The Jungian psychoanalytic process, when it is packaged in a simplistic overview, often will purport that after the confrontation with the shadow the path leads towards a relationship with the soul figure, the anima or animus. This inner figure, which gets carried in the collective in the popular idea of a soul mate, finds precursors in all cultures and ages. The concept of the artist’s muse is a vital example that most can still relate to, for feelings of inspiration and the charge of affect that go hand in hand with a vital creative process are all attributes of soul activation.
But ideas do not necessarily translate into an actual experience of what they point at. For Carl Jung the technique of active imagination became a crucial discovery in his process to begin a descent into unconscious contents. He writes,
“I mean this as an actual technique. . . . The art of it consists only in allowing our invisible partner to make herself heard, in putting the mechanism of expression momentarily at her disposal, without being overcome by the distaste one naturally feels at playing such an apparently ludicrous game with oneself, or by doubts as to the genuineness of the voice of one’s interlocutor. (Carl Jung, “Anima and Animus,” CW 7, pars. 323f.)
What’s so wonderful about this comment is the authenticity of the disgust. Here we find no idealization of the experience, but instead the difficulty of stomaching what transpires.
The encounter with the intolerable affects is a hallmark of a Jungian process and a facet of the work which quickly distinguishes it from many pop psychology fads and new age trends which will often cite Jung while holding off at a distance that far exceeds an arms length, the difficult work of becoming conscious. .