In this transcript of a meeting (15 pages), Assagioli has a discussion about applied psychosynthesis with doctors and psychologists. They discuss the challenges with self-training, analysing oneself through the autobiography. They also discuss the treatment of sexual neurosis, rebellion against the will, and how to deal with resistance. The technique of disidentification is also reflected upon and its benefit, the observing awareness.
Translated from Italian by Gordon Symons, original title: Meeting with doctors – may 63, source (Archivio Assagioli – Florence)
R.A. – Dr. S. is a Doctor of Psychology, and I will say in this regard that it is very useful that there is a collaboration between doctors and educators. The methods are the same. I will never cease to repeat that nobody is 100% healthy and nobody is 100% sick, so the fields overlap, especially in a remarkable way in the techniques.
The first part is the cultural one, that is to be aware of the current state of psychotherapy and psycho-pedagogy with synthetic tendencies, and the task is facilitated by this magazine (The Journal of Psychoanalysis); they put the name psychoanalysis, perhaps more than anything else, he says: “The term psychoanalysis in the title and terminology of the newspaper is used in the extensive meaning of depth psychology, deriving from the basic Freudian settings.” So, it includes, as you will already see from the first issue, all the various schools, and therefore gives information on all the various schools.
Dr. S. – I was invited to collaborate.
R.A. – Ah very well! Now by depth psychology we mean the acknowledgement, exploration and the use of the unconscious. While pre-analytical psychology was superficial, two-dimensional, it now deepens into the third dimension. Only, as I said at other times, besides the psychology of the deep in the strict sense, there should be the psychology of the high, that is, of the superconscious part, of the upper part of the psyche. But deep and high are purely symbolic, analogical words, and for some like Jung, the deep also includes the high, he speaks of the depth psychology, but also includes the higher functions, for example, crises and religious problems, religious experiences , etc. So, it’s all about understanding each other. Therefore, the first step is to keep the culture updated in this field: it is not easy because there is an increasing amount of publications, especially abroad.
Then, the exercises on ourselves. Fortunately in psychotherapy and true psychology, the laboratory is in ourselves; we are in the laboratory 24 hours a day because even when we dream we have psychic activities that we more or less remember in the waking state, which we can analyse much better than … So, we are in a fortunate situation that we always have the laboratory available, both for observations and even better for experiments, that is, for training.
What I propose in these meetings is training that everyone should do. The ideal (as in psychoanalysis) would be psychosynthesis training, i.e. guided by a doctor, by a psychologist. But in the absence of this, because for practical reasons it often cannot be done, it can be replaced by self-psychoanalysis and self-psychosynthesis; and it is precisely the purpose of these meetings to give pointers to doctors and educators to do this self-psychosynthesis, which is necessary because the complexes and deficiencies in us limit our curative effectiveness, our educational actions. Therefore, it is of benefit to ourselves, and it is a duty as doctors or educators.
For this reason, I recommended starting with a self-analysis, based on writing your own autobiography and on the answers, as a minimum, to the questionnaire, which gives a kind of psychological profile, useful to yourself and also here …, and then the use of all the psychotherapeutic and psychagogical methods that you want to apply to others. As for this group, you can ask questions or make comments about what you can or can’t do, questions for information, and I’m here to answer. But of course, it will require a minimum of your cultural and experimental activity. And for this reason, the excuse of lack of time is non-existent, because any activity of the day can be made the subject of psychological exercise. So, you can do these psychological observations and trainings without taking away even a minute from your normal life.
Please feel free to ask questions.
Dr. P. – About the autobiography, can you wait some time? Can I do it during the holidays?
R.A. – Yes, yes, indeed it is better to do it well, during the holidays, the aim is to do it well, not hurriedly. In practice, those who want to do it seriously it will be soon enough if it is ready by the autumn, they can do it during the holidays and even complete it sometime afterwards. Quality is always more important than speed or quantity.
Dr. P. – They will not be read publicly.
R.A. – No, no, they will be strictly confidential. Not only that, but if even some of you wish not to present it to me, or to omit some part, you can do it freely, because it already has a purpose for yourselves. Autobiography also serves self-analysis, it is a kind of objectivisation, as I said, it has a dual purpose, one of exploration, exploration of the conscious part and of the unconscious in its various degrees; and the other is of relief, discharge and re-creating of the past. In writing the autobiography, one often relives traumas or impressions, etc., but in reliving them, we, therefore, get rid of them, so even if you had the intention of not handing it in, do it anyway. Maybe you will decide later, or you can omit certain parts that you consider too intimate, you can write them separately and give in the most harmless part that can also serve as comments. And in the same autobiography you can insert questions at a given point, in short, it is not about being literary, it is an instrument.
