What is the conscious “I”?,
by Kenneth Sørensen
Who am I? This is one of the most important questions, and in answering it psychosynthesis has a unique point of view in comparison with other psychologies. According to psychosynthesis: I am not my thoughts, my emotions or my body, but consciousness itself. Let us explore this statement.
One of the first goals of psychosynthesis counselling – and a core concept in psychosynthesis – is to help the client to discover the conscious “I”, which is the permanent sense of selfhood and the true seat of identity.
The conscious “I” is an inner centre of pure consciousness and will and the only centre which provides a stable foundation of identity because it is not based on something that changes – it is the essential core of consciousness, awakeness, awareness of being aware, identification with consciousness itself.
Assagioli used different terms when referring to this centre – the conscious “I”, the ego, the personal self – but his understanding of the concept never changed; according to Assagioli, the existence of this centre is an experiential fact that anyone can verify through introspection.
In each of us, there is a centre of pure consciousness and will, an observing and acting self that is able to witness from a distance whatever is happening in the inner dimensions, and which is able to act. This centre is a peaceful, loving, stable, permanent and present eye or witness that stands apart from the chaotic and sometimes violent mind-stream of experience. According to Assagioli:
“A clear and full experience of the self gives, at first, such a strong sense of self-identity that it is felt as something sure, permanent, unchangeable, and indestructible. It is realized as such an essential reality that all other experiences and so-called realities appear, when compared to it, as changing, impermanent and of less value and significance. Such a realization is accompanied by a sense of inner independent, self-reliant security, which is deeply satisfying and gives rise to a feeling of peace, serenity and quiet joy.
Another characteristic belonging to the realization of the self is power. It is a sense of concentrated power at rest, yet ready to express itself dynamically either in the mastery over all elements and forces of the personality or expressed through creative activity.” (1)
The “I”, or observing self, is never a thought, a feeling, a sensation or an action – it is the one who observes all of the movements in the inner landscape. The observing self is not found in a particular location – it can be anywhere in the spectrum of experience; it is always present wherever our attention goes if we are aware of being aware!
Whenever we are identified with the one who is being aware of being aware, we are in our centre, and from this presence we can engage with any experience – be it pain, joy, desire, mystery or anything else – without being controlled or dominated by the experience.
When we are in our centre, we have found the eye of the hurricane, and from here we can have the dual experience of engaging with our experience – even painful and distressing influences – while being able to maintain identification with the loving and peaceful observer. So the observing personal self is a sense of presence in the here and now – and we can know this presence in any experience when we are aware of being aware.
When we have found our centre, we can start to consciously act and influence our experiences according to our core purpose and wisdom by accepting, reflecting on or rejecting the energies we are perceiving. In this way, the observing self can be an acting self, i.e. pure consciousness and will in synthesis. Assagioli puts it this way: “The Self is not only the Observer, but is the Doer as well, the One who has the power to decide, to will, to direct and to rule.” (2)
However, in normal circumstances, our identity as the observing self is veiled by a thousand different identifications – identifications with material things, emotions, desires, thoughts – and we become lost in these thousand inner and outer experiences. There is a remedy for this, a technique that Assagioli termed disidentification and self-identification. First, we must disidentify from our thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations, then we must identify with consciousness itself, becoming the observing and conscious actor.
Through this technique we can, according to Assagioli: “gain the freedom and the power of choice to be identified with, or disidentified from, any aspect of our personality, according to what seems to us most appropriate in each situation. Thus we can learn to master, direct, and utilise all the elements and aspects of our personality, in an inclusive and harmonious synthesis. Therefore this exercise is considered as basic in psychosynthesis.” (3)
The conscious “I” is not the soul or transpersonal Self, but it’s reflection in the mental field, however that’s another story to be told.
In my next update, I will offer some thoughts on how to develop the conscious “I”. Meanwhile, I have devised seven meditations based on the core concepts of psychosynthesis, three of which focus on the development of the conscious “I”, namely my meditations on silence, presence and the loving observer.
You can find the meditations here: https://kennethsorensen.dk/en/get-my-seven-meditations-4/
Here is Assagioli’s thoughts on dis-identification: https://kennethsorensen.dk/en/glossary/disidentification/
See also the glossary definition of self-identification
1. The Mystery of the self; from the archive in Florence.
2. Meditation Group for the New Age; first course, p. 43
3. The Act of Will, 1974, p. 213