23 March 2010
As I read more on Imaginal Psychology and seek to relate it to my own personal growth and practical therapeutic interventions, I am drawn to my past. I have always been a word person, somewhat on the literal side, and guilty of the charge of calcifying the “meaning” of words. During college and graduate school, I explored these long-held patterns. I read post-structuralist theorists such as Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida. Their ideas caused me to question the foundations of linguistics and truth. This groundwork has helped me to understand the underpinnings of Imaginal Psychology. One way that I relate to Imaginal Psychology is through its similarities with one of these theorists: Jacques Derrida. Derrida has fascinated me for many years and his Deconstruction method has interesting parallels to Imaginal Psychology. One basic description of Deconstruction is that it attempts to demonstrate that any text is not a discrete whole but contains several irreconcilable and contradictory meanings; that any text therefore has more than one interpretation; that the text itself links these interpretations inextricably; that the incompatibility of these interpretations is irreducible; and thus that an interpretative reading cannot go beyond a certain point.
Compare this to Imaginal Psychology, with its emphasis on the polymorphous/polytheistic appreciation of images The many-sidedness of human nature, the variety of viewpoints even within a single individual, requires the broadest possible spectrum of basic structures. If a psychology wants to represent faithfully the soul’s actual diversity, then it may not beg the question from a beginning by insisting, with monotheistic prejudgment, upon unity of personality.
(Hillman, 1975, p. xx)
While Hillman is a psychologist and Derrida a philosopher, they both are primarily concerned with the idea of language as meaning-making. Michael V. Adams claims “Derrida and Hillman would reverse the logic of oppositions and the order of priorities that have privileged the signified over the signifier, the concept over the image” (Adams, 1992, p. 248). This stance, that of signifier over signified, is a core tenet of post-structuralism, and one that both Hillman and Derrida share. Although the primary medium differs for each (images for Hillman, literary texts for Derrida), both express similar concepts—a.) multiplicity (Hillman’s polytheistic perspective, différance for Derrida), b.) the lack of a coherent structural “wholeness” to texts and psyche; and c.) the endless ability for new images and meanings to be created. Understanding these similarities is a useful distinction, as it converges with my background in literary theory and provides me with amplification of Imaginal Psychology. In this, one common point is that there is value in de-literalizing dreams or images as “things-unto-themselves.” Instead of fitting a preconceived notion, as evidence for some Truth, or showing how a dream or image shows something like “Progress,” looking at images with equal value encourages curiosity. With this frame, I understand Imaginal Psychology’s value in fostering “beginner’s mind,” especially in the realm of free association. The critique of free association as practiced is that it is not “free.” Instead, some have followed a “bread crumb” method, where each image builds upon the next, imposing some “path” wherein there is a near-deterministic quality to the exploration (“a leads to b, which leads to c, which must mean that d is next”). As part of Imaginal Psychology’s critique, this is a misguided ethic of giving primacy to the notion of individuation or Self, which intrudes upon the process of image-making. This critique does not deny the process...