Dr. S. – It seems to me that it is not possible to carry out a self-analysis, because I believe that penetration at certain levels is made impossible by resistance … I mean, a little while ago you mentioned the need for a didactic analysis, that’s what I believe is indispensable, although being able to carry out a self-analysis would be much more convenient, easier and cheaper. But I remain a little perplexed about the actual possibility of carrying it out, because I believe, as I said before, that there will be certain impenetrable areas precisely as a reaction to the possibility of penetration, such as either repressed areas, or traumatising experiences, forgotten at a very deep level, and which however can have a dynamic and therefore an evident behavioural effect while the nucleus escapes from the subject itself. I don’t know if I have managed to explain myself …
R.A. – Oh, very clearly. I’ll give you a typical answer immediately. It is not realistic to say: it is possible, or, it is not possible. The realistic answer is this: didactic analysis is preferable and gives much greater results; however, self-analysis is possible and is useful in a different measure from individual to individual. It is never useless, just trying it gives a percentage of utility, it can go from 10% to 80%, and this is an existential, individual thing, nobody can know it a priori. And then there can be this, always speaking practically, that one can do a self-analysis up to a certain point, however small, and when one realises that there is something one cannot do, to turn to the didactic analysis, which will be greatly facilitated and shortened by the fact that much of the work has already been done. Indeed I would say, it is practically the thing that I recommend, that everyone tries a self-analysis, but then, when he arrives at a certain point and sees that it is not enough because of some dark areas, or that certain symptoms or difficulties persist, then move on to get help from others. It seems to me that this is the realistic and practical answer. Try it as far as possible by yourself and then complete it with a more or less short or long didactic analysis.
Dr. M. – Basically, we should do the autobiography and the answers to the questionnaire, that would be the beginning of the self-analysis.
R.A. – So, practically, you have to do the analytical phase first, but since it is a matter of psychosynthesis, also make use of active construction techniques, of exercises.
Dr. M. – So, for the analysis, what are the pillars, the autobiography?
R.A. – So first do the autobiography from the raw material, and so also the answers to the questionnaire, but then you need to, based on the knowledge of psychoanalysis, that is, of the various existing complexes that exist in the human psyche, to see which have been highlighted.
Dr. M. – Yes, but who is it that guides us to this discovery? Once the biography and the questionnaire answer have been made, someone must tell us, here: this means this, this other means this other.
R.A. – Yes, but you can do it partly yourself, because it can be evident. For example, from the autobiography, the complexes and psychic traumas due to family relationships are evident. There are many people who, even sick people, who come the first time, without preparation and say: you know, this disturbance comes from my father who is too severe, from my mother who is too anxious, so some things don’t need a subtle analysis, many traumas, many complexes are quite evident, as long as a little psychology is known, a little psychoanalysis, one finds them, indeed there is almost the danger of finding them all; because as in physical medicine there are medical students who believe that they are suffering from all the diseases they read about in the treatises, thus reading a book of psychoanalysis, one believes one has all the complexes that one reads about. Because, even to a minimal extent, we all have them a little, when they are to a minimal extent there is no need to dwell on them, we need to see those that are more evident, more harmful.
Dr. C. – I am thinking of that verse from the Bible: “every man is a liar”. And in retrospect I say, yes, he is a liar, but almost always unconsciously. In the determining of an action, of a trauma, of a complex, there is a constellation of motives, varying in importance. Now in describing or choosing the motive that is decisive, that is, that is of major importance, let’s say the subject who analyses himself can be deceived and can be deceived because there is another motive to deceive, that is, there are always motives, some apparent and some real. One of the difficulties is precisely to realise, to discern which is the apparent motive, which is the real motive, because, for example, a patient can give his own explanation, but then for internal purposes I see that it is not the real one. He gives you that explanation, but there are other factors that intervene, and that applies in the picture, but that he himself had not been able to highlight them. Even in the context of self-analysis, it always requires a point of comparison, because then certain complexes that are in us emerge.
There are three people in us: what we seem to be, what we would like to be and what we actually are. Now we don’t say that what we actually are coincides with what we seem to be and what we seem to be to others. Mind you, that which we actually are, that is, that hidden self that is within us, then manifests itself as proof. So through an analysis many elements can be discerned, okay, but I think only a minimal part, because only by being put into particular circumstances, that is, a temptation, undergoing some test, this turns out: one has a reaction that can even surprise oneself. I was saying to bring out the character of a person, in his pure essence – there was a psychology expert who said: you have to see how he behaves around money, around wine and around of sex. Any individual, faced with these three tests, the one inside will definitely come out.
R.A. – So, generically speaking, what you are saying is right, that is, that there are unconscious currents, but about the entire investigation of the unconscious, psychoanalysis says this: you have to explore the unconscious because in the unconscious there are currents that we are not aware of on the surface . We generally agree on this. But I would not say the apparent motive or the real motive, rather it seems to me more correct to say, multiple motives, because after all one when believes to be doing something because of motive A, motive A exists, only that there are also motives B, C and D; and the proportions of the various motives are different. So it seems too simple to say: apparent motive and real motive, or even, the true nature comes out. No, unexpected aspects emerge, not known before, but it is not that the true nature is the hidden one, perhaps the lower one.
