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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.

221 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1986

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About the author

Robert A. Johnson

64 books615 followers
Robert A. Johnson is a noted lecturer and Jungian analyst in private practice in San Diego, California. He has studied at the Jung Institute in Switzerland and at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in India.

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5 stars
1,268 (50%)
4 stars
831 (32%)
3 stars
320 (12%)
2 stars
90 (3%)
1 star
17 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 208 reviews
Profile Image for Elizabeth Andrew.
Author 5 books128 followers
May 17, 2012
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."
Profile Image for culley.
191 reviews29 followers
April 19, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Gail.
22 reviews5 followers
July 9, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Ugnė.
541 reviews114 followers
June 14, 2022
Esu šališka C.G. Jungo ir ko pasekėjų vertintoja - (dažniausiai) man ten viskas aišku, įdomu ir atrodo, kad visiems reikalinga. Bet čia tikrai aišku :D ir suprantamai parašyta, kaip analizuoti savo sapnus ir dirbti su savo vaizduote, tik perskaityti ir pritaikyti belieka.

2022-ųjų papildymas - skaičiau, nes prisireikė vienas užsiėmimui. Vėl nustebau, kaip viskas paprastai ir neprimityviai parašyta. Iš kitos pusės, aiškiau matau, kad čia tik pirmieji žingsniai ir norintiems eiti toliau skaityti irgi reikės daugiau.
Profile Image for Morgan Blackledge.
620 reviews2,030 followers
December 29, 2019
This book is founded on the very psychoanalytic presuppositions that (a) an important (deep) part of who we are can only understand the world symbolically, (b) our adult, rational processes are unable to directly access these deeply symbolic aspects of our selves, and (c) we need to adopt special ‘playful’ ways of engaging and encountering our ‘deep symbolic self in order to understand and interact with it.

I put the word ‘playful’ in those weird ‘half quote’ thingies (that I still don’t entirely understand how to use) because I want to draw attention to the special usage of this word.

When someone from the psychodynamic tradition says ‘playful’ what they mean is the very advanced, very adult capacity to knock an idea around, get curious with it, explore it, flexibly adopt different cognitive stances and look at it from different perspectives.

Any creative knows that this type of ‘play’ can be really fucking demanding and deadly serious.

I’m clarifying all of this (in part) because I myself am literally allergic to the goofy, hippy, infantilizing, human potential movement style, experiential therapy techniques popular in the 60s and 70s.

These interventions were posited as playful, but they were gross and un-boundaried and always awkward.

It’s like play therapy for lame extroverts.


That is precisely the awful and creepy type of thing I avoid and resent.

But this ain’t (necessarily) one of those.

If you dread those like I do.

Fear not.

Active imagination is a therapeutic self inquiry technique that uses the imagination to engage, encounter and better understanding these aspects of our psychological selves that are otherwise obscure or unclear.

But it does not require singing and dancing or any other kind of public display of catharsis.

Unless you’re into that type of thing.


Inner work is an accessible, plain spoken accounting of the dream interpretation and the active imagination process and their theoretical underpinnings, with easy to self-implement ‘how to’ sections.

I liked this book a lot.

I found it to be sober, clear, useful and quite inspirational at times.

I have been tinkering with the dream analysis techniques and imaginal processes described in the book to great effect in my personal life and professionally in my capacity as a therapist.

The book feels a little dated and dry at times, but that’s a feature not a flaw in so far as it deals with a topic that can easily become so dooshy and woo woo as to inspire any normal, sane, critical thinker to stop drop and roll.

In other words.

This is a reasonable, practical guide to doing dream work and inner exploration, sans the new age pewp.

I prescribe a lot of books in my therapeutic work with people.

That being said.

I’m very very conservative with the books I recommend to clients.

I only recommend books that I have read carefully, and that are sober, smart, useful, and well written.

Inner Work will definitely make that cut.

The only reason I’m not giving it 5 stars is because I started reading Mind Fixers by Annie Harrington right afterward and it’s so good that it’s currently wrecking me for other books (past, present and future).

