A Web and then Wings; and On Jungian Active Imagination

It’s Tuesday, a few minutes after noon. I’m at the kitchen table. Madeline is beside me working on her next mural, which will be going up in a spa in Capitol Hill. I should be at work today. I texted my foreman at 3:30am, when I woke up a few minutes before my alarm at 3:45; I told him that I wasn’t feeling well and that I would be taking the day off. Later in the morning, I got a text from my foreman’s foreman asking if I had any COVID symptoms, which I don’t.

I didn’t lie. I said I wasn’t feeling well. And, I wasn’t. I was exceptionally tired because I had a late night, and I don’t think I have had a full 8-hours of sleep in about two weeks. Maybe that counts as a lie of omission. I don’t think people normally call in sick because they didn’t sleep enough. I think the unspoken rule is that a person calls in because they’re suffering from something that wasn’t really their choice, like a car accident or the flu. (Although, from what I have seen when other people call in, many cases of the flu are closely and mysteriously correlated with birthdays, sports games, and new stories about night clubs.)

I want to say that my performance at work has gone down in the past two weeks, but that’s not exactly right. My productivity has increased because of how much I have been learning. But my attitude has gotten worse. I started happy, chipper, but that’s starting to get worn down by tedium and rote tasks. I’m sure some people appreciate the stability of routine and predictability, but it drives me insane.

I would rather deal with uncertainty.

Well, not just any uncertainty.

Anyway, at work, I’ve been cursing more than I should. I have been irritable. Inattentive. I haven’t been as useful as I should be, and I think it’s because 1. I am not where I am supposed to be, and 2. the newness of the job has worn off, so I need to renew my attitude. I need to rediscover my purpose for being there. It’s too easy for me to roll my eyes and say, “All I’m doing here is making someone else more rich than I am, why should I care about this work?”

Even though that is true, there is more to the ordeal. I am paid a reasonable wage. And there is some self-actualizing potential in work. And I am learning and meeting people. But I don’t want to work for a wage, but I have to—for now.

Moving Onward

I’m listening to The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, and he describes an entrepreneur as person working in a startup—a human institution designed to create new products and services under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

That strikes me as interesting. I’m not sure what else to say about that other than I’m going to begin investing time and energy into seeing if I can start a company that allows me to do what I want to do.

How to start?

Well, the first step is complete: sincerely ask, “How to start?”

Active Imagination

Recently I have been posting some of my fantasies/daydreams without giving much background. I’ve posted similar things in the past, like the ghost who says things whose meaning I do not know and in my last blog post where I ended the post by mentioning a vision of four wings. What I am doing is something called active imagination (Wikipedia link). I’ve been doing it for around six years. I have one notebook dedicated to big fantasies. I write down other fantasies in random note books. But more importantly, I have a folder in my phone where I write down fantasies and daydreams; I started in January 2016, and I have 529 entries, the lastest of which only says:

The angel with four wings and many eyes. 
An ear piercing screech”

(The angel is made up of four wings, not a four-winged person.)

I learned how to do active imagination from the following books:
Jung on Active Imagination and
Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth by Robert A. Johnson

The main idea is pretty simple, and it’s kind of like lucid dreaming: you can actively engage with any of your fantasies by taking one frame or one element of any of your fantasies and holding it in your mind for as long as you can. When the image becomes clear enough, you can begin to observe more detail or interact with it.

Paying attention to a particular fantasy object increases the valence/libido/energy that the object (or image) has. And then it comes alive. However it’s possible to consciously change the fantasy according to your caprices, which is the line that separates fantasy from hallucination; hallucinations can take the form of fantasies that don’t go away. But the type of psychological progress that I am looking for requires giving fantasies autonomy. I let the fantasies speak for themselves.

This is basically what fiction writers do: they let a character come to them, and then they keep thinking about the character and speaking with the character in their mind, and they let their characters speak with the other characters. The difference here is that I am not writing a novel. I treat these imagined landscapes, elements, and personalities as part of my unconscious nature. When I engage with these elements, I am learning about myself, my creative energies, my neuroses, the possibilities of what I can experience.

My fantasies—all of them—somehow—correspond with my present being, my emotional/intellectual/social state. As I consciously and intentionally engage with the outside world or the inside world, they both change.
—meaningful conversations with other people change you; meaningful conversations with yourself change you.

Note: if you begin this process and you’re kind of shy or feel awkward, the first thing that you’re probably going to encounter is going to be your shadow. (Which, in my experience was awkward sex things, painful/embarrassing memories, trivial frustrations, and made-up arguments with strawmen that you always win. Also see: Jung’s take on the alchemical stage/motif of the Nigredo.)

—Okay that was a long digression. I’ll just have to use all of that to write an essay/article on active imagination. I intended to transcribe my latest written fantasy, but time has slipped away today. (I need to learn to budget my time.)

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