As for what comes out, as you say, it is life, it is the psychological laboratory of life that proves it. There we don’t have to go looking for so much; revealing situations, I would say, are frequent in life, so what you say happens even if we don’t want it to. Precisely in the face of economic, or sexual, or other situations, which sooner or later arise, we notice what turns up, therefore this does not constitute a problem of knowledge, rather a problem of sincerity towards ourselves and self-observation. But it is useful not to wait for a situation that may even be rather serious, but to first do a self-analysis in order to be prepared, and also an opportunity, perhaps a secondary one – as there will be continuously for a Sherlock Holmes of the psyche – there are small telltale clues as well as big ones. Seriously though, it really is a detective investigation of the inner world, and the skill is to see the importance of meaningless clues, as Sherlock Holmes did, not to wait for sledge-hammer blows, but to observe the little clues in our behaviour daily and then discover complexes, various motivations, types of reactions. So, with this preventive work we armor ourselves for bigger tests.
Dr. C. – I would like to offer another consideration in relation to psychosynthesis, which differs from similar sciences – psychoanalysis, diagnostic analyses, etc. etc. I say that like every modern science it must have its anatomy, that is, the component elements, then its physiology, that is, how these elements combine and function normally, and its pathology. After having deepened a certain knowledge of these three branches, you can move on to the practical application. But having – as every school has – its own terminology, that is, teaching anatomy, physiology, and pathology in a particular way. You need to teach us psychosynthesis; you need to put before us the essential, primordial elements that we must grasp, then how they play out with each other …
R.A. – Well, in a way, that’s what I’m doing, but I’d like to point this out. There is no specifically psychosynthetic anatomy, physiology and pathology of the psyche. There is an observer attitude that is psychosynthetic. The psyche is what it is, as physical anatomy is what it is, it is not that psychosynthesis is differentiated by giving different names, no, it is above all a theoretical and practical attitude of synthesis, of integration, and therefore admits everything that is vital, right, confirmed in any other school or system. It is also synthetic in this theoretical sense, as well as in practice.
Dr. M. – But you need to tell us these vital parts, that is, say: from these symptoms we obtain this diagnosis and set this therapy.
R.A. – It is not necessary; you can do this with the study of modern dynamic psychology. I don’t need to tell you: the Freudian school says this, Adler’s school says this, Jung’s school says this …
Dr. M. – No, but you have to tell us what we have to take: from the Freudian school take this, from the Jungian school take this, if not, how do we know what to take what we need? No, you have to tell us.
R.A. – First of all, it follows from what I say. More than once I said: this is the side that I consider right of psychoanalysis, I don’t know, certain interpretations of dreams, I said that I consider them very questionable. Excessive emphasis on sexuality is not natural, so in my presentation I already gave indications in this sense. In short, there is no need for a didactic, systematic thing, which would take years – the better the expert, the fewer the words – from what I say you can gather …
Dr. P. -A small lesson, let’s say, of anatomy to help us understand what it is, in short …
R.A. – (indicating the diagram) Here it is. This is the fundamental anatomy of the psyche.
Dr. P. – Or to have some more dialogue within the lessons.
R.A. – Ask me questions, even in writing, and then I will also answer in the context of a lesson, as I need to know what you really need, but in principle, the study of existing psychological literature, dynamic psychology …
Dr. P. – In the course that you do in the lessons, for example, you recently talked about the pathology of the will, then you talked about dreams, in short, there are already various topics that are covered.
R.A. – Exactly.
Dr. M. – But this is general, but if one has a specific case, a complex, something, the lessons give general guidelines. If anything, a patient comes, a single case that says: I have this, this and this …
R.A. – But your active collaboration is needed there, I don’t know what you need, ask me written questions and present them to me, I, without saying who asked it, I can easily insert the answer in the exposition of one or the other lesson.
Dr. P. – But perhaps it is better to wait for the end of the course.
R.A. – No, you don’t need to, read and study as much as you can during the summer, and if you have questions or something, ask questions, and then bring them to me this autumn and I will include them over the next year.
Dr. P. – Perhaps what could be done is to maintain a slightly closer correlation between the states of the psyche and the brain cells or something, because in short, it is obvious that the psyche has the brain as its substrate, it is affected by changes in moods, hormones, things, even if a specific treatment cannot be made in this sense, at least it is obvious what it is presenting to us.
R.A. – But this is psychosomatic; it’s all a complex and difficult branch in itself. It would require a psychosomatic course.
Dr. P. – It’s not that we want something specific, but with some appeal as a general framework, something that could connect a little more.
R.A. – I could have the intention of doing a lesson on psychosomatics; yes, this I will, but there are already psychosomatic treatises.
