Imagination: An Elusive Self?

Am I the same as my imagination? We can both dream and tell stories, embrace creativity and are excited by possible and impossible futures. However, I have an ego which can weigh me down and a self that is sometimes uncertain, while imagination carries itself lightly. Perhaps it comes down to knowledge. Looking down from its eyrie, imagination has immeasurable confidence in itself, and gives us respite from everything we know and everything we don’t. 

Imagination is contrary; it is both a part of self but also apart from self, a team player but also solitary, intimate yet elusive. It can hold its cards close to its chest and has also been known to make bold moves. In our daily lives we cannot consciously track it and it operates in ways that are beyond our understanding to inform our understanding. 

When I think of imagination, the word ‘potential’ comes to mind – as ability, action, and energy; it can surge, crackle and be fired, and can also serve as a power source for change. The relationship between the self and one’s imagination is tightly knit, and the tension created as its cords stretch and contract, can be a driver for growth. In my visual art practice and educational projects, imagination plays a significant role; it stimulates my curiosity, enriches communication, and helps me know myself. I recently read about the Defensive Action Theory (Eagleman & Vaughn, 2020) which describes dreaming as ‘a mechanism to prevent takeover of the visual cortex’. For me, amongst other things, imagination is a mechanism which can give us the courage to pursue our most fulfilled selves.


Sara Riaz Khan is an abstract visual artist and Director at Harbord & Khan Educational Consultants who is inspired by nature, a shared humanity, and transformation.