In my ongoing reflections on the core concepts of psychosynthesis, we have reached the question of how to work with the conscious “I”, or “observer”, in counselling (see previous post at www.facebook.com/theseventypes/).
One of the prominent goals of psychosynthesis counselling is to train the client to lovingly observe the contents of their consciousness and to start identifying with the-one-who-observes, which is the true identity of the individual: the inner centre of pure self-awareness and power. Identification with the inner centre – also known as self-identification (1) – creates an ability to become aware of psychological content, and from this position we can begin to own inner conflicts and start to harmonise and synthesise them from a centred perspective. In time, this process will produce an integrated personality with an ability for authentic self-expression: a personality in flow.
When Roberto Assagioli proclaimed that “psychosynthesis, first, second and third, is the working from the centre” (2), he was pointing to the fact that the conscious observer (the centre) in each of us is the ONLY centre that can harmonise and synthesise ALL of our manifold and conflicting parts. When we are identified with only a part of ourselves – such as a prominent role, ideology, conviction, body image, feeling, image – we will only experience a partial integration and will build our personality on sand.
So how do we guide our clients and ourselves to the observing centre? I explore this question in-depth in my book The Soul of Psychosynthesis (3), where I offer many examples of different relational and counselling styles. In this article, I want to focus on a number of suggestions offered by Assagioli.
Once the goal of counselling has been defined according to the client’s needs, the explorative phase can begin. There are seven different and aligned objectives in this phase:
- The client must be gradually guided to disidentify from the contents of their awareness by realising that whatever they can observe they are not. In other words, they must come to know that they are fundamentally the observer, not the observed. Assagioli’s disidentification exercise is relevant here.
- The client must be guided to identify with the observer, i.e. with consciousness itself. Self-identification is prominent here.
- The client must be able to own the experiences that are being observed through acceptance. The technique of the loving observer must be applied.
- The client must learn how to reflect on the observed and learn how to discriminate between the self and the not-self, i.e. to reflect on the different mental, emotional and physical energies involved in their presenting issue. Reflective meditation is applied here.
- The client must learn to stabilise and expand their presence by developing their centre of pure self-awareness – this process will help to ground the peaceful, stable and loving observer in the midst of daily experience. The contemplation of the silent witness or receptive meditation can be applied here.
- The client must release, purify and transform old attachments to inhibiting self-images, while building new appropriate self-images, or ideal models, of their personality through the force of creative imagination. Creative meditation is a prominent technique here.
- The client must take action to express their new identity in their relationships and in life situations. The technique of act-as-if can be applied.
From this list, it is easy to see how psychosynthesis resembles Eastern yoga techniques, minus the religious garments, in that both make use of the techniques of disidentification (DI) and self-identification (SI). (2)
DI-SI is necessary according to Assagioli because “the experience of pure self-identity – or in other words, of the self, the I-consciousness, devoid of any content – does not arise spontaneously but is the result of a definite inner experimentation.” (4) Assagioli recommends applying the technique of DI-SI as early as possible in counselling, advising the client to use the technique as often as possible, at least once a day (5). DI-SI is the principle technique of psychosynthesis and the first of seven core concepts of psychosynthesis described by Assagioli (6). DI-SI should be used first because it is a foundational technique that will help the client to make better use of the other techniques. As we consider this, let us recall Assagioli’s comment that “psychosynthesis, first, second and third, is the working from the centre”, and the observing self, is the centre.
Many tenacious identifications with difficult energies cannot be dissolved simply through neutral observation, rather they call for a loving attitude, first applied and modelled by the counsellor, then adopted by the client. This attitude entails accepting, embracing and, ultimately, loving whatever emerges within. This attitude is important during the process of owning identifications – during this phase, meditation and reflection as the loving observer is a way to work with this. (7)
Reflective, receptive and creative styles of meditation (points 4-6 above) are significant. These three forms of meditation, which Assagioli describes eloquently (8), can be used by clients during different phases of the work.
Reflective meditation involves observing the emergent content of awareness. By directing the light of the soul (awareness) on an issue, we focus our attention and sharpen our mind; we develop discrimination, sometimes called viveka, which is a razor-sharp mind that penetrates the fog of the unconscious and clarifies internal data by providing the right words to describe vague energies. The truth shall set us free is the underlying wisdom with this approach.
Receptive meditation anchors our meditative awareness in silence. We observe the silent observer and expand the contentless void in our consciousness, which clears the channel connecting the observing “I” to the presence of the overshadowing soul – this channel will open up like a clearing in a carpet of clouds so the sun’s rays can shine through.
Creative meditation involves the conscious cultivation of soul qualities through the power of the imagination. For example, the visualisation of a loving sun in the heart centre radiating acceptance, peace, harmony and trust will gradually establish these personality traits. In this way, we build a new personality from the inside out so the soul, or Transpersonal Self, can shine through. (9)
All inner work must be tested in life through action because a tree is known by its fruit – we must apply and anchor what we learn in our relationships and in real-life situations. First, we “fake it ‘til we make it” – or, as Assagioli put it, “act as if”; this technique works because we already possess (in the superconscious) the qualities we aspire to express and manifest. (10)
Gradually, the reformed and beautified personality will emerge from the inner furnace, and the mask of the soul (the personality) begins to resemble its creator.
I hope this article has highlighted the beauty and wisdom of psychosynthesis teaching. This article may have also generated a number of questions – if so, please comment and I will try to help.
Blessings to all.
- See Assagioli’s definition of three types of self-identification here: https://kennethsorensen.dk/en/glossary/self-identification/
- See Assagioli’s disidentification and self-identification exercise here: https://kennethsorensen.dk/en/glossary/disidentification/
- The Soul of Psychosynthesis can be bought here: www.amazon.com/Soul-Psychosynthesis-Seven-Core-Concepts-ebook/dp/B01G9DBNY8/
- Psychosynthesis, 1965, p.112.
- Psychosynthesis, 1965, p.120.
- See Assagioli’s definition of the core principles of psychosynthesis: https://kennethsorensen.dk/en/psychosynthesis-training-a-statement-by-roberto-assagioli/
- See my article The Loving Observer: https://kennethsorensen.dk/en/the-self-a-loving-observer/
- See Assagioli’s article: https://kennethsorensen.dk/en/meditation-meditate/
- See my short video about the sun in the heart meditation: https://www.facebook.com/theseventypes/videos/833555317007663/
- See Assagioli’s definition of “acting as if” here https://kennethsorensen.dk/en/glossary/act-as-if/ and authenticity here: https://kennethsorensen.dk/en/glossary/authentic/
Finally; I have developed seven meditations on the core concepts of psychosynthesis, they can be downloadet here. https://kennethsorensen.dk/en/get-my-seven-meditations-4/