Dr. S. – I think that all these things must be assumptions to an extent, as Dr. M. said; in the event that this specific case happens to us, through the symptoms, the clinical examination, then how can I intervene, this was a bit what he said.
Dr. C. – No, here we must assume that we are all already trained psychologists who are now deepening into psychosynthesis. To deepen this analogy that I brought about anatomy, we have what is basically a psychological body, a psychological structure, we must know the components, because it is not so that we can know them with the preparation that we have, which we can also have neglected to deepen.
R.A. – That was done in the previous lessons.
Dr. C. – For example, in the subconscious part, there is the passionate part: anger, jealousy, anger, greed, etc.
R.A. – But you see, all this is not necessary, you are adults, you are not children, you find all this in a good treatise on psychology, it does not need to be explained to you verbally.
Dr. S. – Yes, it’s something of a prerequisite, here.
R.A. – Besides, it’s something you can do in parallel. I would say, what you hear here can stimulate you to fill in the gaps. I don’t need to tell you everything. This may stimulate you to first read a treatise on general psychology, then some Freudian books of psychoanalysis, then some books by Adler, by Jung, or summary expositions that exist, in parallel; otherwise it would take 200 lessons. So then again, a book that I recommended as a base is the book of Nuttin “Psychoanalysis and Personality”. Those who study that book will already have a panoramic knowledge of modern psychology, dynamic psychology, is an impartial book, a serene book, of one who does not belong to a specific school, and who, although not being a Freudian, strives to do justice to what is positive in psychoanalysis. (on a personal note: in my opinion it has a little too much of the perspective of Christian morality) Study it because it is very condensed.
Dr. C. – But, here, what we need to know is the precise, objective data that result from experiences that we have continuously, because we can very well go and study the content of a given current, but it is always spoiled by the exclusive personal biases of the author.
R.A. – But that comes gradually. We get to this point: we would say in this case, a Freudian would interpret this syndrome in this way, an Adlerian like this, a Jungian like this, and try to see which it is. There are typically Freudian cases, a somewhat gross psychic trauma in childhood or youth that causes disorders and that psychoanalysis attenuates or heals; these cases exist, but they are a small minority. Freud’s mistake was to generalise from those cases to everyone. There are typical Adlerian cases, about little Napoleons, just read the newspapers, in politics, etc.; but not all cases are Adlerian. There are more complex and profound Jungian crises, and they are frequent, and Freudians and Adlerians do not recognise them, but not all cases are Jungian, and Jung is the first to say that often these crisis cases occur around 30 or 35 years of age, while in young or very young people it is more likely that other types of crises will occur. All this can be seen in practice, and I would say that in any case there is a Freudian, Adlerian, Jungian component, etc. that with practice … In short, let me tell you that I am self-taught and that all these things have been discovered by me through the scientific method of “trial and error” – “experiment and error”, it comes through series of experiments, experiences, errors and successes. And now this is much easier for you because what in 1910, 1920 was so much more difficult, is now much easier.
May 12, 1963
R.A.- Someone said that he felt an absolute revolt against the exercises of will, and I replied, somewhat paradoxically, that it is a good sign. Every revolt is better than inertia, than not reacting. I would say that this revolt can have various causes, various motives, but one of these can be represented by the fact that certain elements feel threatened in their autonomy, in their existence by a planned discipline of the will, and therefore rebel. I would say that this rebellion is normal, it is natural, because the sub-personalities, these semi-autonomous elements in us, can’t stand being disciplined. So, it is normal and natural for it to rebel; in some, it remains unconscious, others do not admit it, in some it emerges and they express it, and therefore it is a good sign. It is a good sign because when the enemy reveals himself, he is already … Now we must see; so far it is simple; but how should one behave in the face of this rebellion? And this is more complex, general advice cannot be given. Sometimes it may not be appropriate to engage in a face-to-face fight. Really the most skillful way would be to induce these apparent enemies to cooperate. But here one must take it case by case, and one must try to see how to calm the inner dramas.
Dr. S – And those of others too. Let’s take a practical case, for example the case of a neurotic who does not want anything to do with it, and I really believe that that is the core of the neurosis, the absolute rebellion against any form of treatment that tends to dismantle the parts of the neurosis. This happens a lot. The neurotic, when he has taken that defensive line through the neurosis itself, does not detach himself anymore and is totally against detaching from this neurotic channeling, he just doesn’t want to. And what do you do then?
R.A. – This is what psychoanalysts call “resistance” and to which they give central importance, I would say almost sometimes excessive importance; excessive too in the sense that they see only that, while there are many other things to do, but of course we do have to deal with the patient’s resistance. Psychoanalysts say that neurosis is often like a defense system, and therefore before demolishing this defense system, you need to have something to replace it with, that is, create a new form, a new healthy personality, or at least a healthier one, to gradually replace the neurotic one. We must be careful to proceed with caution. But a therapeutic and educational norm for others is: do not talk about will or exercises, this is the clear distinction between what I do in this course and the advice I give to doctors and educators. For both the pupils and the patients, do not talk about the will, because it immediately provokes this resistance, and arouses it for two reasons. One, for what has already been said, and another because there is immediately the idea that the educator or the doctor wants to impose his will – it is wrong, but that is the idea that arises. In short, when we speak of will we immediately think of imposition, tyranny, inhibition, repression; only this aspect is seen, generally.
