Childsplay and Active Imagination Techniques



I consider myself to have been very fortunate as a child to have shared a best friendship with Karin, who was as much interested in creative imagination and adventure as I was. We were so interconnected through “childsplay” of various forms that when I remember my past in this life, I often say that my Childhood WAS Karin (…later extending to Barb, Diane, Ro, Pattie, Franco, Sebrena, Kery, Jan P,  Jan J, my sisters, Corinne, Gianmichele, Zvia, and Kathleen; gratitude for all these human companions, plus always my beloved pets!). But Karin and I had a special latitude in our very actively imaginative play, from when we were around 7 to 12. She lived with her mother in a beautiful, woodsy area in Pennsylvania; there were willow tree vines on which to swing across a creek, and lots of little green clearings within circles of large trees that made excellent forts, or rooms, or spaceships, or hiding places, or worlds. We played outdoors a lot in her yard: we played WWII soldiers, Indians (never cowboys), spies, and horses (that was my fave; we were just horses, wild and free, or one of us–playing a human–would rope and befriend the other, leading to many high spirited adventures!) Then indoors, when not practicing our violins together (we aimed to play “Santa Lucia” together at Carnegie Hall one day), we built elaborate universes, mansions made of Golden Book walls filling the upper and lower areas of a ping pong table at my family’s home. We created lives there for her Barbie, my Ken (yes, always the tomboy…); and we would weave adventurous, intricate life stories for our alter selves extending for over months at a time.


I am glad I had Karin as my playmate, along with family and other friend adventurers throughout childhood and beyond. I don’t remember ever closing down this creative flow and in fact I can gratefully say it has continued always, through writing, dreaming, daily contemplations, daydreams, reading, and travels. Compiling the Life Paths Portfolio Handbook as a self-help toolkit, based on coaching people who have used this method for their own life mapping adventures, has helped me remain engaged with my own Active Imagination playground!

Children toys

One vital tool for using active imagination as a personal growth and development sandbox is to establish an ongoing “Archetype Dialogue” contemplation and journaling practice, which I highly recommend for anyone. This is what Carl G. Jung engaged in, which he in fact called an active imagination process. For Jung it resulted in his The Red Book: Liber Novus, and it spawned his general approach to understanding and working with “Archetypes of the Unconscious.”


We all can have some access to our unconscious archetypal sub-selves—what I like to call our ensemble cast of mythic characters–through engaging our imaginative faculties and by remaining attentively engaged with our dreams. While some psychologists and others who have read of Jung’s forays into his Unconscious Archetypal domain through active imagination and journaling concluded this was evidence of Jung’s own psychological imbalance, he countered that since he was in control of when he would engage his archetypes and since he used these inner encounters to gain a more balanced and integrated Psyche, quite the opposite was true. Joseph Campbell similarly has cautioned that when people do NOT attend to their inner archetypal impulses, that could result in a form of ‘schizoid’ split in a person from “not listening to” their own inner selves, or Soul.


 Many scientists, artists, and writers have likewise relied upon active imagination to keep open to the Creative Wellspring within each of us that allows us to be adaptive, flexible, playful, creative and productive in making of our lives that which we would fashion out of choice rather than only of necessity.  It is said that Edison never slept more that 20 or so minute catnaps at a time in order to stay primed at that creative aperture of consciousness between waking and sleeping.  Many artists share how their ideas have come through visions either sought or unexpected, as have scientists such as Kekule, who in 1890 dreamed of a snake swallowing its own tail and thereby developed a model of a benzene ring. Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA with Watson, theorized it is important to use dreaming to ‘forget’ our non-productive or fixed ideas so that the subconscious mind can better explore and reveal its secrets.


The book and recently released film Heaven is for Real adds a spiritual dimension to the practice of active imagination which I believe is also very important.(Or, read Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander in this same vein.) OOBE’s, NDE’s, and some forms of dreaming (e.g. lucid dreams, prophetic dreams, past-life dreams, etc.) can reveal to us that there is so much more to Reality—and life and death—than can be understood by physical science alone.

Hot Air Balloon

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What are some favorite ways YOU exercise your Active Imagination?

Where does it take you to?

I welcome your Comments, Insights and Reveries!

11 thoughts on “Childsplay and Active Imagination Techniques

    • In the imagined past and future you are free to be all that you desire and choose. I like your idea of envisioning a ‘better’ person in both! Feel free to share any stories if you like!


  1. What an interesting and inspiring post! When I was a child, I also played and imagined that I was a horse, jumping and running 🙂
    I remember that I since the age of 12 love to “day dream” I created a man in my daydream, he was handsome, strong and he was there for me in every way. He told my brother not to hit or scream at me, he told my mother to leave me alone. he gaved me a blanket when I was cold and I always slept on the couch in his house, even if he offered me his bed ( and he slept on the floor) 🙂
    I had a pony by then, and I even imagined this man joineing me in the stable. It was this total platonic love, still I felt that one day it woudl be him and me. And he was waiting for me to some day be my man…It sound funny, but in that environment I lived in…he did an tremendous job…he protected a part of my soul.
    But one thing bothered me ..I couldn’t imagine his face. I saw his body his hair,,but not his face. I couldn’t imagine his face. Then as a grown up..out of the blue..I met him in a dream, and I saw his face…and I thought. It’s him. Then I woke up and I was so upset….because I couldn’t reach him, the dream was gone and still I missed him like if he had been a real person. Sometimes I wonder if I’m still searching for him in every man I meet, unconciously…


    • This man is real! He could be your “Animus” in Jungian terms; your own masculine sub-self. Or he could be a spiritual guide or companion, a Soul Friend. You are fortunate to have the awareness!


      • Thank you so much! I’m so glad and your comment made me feel hope and also pride! If he is a part of me, I feel so much joy and hope. 🙂


      • 🙂 Of course you know inwardly that He is real within you and beside you. I had a “blue man” friend as a child. He knew all my thoughts and was a loving presence. I found him later outwardly as my major spiritual guide. I recommend a book called The Journey of Souls by Michael Newton. This talks about “soul groups” and soul companions.


      • I would absolutely love to read this book Thank you so much! When I was a child and as a grown up I never mentioned him to anyone, I was afraid what people would say. It wasn’t an envioronment for those conversations. But this man… I still love him 🙂


      • Neat! I hope you find him…and/or welcome him inwardly. Archetype Dialogue is a practice I use to communicate with my inner (and soul companion) selves. You could dialogue with Him. Just open a journal, “sink down” to a place of calm repose inwardly, and put pen to paper (or just imagine without journaling). Write what you say and he says in return if you write it out. Another approach is to write him a letter, then let him write one back to you (like an automatic writing practice on the return side). Enjoy!


      • I’m so glad that I met you. And I would do this. Because I haven’t talked to him since I was young – but I do miss him. Thank you again!


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