Dissertation Title:

Active Imagination with Plants


Mark G. Downey

Date, Time & Place:

June 11, 2024 at 3:00 pm


Alienation from nonhuman nature has severe clinical implications. Both depth psychologists and ecopsychologists have called for therapeutic approaches that reorient Westerners to the more-than-human world and their fundamental relatedness in it. This study presents the Jungian notion of individuation as one such deeply relational framework with reconnective potential, and it explores the individuating practice of active imagination as a means of remembering human relatedness with nonhuman Others, specifically plants. It uses critical and alchemical hermeneutics to examine the accounts of five Western authors who transcribed their imaginal dialogues with plants, amplifying these accounts via the theory of active imagination. Findings suggest that active imagination can be a vernacular means of becoming more conscious of one’s relatedness with plants, which can generate new—particularly loving—ways of listening and responding to them. Seeing plants through love also implicates seeing oneself more clearly, including one’s need to harvest, kill, eat, and use plants, thereby facilitating an individuating process of ecological shadow integration and a sense of self rooted in love for nonhuman Others. These findings lend critical psychological language to the emerging occurrences of Westerners imaginally engaging with plants, as well as deepening Level 2 ecotherapies.

  • Program/Track/Year: Clinical Psychology with Emphasis in Depth Psychology, A, 2019
  • Chair: Dr. Lori Pye
  • Reader: Dr. Marybeth Carter
  • External Reader: Dr. Andra Daunhauer
  • Keywords: Active Imagination, Imaginal, Plants, Ecopsychology, Horticultural, Ecotherapy, Individuation, Self, Love