Dr. S. – Not always. For example, I have another case, which is instead is very ready to do everything I say and has established a transference of dependence such that he is ready for anything. However, in this case I have not yet obtained anything concrete, and he has been coming to me for more than eight months ..
R.A. – What form is it?
Dr. S. – He has a sexual neurosis. It is a dysfunction, impotence in a 27-year-old person who has no neuronal defects, since clinical tests have already been done; he has never managed to have normal relationships.
(R.A .: “They are difficult cases”).
Up to now I have managed to partially dismantle all the collateral manifestations, for example extreme shyness, stuttering, insecurity, depression, significant and numerous obsessive phobias, which have gradually reduced to two or three and that’s it; that is, I have attacked it laterally to an extent.
R.A. – You have achieved a definite therapeutic effect. Only the central fact remains. This will be the last to yield, but it may well yield.
Dr. M. – There is a technique of Frankl’s: he takes three or four neuroses, phobias, obsessive forms, impotence, and another that I don’t remember. And in fact, he treats them fairly extensively.
R.A. – I recommend getting it, it’s a good book. You see in such cases, but not exclusively, there is such a fear of failing that the patient prefers not to try for fear of failing.
Dr. S. – Yes, it can be said that he lives in a closed circle of anxiety.
R.A. – Yes, yes, and therefore there is a pulling back so as not to run the risk of failure. Of course if you could bring the patient to a place of indifference to success, if you could induce him to say “I don’t care”, but not to say it to condition himself artificially, but to really get to an attitude of devaluing the importance of success or of failure, its possible that conditions could arise where failure does not matter. This is what I did successfully a few years ago and which I highly recommend to students, to say “if you manage not to give importance to rejection, if you previously discounted the possibility or probability of rejection, and go into it with a sporting spirit, a spirit of adventure, of trying, saying ‘I will probably be rejected, I don’t care, one can survive rejections’, then you will get the most out of it “.
Now in the case of impotence, or going to a concert, a demanding thing, it is much more difficult, but the method is that, and even if you don’t get to say “I don’t care”, at least you get to devalue, to decrease that phobia of failure enough so as to eliminate the greatest difficulty. Because it’s a vicious cycle. And Frankl applies it, he says, successfully to insomnia. He calls it a “paradoxical intention”: if someone who suffers from insomnia says “I don’t care about sleeping, on the contrary I’m fine in bed, I rest all the same, I relax, I think about my things calmly, I use these hours, why waste them by sleeping? I use them; I’m happy in bed, I don’t mind sleeping. “And then, he sleeps. He calls it by this term “paradoxical intention”, that is, the opposite of what one would like. Now, for example, for an important exam we cannot say “I almost feel like being rejected”, this is not possible, but instead facing it with a spirit of adventure, of risk-taking, I would say, to appeal to the playful instinct. Saying “let’s see if I can put one over on the professor?”
Ms. X. – This is not an ideal model then, I hope?
Dr. M. – Okay, but only when there is an exam that can be re-taken. But this for a competition, for a place that matters to you, you cannot say, “well, if I am rejected, too bad.”
R.A. – But he can say: “if I don’t succeed in this exam I will do another one, or I will live in another way, or change city.”
Dr. M. – Ah well, if we’re talking about life in another world (!!?), Then everything is a lot simpler. Okay for a university student who will take another one if he does not pass this year, but someone who is doing a competitive exam on which his career depends, cannot say “I’ll survive, anyway”, because if he does not succeed he will live in some other way, very different from what he would live if he succeeds.
R.A. – There are other considerations: that health and serenity matter more than a career, that if you don’t do one career you will do another, that if you fail a competitive exam you will find some other arrangement, first; and secondly to note that the less gripped you are, the easier it is to win the contest. And to recognise too that anxiety about success is an emotional inflammation.
Dr. S. – Can I ask you something? I wasn’t there at the first lessons, I wanted to ask this question: you talk about disidentification, emotional states, etc. But now I wanted to ask: why among all the possible emotional states that come at a certain moment in consciousness, do we identify with one of these and not with another? That is, how does it happen that we prefer identification with one of these contents, rather than with another? We are not identifying ourselves with an act of will. By what dynamic do we identify with one of these rather than another? Because if we could understand this, disidentification would be much easier.