So like 4.75 stars I guess 🤔
Profile Image for Frahmani110.
67 reviews12 followers
December 24, 2017
در دیدگاه روانکاوی، رویا شاهراه دسترسی به ناخودآگاه افراده، این کتاب سعی میکنه با نجتوضیح راهکاری چهار مرحله‌ای، به آدمها یاد بده که چطور باید معنای رویاها رو درک کنند و از این طریق با ناخودآگاه خود ارتباط برقرار کنند ...
Profile Image for Saeed Ramazany.
Author 1 book67 followers
November 30, 2018
چاپ بنیاد فرهنگ زندگی رو خوندم که بخش دوم کتاب، تخیل فعلانه، رو در یک جلد دیگه به همین اسم ترجمه کرده.
۵ ستاره دادم، نه به خاطر لزوما خود کتاب، بلکه به خاطر ایده‌ی خوبش و این که خیلی طولش نداده. اضافه ننوشته و همین قدری که هست رو فقط شاید ۲۰ ۳۰٪ میشد حذف کرد.

عنوان انگلیسی کتاب، Inner Work Using Dreams & Active Imagination For Personal Growth
عنوان خیلی بهتریه برا کتاب و نمی‌دونم چرا «تحلیل کاربردی خواب و رویا» ترجمه‌ش کردند.

تو این کتاب می‌خونیم که چطور با بررسی و وقت گذاشتن روی خواب‌هامون می‌تونیم به خودشناسی و رشد بیشتری برسیم و چقدر مفید‌تره که این بخش از زندگی‌مون رو حذف نکنیم. رویاهایی که می‌بینیم نشان‌گر بخش‌های گوناگونی از وجود و انرژی‌های درونی ماست و اگر نادیده بگیریمشون و سرکوبشون کنیم، حذف نمی‌شن. بلکه اغلب به صورت مضری خودشون رو نشون می‌دن و باعث می‌شن اون زندگی خوبی که رو که می‌تونیم، نداشته باشیم.
نزدیک به یک سوم از زنده بودن ما به خواب می‌گذره و برا همین رویه‌ی شخصی خودم هست که در مورد خواب و رویاها بیشتر بخونم و بیشتر بفهمم.
Profile Image for Setare Talebzade.
26 reviews5 followers
August 27, 2019
من از این نویسنده خوشم نمیاد!
ولی چون شاگرد یونگه میخونم کتاباشو
این کتاب اول به نظرم خیلی تئوری و تخیلی ( دقیقا سبک نویسنده) اومد
ولی اواخر کتاب روشش رو برای یکی از خوابهام استفاده کردم و نتیجه شگفت‌انگیز بود!
برخلاف تمام کتابهای تعبیر خواب اب دوغ خیاری توی بازار میگه هیچ تعبیر خوابی برای همه ادمها درست نیست و رویا مکالمه بین خوداگاه و ناخوداگاه به زبان ناخوداگاه یعنی سمبل هاست
و این سمبل ها برای هرفرد متفاوته
در نهایت واقعا کاربردی بود
Profile Image for Chiraz Ben a.
17 reviews3 followers
May 5, 2017
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.

Profile Image for Avalon.
141 reviews50 followers
March 10, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Sonya.
458 reviews295 followers
April 25, 2018
اين نوشته از رابرت الكس جاكسون، شرح تكنيكي براي ارتباط با خويشتن دروني مي باشد، تخيل فعال ارتباط بين "من" و بخش هايي از ناخودآگاه است كه قطع رابطه كرده اند.
با اين تكنيك مواردي در روان فرد آشكار شده و راهي براي تماميت و آگاهي مي باشد. اين روش محتويات ناخودآگاه را بيرون آورده، لباس تصاوير به آنها پوشانده و آن ها را به ذهن آگاه منتقل مي كند. هر چيزي كه به سطح تخيل مي آيد پيش از آنكه شكل تصوير به خود بگيرد جايي در بافت ناخودآگاه دارد.
اين تكنيك در واقع از يافته هاي كارل گوستاويونگ بوده و او به شرح تجربه هاي فرواني از اين موارد پرداخته است.
14 reviews
May 10, 2013
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.
Profile Image for Marjorie.
Author 4 books4 followers
November 8, 2014
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.
Profile Image for Rob.
750 reviews4 followers
May 22, 2012
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.
July 14, 2016
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
Profile Image for Andrea Paterson.
504 reviews12 followers
March 16, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Emily.
208 reviews6 followers
September 19, 2020
Soooo interesting. I started reading this while engaged in a course on meditation and the body's subtle energy systems. Dreams were referenced as a way to engage with our inner selves and I remembered I had this book on my shelf. I hadn't realized it was a Jungian approach to creating a meaningful relationship with one's unconscious selves. Absolutely fabulous, and I think I'll be absorbing and going back to this one for a while.
Profile Image for Wamuyu Thoithi.
59 reviews16 followers
July 17, 2022
4.5 stars. Really great book based on Jungian perspectives of the unconscious. I learnt a lot about what dreams reveal about our unconsciouslQ
and how to interact with, and learn from dreams

