Internal Family Systems as Active imagination

Bruce Dickson
4 min readJan 8, 2020

IFS as return to Active imagination

2010: “Active Imagination fell way from Jungian work in last 50 years and is only now making a comeback” — Dr. Murray Stein & Dr. Paul Brutsche, renowned Jungian analysts from University of Zurich —

sensory imagination thumbnail from Shutterstock

The 2010 date rang a bell with. It’s consistent with the first peak of rising interest in Internal Family Systems (IFS) — which appears to be 2009–2016. The first of several rising peaks for IFS in the field of counseling psychology?

In 2019, talking with other wide-ranging explorers in growth work history, technique, method; and, reading online, I found very wide agreement on the following:

“IFS is the most modern and perhaps most robust system for working with sub-personalities to date” ~ Scott Jeffrey

What is Active Imagination?

Active imagination is a conscious method of experimentation. It employs creative imagination as an organ for “perceiving outside your own mental boxes.”

For the first hundred years of active imagination, it was applied primarily by individuals for exploring their own sub- and unconscious. Hence its value in psycho-therapeutic settings.

Until the meme of the “inner child” in the 1970s, active imagination was most closely associated with C. G. Jung’s experiments with himself and with clients emphasizing its the therapeutic value.

Beginning in the 1980s, active imagination found uses in commercial disciplines; for example, architecture and molecular biology (how do those complex molecules fit together?).

Where active imagination seeks to perceive what is already present, fantasy intends to create where nothing yet exists.

Active Imagination is an activity wholly within the Inner Game of Life. Active imagination experiments occur primarily in the domain of the single individual. Even if a group does an Active Imagination experiment, results are characteristically highly individual.

Active Imagination experiments support individuals exploring the content and quality of the lower two-thirds of their waking psyche, their…