R.A. – Well, you always have to start from the structure of the psyche, you have to objectify it a bit. Identification can be considered as the invasion into the field of consciousness, including the ego, of energies, of functions that come from various parts of the unconscious. If we want to clarify that, let’s take the case of anger as an example: something tends to make us angry, to irritate us. Then, objectively, there is an impulse of anger and aggression, of hostility, which invades the field of consciousness, and submerges, so to speak, the “I”; it reaches the center, and the ego is colored or drenched by this emotion. Remember that the “I”, in the so-called “normal” man, is never disidentified, it passes from one identification to another; in short, the normal state of man is that the ego is not aware of itself; self-awareness is very relative in normal man; it is a purely theoretical self-awareness. When he says “I am irritated”, there is self-awareness in the sense that he realises he is, but it is not that he recognises himself as an “I” invaded by anger: he gives way passively to it, he finds it just to be irritated: “that one there has treated me badly, it is natural that I should be irritated and I have good reason to be irritated ”. So, the ego passively gives in to this emotional coloring, and after that, another comes and another, and then another. The ego is continuously identified with the “contents” of consciousness, which come either from external stimuli or from unconscious drives.
Disidentification consists in eliminating through the exercise – momentarily – any identification. If you do it at a time when there is, for example, anger, this is: “I and my anger”, “there is a wave of irritation that tends to invade my field of consciousness, but I dismiss it, I am not my anger, I find it stupid to be irritated, it hurts me and it hurts others, even if I have suffered an injustice, my irritation does not remedy anything; instead, if I remain calm, if I remain calm, if I see anger from above, I have the satisfaction of taming my internal drive “. This is not about who aroused the anger. This also applies to positive, superior emotions and feelings; we don’t have to be identified even with those, we welcome them as welcome guests, we use them, but we are not tied to them. It is according to the principle that the ego must recognise itself as a pure center of self-awareness, free from any particular content.
Dr. S. – But identification can also operate between one subject and another subject. There is the spectator who attends a film show, and at a certain moment he feels great sympathy for a particular character. Could it be that these types of identification are not always normal, but could be pathological in nature?
R.A. – You know, the limits between normal and pathological are very elastic, for example it can unfortunately be said that the so-called “cheering” for your sports team is normal, because the majority do it and it can be a catharsis, an outlet, it can have its useful function. It’s a stupid thing, but it can be useful.
Dr. S. – I have a question to ask you, but I will do it in writing, because for now it is not clear to me.
Dr. M. – I thought this, I formed this idea, about psychoanalysis and psychosynthesis, that is, that psychosynthesis could ignore, that is, give less importance to analysis in depth than psychoanalysis, because with all these methods, techniques, etc. ., it would be necessary to do a cure let’s say, symptomatic, that is, let me see, someone has discovered that he has a weak will, or is emotional, etc .; you give him the appropriate technique …
R.A. – It’s not that it gives less importance, it gives just as much importance, but it integrates with many other methods. In short, to use the mathematical expression, analysis is necessary, but not sufficient. But disidentification is psychoanalysis. But yes, psychoanalysts use disidentification without calling it that. When Freud or a psychoanalyst tries to dissolve a complex, what does he do in practice?
He causes the patient to become disidentified from that complex. First he brings him to consciousness. First an unconscious identification, then a conscious identification, and then the discharge of the complex which is a disidentification. So, the same fact can be described in different terms; but it is a disidentification. As long as the patient is identified with his complex, or victim of his complex, he remains blind; the day the complex is emptied of its emotional charge and the patient can objectify it, the symptom disappears; but what has he done? He has disidentified himself from the complex.
Dr. M. – I see, but disidentification can be done even without knowing what the complex is, without searching for the causes of the complex. While Freud takes two or three years to do the analysis, psychosynthesis does not do the analysis for two or three years to bring out the complex and then do the identification.
R.A. – In psychosynthesis disidentification is done at the same time, because disidentification is the powerful weapon, it is the acid that dissolves the metal; disidentification is a powerful means of dissolving complexes without even doing all the searching for causes.
Dr. M. – While Freud goes looking for the causes, and it takes years, psychosynthesis dispenses with the causes of the complex: I have this inferiority complex, and if it is due to any cause, psychosynthesis makes little of it.
R.A. In fact, as Adler puts it very well, many problems are not solved, they are cleared up, and also, when the emotional coefficient is emptied, everything is done, even if the form remains when it does not have the emotional charge it is like a defused bomb. And with disidentification, one tries to detach oneself from everything; at the points where it fails, it means that the complex is still strong, and then that knot is untied, which may also require psychoanalytic action; but this is only for the hardest knots, it doesn’t start from …
Dr. M. – Exactly, it is a more general, more generic, more …
R.A. – No, more, I would say, more essential.
Dr. M. – But more general in the sense that it divides, I would say like a sick individual to whom I give a cure that reinforces him to defend himself from disease, there is no need to know which disease. That is, it would be interesting to know it for scientific purposes, but for practical purposes it is not interesting, it is faster.
