no resisting – that you must know.
When she pulls you down, and injects with the poisonous dose,
When she scratches your veins with her pointy claws…
You have no chance to win this match,
Just open your heart and surrender her touch.
Though… She’s not up to kill,
She just want you to feeeeeel
To hear, to smell, to undertake
Her voice and her’s darkest quake!
You must hold it, despite her screaming,
You must listen and not fall down,
Look for love and look for meaning,
She needs your eyes, she needs your palm to keep her calm.
If you fight her you had already lost,
If you ignore her she’ll turn into your nightmare ghost.
Just ask her why and what she wants,
And make her a companion,
Don’t fear her darkness that loudly moans,
Make your calm wisdom to be your stallion.
You quickly find she has the power only when you buy her game,
She needs you as much you need her
To stop the pain, to break the scam.
Just kiss her lips, oh.. touch her hair…
By closeness you create the distance,
By the distance you become free,
By the freedom you break the resistance,
By this you are now the one that meant to be.
Writing Poetry to Discover Meaning
A year after being swept up in the ironic love affair, so much had changed, including an odd sense of loyalty to the man who got sent back to prison (I had no idea he had ever been in prison). What did this relationship mean? What did this man mean to me? Drawing and writing poetry were a mysterious way of connecting with a deeper part of me that knew I had to see something through. Only now can I see that Phillip was the route to a deeper relationship with my feminine and Self.
Engaging with Fantasy Images
Only now do I realize my strange sense of loyalty to that man while he was in prison was to keep me from being distracted from going inward.
During meditation, images of chalices and bowls, and light coming in and out of my head brought unexpected arousal.
The submission fantasy that plagued me found meaning in a drawing, which caused another shift in me. I finally surrendered to my strange life and the uncertainty that was in front of me.
A subsequent series of dreams about the penis, the phallus, was preparing me to unleash creatively.
Dreams, Hot Flashes & Anger
I call it Womb on Fire. Active imagination that engaged my emotions, menopausal symptoms, dream images, and frustration with my relationship allowed for a powerful shift to occur that brought certainty about things.
I had invited my man to move in with me after he had served his time. Yikes! It had to be done, but drawing the Image unleashed certainty about ending the relationship eleven weeks later, which then led to unleashing creativity in the form of a workshop to discuss my research.
The Image reflects the dramatic alchemical process inside me. I went on to detach from more conventional situations, packed up and moved to a beach town and was able to withstand the uncertainty of where my life was going.
I couldn’t have gotten where I am today without active imagination, which brought insights and caused inner shifts that would never have happened through my protective mind.
Feeling Inspired and Want to Try?
There’s no right way to work with your images, which are not only visual. Images are more like impressions. Follow what intrigues you and just be with it, allow it to move you, to wash over you. Then journal about your experience, and don’t be afraid to write a Tanka poem (learn how here) or start drawing in an Image journal. It’s not about being an artist, rather it’s about engaging your whole being in a way your mind can’t and won’t because it’s mostly protective in nature.
You can learn the basics about the language of the unconscious and active imagination in my book, Your Soul is Talking. Are You Listening?
It’s a great handbook but you can also listen to me read it on Dose of Depth Podcast. Here’s Chapter One: The Discovery of You. If you’d like a crash course in active imagination, schedule an exploratory chat via my heal.me profile or send me an email at email@example.com.
If you embrace awkwardness, I promise you’ll feel things you never knew were possible!