Bridging the Imaginal Boundary

“Bridging the imaginal boundary” is a technique that I use frequently when working with imaginal beings, including dream figures. It’s a bit difficult to describe because it’s less a technique than a state of mind. Once I “make contact” with an imaginal being, I consciously attempt to remain in dialogue with her/him/it during my ordinary, waking activities. In addition to speaking to the person or being in my imagination, I remain alert to sensations that, while not precisely physical in a sticks-and-stones-world way, can be manifested as body awareness.

For instance, in my conversations with my imaginal friend Brian, I occasionally “feel” his arm on my shoulders. Similarly, I’ve experienced the wiggly weight of my six-year-old imaginal friend Emily on my hip as we walk and talk.

The most frequent result of using this technique is that I’ll find that phrases “drop into” my awareness that seem to be comments on whatever it is that’s going on around me. When this happens, I use that phrase or comment to begin a dialogue with the imaginal being. You have to “listen” carefully, and be open to the possibility that what you’re hearing with your inner ears is real. Doubt kills communication; this technique takes practice.

Bridging the imaginal boundary facilitates real-time communication with imaginal beings, permitting a kind of ongoing “conversation” with them. The technique is clearly related to active imagination, but it doesn’t depend on being situated in imaginal space or sitting quietly in a meditative state. Rather, it has the effect of taking place “in” the waking world, or, perhaps more accurately, in both realms at the same time. The boundary between them, while real, is in my experience quite permeable, and it is possible to straddle the gap. There is, perhaps, more danger of succumbing to projection and wishful thinking in this technique—the imaginal is powerfully creative. Care must be taken to allow the connection without moving into fantasy.

In one of Monika Wikman’s interviews on Shrink Rap Radio (from the Spring 2016 reading series), she says this:

The point is, as Von Franz said, is to live with the activated imaginal field and to be open to all the times and ways its communicating, so it’s a way of life. So that, for example, like when you get that song lyric and you pay attention and you listen and then you can have a laugh as you’re getting realigned; because, usually as communications, their realigning as they’re doing some kind of course correction, or attitude correction. That puts us in better alignment with the larger self and that brings more life energies. So, it’s about flow of life in the end. But, you have to have a sense of humor and … be agile because, you know, it’s confrontational . . . with what we don’t want to see about ourselves.

Keep this point in mind: Messages from the imaginal world are often confrontational! They tell us things we NEED to hear, but not always things we WANT to hear. This may be especially true of dream figures, with their distinctly archetypal underpinnings. Dreams, as messages from Psyche, pull no punches.


Monika Wikman’s quote comes from this interview.