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Bravesmith, A. (2008). Supervision and Imagination. J. Anal. Psychol., 53(1):101-117.

(2008). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 53(1):101-117


Supervision and Imagination

Anna Bravesmith

This paper explores the role of imagination for the supervisor and examines the differences between the supervisor's use of creative and defensive imagination. It is suggested that reverie and imagining play a central role in supervision but that these need to be harnessed in the service of the reality principle. It is argued that the Jungian i on the ego-self relationship provides a context for this process. A clinical example of work with a supervisee is described in which hidden aspects of a strong erotic transference/countertransference were revealed in the supervisor's imagining and became available for reflection.

Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well

As she is fam'd to do, deceiving elf.

(Keats 1819, ‘Ode to a Nightingale’)


The role of imagination in supervision is central and imaginative activity in both supervisee and supervisor discovers the unconscious layers of the analytic work which cannot be known consciously at the outset. The supervisor needs to be open to playful reverie and fully able to associate freely to material that the supervisee brings. In this paper the main argument is that imagination itself is essential but that, to borrow a metaphor from engineering, reasonable deduction acts as a fulcrum for the pivotal actions of the imagination. The argument is elaborated to differentiate two kinds of activity which might be thought of as use and misuse of imagination. These two kinds of internal activity have been further differentiated and described as ‘imagination’ and ‘the imaginary’ by Colman; he says:

imaginary fantasies lack the substance and depth of real imagination [using] fantasy as a way of defending against all those aspects of reality concerned with absence and loss.

(Colman 2006, p.

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