Psyche’s Nature is Playful

“The Egyptians highly valued their animals, turning them into gods and goddesses.” – Neil Russack, Animal Guides: in Life, Myth and Dreams

“Imagine a perch extending out of the waters of the Abyss. On it rests a grey heron, the herald of all things to come. It opens its beak and breaks the silence of the primeval night with the call of life and destiny, which ‘determines what is and what is not to be’ ” – [paraphrase ARAS Collection,]

This article begins with Heron.

  • Heron in wetlands
  • Heron on the label of a Crane Lake bottle of red wine
  • Heron in a Jungian-related text
  • Heron in Jung’s Man and his Symbols
  • Heron images on ARAS website
  • Heron on a Whidbey island beach
  • Heron at a retreat center
  • Heron flying by under full moon
  • Sibley Bird guidebook stacked on top of Jungian text

Why don’t eagles attack them [herons], they move so slowly and awkwardly?

Active Imagination—What is It?

Active imagination is a process of consciously dialoging with the unconscious. There are many ways to begin the dialogue with your unconscious parts. Rediscovering how to play is essential. Carl Jung himself described active imagination as play and fantasy. Playing with the images that emerge in our dreams and living dreams can lead us to a discovery of their symbolic meaning and what psyche want us to take playful action on in different aspects of our lives.

Synchronicities and Psyche in Everyday Life

When I began to imagine this piece of writing, I went to The Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism (ARAS) collection to muse and discover what direction Psyche wanted to take me in writing. I wondered and was curious (a very playful quality) about what would emerge as a result of listening to the inspiration that always follows when I am open to the guidance of Psyche. One of the search functions in the ARAS collection online is open-ended so that you do not know what will emerge (but something always does in a synchronistic fashion).

When I searched, water birds and heron presented themselves. Then other images emerged at home, on my walks, and on visits with others that led me to more “sightings” of Heron. It has been a wet winter and spring here in the Northwest. With rain comes Heron who loves nothing better than to hunt for tadpoles, voles, and insects in the wetlands nearby our home. Heron is still and patient—a teacher for me in those areas.

One evening I noticed at bottle of wine on the counter called Heron Lake. I sat down to read a bit before dinner and opened up one of the books by my favorite reading chair. I opened to a page in Animal Guides with a picture of Heron and a description of one of Neil Russack’s client’s dreams with a water bird.

The next morning I remembered that I wanted to look in Sibley’s Guide to Birds. As I reached up to take the book down from the top shelf of my bookcase, I discovered that my favorite bird guide was sitting on top of Man and his Symbols. Jung writes in this book that he conceived and edited about the importance of symbols in our lives in finding meaning and purpose. Following these “meaningful coincidences” I found myself at a retreat center on the island where Heron showed up on the beach as if to say, here I am. After going inside for a cup of hot tea, I noticed a piece of art with Heron as its subject. Later that evening as the moon began to rise, I watched as Heron flew by with the moon in the backdrop. Beautiful.

Synchronicities and moments of playful connection are always present. To see and witness those moments requires willingness and openness to play and possibility. There are many ways to enter a dialogue with Psyche. Each of us must discover what is best as we create and deepen our relationship with Psyche.

There are many resources available if you are interested in a deepening relationship with Psyche. I recommend you check with your local Jung Institute or Society library for more information and references to assist you on your journey. If you are in analysis or working with a Jungian-oriented therapist, they can also give you guidance. Dream groups and Jungian speakers and events in your area or online are avenues for exploration.

This is your journey, your life—enjoy!


  1. ARAS—the Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism,
  2. Man and his Symbols, Carl G. Jung
  3. Animal Guides: In Life, Myth and Dreams, Neil Russack

© Copyright 2011 by Mary Alice Long, PhD, therapist in Langley, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Sandy


    April 21st, 2011 at 9:01 AM

    This was something i could completely connect to…So many times it has happened that completely different things seem to have some common elements that catch my eye…But I would also like to say that I feel maybe there are a lot more such instances and it’s just that we don’t quite see them everytime.

  • norma


    April 21st, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    those connections are always there, it is just that many of us do not open our eyes widely enough to see them when they are there to be found

  • Mary Alice Long, PhD

    Mary Alice Long, PhD

    April 25th, 2011 at 3:40 PM

    Thank you Sandy & Norma. Yes, I find that the more I pay attention the greater the gift of synchronicity

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