Book Review: Waking Dreams

The reviewed book is ‘Waking Dreams’ by Mary Watkins – a book about the imagination. There were a number of very interesting passages throughout the book. However I thought this quote was quite interesting – it follows a discussion of Jung’s study of imaginal experiences in a medium

But as one could have expected, no sooner had the subject of imaginal experience entered into psychology’s discussions than academic and popular psychology began to make certain habitual moves. Many imaginal experiences were used solely for diagnostic purposes being dropped once the patient was safely couched in his or her ‘category

Also a little later

We have skilfully tried to strain the mythical from the scientific, the imaginary from the real, metaphor from matter. We have used science to tell us just what ‘reality’ really is and we have taken our scissors of reason and accordingly trimmed into the waste basket the apparently superfluous and contradictory

Watkins then goes onto distinguish between the waking dream and the day dream and looks at efforts to impose volitional control over dreams from different cultural accounts.  In a chapter on the Mythopoetic function, Watkins examines the history of myth making in the psyche and describes Myer’s tripartite ‘subliminal self’ consisting of the inferior, superior and mythopoetic (which sounds very similar to Freud’s three divisions within the psyche). What I found particularly interesting was a description of Janet’s who in 1889 had treated what appears to be a dissociative visual impairment through a hypnotic regression to childhood. Watkins then moves onto cover Freud’s use of free associations and Jung’s early use of automatic writing and active imagination to access the unconsciousness and also quoting some of Jung’s reasons for using active imagination from a lecture in 1923 (including reducing too many dreams or compensating for an insufficient number of dreams).

The use of waking dreams in European Psychotherapy is then covered which looks at the work of figures such as Caslant, Desoille, Leuner and Oneirodrama. Then Watkins looks at the use of imaginal experiences in american from William James through to psychotherapy where there had even been a structured approach to imagining (both controlled and spontaneous) and also in problem solving. Watkins then describes different types of imagination and finishes with a discussion of the benefits of the imaginal world.

I found this to be a deeply introspective work which clearly communicated the imaginal and how to engage with it – this being a quality that has been considered to be amongst the most precious qualities we possess.


Mary Watkins. Waking Dreams. Spring Publications Inc. Third Edition. 2003.


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The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.


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