Intro article by Kenneth Sørensen, MA Psychosynthesis
Psychosynthesis is a method of psychotherapy and self-development that teaches how we can become healthy, well-functioning people in harmony with ourselves and the world.
The father of Psychosynthesis is the Italian physician and psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli (1888-1974). Assagioli contributed to three psychological revolutions of the twentieth century: psychoanalysis, humanistic psychology, and also transpersonal psychology.
Psychosynthesis and Psychoanalysis
Psychology has developed through an exploration of people as individuals and as social beings. Assagioli developed a psychological vision that embraced all aspects of the human psyche, from the unconscious drives psychoanalysis focused on to the spiritual heights scaled by yogis of the East.
Assagioli described his mission in this way. “We pay far more attention to the higher unconscious and to the development of the transpersonal self. In one of his letters Freud said, “I am interested only in the basement of the human being.” Psychosynthesis is interested in the whole building. We try to build an elevator which will allow a person access to every level of his personality. After all, a building with only a basement is very limited. We want to open up the terrace where you can sun-bathe or look at the stars. Our concern is the synthesis of all areas of the personality. That means Psychosynthesis is holistic, global and inclusive”. (Keen, 1974)
Assagioli focuses on the synthesis rather than the analysis of the personality. He believed that psychoanalysis is but the first step in a lifelong process of integrating the various parts of the personality into a whole.
Psychosynthesis and Assagioli’s Egg Diagram
Essential to Psychosynthesis is Assagioli’s egg diagram, a description of the individual illustrating the interaction between our conscious and unconscious aspects.
The lower part of the diagram illustrates the lower unconscious. This corresponds to Freud’s ID and contains our basic drives, our survival and security needs.
The middle area illustrates the middle unconscious. This contains the energies, resources and values of the conscious part of our personality. This area represents our self-esteem, our need for recognition and self-actualization. It is here that we become a self-conscious person.
The upper part of the diagram illustrates the superconscious. This contains our spiritual aspect, our access to sublime creativity, to meaning, purpose, and experiences of interconnectedness.
Energies flow between the individual and the collective. Above and outside the egg diagram is the collective unconscious. Here we can access the collective ideas, images and experiences of humanity.
The conscious “I” rests in the middle of the diagram. This is our self-awareness, what we can call “the observer.” Here we gather all our psychological resources into an independent identity. Assagioli’s definition of “I” differs from that of other psychologies. He believes that the “I” is not our thoughts, feelings, or senses, but a centre of pure consciousness and will. His concept of identity is similar to that of eastern yogic philosophy.
The “I” have a field of consciousness where we become self-aware and where we can observe our thoughts, feelings, and sensations, the so-called stream of consciousness.
The “I” is connected to the star at the top of the chart. This represents the soul or the “Transpersonal Self,” as Assagioli called it. The soul is our innermost essence, the spiritual core with which we are connected to life and awaken to our unified connectedness with humanity and nature. The soul contains our inherent goodness, truth, and beauty. It is the source of our need to make a difference in the world, the silent voice of our conscience.
Psychosynthesis is about integrating these elements in order to live a creative and meaningful life in harmonious interaction with the world.
Seven Core Concepts – The Soul of Psychosynthesis
Assagioli’s approach and vision are unique in a western context because they include the wisdom of the East. Shortly before his death, Assagioli described Psychosynthesis’ Seven Core Concepts, its essential and unique elements compared to other psychological modalities.
Central to these is dis-identification.
Dis-identification is our ability to step back mentally and reflect on what is happening within us. This is essential in order to experience our true self, free from any inner voices we have identified with, whether from our parents, teachers, or other external authorities. The technique of dis-identification is based on the eastern idea of “neti-neti”. Neti neti means “neither this, nor that”. It allows us to stop identifying with the things of the world. Through this we transcend worldly experiences until all that remains is the Self, pure consciousness.
The “I” or Self is a centre of pure consciousness and will. It is not our ego or personality, nor our thoughts, feelings, or the body, but an awake and aware self-consciousness. We can recognize this through awareness meditation, mindfulness, and other forms of introspection. When we discover the “I” we become centred: we enter an inner space of love and harmony where we can observe everything happening in our consciousness. The self is a loving witness, a loving observer and actor. This is a quiet, peaceful place within the center of the ever active personality. When we reach this centre we can apply our will skilfully, consciously choosing with what we want to identify.
is the inner force with which we make our conscious choices. The will is essentially our will-to-be- a-self, and it leads to authenticity. Assagioli distinguishes between a strong, good, and skilful will, and also a personal and spiritual will. The will is not supposed to suppress elements in the personality, but is a force which guides and regulates how we act based on the choices we make.
is a process which brings together and harmonizes what is separated and fragmented in ourselves. Synthesis works through the power of love and will. It begins when we realize there’s a place within us that can accommodate all that we contain with love and acceptance.
Love releases our shadows, heals our wounds, and makes us psychologically harmonious. The self is the source of love because our essence is love. We recognise this when we discover the loving witness. But synthesis also requires will, that is, the ability to choose our identity. Something in us is authentic. We have a biological, psychological, and spiritual DNA that we are meant to realize. When we discover our true and unique identity, our lives are given direction, meaning and purpose. To achieve this requires the union of feminine love and masculine will.
The ideal model
is a vision of what we may become. The ideal model is an idea taken from Raja Yoga, which inspired Assagioli deeply. Through visualizations we can gradually create a new identity. Visualization elicits the thoughts, feelings and actions that we imagine. “As he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7)
represents the “roof terrace” of consciousness. Here we find creative inspirations, genius, our love of humanity and altruism. As we enter this level, our consciousness expands and we experience ourselves as an integral part of the cosmos. Here we access peak experiences and recognize a deep connection with existence.
The transpersonal Self
or soul is our immortal part, our wise, loving, and powerful essence. We experience the soul through intuition, as an inner counsellor guiding us to truth, meaning, and purpose. The soul’s calling is about making a difference in the world, not just for ourselves and our loved ones, but for all mankind. Through our soul identity we recognize our greatness and deep connection with life. Like beauty, soul is a subjective experience and Psychosynthesis offers a wide range of techniques to help you experience your soul.
With these seven core concepts Psychosynthesis provides more than a tool for self-development. It offers a psychological vision that includes our own development, but also the role we play in the world. It provides a vision of a harmonious and integrated world that embraces both the fundamental and transcendental expressions of humanity.
Do you want a deeper understanding of the vision of Psychosynthesis?
In the library you can find over 50 articles on Psychosynthesis and in 2015, I published the book The Soul of Psychosynthesis: The Seven Core Concepts. You can it buy on Amazon etc. as a printed form or an e-book in our webshop. My book Integral Meditation is also based on Psychosynthesis.