R.A. In other words, it is to focus on the healthy part, it is to develop the healthy part of the patient so that he absorbs the energies of the sick part. If this fails completely, then specific action is taken afterwards. There is an inversion of technique, it is not that the two purposes are in conflict.
Dr. M. – Yes, that’s what I meant. I reinforce the healthy part and put it in a position to overcome the sick part, to overcome the disease.
R.A. – Either to make him more able to do it, or to be able to do the analysis in a more effective and faster way.
Dr. S. – I believe this: that the most valid part of psychosynthesis is disidentification. In the second session, I understood exactly this, which is the central interest, it would deserve a whole discussion also to …
R.A. – Quite right, I’m glad you have seen just that; everything else is a function of disidentification.
May 19, 1963
Dr. L. speaks at length about the highly gifted boys he has in his school and in that of his wife – gifted above all from an artistic point of view (drawing – singing), but also from a scientific point of view; he promises to bring drawings for us to see.
Let’s return to the field of psychotherapy.
Dr. M. – The unconscious, you said that it is not an entity in itself, can it therefore be compared to a kind of electronic brain (?!), It has a series of unknown data that it then checks and finds the solution, or not?
R.A. – But are you talking about solving a problem?
Dr. M. – Yes, if the unconscious is not an entity in itself, if it is not intelligent, strong-willed, it is a set of actions …
R.A. – But it is intelligent …
Dr. M. – Then it is an intelligent entity.
R.A. – Well, you can’t call it an entity, rather it’s a set of intelligent entities.
Dr. M. – Who is it that coordinates this problem that we give it?
R.A. – Well I would say the intelligent function. It works the same as when we try to resolve it consciously.
Dr. M. – Then it’s the same entity that is working.
R.A. – No, it’s the same function.
Dr. M. – So, the conscious is not an entity?
R.A. – No, no, not even the conscious is. We must always remember well that conscious and unconscious are adjectives, that is, they are temporary qualifications of certain psychic activities. A psychic activity, or a psychic element, in one moment we are aware of it, in another moment we are not aware of it. There is a continuous osmosis from the field of consciousness to the unconscious and vice versa.
Dr. M. – You mentioned that it was not an entity, then even the conscious is not an entity. The entity is one, then …
R.A. – No, being self-conscious is one. That is, animals have intelligence, they have emotions, instincts, but they do not have the self-conscious reference point that human beings have. Now what characterises the human being is the conscious “I”. I not only think, but I am conscious of thinking. Now intellectual activities are taking place in the unconscious, but it is not that there is an “unconscious man” who is self-aware of thinking. And many times, we think without thinking of thinking; many times something thinks in us. In short, intellectual activity is also a semi-autonomous function of the psyche, many times we would not want to think and thoughts continue to come, and many times we would like to think of one thing, and we do not succeed. In short, there is now a whole dynamic conception of psychic life: there are elements and functions of which the ego can be conscious of or not.
For example, let’s take a solution to a problem: it is not like a robot working out the answer, in part it is, but it is not only this; it’s something creative that the robot doesn’t have. The electronic brain does not create, it carries out the orders that have been given to it; on the other hand, the unconscious, especially the superconscious, is creative. There is a substantial difference between processing data and inventing solutions. An electronic brain could never create a new invention, whilst the unconscious can – that’s a substantial difference. Combinatorial skill, but creative, not mechanical. The human being, the psyche, is living and not mechanical, while man-made mechanisms are machines, (for now. Je veux dire que peut-être un jour l’homme saura créer des mécanismes vivants. Déjà ces machines commencent à avoir un début de psychisme). Machines do not repair themselves, do not reproduce, do not improve, in short they do not have the creative vital impetus, it is man who creates them, it is man who introduces intelligence into the electronic brain, as much intelligence as he can.
R.A. – There are certain […] now established. The principle of spiritual Love, the sense of communion, is a Cosmic Law. In short, it is the Law of Attraction that exists in the world is found at every level. And then there was a very interesting development from various sides, but the two main ones I have already mentioned are: one is that of “syntropy”. The law of syntropy, the tendency towards organisation, from the mathematician Fantappié, who gave it as a mathematical demonstration and applied it to biological and psychological phenomena. On the mathematical side, it is a little abstruse. And the other is Teilhard de Chardin, who speaks precisely of this law of the gradual organisation of humanity and of the cosmos itself, which he calls “hominisation”, and the point of arrival which he calls the “Omega point”, which would be the evolutionary convergence point of all cosmic phenomena. So, there are laws that are now known or glimpsed.
Dr. M. – But it seems to me that one must recognise them subjectively, one must first see them, then apply them later.
R.A. – The point is it is always subjective. Every sensation is subjective, red does not exist, red is not there, it is my sensation, the experience of red is subjective, everything we know about the universe is subjective, in this sense, but not subjective in the sense that it is an illusory thing, in itself, no, it is our way of being aware of certain realities that are outside of us.
