In this interview, Assagioli gives insight into how introversion and extroversion can express itself on the different levels of the personality and how he defines psychosynthesis.
By Lilian Gibson. Source. From the Occult Review,1934, v59, April. Translated by Gordon Symons from Italian.
After the formation of the Psychoanalytic Schools of Dr. Freud and Adler in Vienna, and of Dr. Jung in Zurich, now Rome, the Eternal City, also has its school, headed by Dr. Roberto Assagioli, a well-known psychiatrist and author.
Not long ago, Dr. Jung himself wrote: “The task of developing a psychology that pays equal attention to the two types of mentality (extroverted and introverted) belongs to the future. With the foundation of the School of Psychosynthesis in Rome, another step has been taken in this direction “. “The point is – Dr. Assagioli explained to the editor of this article – that one can be extroverted at one level and introverted at others. This was the case of the Swiss writer Amiel, who was a passive extrovert on the physical plane, which explains his extreme sensitivity to external influences, while on the mental and intuitive levels he was decidedly introverted, as is shown by the invaluable introspective knowledge contained in his Journal Intime, in which his noble soul is faithfully mirrored. Great Christian mystics, such as Santa Teresa, Santa Caterina da Siena and San Domenico, must be considered dual types of this kind, because they combined an accentuated mystical introversion with practical extroversion – which made them men and women of action “.
An important point on which Dr. Assagioli takes a different position and could be said to be opposite to that of Freud, is that which concerns repression. Freud tries to explain most, if not all, mental and nervous disorders with the repression of the sexual drive. Dr. Assagioli, while admitting the existence of these cases, underlines his belief that there is an important category of disorders in which, exactly the opposite, the problem is represented by the repression of the higher impulses of the spiritual forces. This is due to the fact that the conscious personality does not recognize the true nature and value of these impulses, which it rejects and fears as disturbing elements. “Hence the conflict and the related problems, said Dr. Assagioli. The dramatic persecution of the soul rejected by the ‘Hound of Heaven’, which the great and unfortunate Francis Thompson has so intensely described in his famous poem, is not a mere poetic fiction, but an example of what actually happens in many men and modern women. In these cases, the normal methods of psychoanalysis and suggestion are not needed, and the cure is obtained only with a complete restructuring of the personality around a new and superior center of consciousness, which includes the new awakened spiritual energies.
This, reduced to the simplest terms, is the Psychosynthesis sponsored by Dr. Assagioli who, while including the use of certain psychoanalytic procedures, rejects many of the orthodox Freudian interpretations.
“If healing is based on the acceptance of new spiritual elements in the personality, wouldn’t the influence of a Church have the same effect, regardless of any medical treatment?”, I asked.
“The issue is not that simple. First of all, many of these patients cannot intellectually accept current theologies, or have more or less justified personal complexes due to unpleasant childhood memories related to going to church and religious influences. Secondly, the spiritual elements sometimes cause real problems, because in reaction they evoke the flow of unconscious lower forces. The result is chaos and a lack of balance, and an expert is needed to unravel the mass of tangles and fix the situation.”
This aspect of Psychosynthesis was developed by Dr. Assagioli in his article Spiritual development and nervous diseases published in The Hibbert Journal (October 1937), while a general description of the topic is contained in a previous article, Psychoanalysis and Psychosynthesis, published by the same revised in 1934.
According to Dr. Assagioli a very important distinction is that between the active and passive subtypes of both extroverts and introverts. The active extrovert has a powerful current of energy and interest that is spontaneously directed towards the outside. He is animated by a strong desire to express himself in the outside world. These are the typical action men. The passive extrovert, on the other hand, is a sensitive and impressionable individual, whose attention is “captured” by external influences. He is dominated by the world. The well-known individual who agrees with whoever speaks to him belongs to this category. The extreme case of passive extroversion is that of the hypnotized person. These two subtypes are in a certain sense opposite to each other, yet connected by the common quality of extroversion. With respect to introverts, there is a corresponding difference in the two subtypes. The active introvert explores and avidly conquers the internal world: these are the philosophers, introspective psychologists and all those who really meditate. The passive introvert, on the other hand, has his interest captured by his own sensations and emotions, and is absorbed in himself in an egotistic way.
“In general, artists, and especially musicians, said Dr. Assagioli, are in some ways similar to psychics, even if the influences to which they are subject come from their own unconscious. In them those unconscious activities overwhelm the conscious personality, which is often rather underdeveloped and not well defined “.
“Do you think that musicians and artists can be modified in their psychic characteristics without damaging their creative talent?” I asked. “Without a doubt many of them would be improved by a firmer grip on their psychic activity, and by an internal rearrangement like that to which psychosynthesis can lead”.
The practice of psychosynthesis consists in the use of energies, the development of elements and qualities not sufficiently developed through methods of auto-suggestion, affirmation and meditation, the methodical training of the weaker psychological functions and the coordination of all these elements in a harmonious organization of the personality. In this way the regenerated personality can begin a new life, in comparison with which the previous life was little more than an embryonic existence.
Psychosynthesis therefore is neither a simple psychological doctrine nor a special technical procedure. It is primarily a dynamic, almost dramatic conception of human life, seen as the conflict between a multiplicity of contrasting forces and a unifying center that tends to organize them.
Psychosynthesis also never loses sight of the truth that the isolated individual does not exist – whether he realizes it or not; every human being has deep relationships of interdependence with other individuals and groups, and of subordination to superindividual Reality. The same, or similar conflicts that take place within the individual’s psyche, are also stirred in human groups, where the conflict is repeated on curiously similar lines, albeit on a larger scale. The study of this analogy is extremely interesting because of the current widespread political, social and economic struggles, both within each nation and among the various nations.
Mr. Vanderlip in his book What Next in Europe talks about a conversation he had with Dr. Assagioli in Florence as one of the most vivid and positive impressions that he took away from Europe.