.Not giving this five stars because part of the second half of the book on “active imagination” was lost on me. Maybe with more inner work I will understand the applications of active imagination better. 10/10 recommend. We w
Tf doc
Profile Image for Sogand Rmz.
11 reviews3 followers
August 28, 2018
كتاب آسان فهم و بسيار كاربردي بود كه در يك جلد ،چهار جلد تحليل روياي گوستاو يونگو توضيح داد...
Profile Image for Swathi Muthu.
65 reviews
August 9, 2021
I’ve always found it hard to grasp Jungian concepts. While fascinating, Jung’s works are also highly imaginative and theoretical. I liked the core philosophy of Jungian psychology but I didn’t know how to apply it to daily life. This book helps with that. It is practical, step-by-step guide on Jungian dream analysis. It concisely explained complex concepts while at the same time, offering DIY steps to understand the unconscious. I liked the author’s emphasis on finding our personal meanings for symbols instead of relying on widely publicised accounts of archetypes and symbols. That gave some credibility to the role of the self in making sense of the world.
Profile Image for Freesiab.
948 reviews44 followers
November 3, 2021
I used this book to write a paper for my grad school application. It was extremely well written and described for any person at any level to dive into dream work and active imagination.
Profile Image for Shakiba Shamloo.
49 reviews12 followers
March 21, 2020
برخلاف نظر دوستان، تو این کتاب در مورد تحلیل رویا حرف چندانی نزده. بحث تخیل فعال خیلی متفاوت از تحلیل رویاست. در واقع راه دسترسی به ناخودآگاه و یه جوری آگاهانه رفتار کردن با ناخودآگاه رو توضیح میده. دقت کنید که نه کنترل ناخودآگاه، رفتار کردن و تعامل داشتن با ناخودآگاه.
برای حل و فصل کردن گره های ذهنی کاربرد داره، نه برای تعبیر خواب و تحلیل رویا. شاید به یه مقدار دانش نمادشناسی و نشانه شناسی هم احتیاج داشته باشه.
Profile Image for Travis Boren.
8 reviews2 followers
March 24, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Keith.
331 reviews8 followers
January 16, 2014
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.
Profile Image for Eleanor Cowan.
Author 1 book42 followers
March 12, 2019
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
Profile Image for Donya.
10 reviews17 followers
January 11, 2019
راهنمای خیلی خوبی بود برای فهمیدن اینکه خواب هامون از ما چی میخوان. بسیار لذت بردم از خوندن بیشتر قسمت هاش. یه بخش هایی مثل اینکه خواب های ما فقط در مورد خود ما صحبت میکنن و حضور دیگری در خوابمون هم اشاره به جنبه ای از خودمون داره که در قالب اون آدم ظهور یافته، برام خیلی جدید بود.
چهار مرحله ی اصلی برای دریافت پیام خواب، پیدا کردن معناش و آوردن اون معنا به زندگی دنیای بیداری تو کتاب اومده که کاربردی و نیازمند وقت بسیاره. اگر بالای سی سال هستین، سنی که رویاها حرف های بسیار مهمی برای گفتن دارن، از خوندن این کتاب احتمالا چیزهای زیادی به دست میارین.
Profile Image for Lacy Danes.
Author 32 books63 followers
January 6, 2013
This book was recommended to me by a friend.

I have always remembered most of my dreams. When I have a particularity intense one I end up contemplating it for days after.

This book helps you to understand what elements in your dreams mean to you, not to anyone else.

An easy and interesting read.
Profile Image for Katy.
248 reviews4 followers
July 10, 2014
Good overview of some basic Jungian concepts. There is a four part model of how to analyze dreams and connect with you imagination. If you are about to start a program of dream analysis on your own or in a group, this would be an excellent place to start. Purely as theoretical activity, just reading all the examples is a bit dull.
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