May 26, 1963
… exclusively to answer questions about your work: medical, educational or social, for the application of psychosynthesis in the various fields.
Dr. S. – It seems to me that the application of all these methods also assumes some intellectual development. I have an oligophrenic, not that serious, and I am not finding a great response … he falls asleep.
R.A. – Of course a minimum of intelligence is needed, but a very modest intelligence is enough. I believe that in general the main obstacles are not intellectual, but rather emotional, that is what psychoanalysis rightly calls “resistance”, conscious and unconscious, rather than mental difficulties. Now I will give you proof. Several of these exercises have been successfully done in elementary and junior schools. For example, the exercise of silence has been done, and is successfully done, in Montessori schools, which also take preschool children, from three or four years onwards. In elementary classes, they do the exercise of silence and next time I will read Montessori’s description. It is even easier for them than adults because they have a less active mind, and a middle school student teacher did several visualisation exercises in lower secondary schools. So, you don’t need a great intellectual level, just a disposition. Of course it should be attempted almost as a game, like a small internal sport, it must be presented in a very simple way, adapted to the mentality, but the elementary exercises are elementary, that is, they also lend themselves to very young and uneducated people.
Dr. S. – Everything will depend on the way you present it …
R.A. – Yes, just present it as a game. It is one of the techniques of psychosynthesis, the playful attitude, not only sporty, but also of play, of intellectual play, of psychic play, of competition with oneself, breaking records with oneself, for example, in displaying numbers, see for how many seconds one succeeds, then see if he can visualise more, in short, always this playful side … After all, it is partly making use of the combative energies.
Dr. S. – What I have not said just now, which I forgot, is that twice, after having done these exercises at some length, I had, I would say, a fatigue or something … I don’t know if they had been those days when I had certain things…
R.A. – It must have been that. There may be some contributing factors. But I believe that in this it takes a certain attitude which I would call sporty, to accept certain consequences. A mountaineer who has done a big trip, is often drained for two or three days.
Dr. S. – I didn’t want this to be dangerous … that it might have some organic …
R.A. – No … The climber accepts it at the start that afterwards he will be dead tired, maybe he will sleep for 24 hours; this is natural. So, someone who writes as a job, or an artist when he has been inspired, knows that afterwards he will suffer from asthenia as a consequence, but it is the price that must be paid for every action that is worth it; so if it is limited to a temporary fatigue of a few hours, or even a day or two, it is nothing serious. If then he had some particular ailments, then … But for example, whoever begins to do gymnastics, feels, as they say, broken bones, their muscles ache, indeed they are told, not to wait until they no longer hurt, but to continue, because then, by continuing they “ease”.
Dr. S. – I never do gymnastics, really never, this is the problem …
R.A. – Yet it would be so useful. There is the Muller method, I don’t know if you know it, I recommend it very much, it is an basic psycho-physical hygiene.
Maybe others want to ask a few questions, let us hear from the educators.
Ms. F. – I would like to ask a question about what has been said just now. When we are tired from nervous fatigue, we can have the impression of being very excited. Now, these disidentification exercises, for example, or even these exercises that concern the imagination, basically help to detach from this state of nervousness, therefore they give us a sense of asthenia, but it seems to me that they simply give us the measure of our fatigue.
(R.A. – Absolutely!)
In this sense they also put us in a position to measure it and to refresh ourselves, I would see it more in this sense, because fatigue is relative.
R.A. – Quite right! We repress tiredness, however when we begin to relax, it “comes out”, as it is commonly said, and we must let it come out, even if it is unpleasant, because after a while it ceases and we re-temper. And this is part of another small technique, that of frequent short rests. It is better not to get to a state of excessive fatigue, but to prevent it. I believe I have already said that in some American factories it is used, where they have 5 to 10 minutes of break every hour, and the performance is greater. So we should also, every hour of spiritual work or of any kind, take a break: get up, open the window, breathe some oxygen, do some movement, drink a glass of water, and then return.
Ms. V. – Even in school, no teacher makes continuous explanations, at a certain point after passing the salient point of an explanation she takes a moment of rest, also to give time for assimilation. Here please excuse a question that is my real bugbear. Therefore, one of the millions of problems in our school seems to me to be that of not giving sufficient time for assimilation. Now, however, it must be admitted that it is a very big problem. I would like to find some books, some treatment that addressed this time of assimilation, because it seems to me that it is very important.
R.A. – Quite right. I recommend reading Ways and Rhythms of Psychological Formation, in which we speak precisely of the need for these breaks.
Ms. F. – Pauses that can also be very long, such as times of assimilation of abstract concepts, for example, which are very tiring.
R.A. – And then there is no waste of time because you can move on to something else, while that thing is organised in the unconscious. It is just like a psychic gestation, an organisation around a nucleus, or a crystallisation process; but gestation says it better, it is more organic, more bio-psychic.