I began “My Symbolic Quest” under the guidance of the late Dr. William A. Sturm, professor of philosophy at Virginia Wesleyan College, while taking his course, “The Symbolic Life: Creating a Synthesis,” in the spring of 1990. It was in his class that I made the exciting discovery of C. G. Jung’s work, including his book, Man and His Symbols. It was also in his class that I learned about Jung’s active imagination technique, which I used in my efforts to interpret the terrible, recurring dreams I had of dead or drowning babies.
Bridges Ego, Psyche
In 1913, Jung began developing a technique he coined “active imagination,” which he believed could serve as a bridge between our unconscious fantasies and fears and our conscious ego. The active imagination technique allows our unconscious, our inner Self, to speak to our conscious egos through visualization, automatic drawing, or any other art form of our choosing. But Jung repeatedly warned that communicating with one’s own psyche is not without danger. It is strongly advised that you seek professional guidance if you wish to practice this technique or any other technique that may be discussed herein.
Sums up AI
Dr. Robert Hernandez, a licensed psychologist, does an excellent job of describing Jung’s active imagination technique in a two-minute video on YouTube. He explains what the AI technique is and how you can use it to open a dialogue with an image that may otherwise mystify you. In my efforts to figure out what my unconscious was trying to tell me through the imagery of the dead infant in my dreams, I chose automatic writing to practice Jung’s active imagination technique (under Dr. Sturm’s careful direction, of course).
Recurring Dead Baby Dream
I’m holding a dead baby, which I recognized as a newborn, although it’s greatly oversized, like the size of a toddler, and it’s heavy and hard.
Help Me Save the Baby Dream
An infant is lying on the floor. I realize it isn’t breathing or moving. [Unlike abnormal size and appearance in previous dreams, this infant looks normal.] A rectangular little box-like contraption that has three or four circles of numbers indicated to me that the baby was alive. But then they went blank. I ran around screaming, trying to get help. I wanted someone to help save the baby. The baby made a noise and moved, and I thought that babies wouldn’t do that if they were dead. I realized this baby MUST be alive, but I had trouble believing it.
First AI with Dead Baby
After minimizing the possibility of any distractions, I sat at the table, paper and pencil at hand, and relaxed. As I began to think about the dead infant, I unconsciously drew a vertical rectangle with four boxes in it, which have four more boxes in them. I also drew what looked to me like a hairball at the base of the rectangle.
Me: “Do you represent my dead husband?”
Dead Infant: “I represent the dead things in your life.”
(I noticed at that second that I had drawn the hairball, but was too afraid to talk to the hairball yet, so I discontinued the active imagination.)
Dr. Sturm’s notes about the hairball (his underlines):
The hairball seems very scary. Why? Presumably because it represents some muddle or unconscious confusion in your life that you are afraid to face but that you will have to face if you are to awaken the still “dead” (numb) parts of yourself. It tells you what you need: I am the dead parts (numb feelings?) in you. Dead parts could be:
•Feelings of self-worth that “died” long ago when you felt inadequate to cope with a crisis. •Feelings of love, for yourself and/or others, that you have numbed because they were painful. •Willpower to break dependency patterns (smoking).
The child may contain all these latent strengths. But you forfeit them so long as you are afraid to address the muddle.
Second AI with Dead Baby
Me: “I dreamed of you a few years ago, and thought I knew what you represented.”
Dead Infant: I want— I want—. (The baby began to cry, then sniffled, and began sucking its thumb.)
Me: “Why are you crying?”
Dead Infant: (No response. Still sucking its thumb.)
Me: “Can you tell me what’s wrong?”
Dead Infant: I want—because I want my mommy.
Me: “Who is your mother?”
Dead Infant: Joyce.
Me: “But we were just with her for several days. We had a great visit—.”
Dead Infant: But it’s not the same.
Me: “I know. I know. But what can we do?”
Dead Infant: (No response. The baby rolled up in the fetal position, like in a cocoon, like the hairball image.)
Dr. Sturm’s notes about the infant and Joyce:
Here’s the real infant in you. Your real wants. Not the oughts. Not the fears. But the real longings for life and growth. “Mother” is not the historical mother, but nurture, security, love of oneself, which resembles the love that can also come from Joyce.
Third AI with Dead Baby
Me: “Don’t cry. Please don’t cry,” I say again and again, tears welling up in my eyes, my heart breaking.
The baby is across from me as if someone is holding it up, but no one else is visible. Like something exploded, the baby began to snap its jaws together, making biting gestures toward me, like a mad jaws or a monster. Its back is to me but its neck is craned around so its face is facing me. It keeps snapping at me but it’s not close enough to bite me.
Me: “Please don’t be mad. Just talk to me. I love you. I’m sorry. Please tell me what’s wrong.”
I took the baby in my arms, cradling it, hugging it, comforting it. It punched me in the head and began strangling me. It began biting me in the shoulder and neck. There was no blood or physical pain, only emotional pain.
Crying myself, I told the baby to please calm down, that it had to calm down if we were to talk, that I was in control that—I don’t know—what I said after that. The next thing I knew I was singing a lullabye to the baby until it fell asleep on my shoulder.
Dr. Sturm’s notes about “Don’t cry.”
Let it cry. The tears are healing.
Dr. Sturm’s notes about snapping jaws and biting:
Here is some hidden self-anger. Ask “Why am I angry with myself in this way?