Journaling | The Inner Narrative


Carl Jung


Vitruvian - da Vinci

Pages from Jung's Red Book

Have you ever experienced a lucid dream you yearned to describe and decipher? Have you been drawn to automatic or flow of consciousness writing as a therapeutic medium for personal growth? If you're drawn to the study of psychology or mind-body connections, documenting unlocked secrets of the unconscious mind in a journal is an enriching way to give voice to the inner narrator we all possess. 

Benefits: Mapping the Unconscious

For those interested in cultural anthropology and the works of scholars such as Carl Jung Man and His Symbols, Joseph Campbell The Power of Myth, Marijas Gimbutas The Language of the Goddess to name a few, understand and value the intuitive parts of their nature and the power of the unconscious mind to influence everyday reality and the choices we make. Investigating the more mysterious parts of our nature can aid us in expanding our powers of understanding and perception. 

Format:  The Theorist

Would you like to invent a machine or scientific theory? Turn off all your computer and T.V. screens, buy yourself a notebook and start scribbling. The American psychologist and author Catharine Morris Cox Miles studied the habits of 300 well known geniuses and discovered that all of them were journal or diary keepers. She also discovered that only 1% of the world’s population engaged in journal writing on a daily basis. Those that did turned out to be higher achievers that lived longer lives than most.

Fascinating but true, her studies and those of others show that whatever you write doesn’t have to be specific in order to reap the benefits. Intellectual and creative stimulation is born of engagement, not content. The message is clear that taking an interest in oneself is the key to a fuller life.

Choose a small journal or notepad pint sized enough to carry with you at all times. Write down general observations, document phrases and conversations, ideas, feelings, sensations, wordplay descriptions of anything from birdsong to architecture or if you’re a musician, musical phrases. The idea is to create a free flowing, un-judgmental intercourse with yourself much like going to the gym but for your brain!

Format:  Dream Journaling

Lucid dreamers enthralled by the inner working of psychology or those who only remember dreams periodically but recognize their importance, may consider keeping a dream journal that becomes a rich portrait of one’s psyche at a particular time.

Through the use of client dream documentation, dream scholars study the complex way in which dreams may offer metaphorical commentary on future events, psychological dilemmas, physical health and initial symptoms of disease. Paying attention to one’s unconscious can be critical in matters of illness and creativity. Documenting internal messages is a vital activity for those whose dream life is as important as waking reality.

Here is an example of a predictive dream with a special emphasis on specific words: “I dreamt that a friend by the last name of Cantor told me my dog had died. I was upset by the dream so discussed it with friends at dinner, the extreme old age but good health of my dog and why an acquaintance would have announced her death in a dream. They remarked that Cantor sounded a lot like cancer. On arriving home my husband remarked that my dog appeared to have a dramatic swelling on her leg. Two days later she was diagnosed with cancer and died within three weeks”.  

Dream interpretation varies widely and different techniques are employed. Research a school of interpretation for yourself or simply use the Jungian technique of giving a voice to each object in the dream (human, animal, sky, water, jewel, book, shoe, etc) and allowing the object to speak to their own significance.

Choose a journal large enough for drawings or depictions. Store it in a bed side table or within reach of your bed. Some may want to use a tape recorder and later transcribe dreams into journals. Dream experts suggest that plenty of rest is beneficial to an active dream life. To remember dreams they suggest the following:
  • Before sleeping invite yourself to remember your dreams. The power of suggestion is very effective.
  • If possible, set your alarm at a time that coincides with periods of REM sleep. REM sleep occurs in 90 minute cycles so if you go to sleep at 10 p.m. set your alarm to wake at 5:30 for 7.5 hours of sleep or wake at 7 a.m. for 9 hours of sleep.
  • Don’t move upon waking. Lie as still as possible and recount every detail of the dream repeating the details verbally before attempting to write anything down. Accuracy is very important as particular words may hold great metaphorical significance. 
  • When you feel you have a good grasp of the dream(s) reach for tape recorder or journal and begin writing down all the details. Include fragments of dreams and any random remembrance. Details that seem insignificant now may have importance later in understanding the full significance of the dream.

Format:  Active imagination and automatic writing

For some, the idea of automatic writing is tainted by the craze of spiritualism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries plus modern new age channeling techniques wherein a ‘spirit’ speaks through a living person.

However, the value of automatic writing enjoys a weightier credence in the world of psychoanalysis and art. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and father of Analytical Psychology, developed the theory of the collective unconscious. His use of automatic writing can be studied in his recently published personal journal kept between 1914-1930.

In 1913 Jung broke with his mentor Sigmund Freud and began an interlude devoted to his own theories. Though some biographers depict this period as a psychological breakdown Jung himself referred to this time in his life as an experiment and “voluntary confrontation with the unconscious”.

His personal diary in which he recorded his experience and use of automatic writing was bound in red leather and has come to be referred to as the Red Book. It consists of 205 pages of text (81 of which are hand drawn calligraphy) and numerous luminous illustrations depicting his inner world visions. Until 2001 the Jung estate and his heirs denied scholars access to the book for fear of harming Jung’s reputation and until 2009 only two dozen people had even seen it. After persuading Ulrich Hoerni, Jung’s grandson, of its importance, historian Sonu Shamdasani created the Philemon Foundation in order to facilitate the publication.

About the Red Book Jung famously wrote:
“The years… when I pursued the inner images, were the most important time of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this. It began at that time, and the later details hardly matter anymore. My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me. That was the stuff and material for more than only one life. Everything later was merely the outer classification, scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then.”

During the sixteen years Jung worked on the Red Book he developed his theories of archetypes, collective unconscious, individuation and active imagination. The work also led him to the belief that “there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life.”


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