Inner Work by Robert A. Johnson

Inner Work by Robert A. Johnson

Dream interpretation is a difficult task but if we are to accomplish it there is no better resource to help us than “Inner Work” By Robert A. Johnson. In this short manuscript, the Jungian psychotherapist Johnson lays out the process for dream Analysis and active imagination. For those looking to actively engage with their unconscious minds, this is a powerful method.





-Every person must live the inner life in one form or another. Consciously or unconsciously, voluntarily or involuntarily, the inner world will claim us and exact its dues. If we go to that realm consciously, it is by our inner work: our prayers, meditations, dream work, ceremonies, and active imagination. If we try to ignore the inner world, as most of us do, the unconscious will find its way into our lives through pathology: our psychosomatic symptoms, compulsions, depressions, and neuroses.

Archetypes – recurring patterns or themes that appear in the psyche of all humans across various times and cultures

Anima – the feminine figure in men

Animus – the masculine figure in women

-Just as an archetype may be easily identified as an inner structure it may also be a universal quality that all people recognize or a universal way of feeling and behaving that we all pass through

-Archetypes are not forces, but rather the pre-existing patterns that give typical shape to the forces in us

-Nature becomes aware of its own existence by giving birth to its own witness: human consciousness.

-It is our lot, if we are honest, to live in duality and paradox

II. Dream Work  

1: Associations 

-First go through each dream and write out every association that you have with each dream image

-An association is anything you spontaneously connect with the image

-What feeling do I have about this image?  What words or ideas come to mind when I look at it?

-After you have written all associations for one image proceed to the next image

-One of the associations will click

-Go to the association that brings up a surge of energy

-Archetypal amplification is the process of gathering information about the archetypes that appear in our dreams by going to sources such as myths, fairy tales, and ancient religious traditions.

-No dream symbol can be separated from the individual who dreams it

Step 2: Dynamics 

-Connect each dream image to a specific dynamic in our inner lives

-For each image ask what part of me is that?
-Where have I seen it functioning in my life lately?
-Where do I see that same trait in my personality?
-Who is it, inside me, who feels like that or behaves like that?

-Ask what traits you have in common with the image: What are the main characteristics of the person in the dream? How would you describe his or her character and personality? Where do you find those same traits in you?

-People usually resist their good qualities even more emphatically than they resist facing their negative qualities

-What set of beliefs, what opinions, does this character function out of? Do I unconsciously hold that same opinion without realizing it?

-In practice, neither the conscious attitude of your ego nor the unconscious attitude of your inner self is the final answer. The attitude that is true to your character lies somewhere in between.

-If your unconscious attitude seems exaggerated it usually means that the unconscious is compensating for an equally off balance, exaggerated position in the ego.

-For each person that pops up in your dreams write out a description of what kind of person you think this is, what the person’s main characteristics and personality are, what the person wants and means to you. Then you can look for the part of your personality that matches the description.

Step 3: Interpretations 

-What is the central, most important message that this dream is trying to communicate to me? What is it advising me to do? What is the overall meaning of the dream for my life?

-An adequate dream interpretation should sum up the meaning of your dream in a nutshell. It should also provide a specific application of the dream’s message to your personal life, to what you are doing, to how you are going to live.

-When you write down your interpretation you can see if it makes sense to your life

-If the interpretation arouses strong feelings and energy in you or liberates you from patterns you have been stuck in then it is probably accurate

-A small clue or detail can help you understand your dream

-If you can’t decide between two interpretations (argue for and against each interpretation)


Four principles for validating interpretations 

1.Choose an interpretation that shows you something you didn’t know

2.Avoid the interpretation that inflates your ego or is self-Congratulatory

3.Avoid interpretations that shift responsibility away from yourself

4.Learn to live with dreams over time — fit them into the long-term flow of your life


Step 4: Rituals 

-This step requires a physical act that will affirm the message of the dream.

-If your dream tells you that you spend too much time on work that you need more physical relaxation you could make a ritual of taking yourself to the beach or some rural place, going for a long walk, focusing your eyes in the colors of earth and sky, reconnecting to the physical world.

– The ritual is a physical re-presentation of the inner attitude change that the dream called for, and it is this level of change that as requested by the dream.

-One of the meanings of the word ceremony, in it’s original Latin form, was for “awe”. Ceremony was a way of behaving one felt a sense of or stood in awe.

-If we look at ritual from a psychological standpoint, we may say the correct ritual is symbolic behavior, consciously performed. Different persons will have different language to express what is symbolized by the ritual task. But the highest form of ritual has this characteristic: those who participate sense they are doing an act that has symbolic meaning, and they consciously seek to transform that act into an active, dynamic symbol. Their every move becomes a symbol-in-motion that carries the power of the inner world into a visible and physical form.

-Each ritual must be custom-made out of the raw material of your own inner self.

-We find that all our dreams manifest both inwardly and outwardly. It is only our unawareness that prevents us from seeing the subtle connections. Out rituals and ceremonies can help us to see where the inner world and the physical word meet, and where they reflect each other as they move in parallel fields of energy.

-the feeling function could be better be called the valuing function


III. Active Imagination

-It is nearly to produce anything in the imagination that is not an authentic representation of the unconscious

The four step approach to Active Imagination

1.Invite the unconscious
2.Dialogue and experience
3.Add the ethical element of values
4.Make it concrete with a physical ritual

Step 1: The invitation 

-Go to a place, describe it vividly and in detail so as to get yourself anchored there, and then see whom you encounter.

-Once the invitation is made and the image appears, you can’t dictate the focus of your imagination and you can’t push it in any particular direction.

-Use your fantasies

-Visit symbolic place

-If a dream is unresolved you can speak with a dream figure

Step two: The Dialogue 

-Be present and participate in your feelings

-Learn to listen even to the parts of you that you label as  “bad” or inferior


Step three: The Values 


Step Four: The Rituals